Who should participate in Strategic Planning? We’re kicking off 2023 with a new series about strategic planning, designed to put you in the best possible position to succeed with your business strategy in the coming year.
Today, we’re going to look at the ‘who’ of strategic planning and consider the first main objective of the process, which is to get the right team in place. After all, without your strategic team, you won’t have the right people to drive your work forward.
But what is the ‘right team’ exactly?
The key thing to recognise is you cannot simply rely on your executives, directors and senior managers alone.
Why? Because a successful business strategy relies on fresh thinking, creative approaches, different perspectives and deep knowledge of what is going on at the customer, stakeholder and operational levels. To really drill down to what is happening in your business, what is happening in your industry and what your customers really (really) want, you need to find your organisational subject matter experts.
What are subject matter experts?
Often, subject matter experts – those who really know what they are talking about because they are highly experienced in their field – have been with your company or working in the industry for years. These individuals will be highly trained and understand your business and its processes. They may well have experience in how your competitors do things and how best practice businesses do things to really raise the game.
Interestingly, these individuals can sometimes be a bit negative. After all, if they have worked within your business for years, they may feel that they have been overlooked and that their ideas have not been embraced. This is your chance to change things. By giving these individuals the right level of responsibility, engaging them, listening to them and showing that their vast reserves of knowledge and experience are valued, they can be absolute gold mines of information and real problem solvers.
By finding subject matter experts across your business, you can tap into your business consultants without the expense of bringing in expensive management consultants! A good way to find them is to ask line managers across each key business function. They can nominate their best experts – even if they need a little careful handling to get them on board!
What about frontline workers?
Now, we’ve talked about finding those subject matter experts to bring their deep expertise and experience to the strategic planning table. But there’s another group of employees that may bring you insights you’d never considered, and these are your frontline workers. Think about the employees that answer the phones, serve your customers, answer complaints, deal with suppliers and handle your outbound sales. Which individuals manage your website, check your e-commerce function, and follow up on customer feedback? These employees may well be young and relatively new to your business. They are often junior. But by the very nature of their roles, they are very likely to have a clear view of what your customers want, what is working and what isn’t – all, crucially – from your customer perspective.
Why does this matter? Because the further up that people progress through an organisation, the more internal their viewpoint is likely to become. Directors may engage with high-profile stakeholders or big clients, but they are unlikely to pick up the phone to answer a customer query or handle an online chat to help with an order. Engage your frontline workers, and you’ll quickly learn about the current pinch points, customer frustrations, opportunities, threats – and what your competitors are doing. After all, younger, newer workers are likely to be immersed in the digital and tech world, and they’ll know what the best in the business are doing. Bring them on board, encourage them, help them feel confident, mentor them, and discover what they know!
Find your scribe
Once your team of inputters are in place, you’ll need to find a great scribe. This individual will record the actions and outputs from your strategy sessions concisely and accurately. This is a key role, as the individual will be responsible for capturing key points and assigning nominated owners for the next steps.
Secure your facilitator
You’ve got your management team, subject matter experts, frontline workers and scribe… so to ensure the session unlocks as much value as possible, you need a facilitator. A good facilitator can get the best out of everyone and keep the session focused. He or she will use different approaches and styles to rein in the over-confident extroverts (whilst hearing their valuable inputs) and encourage the quieter introverts (who are natural thinkers.) The facilitator role is often the key to unlocking real, measurable value from strategy planning sessions to making everyone feel positive about them and ensuring that the strategic process is clear and well communicated.
For extra points!
At Intrafocus, we recommend that businesses also look at the makeup of their strategy team so that it includes different personality types at the appropriate levels. For example, depending on the size of the business, you might aim to include the following:
1. Include a natural visionary, an analytical thinker and a change agent – all at the decision-making level.
2. At the subject matter and frontline level, include people from marketing and sales (for the customer’s voice), from HR for staff needs, and functional experts from key operational areas.
3. Look to include process owners, as these are often ripe for strategic analysis and reengineering!
Find out more
The Intrafocus Strategy Workshop is designed to cover everything your organisation needs to take your business strategy forwards, whatever your industry, size and objectives. Our expert facilitators can help you to assemble the best possible team for the best results. Please contact us to find out more.