Strategic planning is a difficult proposition in many organizations, but getting it right can improve a company’s agility in an increasingly changing business climate.
Many organization find they do not get the desired results from their efforts in strategic planning. They often find difficulty in having strategies and plans motivate real action and provide value to the company. That follow-through — getting real business results — is a significant issue for many businesses.
Start High in the Company
Quite often the biggest issue is that upper management has not clearly defined the direction and priorities of the company in such a way that all other activities can be properly aligned with that direction. In other words, the rest of the company is not on the same page with the upper management.
One of the most important factors in getting the desired results is being specific at the highest levels of the company. No matter what the size of the company, it is important for the executive level to define not only in words what the vision is, but also to define the business-driven goals that they believe will bring success.
Defining these goals very clearly, and with very well-defined measurements, will provide the right target at which the follow-on strategies can be aimed. These should provide the entire company with a clear understanding of the focus and priorities of the company for the period covered by the goals.
Get Communication Right
Another issue that hits many companies is that they do not fully appreciate the amount of collaboration and communication that will be needed among all business groups to achieve the strategy. The result is distrust among business units which inhibits efforts to achieve the business goals.
Establishing the communication mechanisms and encouraging their use is one very important factor for success, and this starts with clear, open communication from the leadership.
Collaboration: Involving Key Stakeholders
Business units that ignore the direct input from key stakeholders will hit many snags when it comes time to implement the strategies. Many people like to think that they know their “customers” (internal or external), unfortunately, ignoring their need to provide input directly prohibits full buy-in of the results.
As the strategy moves down through the organization, and each business unit is developing strategies and plans to align with the overall business, involving key stakeholders is critical. These stakeholders will be working to align their own efforts as well, and their input will allow all groups have a more coordinated result.
Insure the Focus Starts with Business Goals and Metrics
Quite often projects that are initiated to respond to business needs jump into solution-mode without fully defining the business goals (i.e., metrics) which will provide proper focus to the efforts. Although they may begin with defining “business requirements”, these rarely provide clear target metrics for alignment.
The executive level goals and metrics become the basis for defining the specific goals and metrics for each project through involvement with key stakeholders. This insures alignment with the business as well as improving buy-in by the stakeholders in the overall success.
When using consulting, whether it is strictly among groups through collaboration or involving outside consulting resources, quite often the business will abdicate ownership to the resources with whom consulting advice is sought.
There is an excellent book by Peter Block called “Flawless Consulting” which details the importance of clearly understanding all roles in any consulting relationship. In essence, the consultant should be used to facilitate the company’s own efforts, giving some guidance where specific subject matter expertise is needed. But the business maintains ownership and decision-making responsibility.
Proper Alignment Drives Success
Given clearly defined goals and metrics, and providing communication of goals and progress, collaboration can be enhanced. These all work together to improve alignment of efforts to a company’s strategies.