Every so often in this business, you get the call. I think you know what I mean: the call in which you are invited to do something that you would fight tooth-and-nail just to get the opportunity. And yet it is offered to you as a gift. In this case the call was received by one of our client relationship managers and came from Tony Dewars, a partner with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Jamaica.

“The Prime Minister of Jamaica would like Mr. Wilkinson to make himself available to lead our nation’s planning summit at the beginning of next month.”

Little did I know, this was going to be my most challenging assignment in five years!

See, Jamaica was in political transition. Less than 60 days before, a new party had come to power with promises of building a coalition with the private sector and others to bring jobs and economic prosperity to the beautiful island nation. The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica, a group of the most influential businesses, agreed to sponsor the two-day national planning summit with the support of PriceWaterhouseCoopers and in cooperation with the various government ministries.

Did you catch the reference to two-days?

Let me put this in context. When we do strategic planning for a corporation, major non-profit, or government agency, it typically requires 4-5 strategy workshop days. When we have done strategic planning for a city or region, it has required multiple teams working through a series of workshops that might span several months.

So this begs a very important question.

Question: How do you develop a plan for a nation in just two days?

Answer: You don’t!

I believe we were able to achieve success through a couple of key decisions.

Key Decisions

Key Decision #1: Focus on economic development.

Given the limited time and the focus of the players involved, we agreed to focus on economic development. This meant that related issues such as housing, environment, education, and transportation were tackled in this process through the lens of economic development versus requiring full treatment as independent subject areas.

Benefit: This allowed us to develop a fuller plan for one area rather than a more high-level plan for many areas.

Key Decision #2: Get the right people in the room – erring on the side of inclusion.

The initial decision was to limit the number of people in the session to under 60 to minimize time spent in debate. However, the team agreed that the key barrier in past planning efforts has not been in the planning, but instead in the execution. The team agreed that to help ensure execution required a level of broad buy-in that could be most easily achieved by wide participation. In the end, over 120 participated in the National Planning Summit.