Rehumanizing the Strategic Plan Process

It’s that time of year.  Holiday decorations are going up and presents are being purchased.  Business budgets and plans are being made for the new year.  2020!  Let’s look at it as if were 20/20 – as in perfect vision.  What does the future hold for your agency?

Many of you might think you have this mapped out.  Using different planning tools with the goals called trendy names such as rocks, milestones, accountability charts and action plans – the vision is set.  2020 will be the year of great achievement!

Will it?  Or do rocks just kill people? 

Yes, you read that right – are you sure your rocks aren’t really just killing your team, your culture, your potential?  In the truest sense, a rock can kill a person.  Throw it wrong, knock them on the head and they’re gone.

Think of your planning targets.  How much of the human element have you considered?  Your employees already have their day-to-day functions.  How much more can be thrown at them until you have beaten them down and they’re gone?

By using a strategic planning process that is rigidly focusing just on the bottom-line numbers and the list of accomplishments, an organization is in danger of destroying its biggest resource – it’s human capital.

Not all people are created the same.

It’s true.  People are not cookie-cutter. Everyone has their own personalities, natural tendencies, and traits.  By lumping everyone together in a rigid strategic planning process, there is a great risk of a one-size fits all mentality.

As it is clearly shown by the Gallup polls, only 33% of the American workforce is actively engaged.  Those that are engaged are often treated as an individual.  If you try to categorize your team in a rigid planning structure, you are missing the opportunity of playing to their individual strengths.  You are taking the humans out of your business.

More ironically, you’re opening the door for the humans to walk out of your business.

Instead, your 2020 focus should be on an Ideal State

After seeing this play out many times, there is a clear vision of what’s needed in successful strategic planning.  The focus must be on achieving the ideal state of the team members.  When people are incorporated into the process at least as much as the tasks are, there is balance between the expected and the achievable.  It becomes an ideal state in which progress can be made for both the organization and the human.

Instead of rigidly categorizing the team and assigning their “above and beyond” tasks, here are five tips on how to integrate them into the forward progress of your organization:

  1. Know them as a human. Understand their profiles, through Kolbe, DiSC, Omnia or similar tools, and engage their strengths in the strategic planning process.
  2. Get their input on their terms. Not everyone will speak up in a group meeting – even if asked. Not everyone will speak up in a private meeting – even if asked.  Great strategic planning happens when there is an avenue for all voices to be heard.  Even the ones that might be whispering.
  3. Speaking of whispering, be sure to listen closely. A ripple of undercurrent will take down any momentum. The leaders of a strategic planning process – regardless of the type of organization – needs to have a pulse on the atmosphere within an organization.
  4. Remember – Life happens! All the planning in the world can’t fully predict how life happens. During the planning process and throughout the execution of plans, great leaders know their peoples’ personal state.  While there are rock and milestones that you want to be accomplished, it may not be humanly possible. Personal issues might mean delays which need to be built in on an ongoing basis.  Work with the team member to help them to get back on track for their good – not just to make sure the accomplishment box is checked.
  5. Perform a Reality Check! If your team is 2 -14 this year, it’s unrealistic to expect the Super Bowl next year.  If the root causes aren’t addressed, missed targets one year can lead to more disappointments the next.  Don’t just pile on the items in a strategic plan.  Understand if they are realistic goals and if the team is ready, willing and capable of accomplishing them.  If they aren’t, work towards real solutions.  Helping your team is the only way to use the human capital needed for planning success.

Strategic Plans are crucial for organizations that want to keep moving forward.  Having a plan that sets a roadmap to success should be the goal of any process.  Just remember, it’s the humans that are driving that road.  Be careful how you throw those rocks around.  Someone, or in this case the somethings you want to achieve, just might not make it.