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Have you ever been in a strategic planning meeting gone horribly wrong? Maybe there were too many people involved, or not enough departments represented, or too many individual agendas to reach a group consensus. Or your organization suffers from the dreaded internal politics game, making it nearly impossible to reach alignment.
It takes the right team to bring ideas to fruition and accelerate your organization forward, especially when you are trying to branch out into exciting new areas. But too often, leaders fail to bring the right strategic planning team to the table – and that can create a serious risk for your success.
Before you send invites for your next strategic planning meeting, consider these questions to make sure you involve the right people:
What is your goal? Your business may be struggling to grow your market share, or trying to launch a new product or attract a new customer group. Educational institutions are likely looking to grow enrollment or introduce nontraditional learning programs. Nonprofit organizations might be looking to grow donations or build advocacy efforts. All of these goals are too complex for one person or one department to handle successfully – each require alignment throughout the organization, and representatives from multiple areas to explore how you can achieve them.
Which of your stakeholders are key to achieving this goal? Consider how your goal impacts the people your organization touches, and how those people can positively or negatively impact your success. Depending on your organization, these stakeholders may be customers, vendors, shareholders, employees, students, community members or legislators. Insights into what each of your stakeholder audiences want from you will help shape how you tackle your goal.
Who has direct interaction with your stakeholders? Regardless of the size of your organization, there are likely multiple functions or departments that oversee specific responsibilities. Each of these groups has a unique view into how your organization can achieve its goal and what your stakeholders need from you. They also will be able to raise potential concerns about how new initiatives and changes will impact their department.
It is critical to explore all the variables that impact your strategy and ensure alignment with the end goal. List which areas could play a role in this process, such as operations, human resources, sales, marketing, customer service, product development, legal, logistics, and information technology. Ensure a representative from each area is involved in your strategic planning meeting.
What types of people do you need on the strategic planning team? Many organizations create teams based just on job titles. Titles are definitely important – after all, you want people who have the power to make decisions, and access to the resources to put those decisions into actions. But, you also need people who know the key stakeholders well, and who have the right personalities to have open, collaborative and strategic discussions.
When you are recruiting people to participate in your strategic planning meeting, make sure they are strategic thinkers who can understand the end goal and contribute ideas on ways to reach it. You need a mix of people who bring the big flashy ideas balanced with people who can bring you back to reality. It also is helpful to have someone who tends to be a devil’s advocate to productively poke holes in ideas to strengthen them. Finally, make sure to invite anyone who has traditionally been a roadblock to success. This is your opportunity to hear their concerns upfront, gain alignment as a group and make them an active part of the solution.
While it can be challenging to gain leadership alignment at your organization, this collaborative effort pays off big time when you go to execute on your business strategy.