strategic planning mistakes greg bustin planning trust leadership

Steer Clear of the Biggest Strategic Planning Mistakes

  1. August 10th, 2017  | 

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Published in Strategic Planning

With summer nearly a memory, companies are entering the home stretch of the year.

Many leaders will consider holding a session with strategic planning consultants, as this will allow you to have the best advice for the industry of-which you operative in. Also, this will hopefully keep your business clear or making any future mistakes. But why is it that we always find time to fix mistakes but we don’t find the time to prevent them? This is why you should consider getting a consultants opinion to prevent these from ever happening again.

Other leaders will assume, “Everyone already knows what needs to be done.” Don’t be so sure. The dirty little secret is that at least half of your team (many who may report directly to you) cannot articulate the company’s top three priorities, much less explain why achieving them matters.

For those considering a session, there are four huge strategic planning mistakes to avoid.

The biggest one? Failure to address the meaty issues.

To achieve the objectives you and your team say you want, you must talk about all the obstacles to high performance. Alignment does not mean the absence of conflict. Just the opposite. Authentic alignment can be achieved not only with the use of the right tools (such as this Hoshin Kanri template), but also by encouraging conflict, exploring options to resolve that conflict, and finding a solution for it that is supported by all leaders. Debate is healthy, though the argument is not. And for healthy conflict to occur, leaders must trust one another. You can’t talk openly and candidly about prob ­lems, fears, and controversy with people you don’t trust and care about. When trust is present, you and your team can focus on fixing problems, replicating successes, and carving up sacred cows. Absent trust, your planning process will be a waste of time.

There are two questions you need to consider when evaluating whether your team has the trust necessary to plan effectively.

  1. Do I trust my team?
  2. Does my team trust me enough to ask tough questions?

Do I trust my team?

It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day details and postpone addressing difficult issues that affect your company fundamentally. If you do not trust your team, then it is time to take a deeper dive to find out why.

Do you have leaders that don’t fit your office culture? Are pirates undermining your leadership? If so, address this behavior now. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse.

Are your hesitations closer to home? Perhaps you have a good team, but you don’t know if you can trust them yet because they haven’t been encouraged to take charge, lead or share their opinions. Are you creating an atmosphere that fosters trust?

Does my team trust me enough to ask tough questions?

When was the last time one of your team members questioned your assertions? Are they comfortable enough to ask clarifying questions or point out potential flaws in your ideas? Your team may be holding back out of fear, anger, or simply because they are introverts. The fact remains that employees perform at a higher level when their contributions are clear and they see that their input counts. Make sure you create a safe environment for your team to plan.

Fill Two Needs with One Deed: Tackle Trust and Planning

Companies without trust issues or combative personalities are rare. Your best chance for strategic planning success is to bring in an experienced third-party facilitator. I have often said that leading your own strategic planning session is like trying to perform surgery on yourself. An experienced facilitator can make the room safe enough for your team to address the meaty issues.

Ready to start planning? Read about the other mistakes in my article in Forbes, “Why Company Plans Fail” or contact me with your questions about strategic planning facilitation.

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises some of the world’s most admired companies and leaders, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 250 strategic planning sessions, he’s delivered more than 600 keynotes and workshops on every continent except Antarctica, and he coaches leaders who are inspired to take their career to the next level. His fourth leadership book— Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill) —is a Soundview Executive Best Business Book.

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