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Rethinking division planning — involve more people, be more agile, deliver robust work

How can a business team create a 3-year plan in an agile yet structured way fully remotely?

All you need is screens, love and water!

Working on a division’s plan for the next 3 years is no easy task. It includes many hours of work, lots of back and forth between the members of the top leadership and a ton of planning to then deliver the strategic framework to the rest of the division for implementation. Now that everyone is working remotely, it’s the best time to try something new: a more agile, more collaborative work process session that is faster, can be implemented also virtually and invites more people to the decision process. Can it work? Long story short — yes. How? By preparing thoroughly, embracing restructuring and taking advantage of agile methodologies and new formats for online collaboration — this is where the magic happens.

Setting the stage

Late in 2020, our partners at L’Oréal Hellas reached out to us to help the Active Cosmetics Division (ACD) create its 2021 FRAME — a procedure during which the division’s strategy, KPIs, objectives and metrics for the next years are discussed, debated and defined, and then transcribed in an easily shareable document that is conveyed progressively to all of the 125- people strong division. Think of it as a lighthouse for business, in the form of a one-pager that connects the division’s mission with the specific metrics to monitor day-to-day business.

Vast? Yes! Useful? Definitely! Easy to put together? Not really.

This FRAME has been traditionally prepared every 3 years by the division manager, with the asynchronous support of only a couple other key stakeholders, working hard to get it down to its last detail, before it is shared with the rest of the division members — and eventually the whole division. However, having worked with L’Oréal Hellas executive team for almost 2 years, we were asked to aid the development of ACD division’s FRAME using a different approach. This time, we would be using co-creation methods and agile workshops, involving initially all of the 12-people division executive team, and then propagate this to the rest. We gladly jumped into the challenge.

The project was divided into 2 main phases:

· The Main Phase where the executive team would work to discover and define the FRAME for the whole division

· Τhe Propagation Phase, where the defined strategy and metrics would be propagated to the extended management team and actionable sub-objectives would be defined.

Main Phase

Although the 2-day workshop where the whole team would work towards producing the FRAME was the core part of this project, in a sense it was not the most crucial one — preparing for that was. As what needed to be achieved within this very condensed 2-day working session was very challenging, it required thorough preparation.

So, the circumstances bequeathed us with three challenges:

  • A new co-development team workshop
  • Online/digital-only work meetings
  • The unpredictability of the pandemic for 2021

The interactive co-development approach was something we were working on quite in advance, so, in a way we were prepared to address it. The Solution Design Sprint has been one of the methodologies included in our offerings for quite some time now. However, it was something new for the top level team we were going to work with, as was the complete online setup. Were the participants ready for a 2-day online workshop? Would the remote format take away from what makes a vibrant face-to-face co-design session? Would the inclusion of a wider team of executives make it harder to set the strategic goals?

We knew we had to prepare much more than before. After all, three challenges are more than one.

1. BEFORE the workshop

We worked closely with the division general manager to understand the goals and level of detail that the group had to reach during these two days. We set up the interactive activities of the workshop on ΜIRO, our preferred online collaboration tool. To reduce participant anxiety on the day of the workshop, we specifically organized an extra, short intro session the evening before, running a few ice-breaker exercises to help participants get to know the tool, just to make sure they would feel comfortable with it the next days. It took the edge off of “the new tech-stuff” syndrome, letting the team enjoy the uptake, while opening up room for using it for more projects in the future.

Looking our third challenge head on — the unpredictability of 2021 due to the pandemic — we decided to add a “futures” section in the process. Therefore, at Found.ation we developed 3 possible sociotechnical scenarios for 2021, shared them with the ACD division manager, who in turn translated them in financial estimations. On the day of the workshop, these were shared with the team, triggering discussions in case each scenario became a reality: What would be the channels priorities, how objectives would change, how budget goals could be achieved. Even if none of the 3 scenarios play out in 2021, these thought experiments exposed the team to possibilities, opportunities and threats, which will be useful for any shift needed during the unpredictability of the COVID-era.

Fresh truffles make everything better, instantly!

