As a leader, you know what needs doing, where your organization is headed, and what your team should focus on. You mull over strategy constantly and you have a pretty good idea of what your priorities should look like. You are itching to get going.
At the same time, you know what they say: Good strategy and planning are best done collaboratively and input, buy-in, and engagement across the organization are what will make your strategy come to life.
But what if they get it wrong?!
Listen, I get it! When I held leadership roles, I felt that same tension. So much rides on setting the ‘right’ goals, assessing the context through the ‘right’ lenses, and aligning all the pieces to guarantee solid execution. Call out my hubris, but I always thought I had a pretty good idea where we should go and a firm belief in the importance of getting it ‘right’. It is scary to let go of control and embrace the unknown.
But, I know that there are very few absolutely ‘right’ answers in life. I for sure did not have all the ‘right’ answers for the organizations I led.
Turns out, nobody holds the ‘right’ answers in an organization. It is through an iterative process and conversations that we make sense of where we are at, where we aspire to go and what we need to focus on to get us there. My teams were all made up of brilliant people who brought their perspectives, experiences, and ideas to the table. Developing our strategies was made possible by the input that all of us had into the process. The strategies we developed were ‘right’ for us.
I’ve learned to sit with that tension: The unease about what might emerge from such collaborative planning and the delight to arrive at strategies and goals that I would never have dared to imagine.
This is why I feel so at home at Ignite. As facilitators, our approach is about ‘strategy from within’ and we always encourage anxious leaders to ‘trust the process!
This is what you can do to set yourself and your team up for success:
Find an external facilitator that you feel a rapport with and who designs the process with you and the team.
Collaborative planning is intentional and customized. A good facilitator will work with you to define who to involve at what stage, how to draw out and focus on the input that is crucial to the process but also to allow space for unforeseen insights to emerge and inform the strategy. They will focus on the process and on helping your team get the results you need.
Create diverse participation that makes sense for your organization.
Strategy-making requires hearing from all levels of the organization: Include your board, leaders, and employees. Work with a facilitator to design a process that gathers meaningful and effective input from key stakeholders and also builds in opportunities for iterative review and two-way feedback throughout. This does not need to be an unwieldy and lengthy process, get creative in how to involve your teams.
Embrace iterative planning.
Gone are the days that we gather every three or five years to review organizational priorities. The world around us changes too quickly. What strategy boils down to is the practice of making sense of what is around us and how we can respond to capitalize on opportunities and mitigate risks. Build your team’s muscle to cultivate this way of thinking and revisit your priorities frequently. You don’t always have to bring in external facilitators but it can be helpful to bring one in to facilitate your annual strategy reviews to allow leaders to avoid double duty and participate more fully.
I believe that the true value of building a strategic plan lies in the process to get there. Trust your team and the process. You will get it right!
Author: Catarina Moreno