Engaging conversations lead to better Strategic Plans

By Luke Hockley, as told to Cressida Bradley.  

A powerful way to achieve the organisation’s goals is to engage your team. When you have a strong direction and a clear plan, and you can tell that story well, then everyone in the organisation will know how best to contribute.

What is often misunderstood is how to engage those vital people, who work in the organisation, in the development of the Strategic Plan.

The temptation might be to lock the leadership team away and work through the critical questions to develop the Plan. You come out at the end with a brilliant map to achieve success. But then you wonder why the rest of the organisation isn’t as excited or convinced that it will work.

Perhaps you’ve missed an opportunity both to learn more about your organisation and to build a better plan that will have an impact? Your people are fundamental to the organisation achieving its goals. So how do you inspire them to come on the journey with you?

Before you put pen to paper, the best thing to do is to listen.

The leaders of an organisation sometimes don’t ask questions because they are afraid that someone will say something they don’t want to hear, or they’re scared they won’t know how to respond. Consider instead that the challenging or unexpected information could reveal valuable information that provides an opportunity for innovation and improvement. Surely you’d want to know that at the start of your planning process rather than after building your plan?

Instead of derailing your strategic planning process, these conversations can also empower your people to live the final plan in their role. That is because their voice has been heard and acknowledged in the planning process. And they also understand what the Strategic Plan means for them, as well as for the whole organisation.

A collaborative engagement process in the planning phase results in:

  • A Strategic Plan that is enriched with accurate and relevant insight from across the organisation.
  • A workforce who is educated on the role and value of the Strategic Plan.
  • A workforce who has the clarity and agency to contribute to the Strategic Plan.
  • Building the trust to have difficult, but constructive, conversations.
  • A practical experience of respectful and open conversations between staff and the organisation’s leaders.
  • An organisation that is more experienced and empowered to have positive strategic conversations.
  • Increasing the organisation’s resilience to make change when it’s needed.

At Midnightsky, we have noticed that when leaders take the time to listen to their organisation, they build champions across the organisation who help build the Strategic Plan and understand its value. And the benefits of this engaging experience will continue beyond the project as the organisation implements the Strategic Plan.

The detail of the consultative process will vary between organisations. Obviously, an organisation of 50 employees will need fewer conversations, and require less time, than an organisation of 7,000. But the theory is the same, because in the end it is quite simple: when you listen to your organisation, your people will give you the knowledge, skills and dedication you need to achieve your shared goals.

In our next article, we will share a case study from our work with Canberra Health Services, a large organisation that went through our stakeholder engagement process to develop a Vision, Role and Behaviours and establish a new strategic direction.

Check out more stories in the category: Consult, In the Village, Knowledge Bank