Strategic Engagement  –  Setting direction enabled beginnings of organization culture shift


The in-coming president of the American Society of Interior Designers national board of directors was committed to shifting the way they conducted their annual strategic planning process.  There were three key aspects that made this a uniquely different planning process for this organization:

  • a participatory approach to engage staff and board as a whole system
  • informed strategic direction setting based on data collected from stakeholders
  • a multi-year plan spanning three years

Inherent in this strategic engagement was an underlying culture shift to engaging the whole system in the future direction of the organization at the national leadership level. The target was a 2-day planning event in January with a lead time of 4 months for laying the foundation for change.


This meant going slow at the front end with selected leaders and champions from board and staff to create readiness in the system integrating diverse voices and perspectives in doing business differently.  It meant building trust, accountability, active listening and an environment for dialogue and exploration of differing perspectives.  The readiness work was accomplished by bringing together a microcosm of the whole system into a steering group who were charged with guiding the planning process.  The steering group experienced a mini-planning process using data collected on the organization’s present life conditions to establish high level strategic focus areas.  This diverse group collected additional external data, refined the strategic topics and with guidance co-designed the two-day planning event. Their work included crafting organizational value statements that provided a container for the strategic work that lay ahead with the whole board and staff.  Our work together fostered information sharing, discovery, storytelling, and relationship building across the whole system.


The Tangible Outcome:  The 2-day planning retreat was very productive, highly interactive and netted a well defined skeleton plan.  One board member felt there was magic in the air—fun, productive, energizing.  People acknowledged new skills in listening and increased effectiveness of their group dynamic. A new working group of board and staff came together to further refine/detail the 3-year plan after the event.

The Intangible Outcome:

  • Building of effective working relationships, respect, accountability and increased cohesiveness across the system
  • New skills and tools for effective group dynamics
  • Increased board/staff interdependence as cross-pollination resources
  • More effective communication system-wide

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