A great CEO (and managers) should always devote time to strategic thinking. However, in my opinion, an overall comprehensive and thorough strategic planning process involving key personnel should only happen once every three years. I choose three years because I believe that is the maximum time that is useful to look forward when planning strategy – any longer is too uncertain to spend the time on and, more importantly, expect your team to believe in.
Given that the process should happen once every three years, it makes sense to me that proper preparation, time and resources are brought to the exercise in order to maximize the probability of success (as befits a once every three year exercise). The CEO and managers must believe in and be committed to the benefits of the process. Accordingly, let’s discuss the key components in more detail.
Use of a facilitator
I believe that the use of a facilitator can be of significant benefit provided, obviously, that you find the right facilitator for your circumstances, needs and budget.
Quality and level of engagement of the management team involved
Naturally, the higher the quality of the managers involved, and their commitment to the success of the planning, the greater the probability of effective strategic planning. The CEO must determine the self-sufficiency and commitment of each person involved. Allow those with greater skills and commitment to play a greater role in the process. Ensure that those who are not as self-sufficient but are committed are involved to the correct degree, but realize that the process will likely be more a learning/personal development opportunity for them. For those that do not appear to be as committed as you would like, carefully consider whether they should be part of the exercise (or your organization for that matter). Differentiate between lack of commitment and differing opinion, since sometimes they can be confused. Where a person is passionate but their views differ, it is simply a question of whether or not the differing views can be debated in a constructive manner.
The quality and depth of each manager’s vision for his/her team
Every manager should have a comprehensive vision for his/her team. This vision essentially describes a number of items including why the team exists, who their clients (internal and/or external) are, the services/products that the team provides, the standards and goals that the team is striving to meet, and why they expect to get there. The clearer that each manager’s vision is (as helped shaped by the CEO), the better prepared they are to participate in a strategic planning process.
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By Terry Thompson, Surrey, BC, CYBF mentor, firstname.lastname@example.org