The last thing we wanted to curate as best as possible, were parts of the experience of any face-to-face team landmark business event: the moments of sharing a coffee and a meal. Which is why we decided to arrange home deliveries of sufficient chocolate truffles to the participants ahead of the workshop and additionally provide vouchers for ordering lunch. Both, apart from necessary and well received dietary, were great conversation starters, as well as a touch of glitter alluring to a shared experience for all.

Once all this was in place, Found.ation’s facilitators practiced, prepared and played out scenarios in order to make sure we could keep a steady pace throughout the two days and host a useful, meaningful and fun experience for the participants.

Our facilitator still prefers pen & paper sometimes: a sketch of how to organise activities for the workshop.

2. DURING the workshop (or how did it go)

Preparations done, team aware of the task at hand, chocolates in place!

Activities have taken shape in our online interactive environment.

Discussing practicalities, preparation was paramount. Additionally, a mental visual model of a compact online workshop was important for participants to navigate the interactive digital boards — in this case we chose to represent the process as a building, where metrics act as foundations that hold the division mission high up towards the sky (last floor).

Pacing the team and ensuring all voices were heard was important, but gauging the moments when more time for in-depth conversation was required was equally important — debating priorities and objectives for the strategic positioning and evolution of a whole division can get convoluted.

So, even when the participants were separated in two groups working concurrently on different areas in the online collaboration tool, facilitators were there to ensure a smooth process. This was aided by an ongoing side conversation between them, in order to synch the groups’ pace.

The two groups in action (each coloured arrow represents a participant).
One team teasing the other for taking their time in completing a task…

A Show & Tell session after each separate group working session was used to align the entire team with the produced objectives and metrics, giving a chance for anyone to add or discuss outputs.

Small local actions build the bigger picture

3. AFTER the workshop

As the two days came to an end, most of the work having been done and finalized by the team, the facilitators prepared the final 1-pager document: the FRAME of the ACD division for 2021. This was shared in the final closing session for a full review, generating enthusiasm among the participants in regards to the amount of work that had taken place, and showcasing the achievement of the two days of hard work.

Propagation Phase

The 2-day workshop was followed by 4 more, half-day sessions, as the division objectives and metrics set by the top level team had to be translated into actionable sub-objectives for each of the four business teams comprising the division. The Business Development, Marketing, Sales and Medical teams each took part in their own workshop with their respective Director — himself a member of the initial 12-people Executive team. In this way, a total of 35 participants — almost the whole extended management team of the Division — were updated and aligned on the strategic direction of the division, and helped co-develop the sub-objectives relevant to their team.

Here it is: The framed FRAME, ready to send!

The satisfaction of contributing to the bigger plan and building blocks of the division mission was one of the main outcomes expressed by more than a few of the participants.

They were now ready to start implementing this FRAME.

Which is why we decided to make a poster out of the original worked workspace, frame it (pun intended), and share it with the team as an artefact reminiscent of the experience!

Lessons learned

For us, at Found.ation, this was an invaluable experience. Running completely online business work sessions across the division, the results of which are of paramount importance to a company for the years to come, using an online interactive environment with participants who were not accustomed to it and making it work was rather satisfying. It strengthened our belief that tools and technology are here to support work, rather than hinder it. Online experiences ought to keep references from their “old” offline equivalents and facilitators still need to set the stage a.k.a the framework for effective collaboration. But beyond the online aspect, what is even more important is finding new ways to get to the desired result no matter the circumstances, including more people in the decision process, promoting collaboration and streamlining the operations for faster delivery and wider acceptance of goals.

For our partners, L’Oréal Hellas, the whole experience was a pleasant revelation. Not only were they able to develop their strategic FRAME while working fully remotely, but — most importantly — they did so in a new manner, taking advantage of new methodologies and technology that allowed them to work in a more structured and time-effective manner, while engaging more people and their vision in the process. Even if the next FRAME will be designed offline (and we sure hope the circumstances will allow it), they have experienced what it means to work in a more agile way —and we can’t wait to collaborate with them once more.

Are you interested in experiencing a similar creative process? We can help your business reach the solutions it needs with the best possible outcome through the most enjoyable process. Reach out to us:

[Story co-authored with Costas Bissas, our awesome Innovation Specialist.]




Fostering innovation — from startups to big organizations

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Maria Kokidou

Maria Kokidou

Give me a keyboard and I shall rule the world. Content & Innovation Strategist at Found.ation.

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