Managing Change: Strategic Planning Moves from Meetings to Mindsets
Change is the only constant in life (and even more so in business). Forecasting change and constructing actionable plans to address new situations and needs is at the core of strategic planning. Ironically, organizations are finding that the function of predicting and reacting to change is – well – changing.
No longer relegated to only the CEO or bi-annual strategy sessions, strategic planning abilities are now desired and needed at every level within an organization. Study after study shows strategic thinkers to be among the most highly effective leaders. And while there is an abundance of courses, books, articles and opinions on the process of strategic planning, the focus has typically been on an isolated process that happens infrequently. In contrast, the current trend is to foster a company-wide culture that encourages strategic thinking and skills.
How can organizations develop strategic leaders?
Strategic thinking is a high-level, difficult leadership skill to acquire; it is as much a mindset as a set of skills. In addition to providing specific training in strategic planning, companies can create an environment that nurtures strategic thinking skills to emerge.
Consider the Big Picture: Provide information to employees on the market, the industry, customers, competitors and new technologies that influence the business and or mission. One of the key prerequisites of strategic leadership is having relevant and broad business information to help elevate thinking beyond the day-to-day. Determine what leading indicators, such as housing market trends or retail sales, impact your industry or organization and make these statistics readily available to managers.
Count What’s Close: Keep employees informed on what is happening internally. Effective strategy requires information shared across boundaries; cross-functional teams can work on strategic organizational issues, and the results of their thinking and efforts should be published and shared throughout the organization.
Create Connections: Whenever possible, match managers with a mentor. One of the most effective ways to develop strategic skills is to work alongside someone who is highly strategic. The ideal mentor is widely known for his/her ability to keep people focused on strategic objectives and the impact of their actions.
Communicate Clearly: Write and articulate the organization’s philosophy, mission and goals. Individuals and groups need to understand the broader strategy in order to stay focused and incorporate it into their own plans and strategies.
Call out Success: Reward employees for evidence of strategic thinking, not just reacting. Wherever possible, organizational culture should encourage anticipating opportunities and avoiding problems, as well as discourage crisis management. For example, managers are rewarded for being able to quickly generate several solutions to a given problem and identify the solution with the greatest long-term benefit.
Call on the Pros: Start the strategic planning conversation by hiring strategic experts. The SyN Learning Institute is pleased to partner with David Sanders, one of the nation’s leading experts on equipping organizations with financial and strategic planning skills. His series, How to Build a Budget Forecast & Strategic Plan helps employees make the connection between the bottom line, cost control and strategic planning functions. In addition, The SyN Learning Institute’s onsite trainers offer a breadth of strategic planning topics. One- and two-day customized conferences, which can focus on developing leadership skills, risk taking, emotional intelligence, critical thinking abilities and predicting and managing change, are an ideal and cost-effective way to equip strategic leaders.
Shifting the strategic planning function from meetings to mindsets may not be easy, but with planning and training, it’s a change well worth the effort.