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Driving an entire organization toward a single objective is an eminently complex undertaking, and one made easier with leadership commitment to strategic planning.
Done well, strategic planning enables organizations to develop new solutions, navigate uncertainties, optimize resources and focus their efforts, delivering a competitive advantage with real value for members.
Strategic planning is best accomplished by the board and management working together, though the specific process followed varies.
“Progressive boards want to be included earlier in the process in order to contribute their own input about long-term strategic direction of the organization,” says Leslie Hilton, FCCS Vice President of Governance/Board Development. “Then, it’s up to management to present their draft strategic plan based on that input, and it’s the board’s role to provide support and challenge to help finalize the plan, and ultimately approval.”
The value of strategic planning involving boards and executive leadership, as well as other managers, employees and outside experts as warranted, can’t be understated. Done well, it delivers a competitive advantage by supporting key business concerns.
Alignment and Focus
Early in the strategic planning process, the board and management will come to alignment in terms of risk tolerance and positioning strategies. Within these parameters, the strategic plan then establishes clear direction to employees in identifying objectives and the tactics to achieve them. With the proper communication of the plan throughout the organization, every employee can understand their role and the overall plan, contributing fully and working together efficiently toward common goals.
“A clearly articulated strategy that’s been fully communicated enables employees to understand their role in achieving the organization’s strategy and target their activities and decisions accordingly,” says Jean Cantey Segal, Chief Learning Officer at FCCS. “This alignment of purpose and focus on the strategic goals positions organizations to win in the marketplace.”
While developing the strategic plan, leaders should consider the talent and leadership that will be needed to execute the strategic initiatives, and ensure leadership succession is in place so progress can continue uninterrupted. Systems, processes and procedures should also be incorporated into the plan, with investments targeted to support the right initiatives at the right time. More generally, leaders should consider whether the strategic direction is aligned with the current culture, or whether a culture change is needed.
“Allocating resources is an important part of building the strategic plan, including prioritizing where and when capital is invested in new initiatives. This generally comes as planning teams begin to look at the execution of strategies they’ve identified” says Jay Lux, FCCS’ Vice President of Leadership and Organizational Development. “This clear delineation of which projects are happening, and when, creates greater clarity – employees at all levels will understand the strategic direction and which initiatives will be started their contribution to the organization’s future.”
Agility and Innovation
The process of having a strategic discussion, by its nature, opens up perspectives to a broader worldview. Looking at strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and challenges, the process provides a big-picture view of the organization, that when put into a broader framework, sparks creative ideas. With the plan in place, each employee can see both the big picture and their individual role, and think about how best to contribute and improve the process.
“When everyone understands the goals, they can think creatively about how to get there,” says Jean. “By getting every employee on board with the strategic plan, they’re empowered to respond to changes and roadblocks, and come up with new solutions focused toward the same goals.”
Anticipating and Responding to Changes
Strategic planning is a continuous process that works to ensure you achieve the future envisioned for the organization. By paying attention to what’s going on in the world and anticipating how it might impact your organization – employing a strategic mindset, in other words – the board and executive leaders can adjust the strategic plan as needed, communicating any updates to all employees. With employees always building from the same foundational strategies, they’re able to maneuver around obstacles when implementing strategic initiatives or simply delivering service to members.
“It’s almost paradoxical, but planning well and also being able to respond in
the moment go together,” says Jay. “Strategic planning builds a structure, an
environment, within which employees operate; that framework, when things change, allows employees to change direction, as well.”
In some cases, having a comprehensive, long-term strategic plan in itself is a point of distinction, providing a clear roadmap for forward-thinking organizations to maneuver around their less advanced competitors. The leadership conversations around the strategic direction and supporting initiatives, combined with an in-depth assessment of internal and external factors, can also identify your unique points of differentiation
in the marketplace, giving you an edge over your competitors.
“Having a strategic plan that’s utilized throughout the year to guide decisions and activities throughout the organization provides tremendous support for leaders to marshal the organization’s resources toward the right strategic goals,” says Leslie. “Having a strategic mindset enables board and executive leaders to recognize opportunities to differentiate their organization against their competitors.”
Strategic planning is a continuous process that works to ensure you achieve the future envisioned for the organization. Strategic focus enables you to allocate resources strategically, foster innovation and align the entire organization towards common goals, all. These factors contribute to the organization’s ability to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
For more information about strategic planning consulting and facilitation services, contact Jean Cantey Segal, Chief Learning Officer, at 303.721.3278 or via email or Jay Lux, Vice President of Leadership and Organizational Development, at 651.982.4568 or via email.