It’s that time of year again. When sales teams are making that dash to the finish line to make sure they get that last sale in, HR is driving you mad with the timelines for the performance evaluations and of course, the finance team is bugging you to get the budget numbers in for next year.
This is my favorite time of the year, as it allows me to engage with a number of companies in helping them build intellectual clarity and emotional commitment towards their business agenda for 2013. The goal is making sure that each and every member of the top team is aligned and is committed to the same plan and targets.
My standard question to ask before we start a strategy session is for people to write on a piece of paper what they individually think are the three strategic priorities of the company. More often than not, the answers are so divergent that you don’t understand how this company has ever achieved something.
Clients often think that doing this creates a lot of time and tremendous amount of effort and synchronization. However, my experience shows that this is absolutely not the case. My promise to them is that I can get your team to agree, be aligned and committed to the long term ambition, targets for the coming year and the activities required to achieve these targets within 2 days. Yep… just 2 days.
So how does it work?
Having The Right People In The Room:
First of all, you have to make sure you got all the stakeholders in the room. This is without exception the CEO and his direct reports (although often I encourage company to include the next level down as well). Bring people into the room that know the business at an operational level, making the group that owns the plan significantly larger. I have gone up to groups as large as 35 – 40 people.
What Have We Achieved So Far:
I always start by going back in time. In my view there is no future without taking your past into account. Apart from that, it also gives team members a moment to look back and be proud of what they have achieved so far and maybe remind them of a number of ‘lessons’ from the past.
What Do We Want To Become:
After looking back, it is then important that you start looking forward. Think far into the future and discuss what you want to become as an organization. What are the organizational goals that will energize, excite and inspire people? Why do we exist and how will we contribute to the society? I have found that in order for teams to give it their all, they first have to agree that it is worth doing it.
Where Do We Stand At The Moment:
As much as opinions can differ about the future, team members are often also butting heads on the current reality. So prior to starting to plot a strategy on what we need to do to deliver on our aspirations, it is pivotal to get members aligned on where the company stands at the moment.
What Do We Have To Do:
Knowing where we want to go and knowing where we stand at the moment then allows team members to jointly craft a plan on how they will achieve their aspirations given the current reality.
How Do We Have To Work Together:
When we are clear on what needs to be done, only then in my view can you discuss how the team should work together to deliver on this. Team building events which are not ‘anchored’ in the aspiration and strategic plan of the company have a minimal impact as the reason for working better together is not grounded.
How Will We Cascade This:
Finally, it is all about not only creating clarity in the top team but engaging the whole organization to understand, own and run with the plan for 2013.
What blows most clients away is that it is possible to capture your whole three-year strategic plan, including the main activities and targets for 2013, in one single page. That’s right, it can all fit on just one A4 sheet. Can you imagine how easy it is to communicate a one-page document to your organization?
Let me know if you have any questions on the process, I am always more than happy to help. Good luck in creating, aligning and engaging the team in the 2013 plan
– Paul Keijzer