10 Steps to Creating a Focused Effective Strategy

A well-defined Strategic Plan sets you on a focused course to demonstrate and increase value. An effective strategic planning process results in a thorough understanding of the organization, the value it brings to the constituents it serves and what leaders most need to focus on.

Does your Strategic Planning Process have all these factors?

1. Utilizes your organization’s Vision, Mission and Values as its foundation.

Doing so helps you to stay true to what’s most important for your organization today and into the future. This may require reviewing, revising or even establishing your organization’s Vision, Mission or Values.

2. Provides focused direction while also being nimble.

Your Strategic Plan must be focused on what’s most important in order to align resources and avoid distraction from the noise. At the same time, you must keep your finger on the pulse and remain nimble enough to shift course if needed.

3. Articulates a strong value proposition.

A value proposition is simply what your organization does better or differently than others and how you will grow and measure this value. What makes you unique? Why should customers come to you? Going through this activity can wake up leaders to the need to up their game or just to be able to get the word out.

4. Ensures alignment of all leaders.

Do you really know what your leaders think are the most important goals or are they giving you lip service in meetings while working on their own side projects? Find out where there is agreement or disagreement early on before friction slows or stops your progress.

5. Has the confidence of leaders and teams.

Understand early on where your leaders have little faith that a particular initiative will succeed. Have them talk to their teams and really listen to the views of those closest to the work. Avoid the desire to simply quiet the naysayers or they may arise later in destructive ways. Raise concerns and address them. They may help you to mitigate risk or identify what needs to be in your change leadership strategy. (Yes, you need one of these.)

6. Builds on leadership and organizational strengths and fills the gaps.

There are instruments that can help you easily assess where your leadership team capabilities match the type of work that needs to be done in your strategic priorities. Find out where the strengths are and where you can stretch people. Rather than force-fitting leaders into roles where they will fail, figure out alternative ways to fill the gaps. Perhaps a next level leader can step up and have a development opportunity. You may need to hire for specific roles such as leading the Data and Analytics initiatives. Or you may need short-term external support or expertise to get started.

7. Teaches you throughout the process.

A strong strategic planning process builds the experience, knowledge and capabilities of the leadership team and Board as they participate in the process. Every strategic planning process I facilitate serves as a learning experience for the leaders of the organization. They face tough questions, question the status quo, interview their clients and engage their people. They end up with a strong Strategic Plan and stronger leaders.

8. Provides positive results while still in the planning process.

A well-designed planning process includes interviewing key customers and influencers to learn about their needs, views of your organization and what’s happening in the external environment. Engaging your people influences your culture, brings you new ideas and starts to bring them on board for change. Leaders will often take action to strengthen a customer relationship, solve a problem or shift people while the plan is still being inked.

9. Is reinforced and achieved through your culture.

Your new strategy may require significant change in your culture. Does it call for greater service, innovation, quality or collaboration? Aligning your culture will be one of the biggest challenges you will have in achieving your strategy. LET ME REPEAT THAT. Aligning your culture will be one of the biggest challenges you will have in achieving your strategy. Assess your cultural strengths early on and include strategies to shift and align your culture in your Strategic Plan and your Implementation plans.

10. Has execution top of mind.

A strategy’s brilliance must come to life through effective execution. Consider not only how you will achieve your goals, but also how you will build organizational capacity in the process. How can you strengthen leaders, shape culture, engage your people, bring the right talent on board, and build high-performing teams that can continue to contribute?

Contact us to learn how we can help you to create or implement your strategic plan and to ensure you have the leadership team and alignment you truly need to execute effectively.

Assimilate New Leaders for Greater Impact

Too often, the onboarding process in many organizations emphasizes learning the functional areas of one’s new role to learn processes and protocols.  We advise executives to consider the onboarding period to be the first 6-12 months, not a mere 90 days.  While intensity will decrease as time goes on, increasing the timeline allows for additional learning and relationship building.  

Since leaders get their work done primarily through the efforts of others, we encourage prioritizing building relationships with their teams early on.   An “assimilation session” can be a great way to kick this off. This typically occurs as a facilitated session with the team and the new leader ranging from several hours to a full day.  To be most impactful, dialogue and relationship-building needs to continue in different ways.  

A successful leadership assimilation session should include:

Experienced Facilitation: 

The session should be facilitated by someone other than the new leader or the leader’s boss.  It could be an external resource (coach or consultant) or a trusted internal resource (e.g. HR).  In either case, beyond experience, the facilitator should be someone who can encourage the leader and the team to be open and engaged without fear of retribution. 

Preparing the Leader and the Team:  

Asking the new leader to consider questions in advance will help create a thoughtful conversation.  The team should also have some advanced notice of what will occur, areas they may want to discuss and the purpose for the session.  Assessments or a survey, if applicable, may also need to be distributed prior to the session.

Team and Individual Assessments:  

Using workplace style assessments such as Predictive Index tools will reveal a great deal about the behavioral preferences and motivating needs of the leader and each team member.  They can also show what the collective team profile looks like. Do you have a group of mavericks or a team of analyzers?  Where are the strengths and gaps?  One software company I worked with had a highly extroverted CEO with strengths in sales and marketing who was leading a group of highly analytical introverts.  Building awareness and respect for the gifts each person brings to the party helped to foster trust and agreement on how to best work together.  

Set the Guidelines:  

The facilitator should let everyone know what the process is and that each person is expected to contribute to the conversation. Encouraging open dialogue and questions requires agreeing on some boundaries such as respecting different opinions and keeping individual comments confidential.  

The New Leader Opens:   

Sharing information about what brought the leader to this role, how to describe their management style and preferred communication modes can be useful as well as revealing something personal to demonstrate vulnerability and personality.  The team will also want to understand the leader’s expectations, priorities and anticipated challenges.  Some of this can be shared during opening remarks, while the remainder can be covered throughout the session.

Team Discussion without the Leader Present:  

After some opening remarks and establishing guidelines, the new leader leaves the room while the facilitator poses questions to the team.  Larger teams may split off into small groups to ensure all have a chance to participate. The team will indicate what they want to know about the new leader, what concerns they might have, recommendations to share, and expectations they have of their new boss.  They will also share anything about their history, values, culture, group norms or challenges they feel important for the new leader to know. All are encouraged to participate and assured that the information will be presented to the new leader without attribution to any particular person.  

Debriefing with the New Leader:  

The facilitator brings the aggregated team input back to the new leader in a private session to give the leader a chance to reflect on the comments and provide a response where appropriate.  

Having the New Leader Respond:   

Next the new leader and team come together and the facilitator reviews the key points or questions posed by the team for the leader to respond to or ask clarifying questions.  Often this dialogue raises a variety of ideas, commitments or next steps for the team and leader to take forward or explore further.  

Discussing What Comes Next:  

While an assimilation session can serve as a great kickoff for open dialogue, ongoing efforts are needed to ensure the clarity, trust and commitment needed for positive team performance.  Having a combination of team and individual sessions helps to build relationships, understand job roles and expectations and each person’s unique working style and motivating needs.  

Agree on Expectations and Goals:  

The outcome will be having agreement for mutual expectations, how the team will work together with their new leader and what the goals are for the upcoming period (3-6-9-12 months).  Establishing ongoing mechanisms for communication, reporting on progress and holding one another accountable will help the leader and the team keep the momentum going.  

Successfully onboarding a new leader is a process, not a discreet event.  Including team assimilation efforts will allow the leader to tap into the team to get up to speed faster, assess the available talent strengths and gaps and make a collective impact while avoiding landmines. 

Contact us for further ideas on successfully onboarding your new managers and leaders whether they be internal promotions or hired from the outside.