A Strategic Plan is like a rainforest.

A simile, metaphor, and analogy arrived in a workshop. It’s not a joke!  These techniques make wonderful facilitation tools. I recently facilitated a two-hour session to help members of a leadership team review, understand, and re-commit to their strategic plan.

I opened the session by inviting them to write a simile or metaphor about the strategic plan.

The simile could be, “Our strategic plan is like a ___ because ___.

The metaphor could be “Our strategic plan is a ___ because ___.”

I also invited them to draw an image to depict their statement.

I used this technique because the members of the team had widely varying knowledge and experience with the strategic plan. Some had created it three years previously; some had started work with the organization in the past three months and had only looked at it.

My intent was to use an unusual method to help them identify their feelings and thoughts about the plan, to hear in a non-threatening way what others thought about the plan, to have a challenge to create the metaphor, and to have fun.

After each person individually created their metaphor or simile, they shared it in trios which gave them the opportunity to test what they said and to hear what others said. There was a lot of laughter.

Each person was then invited to share their statement with the entire group. There was even more laughter.

green square with the words in black "A Strategic Plan is like a backpack; a roadmap, an amusement park ride."

What did we hear?

▶️ The strategic plan is a road map with directions and destinations to guide us.

▶️ The strategic plan is like a rainforest with dense trees and wild animals and no way to know where I’m going. There are raccoons and I need a machete.

▶️ The strategic plan is a backpack that can get heavy at times yet contains essential items.

▶️ The strategic plan is a spinning amusement park ride. We can go really fast and can be disoriented when we get off, yet, we love it and climb back on.

I then facilitated activities to help the participants align their work with the #goals, #strategies, and #priorities in the plan. To close the session, I asked participants to say whether their metaphor or simile had changed and how. One person said that they no longer needed a machete in the forest and knew how to find their way. Another person said that the strategic plan was still a clear and strong #roadmap.

Participants said the technique worked fantastically.
One person said she had learned so much and so quickly about how others understood and used the strategic plan.

My contact gave this feedback after the session. “We accomplished what we had hoped to. The feedback I received from the team was fantastic!! The leadership team expressed not only their appreciation of your guided facilitation journeying through the strategic priorities but that new and existing members of the leadership team feel more connected to the plan and see where their roles align with it. There is a new energy that we will endeavor to keep alive.”

I use metaphors and similes in many ways as a facilitation tool. I’d love to hear how you use them. Share in a comment.

A Strategic Plan is like a rainforest.
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