Strategic Planning

Strategy to Action™ Plan: Overview

Organizations like to plan for predictable growth, and yet most organizations don’t grow or shrink in predictable ways. Because growth is unpredictable, it’s unwise to bank on a certain set of assumptions. With our Minneapolis management consultants, business leaders explore possible outcomes, barriers, and opportunities, and pre-decide how to act should key assumptions come to pass. No matter what the future holds, however, these leaders and our experienced Minneapolis management consultants will know how to act—so long as the organization is in alignment and working as a complete system. When we all know what we are trying to achieve and how we want to achieve it, organizational planning for individuals and the organization becomes clearer and easier.

During our business advising, Minneapolis executives will partner with our coaches to create a truly cohesive understanding of your business. We will then formulate a one-page document that contains the company’s operating values, vision, mission, key discipline, objectives, strategies, and actions. It’s important that we agree and align on these items, and that they not be vague, emotionless, inaccurate, or unattainable. The values will be limited to no more than four, so that employees will know what is special about where they work. The vision statement will be succinct and clear. The mission statement will be no more than eight words and will be memorable. There will be not more than eight objectives, strategies, and actions for the company, and there will be no more than two actions in any one-quarter. Those are the top-end ranges for each of these items. Concision and accuracy are critical when building alignment. As employees, you must always know what you are trying to achieve and how. The easier it is for you and your co-workers to remember, the more likely it will be observed and communicated to others.

This strategic planning process conducted by our MN management consultants and the organization is completed over five phases and typically takes five days (plus extensive surveys of key stakeholders filled out in advance). Most employees will be invited for the first two days of planning where we will work on values, vision, and mission. The senior management team will work the following three days on crafting the objectives, operating strategies, and actions for the organization. If the organization has values, vision, and mission already well-established then the time and costs will be reduced by the two days up front. Contact CO2 to learn more about our business advising and Minneapolis management consultant services.

Strategy to Action™ Plan: Technology Partners

CO2 Partners has developed two strong strategic partners in our planning process: Groupmind Express, and Turning Technologies. Each of these technology partners gives us a distinct advantage over the traditional strategic planning consulting firm.

Turning Technologies helps eliminate social conformity, cuts quickly through hierarchical bias, and engages teams faster in difficult conversations and in soliciting community input. With Turning Technologies, we can track individual participant’s responses or make them anonymous. In small groups, we gain greater participation by hearing more from the reserved participants while quieting those who may be over-advocating. Turning Technologies’ tools provide instant feedback from the group, so we can move off subjects that are already understood and capture the real-time interest of the group as a whole going forward (rather than focus on the issues preferred by vocal outliers). In addition, TurningPoint’s Ranking Wizard allows people to stack competing priorities and then see the power of the weighting amongst the priorities. The Ranking Wizard incorporates enhanced decision-making capabilities, allowing CO2 Partners to easily create “lists” of items, issues, priorities, or goals, and rank them against specific “criteria” supporting either static scale or paired comparison.

Groupmind Express allows us to leverage the collective intelligence of your internal and external stakeholders for your strategic planning process. Groupmind is a flexible set of integrated web-based collaboration tools that support planning and change across functional and geographic boundaries, and provides tangible reports. This special set of expert tools supports facilitation of meetings both asynchronous and synchronous, surveys, planning sessions, 360 assessments, change management processes, and learning engagements.

Six Phases of Strategic Planning



Gathering internal & external data



Determining the organizations values, vision, mission and value discipline



Choosing the objectives that must be hit to accomplish vision.



Choosing the strategies and actions necessary to meet the objectives.



Implementing a systematic means to monitor, measure, & execute

Action to Execution

Action to Execution

Develop effective strategies and plans to ensure timely execution that lead to customer success

Six Phases of Strategic Planning

The Discovering Phase involves gathering internal and external data using detailed surveys, which are taken prior to strategic-planning meetings. The more data gathered about your environment and from all your stakeholders, the better your strategic plan will be. Our experience has shown that time spent in the Discovering Phase greatly increases the speed of the plan’s execution, allowing you ultimately to get to your vision faster. Employees will appreciate the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way, and they’ll feel a greater investment in the organization going forward. Based on a national survey we conducted, 33% of bosses rarely or never ask for their subordinates’ advice. These leaders miss out on a lot of ideas, and they often struggle with alignment and employee buy-in. Our Strategy to Action Plan is designed to engage and align the entire organization.

