Despite the dramatic evolution in the business world over the past two decades, strategic planning still has the connotation of a process that is done once a year, discrete, exclusive, high level and independent from the business of an organization.
While strategic management connotes planning, implementation, evaluation, on-going maintenance and alignment of the organization’s strategy, to make it work, I believe that strategic management should be an integral part of an organization’s daily business operations not merely a once a year retreat for and by the senior management.
By all means, strategic management provides a discipline that enables the management to actually take a step back from day-to-day business activities to think about the future of the organization, hence the importance of this activity cannot be undermined as the organization can otherwise become solely consumed with working through the next issue or problem without considering the big picture.
However, the whole purpose of strategy is to provide a framework within which all staff can make day-to-day operational decisions and understand that those decisions are all moving the organization in a single direction.
Strategy provides a vision for the future, confirms the purpose and values of an organization, sets objectives, clarifies threats and opportunities, determines methods to leverage strengths and mitigate weaknesses.
Staff participation at all levels in strategy building enables them to better understand the direction, the relevance of that direction and the associated benefits in addition to the more important aspect of a sense of ownership.
For some people, simply knowing is enough; for many people, to gain their full support they need to fully understand. So even if all decisions are made by the seniors for good reasons, managing the process in such a way so the team feels that they are a part of it, does wonders.
One major pitfall of strategic planning is the fact that it’s too bureaucratic and traditionally kept at management level. In the real world, an organization needs to be dynamic, agile and flexible to respond to changing market conditions and at the same time, have a core structure that is consistent with core competencies of the business.
This is where the employee’s continuous participation and feedback is so critical as part of their day-to-day activities to stay competitive. Winning firms do understand the importance of strategic management – it plays a key role in the uplift of any company.
But the question you need to ask as a manager is, ‘do employees understand the strategy and believe that it is a wining one’, ‘do they feel that it is their strategy, not the senior managers’ strategy imposed on them’.
If strategic management is implemented thoroughly, then there is no doubt that the company will survive all types of odds and competition and remain in the market for a long period. This is needed in the present situation by all companies. It merely calls for proper planning and the right people to implement it.
You need to keep a regular check on all external and internal factors affecting your industry which only your people, who interact with the market, could tell you.
Employees who understand your strategy will make better day-to-day decisions that will support your vision. First, you should ideally have a separate vehicle for communicating your strategy.
Handing out photocopies of your strategic planning binder will not achieve the effect you desire. In terms of rolling it down, for the people on the ground and for effective execution, prepare a separate document for communicating.
Use something short and to-the-point, as many employees won’t spend a lot of time reading about your vision and process and background information and analysis.
You also should ‘sanitize’ your communication document. This isn’t as hard as it sounds — you simply need to look at everything you might share with employees and ask “will it hurt us if other people know this?”
It’s a hard call, but know that strategy once developed is for people who execute not for people who strategize – so make it a people’s strategy to make them accountable if you goal is results.