Involving team members throughout the organization in strategic thinking builds alignment. Tap into strategic thinking outside the executive team. Then challenge the team to be strategically opportunistic.
Many leaders see strategic planning as a top-down endeavor. While (in the end) senior leaders do need to finalize the plan that will be implemented, there is much to gain from involving team members throughout the organization in the process.
Before we talk about how to work together in the strategic planning process, let’s take a look at the process components – Vision, Mission, Objectives, Goals, KPIs, Strategies and Tactics.
Vision & Mission – all strategic planning should begin with a compelling vision statement and clear mission statement. Vision statements should be aspirational – describing the future state that the organization will move toward. This is not something that should change over time…unless something truly significant happens that calls the vision into question. Mission statements should clearly spell out the reason the organization exists. Keep it simple and direct. Both the vision and mission statements should be concise enough to easily be recalled. It’s a lot easier to align your team around words they can easily recall than it is to do around words filed away in a binder or drawer.
Organizational Objectives – before you dig into strategies, you really need to understand what you are trying to accomplish. It won’t be easy, but choose 4 to 5 objectives that are key to the organization’s success. These are the things that you will commit the majority of your resources to for at least the next 12 months. These will help you keep yourself and the rest of the organization focused as opportunities and challenges present themselves in the coming months.
Organizational Goals – with objectives in hand, you need to be clear on how you will measure your success. Again, choose no more than 4 to 5 organizational goals. If you have a growth-focused objective, choose a goal that clearly spells out what success looks like from a growth perspective. It is best if you can break this down into quarterly (or even monthly) numbers. It’s important to be able to measure progress throughout the year so that adjustments can be made along the way if necessary. If necessary, spell out the way in which you will track or calculate the number. I’ve seen organizations get in trouble because team members had different ideas on how the results would be calculated.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – As the term reflects…KPIs are indicators of your likelihood to succeed in achieving your goals. You can learn more about KPIs through this link to the ClearPoint Strategy website. You will know you’ve got it right when you can show team members how virtually every departmental goal aligns with and supports at least one of the organizational goals and KPIs.
Strategies – now that it is very clear what you expect to accomplish, it’s time to focus on how you will make it happen. Notice I said “how” and not “what.” Strategies spell out the approach the organization will take. Tactics describe what will be done to support the strategies, achieve the objectives and reach established goals.
The strategic planning process is not an easy one. And involving more team members can definitely make it a bit more difficult. Based on my experience, you can expect a very high return on investment. Team members engaged in this process have a far greater understanding of what the organization is trying to accomplish and much stronger alignment with established goals and objectives.
I have tried a number of approaches to engaging team members in the strategic planning process over the years. Here is the one I’ve had the greatest success with.
Start Quietly – It’s important to have a strong starting point as you engage a broader audience. Beginning your strategic planning efforts with selected members of your team allows you to create a strong platform to build upon. At this stage, I like to work with four or five people at the most. Our challenge is to put all the basics in place without getting so married to our outcomes that it limits our ability to engage the broader team with a truly open mindset.
Bring the Team Together – With all the strategic planning components in place it’s time to engage a broader audience. At this point, I like to engage department heads and a few high potential individuals who are not yet in leadership positions. Involving leaders from across the organization helps to build alignment and ensures that all areas and disciplines have an opportunity to influence the plan. Including high potential team members is a way to invest in their growth and to get fresh perspectives on the table.