Most companies gather their leadership team once per year to discuss strategic planning. This is a time-honored event that, in many cases, produces little tangible result. There is often recreation, along with retreat from the day-to-day grind of running the business, but actions and behaviors typically stay the same when those key executives return to the job. There are likely many reasons for this, but one that I encounter most often is that the actual talent within the company – the same talent that will ultimately produce the outcomes drawn up during the strategic planning retreat – were not included and were poorly assessed.
Strategic plans drawn up in a (relative) vacuum can be dangerous vehicles for de-motivating employees and setting them on a path to an unrealistic goal. It is a tragic management mistake to tell high performers in any role that they are consistently behind and on a collision course for failure. This unnecessarily taxes and drains key people and leaves them with a half-tank of gas to finish the race. Often, the strategic plan itself becomes a key lever for lack of energy and lack of motivation leading to poor results.
Has your strategic plan produced these outcomes? Here is how to fix it:
1) Start with real data on the people responsible for the goals within the strategic plan. We use Predictive Index® at ADVISA as a foundational element of our strategic/organizational planning process. By understanding the hard-wiring and makeup of employees, our clients avoid guessing about how to motivate their people and how to foster an environment where their employees can produce.
2) Start with real data on your company’s past performance in the key areas that will be measured as a benchmark for success. Often, leadership can explain away poor results, feign accountability, and say “next year will be nothing like last year.” This is a critical mistake. Facing at the truth – which is often in the numbers – can provide a realistic framework to take “one step at a time” in the near-term. Know that your benchmarks are realistic before codifying the strategic plan for distribution, otherwise you risk a real morale and energy drain by teeing your people up for failure.
3) Use a competent, credible, and trusted third-party consultant to facilitate your strategic planning. At ADVISA, we have been involved in strategic planning for over 20 years, facilitating for many industries. Our team of management consultants is sharp, experienced, and trained in expert facilitation. While we are partial to our own team, there are many credible and talented facilitators in the marketplace. Avoid trying to feign objectivity by running your own strategic planning. This can be reckless. And it is unfair to place key executives – especially those who have bought in to the company – in a position to operate as if they can be clearly objective facilitators. These are people who have key performance metrics that will inevitably cloud their vision. This focus is what makes them special at their jobs, and allows them to be key contributors within the strategic planning session. However, if they are asked to facilitate a strategic plan, this becomes a crutch.
If you are interested in learning how I, and our team at ADVISA, can assist you and your management team in strategic planning please call us at 317.249.2258. If you already have a trusted facilitator, consider sharing this post and looking critically at the people that will make your strategic plan successful.