Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Beginning at the Beginning

Strategic planning is 90% communication and 10% process. When most people are asked to engage in the strategic or business planning process, they will tend to have 2 reactions; they either love it, or they would rather ignore it and just . . . well, execute something.

I find that those who love it, love the art of discovering new horizons, and then actually plotting out the actions to achieve the end goal. These are the people who love to engage in dicussions about what is going on in the environment for hours, pontificating about the possibilities and coming up with possible solutions. True strategic planning zeolots pull out all the tools, from SWOTS to strategy maps, to flip charts and smelly markers. Often times, however, these are the new comers to the management realm, and while their ideas are important and significant at an operational level, they may not have the strategic push to actually create a new future.

Then there are those who view strategic planning as work. Something you have to do. Something that you get measured on. If this is the only driver, then quite often, very few insights are generated, and very few ideas ever come to the light of day.

Sadly, though, some of the most insightful and greatest business minds fall into the second camp. They do not see the opportunity in engaging in the strategic planning process. So the question is why. Why is it that we have difficulty engaging people in this very important process. I often wonder, how may futures have we missed out on because we do not actively engage in making the possible happen?

I was recently asked by the CEO of a company to find a way to increase engagement of the management team. So I asked them - what is it that makes you feel disengaged? Is it the process, or is it the way we engage in the process. They said it was the latter. The feeling was that they wanted to be more activley engaged in understanding the context surrounding the eventual decisions that are made through strategic planning. This includes such things as long term targets and what it takes to achieve them at an enterprise and operational level.

I discovered through research that engagement is an industry unto itself. It would appear that people in general need mechanisms to communicate and share information. They need forums to share their ideas, and they need a mechanism to make the ideas happen. Once all that begins to happen, then they see the value in participating and seeing the results of their efforts.

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