Avoiding the Dreaded F-Word in your Strategic Planning

Likewise, if he’s been married long enough, he knows that “fine” is the wrong response to his wife’s query about how she looks in any particular outfit.

That’s because fine, as an answer to an important question, is useless at best and poisonous at worst. And not just at home.

When I’m conducting a strategic planning session with an organization and I start hearing a lot of fine in response to questions about critical issues, I see it as a clear message that there’s a serious lack of employee engagement.

In my experience, fine can mean one of four things:

1. Begrudging Acceptance

In a best-case scenario during strategic planning it says, “There’s not a lot I can do about it, so go ahead”—as is the case of the husband going out for drinks with the guys.

2. Indifference

People often respond with fine in a strategic planning session if they don’t have any investment in the issue—like the husband who’s asked about his wife’s outfit. It can be the path of least resistance.

3. Safety

Often during a strategic planning session, individuals without enough information to make an intelligent response fall back on fine.

4.Passive Aggressive Resistance

The worst-case scenario during strategic planning is when people say fine but mean, “Sure, I’ll go along with that. I think it’s stupid, but go ahead.”

For any organization to thrive and evolve to become invaluable to its stakeholders, it’s crucial that the people who make up that organization be committed and passionate. Fine is neither. All it tells you is that your team is not engaged.

For a leader who’s hearing fine a lot, it’s time to look in the mirror. What is it about your approach that’s causing your employees to hold back from sharing their opinions? Or worse, what’s preventing them from developing a passion for what it is you are trying to accomplish?

So, how can you break through the fine logjam?

The simple antidote to acquiescence and tacit acceptance is empowerment. I work with my clients to make sure everyone on their strategic planning team understands their role, owns their responsibilities and embraces the organization’s vision.

When team members are genuinely valued they get invested. From there it’s astounding how quickly the needle moves from fine to impassioned and constructive dialogue—exactly where it needs to be for meaningful, effective and successful strategic planning.