When to involve staff in strategy development

WHEN TO INVOLVE staff in developing strategy is something you need to consider before you begin. What you are about to initiate will require your vision for the future of your business to be translated into a plan with goals and objectives which, in turn, will need to be implemented by those staff over the agreed period.

Getting them to buy into the plan from the outset therefore will be crucial to its success. You will also need to achieve the correct level of engagement with them so they feel included and can input into areas that are most relevant to them, but without letting the process get out of hand in terms of the number of those involved.

Typically, the right balance can be achieved through their participation in the following specific phases of the planning process:

Initial Communication
To most people, the word Strategy implies Change and will therefore inevitably raise some level of anticipation or possibly anxiety.  This increases by a magnitude when it is perceived to be happening behind closed doors. It can foster an unhealthy level of distrust as expressed by ‘what are all these meetings about?’, ‘why aren’t we being told anything?’, ‘could this affect me?’ and ‘they have obviously already decided what’s going to happen’.

You should inform your staff therefore through a suitable channel (depending on your size and structure) that work on a business strategy is about to begin whilst conveying some or all of the following messages:

  • The purpose of the Strategy and why it is important;
  • An introduction to whoever will be facilitating the process (internal or external);
  • The anticipated time-frame for completion;
  • The key stakeholders (including staff);
  • The areas in which the staff will be involved (outlined below);
  • What the process will entail in terms of staff input and time commitment;
  • Why staff are crucial to a successful outcome;
  • How this Strategy can ultimately benefit the business and its staff both collectively and individually;

Through this one simple piece of communication, you will generate interest, inclusion and significantly more proactive engagement from staff at the important stages to follow. You will also avoid the need for reactive and defensive explanation at some point in the future.

SWOT Analysis
This phase in the strategy process involves exploring the current strengths and weaknesses of your business together with the opportunities and threats it faces.  It will involve asking ‘what are we doing well?’, ‘where could we focus on improvement?’, ‘what needs to change?’ and much more. Despite past successes, owners and management should never assume they have all the answers and some of the best inputs and ideas usually come from those who are involved in the daily detail of customers, products and service. Not everything runs as well as management often like to believe and, while the truth can hurt, this is the most valuable time to listen and build corrective actions for the future. It is also highly motivating for your staff be involved and have a chance to input to any changes for the better.

Agreeing Strategic Goals and Objectives
During this phase, your strategy will be translated into a set of broad goals together with specific objectives to achieve them. Engaging with staff during this important phase will help you reach consensus on those, even if that involves some sensitive or challenging discussions. You will of course have the supporting evidence needed for those discussions based on the outputs of your SWOT, strategy context and other research conducted. There is also the opportunity here for the staff, as part of their personal plans, to take ownership for delivering one or more of the agreed goals or individual objectives thereby making their involvement in this stage of your process even more worthwhile.

Buisness Planning
While your business strategy development will address the ‘what’ and ‘why of your organisation’s future, the business planning phase addresses the who’, ‘where’, ‘when’, and how’Both are critical to its success and, as your staff will doing most if not all the following implementation, it is essential they are involved in what they will need to do and why. There will also be a chance here to work with them in understanding and avoiding common mistakes made during this planning phase like not allowing for possible time and cost overruns and much more.

Strategy Presentation
Finally, it is always a good idea to present the final Business Strategy to your staff shortly before bringing it to other stakeholders. It is inevitable they will hear about it externally otherwise and the positive aspects of their involvement up that point will be diminished. This should also be an important milestone ahead of the hard work of implementation and will give you an opportunity to create a genuine sense of inclusion and ownership of your Strategy for the future.

FITZGERALD Consulting has a proven methodology for developing highly effective strategic plans that deliver fantastic outcomes for our clients.