Jim Collins made it clear that every business issue is first a “who” question; you need to make sure you have the right people on the bus, and then you need to make sure they are in the right seats. Excellent strategic planning starts with a decision about who to include, and then how to include them to get the best results possible.
For small growth companies, the decision of who to include can become complicated. Here are common reasons I’ve heard to include someone in strategic planning:
- They have always been part of the planning team.
- It would hurt their feelings to not be included.
- I am afraid of destabilizing them by not including them.
- It’s better just to include everyone.
Because the people who have been included in years past aren’t necessarily the people you need to include this year, I recommend starting over with the following two principles:
Optimum planning, at its core, is an intense discussion amongst the fewest and smartest members of your team who understand the full scope and strategic intent of your organization…
- You want the group to be as small as possible to maximize talk time and debate. Follow the two pizza rule – if you cannot feed the planning team with two pizzas, you have too many on the team. Four to six people is ideal.
- You want the smartest people at the table because you don’t want to waste time going down conversational dead ends.
- You want people at the table who represent each of the significant departments/divisions of your company. If three managers report to one V.P. who reports to the CEO, include the CEO and do not include the managers. The VP represents the voice of each of the managers at the planning table.
Since you cannot invite everyone to the planning table, invite feedback from the whole community and analyze the feedback before annual planning begins.
- If you are already doing a good job of gathering employee feedback on a regular basis, then you already have a number of ideas from the team that you know you need to consider for the upcoming year. If not, make it a point to ask the following questions of each member of your team in advance of strategic planning:
- Staff People – What should we start doing, stop doing, and keep doing in this upcoming year?
- Managers – What are the internal strengths and weaknesses we should attend to next year, and what are the external opportunities and threats we should address?
- Executives – What are the internal strengths and weaknesses we should attend to next year, and what are the longer term external trends that we need to address.
By gathering input from across the organization, you allow everyone’s voice to be heard. Those who provide great ideas in the feedback session can be included in future strategic planning sessions. By limiting the number of people at the planning table, you optimize your debate and your odds for developing the best possible plan for the upcoming year.
To partner with Business Improvement LLC to build a company that develops and achieves great plans, visit Business Improvement or call 1.215.830.1222 to speak directly with Doug Diamond.