A Biblically practical approach to Strategic Planning
Strategic planning is a well-established discipline in the world, and most of it is not, inherently unbiblical. Traditional planning begins with identifying the mission and vision. These come out of the heart of the founder(s). The organization’s values, then, are then stated in support of that mission and vision. We teach a few things differently, though, that we believe change both the basis for planning, as well as the process. We refer to it as “Upside-down strategic planning.”
The Basis for Planning
In Spirit-led strategic planning, whose mission will we be serving? From where do we receive the vision of the future? To be truly Spirit-led, both of these must originate with a clear discerning of God’s mission and vision and our willingness to hear and obey His will. The reason we spent so much time and effort in the previous lesson on Personal and Corporate Purity is that in order to be sure our values are in the right place, we must first be sure we are uninfluenced by “the world, the flesh and the devil.” Our businesses, our organizations are to be born of God’s plan.
This means that any activity we are involved in – our great-grandfather’s appliance repair shop, the 75 year-old social service organization we are on the board of, or the city council we sit on – must seek God’s mission and vision in order to be a truly Spirit-led Kingdom business.
The Process of Planning
The Upside-Down Strategic Planning Model begins with a willingness to submit the business or organization completely to God, and an ongoing, intense listening process to hear what His will is. It begins not with mission and vision, but with values – His values. It is imperative that we really press into what His heart is for – you fill in the blanks – His product, His service, His employees, His customers, etc. Knowing, understanding and fully accepting His values may completely change the way you conduct your activities.
In Luke 19, we hear Jesus telling the parable about the ruler who goes off to get himself crowned as king of the territory. Before he leaves he gathers 10 of his servants and entrusts each of them with a sum of money, instructing them to “do business” with it until he returns. We all know the story: one multiplies the money ten-fold, another returns five-fold on the investment and one buries the money and returns only the principle. Of the three, only the first two knew and understood that the mission of the ruler was not to make money while he traveled, but rather to prepare his kingdom and equip his servants to effectively rule. Had the third servant understood and accepted that mission, he would have handled the assignment very differently.
Step One in Spirit-led Strategic planning must always be seeking God’s values leading to His vision and mission. Does that mean that what you think your mission is, is wrong? Maybe, but unlikely. God filled you with gifts and talents and passions that match His and His plans. It does mean, however, that you must be willing to have been wrong. You must be willing to allow a total reformation of mission and vision if that’s where He leads you.
Our corporation, About Purpose, Inc. can serve as an illustration. Since 1985, the mission (“my” mission) has been from Colossians 2:2-3 – “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” How could I possibly go wrong? The mission is directly out of God’s Word!
What we learned as we entered into Spirit-led Strategic Planning, was that what we thought was the mission, was just one part of what God wanted us to embrace. As we immersed ourselves in understanding God’s values – His heart for the marketplace, the Seven Mountains of Culture, the priority He places on nations and not just individuals, and His unchanging desire to establish us as co-laborers in His creation - the mission that became clear to us was at once, both much bigger, and much narrower.
“Equip Kingdom companies and release them to transform the marketplace.”
His vision, which, clearly is not for us alone:
“An army of marketplace leaders, Scripturally aligned in organization, leadership and operations, bringing His light into their spheres of influence and reclaiming the nations for the Kingdom.”
Understanding your vision and mission from God’s viewpoint changes everything. No longer are you bound by your own thinking, worldview, personality, resources, etc. You have signed on to what Dennis Peacocke refers to as “Almighty and Sons.” You have a franchise in the family business owned by God, Himself. (Doing Business God’s Way, Rebuild, Santa Rosa, CA 1995). The franchisor, God, wants you to succeed in your franchise, because your success advances the visibility, the reach, and the power of the family business. As in a good franchise relationship, following the franchise policies and procedures, guarantees success. In Psalm 82:4 God says, “If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways, how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!”
Everything that follows in your strategic planning is driven by and supports God’s Kingdom mission. You will likely find it necessary to realign your product or service offering with this mission. Leadership, marketing and sales, hiring, compensation, supply chain relationships, customer service may all have to be retooled to accomplish what God has in mind for your company or organization. At the very least, you will want confirmation that your current direction and organization are aligned with the Kingdom mission.
Habakkuk 2 begins with a model for this portion of the strategic planning process. “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what [God] will say to me.” What does it mean to “see what God will say to me?” God wants us to see a clear vision of His Kingdom mission. The next verse refers to His revelation. Numerous places in Scripture assure us that God longs to share His plans with us. “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.” (Psalm 25:14) The process of purifying yourself and your company puts you into the place of sharing God’s confidences.
Your intercessory team is a crucial tool in this process. While you are responsible for discerning God’s mission and vision, the plan itself and its execution, your intercessors have three major interaction points in Spirit-led strategic planning.
- As you go to God to hear His heart for the company, ask your intercessors to go into an intense session of prayer to hear words of knowledge or wisdom or prophesy. You may want to call for and participate in a fast to allow God clear, undistracted access to your hearts and minds. Ask Him to lead you to Scriptures that will guide your thoughts. After a time of listening and feedback from your intercessors, you are ready to meditate on His values and craft a vision/mission from what you hear.
- During a strategic planning event or sessions with your management team, ask your intercessors to cover you in prayer. Ask them to erect a wall of protection around you and the event. Call for prayer for unity, love, humility and a sound mind among all the participants in the planning process. Ask them to pray for wisdom and guidance, for “logos” words (Scripture) and “rhema” words (Holy Spirit direction) throughout all planning meetings and related tasks.
- Once the plan is finished, your intercessors will begin praying for strength and boldness, for perseverance and wisdom in carrying out the plan. They will pray for the resources necessary for every part of the plan.
Spirit-led planning literally takes on a life of its own when you submit yourself to hearing and obeying God’s heart for your organization. Allow Him to speak to you through your intercessory resources.