It’s the time of year when companies turn attention to strategic and annual business planning. Several times while speaking in the past few weeks on “Taking the NO Out of Business InNOvation,” I’ve been asked:
“Who should participate in successful planning efforts?”
My answer is always the same:
You need to have three types of people involved for successful strategic planning. Getting diverse perspectives involved is of primary importance.
The three types of perspectives critical to great strategic thinking, planning, and implementation are:
- People with Frontline Business Experience – This includes operations, sales, customer service, and any other areas with P&L responsibility or close customer interaction. They provide a solid view of what’s going on in the business, what the business issues and opportunities are with customers and competitors, and what important strategy areas require attention.
- People with Functional Expertise – Leaders in support areas of the business should bring insights into strengths, weaknesses, and key opportunities for important business processes including marketing, human resources, information technology, accounting, finance, etc.
- People with a Creative / Innovative Orientation – These people, regardless of foreknowledge of a strategy effort’s focus or experience inside a company, are adept at looking at business, industry, and organizational situations in unconventional ways.
These three groups are all important to include because they tend to see and react to situations from very different perspectives. This intermingling of viewpoints is vital to the best strategic plans.
So what happens if you involve only people with one of these perspectives?
- Frontline business people, left to their own in planning, tend to come up with more conventional and incremental strategies. Because they’re so close to a company’s operations, there can be a real reluctance to stretch capabilities adequately to address emerging marketplace issues.
- If only functional experts are involved, you’re liable to get great process ideas and strategies which improve the internal workings of a business but may not have the necessary impact on the organization’s business results.
- And involving only creative people in planning? Trust me, you’ll generate really cool, incredible ideas, but too often, there is no way to actually bring them to the market successfully.
The net of all this is for the strongest strategic plan, you need to find ways to include people with each of these perspectives.
The challenge is it’s very often difficult for these three groups to work together successfully and productively. That’s why we’ve designed a strategy development approach which allows people with each of these points of view to actively and quickly build on the ideas of others to create strong, implementable plans.
Mike Brown is an award-winning innovator in strategy, communications, and experience marketing. He authors the BrainzoomingTM blog, and serves as the company’s chief Catalyst. He wrote the ebook “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” and is a frequent keynote presenter.