I have written before about the “First Five Percent.” That’s my approach to change management that says the quality of the first five percent determines what happens in the rest of the process.
I was in Los Angeles last week, working with a large association, on a strategic plan for their organization. It was the beginning of a year-long process to create a high-performing organization.
One of the rules of the First Five Percent is to engage as many people as possible early on. You never know who has the good ideas. The more people you engage early on, the quicker you can identify the best thinking and the hidden resources.
There were 300 people in the room, including board members, chapter leaders, and local officers. The agenda was flexible. Depending on how the first exercise went, I was prepared to go in different directions to assure high levels of participation.
The first question I posed was this: “Think about where you want the association to be in two years. Tell me the specific changes you want to see and your measures of success.” They worked on this question for 60 minutes and wrote down their responses on flip chart paper.
Each group then reported out. I then asked them: “What did you hear yourselves say? What did you agree on?” Everyone called out what they heard. “Increase membership.” “Fill our vacancies.” “Create a new business line.” Their juices were flowing. “How would you measure success?” I asked. They shouted out what they’d heard. I listed four specific measures of success. I asked if they all agreed. Everyone raised their hands. They took a quick break for lunch.
While the room was quiet, I thought about my next move. I looked over all of their reports, and decided I should simply tap into their energy. I listed 12 goals on flip chart paper. Each goal came from them, like “Double our membership” or “Increase our political clout.” I posted these goals on the walls of the room.
When they came back from lunch, I said: “Take a look around the room. These are your goals. Find a goal you feel passionate about. Go stand by that goal. For those of you who are passionate about some other goal, there are blank pieces of paper.”
The group divided itself into teams around each goal. I asked them to develop an action plan for each goal and then report out. During the report-outs, I identified key issues that needed to be resolved and facilitated a discussion around each issue. When people drifted off topic, I invoked the two-minute rule (“Anything important can be said in two minutes”) and they got back on course.
We wrapped it up at 4 p.m. I asked people to tell me what they liked about the meeting. “It was energizing,” someone said. “Great ideas!” several people said. “Your guidance,” someone said. “The two minute rule!” several shouted. “We’re excited to be building our organization,” a woman said. “And what would you like to change?” I asked.
“That we have to leave!” a man shouted. Everyone laughed.
Read our related Strategic Planning Case Study.