Three Quick Steps To Ensure Your Strategic Plan Doesn’t Suck (Hint: It’s About Inclusion)

Guest blog by Matt Youens, Director and Founder of Human Elements Canada Ltd., Spring 2018 graduate of the Thrive Accelerator program.

Simon Sinek, noted author and motivational speaker, says that when ”people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”

I’m here to provide three easy-to-execute steps to help you make your impact, whatever it is, by including your stakeholders in the strategic planning or road mapping process and having them emotionally invested in your shared future success.

1) Invested Staff, Brighter Future

Avoid the temptation to close your office door, and build a strategic plan. I don’t care if it’s quicker and you’re a busy person, it will most likely be worth the paper it’s printed on. Maybe.

Build off of Sinek’s quote: Involve the staff – the actual doers, the people who will be responsible for executing on the plan – and the staff will be emotionally invested. If they help to build the plan, it will incorporate their ideas, their feedback, and their real-world experience. All of that is powerful stuff and makes for a stronger strategy that the team can execute.

The staff is going to do a much better job executing this type of plan than if the boss comes to a meeting one morning, hands out a cold copy of the latest strategic plan (developed outside of the team) and tells the staff that this is now our mission, let’s go out there and conquer. Where’s the emotional investment in that process?

2) Fewer Silos, More Communication

Include more stakeholders in the process. This helps to break down barriers (perceived or real) and open up the lines of communication.

When staff and board members come to a strategic planning session, it’s not uncommon that the staff would have their shields up and are wary of the big bad, and intimidating board members.

But slowly over the course of the session, those shields start to come down as the staff realize that the board members are just warm-blooded people, and have the best interest of the mission at heart. Conversely, the board members gain intimate, first-hand experiences and knowledge from the staff – which changes the way they perceive the organization and the impact they make.

Next thing you know relationships start to be formed (or repaired) across the silos, cross-pollination takes place, and both groups start to make better contributions and decisions. Everybody wins. This can happen for any stakeholder groups.

3) External Accountability = Greater Plan

By bringing in others, you bring in greater accountability.

Another simple step is to hack our monkey brains that do their monkey brain things – no matter that we harnessed fire and then sometime later a handful of us landed on the moon, we’re social animals (albeit complicated social animals).

Whoever is responsible for leading the creation and the delivery of the final plan, bringing in stakeholders (the doers, the clients, the funders, other departments etc. ) provides that leader with a healthy dose of social pressure. We want to be seen doing a good job, we want to prove to our social circle that the plan is a solid one, and is embraced by the very people who helped to build it.

It’s sort of an external accountability hack for those of us who may not be classified as an A-Type personality – though even for someone who is naturally driven, highly organized and focused, this extra, positive pressure is still helpful.

There you have it – three simple steps around inclusion to remember when you and/or team are next looking at taking your impact to the next level: invest the stakeholders, open up the lines of communication, and embrace external accountability.

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