The Ticket to Strategic Planning

At some point during the summer, our wheels start turning. It’s time to reflect on the year. All leaders can see, short of an unforeseen crisis, how things are going and where they will wind up by year’s end. While no one on the team believes our work is done, we do need to turn our attention to the future. It is time to plan.

It is Strategic Planning Season

For a quarter of a century, I have attended them. They have been run by PFP’s CEOs, Presidents, outside facilitators and Chief Strategy Officers. They have taken place in training rooms, boardrooms, golf clubs and hotels. They have been attended by too few, too many, the right individuals and the wrong individuals. Their effectiveness has ranged from mild to wild.

By no means is success during or after the meeting guaranteed. Phenomenal planning requires a recipe for greatness. Does your team have what it takes to blast off into next year with a plan that will help your organization land on the moon, a mountain, a hill or a ditch?

The level of success of your strategic planning session has nothing to do with your plan.

There are politics in the room. There are leaders who want a bigger voice. There are executives afraid of losing power or shifting attention. There are men and women who want to oversee an initiative or drive an idea forward. There are folks who are concerned and wish to limit change or are concerned about rocking the boat. Your team is worried, stressed and tense. How will they respond when they enter the room and settle down to meet?

The realities of all corporate strategy come face to face with the realities of corporate culture in the Strategic Planning Meeting. How does your organization stand up against the three pillars of culture, the Three T’s (Teamwork, Transparency and Trust)? Do they exist? When the Three T’s are present, fears, politics, desires and priorities can be resolved. When the Three T’s are present, anything and everything can be accomplished. Great culture will eliminate any of the damaging politics that would potentially come into play. A team that works together and is open about intentions, is communicative about ones thoughts and ultimately trusts one another will overcome any obstacles placed in front of them. They will do what is necessary for the organization to thrive and survive into the future.

Don’t forget the phrase originated by Peter Drucker and made famous by Mark Fields, President of Ford.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

Ultimately, if you do not have the right culture in place — alive, well and tested — your strategy session will be an exercise in futility. In the case of weak culture, your efforts during the meeting will simply serve as an opportunity to “check the box” as having the session because that is “what we do” in the fall. Rather than plodding through the effort with little chance of moving your organization forward with strategy, perhaps the move, if your organization does not have the Three T’s, is to have “CULTURE” as the primary strategy and to create the kind of environment required to uncover ideas, bring them forward, vet them out and identify the optimal path to pursue.

Organizations with powerful cultures let innovators innovate, implementers implement, and leaders lead. Rising stars rise and mentors mentor. Accountability will be agreed upon and follow-through will take place.

When your organization’s culture rocks, your strategy will be ready to roll.

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