Clarity First – I suggest first walking the team through the plan components – at this point, with the opportunity for clarification only. There will be plenty of time to challenge the plan as the process continues. For now, the goal is to make sure everyone understands the starting point…and why this particular starting point was chosen.
Encourage Healthy Conflict – Some leaders try to avoid conflict at all costs, others seem to thrive on it. I like to strike a balance by encouraging healthy conflict. Team members need to feel comfortable challenging each other throughout this process. Check out the end of this post for a quick read from careertipster.com on the value of conflict and ideas on how to manage conflict for healthy and productive outcomes.
Fine Tune – Healthy debate with this team may lead you to make changes in plan components. It may also solidify the team around the plan as introduced. Either way, now it’s time to drill down with the team. With a strong understanding of the high level plan, I like to give team members a few days to create their own departmental plan that aligns with and supports the organizational plan. This should include key initiatives and high priority goals. When you reconvene, brief presentations by each member of the planning team allows everyone to see how the plan is coming to life across the organization.
Focus – Without exception, I find the need at this point to pair-down the list of key initiatives and high priority goals. Doing this together helps to create focus and alignment. Try having team members post their key initiatives and related high priority goals on the wall – showing how they support the strategic plans components (Vision, Mission, Objectives, Goals, KPIs and Strategies). This creates a strong visual of how well the strategic plan is supported by the organization’s priorities. It is also likely to make it clear that you need to pair-down the list. I like to give each team member a handful of sticky dots and ask them to place them next to the key initiatives they feel are the most important to the organization’s success. This is another important step in creating alignment…and focus.
Spread the Word – With the plan in place and all department heads in alignment, it’s time to spread the word. I like to call on several different leaders to introduce the plan to the organization. And once the broader plan has been introduced it’s time for department heads to meet with their teams and show them how their priorities align with and support the company-wide plan.
Bring the Plan to Life – Many of you may have experience with a planning process that ends right here. A document is filed away and rarely referenced until it’s time to work on the next year’s plan. What a waste. There are lots of ways you can bring the plan to life. Here are a few that have worked for me:
- Include updates on progress against plan deliverables in regular company-wide updates. It helps to reference specific items that are on and off track…along with insights as to how these results are impacting the organization, it’s customers and ultimately the team.
- Invite department heads to present brief updates to the senior leadership team – rotating through the entire organization at least twice per year. This keeps the leadership team informed and department heads focused.
- Drop in on team meetings and ask targeted questions about progress toward plan goals. Team members will see that you are interested in what they are doing and holding them accountable to deliver.
- Celebrate success along the way. This can include recognition in company-wide meetings and communiques. It can also take the form of special events to reward teams, or the company as a whole, for achieving high priority goals and completing key initiatives.
Be Strategically Opportunistic – I’ve seen organizations chase every opportunity they come across and I’ve watched as organizations missed great opportunities because they would not consider something not contemplated in their established plans. The best organizations are “strategically opportunistic.” These organizations consider new opportunities in light of their strategies and established priorities. They are willing to change direction when a new opportunity presents a better way forward. They are also willing to say “no” to opportunities that won’t create more value than those already part of the strategic plan.
I know it’s not true for everyone, but I’m actually a big fan of the strategic planning process. I like challenging myself and others to think strategically about the future of the company. I enjoy seeing the team (and resources) focused on what matters most. And most of all, I enjoy watching the organization come together to make the plan a reality.