A Guide to Unlocking Your Organization’s Potential
I’ve led more than 200 strategic planning sessions in a range of industries.
It’s not unusual to find myself correcting faulty assumptions that can wreck the planning sessions of even the savviest leadership teams. Here are eight myths to watch out for:
- We know where we are—let’s focus on where we want to go. Based on data I’ve collected from more than 2,500 senior executives at more than 300 different organizations around the world, the top executive’s view of organizational performance is the highest or second highest score among his/her direct reports 81% of the time. Direct reports see things from a different perspective that are blind spots for the top exec. (Click here to read more about this topic on my blog Mind the Gap) Action:Before you move forward, confirm where you are.
- We know what makes us special. Based on research by Jaynie Smith, author of Creating Competitive Advantage, 95% of companies don’t know what their customers value most. As a result, most companies don’t really have a strategy or the one they’re using is ineffective. Action: Stop talking to yourselves and start talking to your customers to understand what makes you special.
- We need to do more. Don’t ask How much more will we do? Ask How much are we willing to eliminate? Too many initiatives mean that most of them are not getting done well or done at all. Action: Think addition by subtraction. Focus on the top three priorities that will improve performance. Make everything else secondary.
- We can run a planning session ourselves. You’re smart enough to lead a planning session, but will the room be safe enough to inspire authentic conversations about the real issues? My experience says “no,” and my article in Forbes examines reasons planning sessions fail, including the failure to discuss meaty issues. Action: Hire a facilitator with a track record of producing the outcomes you want from your session.
- Planning takes too much time. It doesn’t have to. Two full days with fully engaged, fully honest leaders is enough. Action: Communicate to your team the outcome you’re expecting, and pose a couple of thought-provoking questions in advance. Don’t over-prepare, and don’t over-think. The value is in the conversation at the planning session.
- Our budget is our plan. A budget is a form of a plan. But when planning is approached as a budgeting exercise, the sequence is out of order. Action: First build trust. Next build your plan. Then build your budget.
- Our experience is an advantage. Only when that experience produces the desired results. Enthusiasm and effort beat unwilling and unproductive. Action: Terminate under-performers, then listen as your colleagues wonder aloud, “What took so long?”
- Consequences equal punishment. Somewhere along the way, consequences have come to be viewed as unfavorable when in fact a consequence can be favorable or unfavorable. Action:The time to set rewards and penalties is before you finalize your plan. At the planning session, ask your team What will be our response to under-performance? Once agreement is reached, be sure rewards and penalties are implemented consistently.
If you’re interested in visiting with me about my approach to strategic planning or you want to score one of two sessions with me at a preferred rate between now and December 2018, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Planning is all about change: Doing more of what’s working and less of what isn’t. So if you aren’t prepared to change, don’t bother to plan.