As the majority of my facilitation work has its roots in Strategic Visioning, I have taken the liberty of outlining the process in this article. The Strategic Visioning Process was created by one of my mentors, David Sibbet of The Grove Consultants International. After completing my M.A. in Organizational Development and Transformation, I had the distinct pleasure and honor of working with The Grove in San Francisco from 1996-2001 (the only Canadian to ever be employed by them). Since that time, I continue to apply this unique and effective process in my practice in Canada … working with corporate, government and not-for-profit organizations who need clarity on what they want to become and how to organize themselves to get there.

Please note that The Grove has a full line of “Graphic Tools” available for viewing and purchase on their excellent website: When I use this process with groups I buy the assorted templates and materials from The Grove and then bill those costs back to my clients as direct expenses for the project.

A bit about large-scale graphics:

The Graphic Facilitation methodology that underlies this process is large scale. It is a template-based process. Which means that the group, “template-by-template” works through their thinking and collects it onto a large template that all can see. These templates are wall-size (four foot by eight foot) charts that are posted on the walls of the meeting room … the visuals and category areas are pre-drawn with plenty of blank space for the group to fill in their particular content. Grove calls these large wall-size forms: “Graphic Guides”. I tend to use seven to eight different Graphic Guides over a two day Strategic Visioning process. These guides can also be used for stand-alone sessions (i.e. a half day spent on creating a vision, or a half day spent on creating a gameplan for a particular project).

large-scale graphics These templates are wall-size (four foot by eight foot)


Strategic Visioning Process

In a nutshell, Strategic Visioning is a past, present and future process. The idea is, in order to move forward, a group must first contemplate their past and analyze their current situation. Then they can launch into dreaming about their future. Once their vision is established, they then need to figure out how to bridge the gap between their current reality and their vision … identifying the Big, Bold moves that need to be made and then breaking those moves into doable, assignable tasks than can be monitored and tracked.



The first step in the process is History Mapping. Here the group gathers to tell the story of their existence-to-date. In my experience, most groups (and leaders) are initially reluctant to spend the time on this exercise, thinking ‘we’ve been there and done that’ so why bother. However, after going through it, it usually ends up being a highlight for them … as people tell their stories, share their perspectives, get insights into the bigger picture of what has occurred-to-date and how that has been. By the end of this exercise the ties are loosened, the sleeves are rolled up and there is a palpable energy change in the room … even if the history has been problematic or chaotic, as is often the case.


Example Example


Step Two: Context Mapping

In the second step of the process are a couple of exercises looking at the group’s current context. One of these exercises is the Context Map that scans the organization’s current environment. Looking at the social and industry trends, the economic climate, political factors, technological factors, customer needs and uncertainties of their situation, helps the group collect information on their ‘now’ and what they are facing.


Spot Matrix

Another exercise dealing with the current situation is the S.P.O.T. Matrix. Grove’s take on the ever-popular SWOT matrix, this move analyzes the strengths, problems (weaknesses), opportunities and inherent threats to the organization or group. Helping all the individuals in the room pool their thoughts into one place … this template builds a solid picture of the now and begins, with the opportunities section, to move into the realm of visioning.




Cover Story Vision

The Graphic Guide that I use most for visioning is the “Cover Story Vision”. It is an imaginative exercise where the group envisions themselves on the cover of a magazine. They build out the story in parts: creating the big headlines, the sidebar stories, the images and the quotes, as well as the cover (deciding which magazine or web-zine they are being featured in). This exercise gets the group dreaming about what they really want and what success means to them. In a subtle way, it brings out the essence of what they want to become.


Mandala Guide

After the Cover Story Visioning exercise, we use this Mandala chart to tease out the main themes of the group’s vision. Using present tense language, we build “We are” and “We have” statements that encapsulate what the group wants to be in the future. Often a main statement or comment comes out, which holds the central position of the chart (a guiding or mission statement).



Five Bold Steps Vision

After creating a desired end state (the vision), it is time to step back and determine how that end state is going to be reached. A preliminary way to bridge the gap between where the group currently is and where they want to be is to brainstorm ‘big, bold steps’. These are the big, main areas that will need to be accomplished. Actions that have many smaller, more detailed actions embedded in them. For example: Build an Internet marketing plan. Streamline our customer service process. Expand our product offerings.



Graphic Gameplan

The final move in the Strategic Visioning process is to take those ‘big bold steps’ and break them down into more detailed ‘game plans’. The Grove’s Graphic Gameplan chart is an effective, simple planning tool that assists with this process. Each bold step is broken down into its overall objectives, the team and resources that are available, the stages and tasks needed to reach the objectives, the success factors that will need to be in place to support the plan, as well as the inevitable challenges that can be expected to be encountered along the way.



Meeting Documentation Meeting Documentation

The beauty of working graphically is that the process of the meeting is captured step-by-step as the visuals are created. After the meeting, each chart is photographed and edited, and when put in order of their creation; they become the pages of the meeting report. These reports serve as memory devices and agreement holders for those who were present at the meeting. The reports also act as excellent summary or communication tools, which can used to share the meeting and its outcomes with those not in attendance. Reports can be created in both paper and digital formats.

Meeting Documentation Meeting Documentation

In conclusion:

So there is a high level view of The Grove’s Strategic Visioning Process … an excellent, relatively simple way to harvest a vision and its accompanying plan, all done through interactive “Graphic Facilitation” methods. This process is usually conducted in a 1.5 to 2 day retreat setting. It can be customized into specific segments and combined with other methodologies.

If you would like more information on this process and perhaps how it would apply to you and your group’s unique situation, please contact Christina to set up a time to talk. See fees for ballpark ranges of costs. I will provide you with a detailed proposal with specific costs after our discussion.

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