In this phase, we will determine the organization’s values, vision, mission, and value discipline. Most employees will be invited for the first two days of planning where these foundational pieces are hammered out, revised, or affirmed.



Values are the software of the soul. They aren’t permanent, and yet they don’t change all that much over the course of our lives. They are coded in us, prompting us to act in certain, consistent ways. Our value systems and individual beliefs are learned. From the moment we’re able to process thoughts and language, we take cues from other people and our environment. Organizations have values that strongly impact the culture and behavior. In healthy and aligned organizations, the stated values and operating values are one and the same.



Vision is a measurable direction of where you are going. The destination must be crystal clear, not soft and mushy. If your vision was to climb to the top of Everest, you would certainly know where you were going, when you arrived, and have photographic proof when you got back. If you can’t do this with your vision, it is likely not clear enough or it may be your mission and not your vision.



The mission statement is your statement of purpose. It describes why you exist as an organization. It both tells what you exist to do and what you will not do. It provides the organization a way to stay focused on your core competencies and prevents you from being distracted by opportunities that do not fit your purpose. The mission statement does not describe the methods you use to accomplish your vision; it describes why you exist to accomplish the vision.


Value Discipline

According to Fred Wiersema and Michael Treacy in The Discipline of Market Leaders: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market, there are three different types of “value disciplines” that successful companies can adopt to command leadership in their markets. We will decide which one is right for you, based upon: your value proposition, client needs, core processes, improvement levers, and major improvement challenges.

In this phase, we will choose the objectives that must be hit to accomplish the organization’s vision.



Objectives are targets that if hit consistently over time will lead you to your vision (which should be measureable) and fulfill your mission, while also adhering to your values. Many leaders have been beaten over the head by financial owners (like venture capitalists, equity funds, or hedge funds) to believe that both the vision and all objectives should be financial. The organization’s financial numbers, however, are not inspiring to most employees or customers. Customers don’t buy your product or service in order for you to meet your numbers. At CO2 Partners, we believe that what gets measured gets done…provided those measurements are compelling, achievable, and understandable to the stakeholders. Our five-step process, using Treacy and Wiersema’s Value Discipline Model as well as the Balanced Scorecard, will help you set clear, achievable, and compelling objectives.

In this phase, we will choose the strategies and actions necessary to meet the organization’s objectives.



Strategies are the qualitative expressions of how you intend to meet your vision, mission, and objectives. Strategies:

  • Are doing new things or doing existing things in new and better ways.
  • Take advantage of both internal and external environments.
  • Steer the organization’s processes, resources, partners, activities in directions that give competitive advantage.
  • Use concrete sensory language (describing things you can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel) so there’s no room for misunderstanding.
  • Do not use abstract language referring to concepts or vague ideas like: sustainable, innovative, reliable, leadership, quality, effective, leverage, efficient, resilient, optimized, world class, responsive, etc…



If people are not prepared to be held accountable for what they do, it is unlikely they will achieve much. To choose a goal without being prepared to be accountable for progress towards it is to choose nothing.” – David H. Maister

Actions are those measurable movements that must happen to accomplish strategies and, thereby, fulfill objectives. Action-setting is a way of capturing on paper and in your mind the gap that exists from your current state to your future desired state (objective). Individuals must be responsible for some actions, and together they work to accomplish organizational actions. At CO2, we create S.M.A.R.T.E.R. actions that are clear and well-defined.

In the Operationalizing Phase, we implement a systematic means to monitor, measure, and execute the Strategy to Action Plan. In particular, we provide a Results Management System and a successful meeting process for keeping the strategic plan alive and relevant throughout the year.


Results Management System

The largest failure of most plans is not the plan itself, but the way it is implemented. The keys to successful implementation are measurability, visibility, coordination, and accountability. For many, measurability is the biggest struggle. Their systems for measuring are either too simple and can’t handle the complexity of planning and tracking, or their systems are too complex and difficult for staff to learn. After years of investigating options, we have partnered with a technology firm that coordinates extremely well with our planning process. This technology fits most organizational needs and will keep your entire organization in alignment and coordinated with little intervention.


On-going Strategic Planning Meetings

Many companies are very good at executing operational meetings, but fall down on both facilitating and conducting on-going strategic meetings. As a result, these companies veer off course from the strategic plan they spent so much time and money creating. To maximize the return on investment, we have developed a monthly and quarterly meeting process to keep the company on course. The monthly meetings last for two hours and provide guidance regarding how to assess the results of strategies, objectives, and actions in the Strategy to Action Plan. The quarterly meetings are designed to adjust or introduce alternative plans if necessary. Time permitting, we also provide team-building and executive development during the quarterly meetings.

Assessing Customer Success

Even with the best plans and strategies, operational execution leading to customer success is not guaranteed. In some cases, companies stop at the development of their strategic plan – and don’t put sufficient time and effort into the development of S.M.A.R.T.E.R actions in order to execute the plan (S.M.A.R.T.E.R = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-based, Time-bound, Exciting, Resource).

In other cases, situations arise where the agreed-to priorities shift – and the organization becomes focused on alternate actions. Sometimes this is very necessary. Progress is never linear. But if these new actions are not aligned with the company’s top goals – a lot of time and energy can be spent with little forward progress.

Finally, companies must measure the impact of their strategies and actions on the customer. After all, the customer pays the bills! How is the company viewed by its customers? Are the products and services well accepted? Are there any lingering “pain points”? Do competitors see an opening to take your market share?


Measure Customer Success

Step 1: Interview select customers to ensure they are happy with company performance as it impacts them. Do this at least quarterly.
Step 2: Identify areas of success and provide recognition to those company employees involved.
Step 3: Identify and report on any customer “pain points” – particularly those that we knew about in advance and where the company is still falling short.
Step 4: Update Action plans as needed to address customer concerns.

Contact us to discuss your event and the added value we can bring to it.

Contact Us

Who You’ll Work With

Gary B. Cohen

Gary is famous for asking; he wrote the book on it.  He probes his clients with the only kind of questions that can produce change: unexpected ones.  From the client’s answers,  he offers not just insights but alternative courses of action.

“There always are several good roads to Rome,” he says.  “The key is to identify the one that best fits both your head and heart.” And he focuses on Rome–and not the possible curves in the road–for a simple reason: most obstacles are artificial, and the rest are in our heads.  “Clear your head,” he has said, “and the obstacles disappear.”

This may explain why Gary’s clients call him “playful in exactly the right way.”  He knows that unusual success comes from unusual approaches, and–as Gary often has said, “I never have met a client who wanted to be ordinary.”

Gary is Managing Partner and Co-founder of CO2 Partners, LLC started in 2004 an Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Firm. Before that he Co-founded ACI in 1989 with $4,000 and two employees, then grew 48 percent compounded annually for 12 years to over 2,200 employees and went public on the NASDAQ putting them in the top 5,000 companies based on employee size; Venture Magazine’s Top 10 Best Performing Businesses; and Business Journal’s 25 Fastest Growing Small Public Companies and Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. His blog is always ranked among the top 35 leadership blogs in the country. He writes weekly for Business Journal and ASTD.

Gary’s Bio  Work We’ve Done With Speaking

Tom Schlick has over 30 years of experience as a customer-focused business operations executive. He is known as a transformational leader, successfully leading organizations through high growth as well as difficult turnaround situations. Tom moves confidently from vision and strategy to tactical development and implementation. He also has the unique ability to build cohesive, high-performing teams that can work cross-functionally in alignment with common goals. 

Tom has held COO, SVP, EVP, and VP positions with P&L responsibility at small, medium, and large corporations, both public and privately-held. These companies include Johnson & Johnson (Sterilmed, Inc.), Emerson Electric, ACCO Brands, XRS Corporation (now part of Qualcomm), and Entrust Datacard. Tom’s industry experience spans healthcare/medical devices, process control, transportation/trucking, secure ID/financial services, and office products and equipment.

In all his roles, Tom has excelled at training and developing both individuals and teams, increasing their business acumen and preparing them to drive change in the workplace. From a functional perspective, Tom is particularly adept at delivering results through operational execution, developing customer service and new revenue streams, and leading global multi-site ventures.

Tom’s Bio Work We’ve Done With Speaking

Sign up for our newsletter!

Scroll to Top
Skip to toolbar