Strategic Planning: 3 Myths Senior Executives Can Abandon
Have you ever wondered why most strategic planning sessions include only the senior leaders?
In fact, these planning sessions rarely include anyone else.
Clearly, there must be a good reason, right?
Well, it turns out there isn’t a good reason.
It’s simply become a time-honored tradition. And that tradition is based on two factors:
1. Including only senior leaders is the status quo
It’s often a best practice across many companies. Companies, in general, assume that senior leaders are the best people to create the strategic plan.
2. Companies are structured a certain way
Most companies are structured so that they have front-line employees, the ones who do what the business does. Then, as those employees progress in their careers, they are promoted to management positions.
But this way of doing business has negative consequences for any business
- The plan sits on the shelf once it’s been created (because the plan wasn’t created by people who are involved in the product, service or the operation of the company).
- The plan has a narrow focus and lacks a rich source of information (because it lacks a variety of input from people throughout the organization).
As a result of this process, three myths developed that executives should start abandoning now.
Myth #1: Executives are the only ones who have the knowledge and the skills to create a strategic plan
Senior managers are usually the ones who have been with the company (or in the industry) for a while, and it’s assumed that as managers they have a deep understanding of what goes on in each of their individual departments. They’re the only people who need to be part of the planning session.
Managers have been promoted up and away from everyday operations or interactions with customers. Their jobs now are to manage teams and projects. The people (such as frontline employees, customer service reps and those handling the day-to-day operations) with a lot of great information who could go into a strategic planning session don’t end up participating.
In the end, the company loses out.
Myth #2: Executives think that they’re able to craft a plan and communicate effectively to the rest of the staff
Imagine a bunch of senior-level executives locked away for a couple of days in a conference room at an off-site meeting. They come up with a plan.
Then they have to take that plan and communicate how it is to be executed to maybe tens or hundreds of people. (And they think they are able to do all that effectively.)
The fact is that they can’t, because communicating big strategic plans is like a game of telephone. You start with one person who has all the information and then that person has to tell it to a different group of people—but as that message gets disseminated and passed along, pieces of it get lost or missed or just get so turned around that the end result is not what was planned.
Here’s another thing. The people executing the plan weren’t present in the process of formulating that strategy; they’re just given a piece of strategy to execute. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense if they’re doing just one task and they don’t understand the big picture of why it’s important or how their tasks are going to affect the business.
Myth #3: Once a plan is created, it can be executed flawlessly—the plan will roll out without problems
This type of thinking says that if you give a plan to another group who wasn’t involved in the planning, they will be able to carry out the plan exactly as it was intended.
The fact is that employees who are not part of the process won’t be able to execute the plan as it was originally designed because issues will crop up that weren’t addressed in the planning process.
For instance, there might be problems with the product or the operation or there’s been customer feedback about something that customers are not happy with—and none of that was integrated into the planning process.
I know what you’re thinking: “It’s not practical to invite all our employees (or even half of them) to attend these sessions”
I would agree that inviting 500 people to a meeting is not practical.
But here is one simple step you can take to include more information in your strategic planning sessions.
Hold several meetings before the actual planning meeting, where managers talk to people in their department and inform them that the company is getting ready to do strategic planning.
If the team has any input, ideas, customer feedback or concerns about what is or is not working, collect that information and bring that into the strategic planning process.