In my years of executive and startup leadership and consulting, I have utilized and been exposed to a range of strategic planning and visioning methods. I have spent a lot of time with the tools and process of The Grove Consultants International, including two workshops on site at their idyllic Presidio headquarters. The second of my workshops was with the organizations’s founder and president, David Sibbet, a thoughtful and accomplished human being who has carved out new ground over the decades in the area of strategy and meeting facilitation.
I caught up with David after his all day “Visual Leaders” event and he was kind enough to spend some time together late on a Friday afternoon. We talked about his vision for The Grove, the story of the founding and growth of his group and his unique insights into the concept of visioning.
David’s original idea for The Grove was to have a place to explore the practice of graphic recordings for meetings. He had done leadership development work for several years and felt that there was a lack of attention to the long cycle of change. The Grove would be like a learning-by-doing business school… and he could be one of the main students. There was not a well-developed plan about how to do it, just that people were responding to a visual way of working. About three years in, they started running workshops in 1980 to introduce people to the idea.
David had an epiphany that the real clients in those early days were management consultants doing strategy work that needed to differentiate. Sibbet then spent eight years learning the strategy business. The vision of marrying the consultants with a product company and sharing the methodology with the world then developed. The Grove considers itself a visual meetings company. In the late eighties, the vision for the Grove emerged, as a group that would transform the art of collaboration worldwide. That was “our North Star.”
In the nineties, Silicon Valley tech companies were growing rapidly, and there was a lot of emphasis on inventing new things. Sibbet observed that traditional strategic planning is biased toward an analytical and historical approach, which is not good for entering new markets, when you need to balance that with foresight around a desired future. That’s the vision part. Taking the best tools of strategy work and marrying them with the best tools of visioning, which is foresight oriented, and seeing how you can apply those insights in action.
Eventually, a visioning tool for personal development was built as well as people who worked with templates for strategic visioning thought that this would be a great way to think through one’s own life. Here’s David telling his story: