We had the opportunity to attend an interesting session on strategic planning at the Sport Leadership Conference in Vancouver earlier this month, involving presentations by Richard Way, Carolyn Trono of Rowing Canada Aviron and Peter Montopoli of the Canadian Soccer Association.
Strategic planning has been around since 1957 when an American named Phil Selznick first coined the term. It was a new take on traditional, rational planning that attempted to accommodate growing uncertainly in the post-war world. For 50 years now strategic planning has been a necessary thing for organizations to do, but most organizations do it poorly. The preparation of strategic plans consumes considerable energy and resources, yet the majority of them end up sitting idle on shelves as opposed to being valued as the powerful management tools that they are.
However, we think there are a number of forces aligning in the universe that bode well for a rethink on how we go about the business of developing strategy in Canadian sport. Here is a quick snapshot:
This synergy of developments represents an exciting breakthrough. For this reason it is dismaying to watch a handful of national bodies take aggressive, top-down approaches to their relationships with provincial associations. But on the flip side, it is breathtaking to see traditional bodies like the Royal Canadian Golf Association (RCGA) and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) take bold steps towards charting a collaborative, aligned future with their provincial branches. Soccer in Canada – the combination of the CSA with Provincial and Territorial bodies as well as District Associations, Clubs and Teams – verges on a one billion dollar enterprise, and that is worth planning for!
It has been said that traditional strategic planning, which we all know and do, is based on a model of fear, scarcity and competition. We plan in order to escape a current predicament. An appreciative inquiry approach to strategic planning, on the other hand, is based on a model of strength, assets and collaboration. We plan in order to move towards a desired outcome. As problems and challenges arise, we re-frame them to opportunities. It becomes second nature to imagine future action by considering where it is strong, what the opportunities are, what we aspire to see happen, and what would indicate progress.
If you would like to learn more about a new approach to planning and strategy in your sport, please contact us. Rachel Corbett of the Centre for Sport and Law is trained in the planning area, is a full member of the Canadian Institute of Planners, and bears the professional designation of Registered Professional Planner (RPP) in Ontario. Dina Bell-Laroche is an experienced facilitator with expertise in strength-based planning, including appreciative inquiry, SOAR, and values-based frameworks. Rachel and Dina are uniquely qualified to guide you through your planning processes.
Originally published: Centre for Sport and Law Newsletter (2009) Vol. 5(3)