We’re often far too busy solving everyday problems to concern ourselves with strategic planning for the long term.


A year ago, we had a company retreat in the Ardennes. We talked long and hard about the future of the company, looked at some amazing PowerPoints, and we agreed on an ambitious plan for a new strategic approach. Everyone was really excited about it. But once we got back to the office, it turned out to be easier said than done. This year, we got together and looked at it again, and we had to conclude that basically nothing had been realized. We’re just too busy solving our everyday problems to focus on long-term change.”

Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. Or at least, many of our clients have been. Long-term change is demanding and complex: the road from strategic concepts to concrete implementation plans and projects is long and difficult to walk with a heavy operational workload on your back.

The key to long-term strategic planning is to make conscious decisions about dividing management time and attention. If you visualize your time as being a vase, you first need to put ‘rocks’ in: these are the transformational goals and measures you want to deliver this year or this quarter. Plan these first. Then the rest of the time can be filled up with other work: ‘sand’. If you do this right, your organization’s time jar will look something like the one on the left— where both long-term strategic work and everyday tasks get the attention they need. If not, your jar will be like the one on the right: filled with sand, with the rocks stacked on top, waiting for the next jar — next year.

What helps some of our clients is to have a special OGSM for your ‘rocks’: those elements that change your business. Splitting big change projects from other ongoing strategic measures in a separate OGSM helps you keep your eye on the ball, and enables you to create undivided time and attention for the transformational OGSM. Others keep the focus on their ‘rocks’ by having a weekly special progress meeting, for example — another way to keep the sand from flooding the jar.

How does this happen in your organization? Do you plan special time dedicated to change projects? Do you have separate strategic plans for the operational and change dimensions?

If you think your organization could use a little help prioritizing its change projects and overcoming the impulse to prioritize everyday crises, don’t hesitate to send me an e-mail: