The Benefits of StratOp: A Proven Planning Process


What is StratOp?

StratOp is a strategic and operating process created by Tom Paterson over 40 years ago. It is based on the Paterson Process. The Paterson Process approaches strategic planning through 6 distinct phases, and is led by Jay Hidalgo, a certified StratOp facilitator. The result is a comprehensive strategic and operational process that leads to growth and effectiveness.

Patterson Guide
StratOp System Illustration

How is StratOp different from other strategic planning offerings?

There are several good strategic planning systems available today. StratOp, however, stands alone among them for a few reasons.

StratOp Provides Perspective Before Planning

One of the key advantages of the Paterson Process is that before planning begins, perspective must be gained. Perspective answers the question “Where are we now?”. Too many strategic planning initiatives begin by asking “Where do we want to go?” before getting an accurate view of the current state. This often leads to failed attempts in moving forward. Just like a GPS system cannot guide you until it first knows where you are, business strategic planning cannot be fully effective unless leadership has an accurate view of where the organization currently sits.

StratOp Identifies Performance Drivers

All organizations have performance drivers that control the outcome of a strategic plan’s success. Once these drivers are identified, the system guides us to manage them towards higher performance. This is one of the key benefits of StratOp: identifying and managing these key performance drivers. 

Peter Drucker said that every business has its own set of “productivities” and that they have first claim on investments. If these performance drivers are not identified somehow, then what are the odds that they will be managed? Identifying these drivers causes teams to think about what controls outcomes.

StratOp Develops Multi-Dimensional Leaders

Built into the StratOp strategic planning system is a leadership development component. It’s almost as if a leadership management program is a natural by-product of the strategic planning process. As the plan is worked, those with leadership competencies and potential are given an opportunity to develop, grow, and lead. At the same time, company goals and objectives are being reached.

Convergence Leading to Breakthrough

Tom Paterson described the StratOp facilitation as “convergence sessions,” explaining “We converge as a team to the same wavelength” to pursue common goals. This process brings teams together in a unique way by:

  • Helping the team think for themselves.
  • Bringing everyone into the process, versus cramming something down their throats. 
  • Naturally building a team through team problem-solving.


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StratOp Offering Illustration

What Does StratOp Consulting Include?

The StratOp Process is facilitated by Jay Hidalgo. Jay has a long career in coaching and consulting, and has achieved StratOp certification from The Paterson Center. He leads his clients through the StratOp process as follows:


Phase 1: Perspective - Where Are We Now?

The StratOp Process begins with Perspective. “Perspective before planning” is key to success. If you have the right perspective, the strategic plan almost writes itself. Perspective is the result of finding truth and new realities before they have happened. StratOp uses a variety of tools necessary to help gain the perspective on all the critical organizational issues.

Phase 2: Core Plan – Where Are We Headed?

Once a team has the proper perspective, then the team has the wisdom to develop a living core strategic plan. The team will also have a rationale for its plan, as well as a set of shared fundamental beliefs upon which to develop this plan. Asking the question, “Where are we headed?”, the next phase is to build the core plan from the perspective gained in Phase 1. These core plan components include strategic, operational, and financial assumptions; organizational strategic control panel (dashboard); target customer definition; mission, vision, values; and core strategies.

Phase 3: Action – What’s Important Now?

After Phase 2, the team has now recognized the issues and are ready to move forward as one group. This is one of the key benefits of the StratOp Process: breakthrough becomes horizontal (cross functional) and involves the whole team. The team-developed core plan serves as the basis for creating a unified action plan. Individualized departmental plans can later be developed to align with the master plan. StratOp focuses on W.I.N.’s - “What’s Important Now?”

Phase 4: Structure – What Form Best Facilitates The Plan?

Form follows function. The overriding purpose of structure is to ensure that the right decisions get made in a timely way. With a core plan and its resulting action plan in place, the structural requirements needed to implement will be addressed. Jay Hidalgo will facilitate and coach to make sure organizational structure, culture, systems, processes and staffing all support the plan.

Phase 5: Management – How Are We Doing?

The StratOp Process affords a way of providing ongoing, regular feedback to help manage strategic plan implementation. Asking the questions related to “How are we doing?”, teams learn how to manage the following components of the plan. Regular weekly, monthly and quarterly reviews are scheduled and implemented.

Phase 6: Renewal – What Needs To Change?

Each year, the leadership team will come together to review and renew the core strategic plan. At this facilitated session perspective is once again gained. Then, current action items, opportunities, patterns, trends, objectives and goals are all reset for the coming year. The StratOp process begins again.

StratOp Beginnings

Who Invented StratOp?

Tom Paterson’s consulting career began in 1970 at the age of 45 after he had spent his vocational life in the corporate planning arena working with companies like Douglas Aircraft, Northrup, IBM and RCA.

Rebranding “Strategic Planning”

For the first ten years of his consulting endeavors, Tom ran a conventional, prescriptive consulting practice. All too often, Paterson and Company owned the result, even though the client paid for it. Once Tom overheard a client talking about the “Paterson Plan” for his company and it was at this point that he became sensitive to the need for a better way.

Sitting in Ted’s Smith’s office at RCA, the two reflected on the bad reputation that strategic planning had among their colleagues. 

“Strategic planning didn’t have a good name. We had looked at plans from different divisions at RCA, and no one implemented what the plan mapped out. Plans were put together with great effort and typically never implemented.” 

Tom and Ted theorized a new approach that would produce a more effective outcome.

Rising to the strategic challenge

In 1980, Thomas E. Bennett, the Vice President for Corporate Planning of the Ingersoll-Rand Company (and later, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ingersoll-Dresser Pump Company), challenged Tom to strategically profile a business in a day. Tom thought about it and answered, “A large company might take three days.” Mr. Bennett replied, “If you can do it in three days, you’ve got a job.” Thus, the Paterson Process was conceived. Tom accepted the opportunity excitedly, believing in letting his market lead him to better processes and approaches.

As Paterson began designing a process that would elicit the results required in as little as three days, he recognized there were certain requirements that were going to be necessary. To profile a business unit in a short period of time meant a process must have no waste in it. All viewpoints would be important and have to be aired. The process would have to be a cross-functional one, facilitated through an inductive logic sequence, using the Socratic teaching method, accomplished with great sensitivity to the varying sets of realities in the room, and using flip charts to record the session. The facilitator would have to start with blank charts and use a flexible process. Filling out pre-printed forms would destroy any hope of creativity. There would be no “perceived” functional experts in the room. Anyone could speak on any topic. 

Fun process + hard work = designing a future

Above all, the process must find that elusive, most precious of substances: Truth. The process must be fun, because it would also be very hard work. If successful, it would be team building through useful effort: planning a future by design.

The Tom Paterson StratOp Process is a powerful, proven, and extremely cost-effective. Cross-Functional Facilitators help clients to help themselves. Clients get more than a plan. They get tools. The people who have to make it happen are brought into the process. The plan is not crammed down their throats. Planning isn’t something done to them, it is something they do together. The process is generic and can be used for all kinds of team problem-solving efforts, in businesses or in not-for-profit organizations like churches, educational institutions and social service enterprises.

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