What’s holding you back? Here are the most common barriers to corporate road-mapping — and how to instantly banish them from your boardroom.
Bring those skeletons out of the closet, we’re going to fix them once and for all! Leave the fears behind so you can get back to work on your inspired, executable plan.
The problem: Who’s this strategic planning session for anyway? This is the first question your participants are going to ask themselves as they walk in the room. The answer should be: for them. Not just for senior leadership, not just for management, but for everyone who participates. Yet, this can take some convincing, and a properly designed process, to make that true.
An inclusive process that prioritizes participation is a hugely valuable tool for overcoming apathy, disinterest and a lack of buy-in. People don’t get excited about things they weren’t involved in. And they don’t love being given a ‘to do’ list without any input. (Think about how well that approach works with kids and spouses!)
The solution: Personally, I don’t like the term ‘buy-in’ as it feels vaguely manipulative. And so the answer to the problem is to create inclusive process that encourages genuine contributions and aligns input from everyone involved. To achieve this, the facilitator deploys a series of techniques that contributes to alignment, such as asking teams to contribute their ideas and connect ideas to the company strategy.
The right process will leave everyone feeling included, valued and with a stake in the planning and the outcome. When each individual has been encouraged to put their thoughts and opinions into the mix, they’re then much more likely to internalize the plan – because at that it’s their baby too, not a directive delivered from on high, nor just a list of someone else’s ideas. Even if senior leadership designs the initial strategy, including other layers of management and staff during the validation process should be the next step, to ensure this inclusiveness and investment from all teams.
The problem: We’ve all been there. We get swept up in the excitement of a really good brainstorming session, we’re sketching out amazing cure-all strategies that will transform the world as we know it. But what good is this type of plan if it’s unattainable? How can we be sure a feel-good strategic planning session doesn’t lead to goals that seem outlandish or unrealistic once viewed on our computers in the cold light of Monday morning?
The solution: A great technique for creating a realistic plan is a healthy discussion of obstacles. Some people fear this type of approach, concerned that the conversation dwells on negatives and is inherently destructive.
In fact, a well orchestrated discussion of what holds us in place leads to plans that are grounded in reality and aimed at obstacles. Plans that focus on the desired future state, without also considering the obstacles create a ground hog day experience for the group, where they discuss the same old challenges a year later and the amazing strategies continue to be un-executable.
Another solution is to look at planning as a series of steps, rather than a single event. Once you’ve landed on concrete steps for action, take those ideas back to the organization. Go to small teams for feedback. Ask them to add their own additional insights, and don’t be afraid if new questions come up. Ask them to help you address considerations and questions such as ‘What would this mean for you?” and “How can we bring this to life?”
Once you’ve completed the plan, give control over its implementation to broader employee groups by creating a portfolio of projects. Split goals and objectives into manageable tasks and assign them to appropriate units. Invite team members from these units back to your 90-day follow up session to understand how they are progressing.
The problem: When you begin planning, do you find ghosts of meetings past can come back to haunt you?
Do you hear the same old arguments, barriers, knotty issues continue to rise to the surface, never to find resolution?
If your strategic road-mapping sessions have started to feel like an endless merry-go-round where you continually address the same old stale, stubborn issues, consider adding new activities into the mix.
The solution: You can’t expect something different to emerge if you keep starting with the same ol’ SWOT every time! Get rid of the familiar and try doing something different.
First, involve different people. As above, having a diversity of voices and skill-sets in the room is a powerful way to give you new, fresh and surprising perspectives. It’s a way to change the conversation – often for the better.
Other remedies could include techniques like environmental scans, historical scans, scenario discussions, , tours of unrelated , all to stimulate creativity and shed well-worn mindsets. Get off-site! Go to an unusual location. See how others are solving problems that might look different than your own, but underneath are probably quite similar.
And don’t forget to really dig deep to explore the things that hold you in place. Discovering the deep contradictions in an organization is a doorway to the future.
The problem: You’re worried that the plan, with all the hard work and optimism you invested in it, just isn’t going to move the needle in the way you’d hoped. What if you try something and it fails? Wouldn’t this be the most disappointing outcome of all?
The solution: Although there’s nothing wrong with failure (especially if you learn something from it), you can also try and prevent it in the first place.
Understand that even though your strategic plan might be approved, it still might not be perfect. The key is to check in regularly on the plan’s progress. Ask what is working and what isn’t. Work to determine what you night need to change to succeed. This will give the sense that the plan is a living document, easily editable once you learn new information. Flexibility is important, using the plan as a strong guiding hand.
Want to learn more about how professional facilitation can transform your next strategic planning session from frightening to fruitful? Reach out to arrange a consultation.
Parsons Dialogue is based in Calgary, Canada, serving clients across North America. We design and facilitate strategic processes that help teams collaborate with clarity and confidence.