Published in, Forbes
By Stuart R. Levine
Not every senior leader thinks about their strategic planning process as an opportunity to enhance their organizational culture. However, your culture is the key to moving the needle on revenues, and every opportunity to enhance it also enhances the opportunity for financial return. Smart leaders use the planning process to create more engagement within the workforce, and to increase leadership capacity. An effective strategic planning process generates trust and enthusiasm at all levels of the organization. It is data-based and fosters broad ownership with accountability. It is about strengthening the team to work together in an inclusionary and focused way.
Confidential data gathered from senior leadership and the employees creates a foundational platform for your plan. Tailored instruments for in-person interviews collected from an ample selection of the senior leadership team, plus digital surveys which enable the collection of broad and deep data with an objective of inclusion of your people in the process. The findings gleaned from interviews and surveys should be combined with other internal data to establish an important baseline of information for creation of your strategy. Internal information is expanded with external data from customers, the overall market, and even from the competition. This forms a full and accurate picture of the organization’s current status, and how people collectively see the future.
Organizations usually employ outside advisors to give an independent view and to allow for thoughtful sharing of findings without individual attribution. This provides a level of impartiality and external credibility that builds confidence in the integrity of the process. Such quantitative and qualitative results mean there is no debate about reality; the data states what the reality is. Top executives have the information they need to think through issues across the enterprise, and have strategic opportunities come into clearer focus given that they have a comprehensive organizational context. They also have what they need to assess their leadership capability along with an accurate cultural assessment. The success of the plan is dependent on leadership and culture, so if areas need strengthening, they are identified and addressed.
Successful strategy is founded on your mission, vision, and core values. The planning process develops and clarifies critical drivers and gives voice to the organization’s value proposition upon which the strategy is based. This iterative process brings new candor to the executives’ interactions and embodies the values of listening and collaboration. It means that all participants engage with each other and share honest critical thinking. Everyone at all levels understands that their input matters and their voices will be heard. Openness and inclusion builds the trust that is fundamentally required for a healthy culture. Furthermore, the organization has an expressed goal to truly function as an integrated team.
Through this critical planning process, senior management identifies key strategic elements and initiatives. Three to five key drivers are selected through which the mission and vision can be achieved through a prioritized set of strategies. The big picture is balanced with the practicalities of the day-to-day work of those responsible for executing the strategies. Shared goals and high-level performance metrics for each key strategic driver are clarified, defined, and become dashboard items. The dashboard is reviewed, not just by the CEO and C-Suite, but by the organization as a whole. Incentives align employees’ motivations and behaviors with the desired measurable results.
Strategic communication is well designed and reflects simplicity to create a common language and articulation of the plan’s clear shared objectives. Everyone comes to incorporate the organizational mission, vision, and the core values into day-to day work. The process is disciplined and people throughout the organization are accountability to each other and to management. This alignment prepares people at all levels to embrace responsibility for strategy and strengthens the culture.
The core values that underpin your culture are more than strategic drivers — they are important weapons in the recruitment of talent. Alignment of the organization’s values and the employee’s personal values are ever more important, since talented people list values and culture as top reasons to either join or avoid an organization.
Your employees are the foundation upon which results are achieved. Their inclusion in the planning process contributes to an engaged healthy culture, and ownership and responsibility for execution of strategy. People want to be proud of their work, and they are when they see their efforts successfully contributing to your organization’s future. Their achievement is leadership’s legacy.