How To Create A Strategic Plan That Improves Your Company's Culture
By Breene Murphy
Date Published: Mar 29, 2021
There is a nice business aphorism about how “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” But if you’re using your strategic planning to improve your culture, then you could have the seeds of an unstoppable team, and that’s the core of creating any great business or department.
Understand The New Role Of The Strategy Leader
Historically, organizations had a top-down structure that relied on reporting. This renders the top strategic executive responsible for giving orders.
But in my experience, that is no longer the best way to create fast-paced, adaptive and innovative teams. One person at the top rarely knows everything.
Two keys to making the strategic plan useful are employee contributions and making its creation a memorable, positive experience. This can improve the strategic plan and the culture at the same time. The role of the leader is essentially about listening to the team, both individually and collectively. As the leader, your role is to ask great questions rather than have the answers. By listening closely, writing the team’s answers down and openly discussing the merits of their ideas, the leader isn’t just making the team members “feel heard” but also actually engaging them. This is a physical demonstration that you’re listening to them, and it’s arguably the single most powerful thing you can do as a leader.
Strategically Review The Past Year
When you’re reviewing the last year, you can take the huge opportunity to do a “post-mortem.” Delve deep into what went right and how to do things better. So, a good way to frame the conversation is by using positive, action-based language. What were our successes? In what areas can we do better? You can ask each individual these two questions to unlock quite a few answers that flow into the second phase.
I’ve found that a crucial element of making sure this is an open environment is, as a leader, making sure that you’re first to talk about others’ successes and last to talk about failures or “areas in which we can do better.”
Brainstorm For The Next Year
Brainstorming can be the most fun, rewarding phase — but remember that there are no bad ideas here. Your role is to have thoughtful discussions about what your clients and customers need that result in a lot of inspirational and insightful answers.
Once you have a strategy in place, use it to ask deeper questions. One of my favorites is Charles Schwab’s “through clients’ eyes” strategy. As a leader of the team, you could ask:
• How can we better understand our clients?
• How can we show that we’ve listened better?
• How can we develop better products, solutions or messages for them?
When they’re framed this way, the questions can help you identify the areas in which the team can improve that could result in better client satisfaction and consequently, better numbers. Plus, the level of team-building this exercise creates may be surprising. I’ve found that it can lead to a higher level of energy and engagement among your employees.
Connect With Your Team
Your brains are buzzing with ideas. The creative juices are flowing. This is one of the best times to connect with your team. You get to see them at their most comfortable, which means it’s easier to talk about life outside of work. Get to know the people on your team. Ask them personal questions. You may have gotten an inkling of what they do outside of work; maybe they play in a band or have kids or are foodies. Learn from their other areas of expertise. And share yours.
Prioritize Tactics Based On Goals
Do you have someone on your team who is always asking for a huge budget or more resources? This phase of collaborative strategic planning can help people better understand their parameters and the company’s client-centric goals.
You can use these four main tenets:
• Impact: What will have the most impact on customers and clients while driving business?
• Time: How much time will it take?
• Cost: How much does it cost?
• Talent: Do you have the talent to pull off the tactic?
These four questions can help you narrow down the actual tactics that you choose to act on annually and keep your team more focused.
Ask Your Team To Volunteer for Roles And Create A Calendar