When we worked as Consultants for Sklar Wilton & Associates, the founder, Luke Sklar, used to remind us that the process is the product. Sounds simple enough but it took a while to fully digest that message. Like most things in life, advice never rings truer than after you’ve lived it yourself.
It’s kind of like the difference between asking someone what they want for their birthday, and just picking it up versus racking your brain to think of something meaningful.
We’ve never been offered one, but we imagine it’s also like getting an honorary degree versus putting in the blood, sweat and tears necessary to earn that degree.
With that thinking in mind, we designed an approach to Strategy development focused on engaging those involved in the process. Rather than handing the team a fully conceived plan to digest and execute, we empower the team itself to identify all the possible ways forward, discuss and debate the various alternatives, and evaluate the options using meaningful criteria. By the time the team has landed on the right Strategy for their organization, they have a deep understanding and commitment to the final direction and are ready to make it happen.
There’s no doubt in our minds that this commitment is the outcome of all the hard work the participating Strategy team puts in. They roll up their sleeves, using external and internal stimuli to brainstorm ideas, work the numbers, forecast future growth, and assess impact based on relevant performance measures.
There’s no way the team could have the same passion for the Strategy if we’d just taken their order, asked for the right documents and handed them the plan. That’s because the process really is a big part of the final product.
The next time your organization is looking to build its long-term Strategy, and want your team to be deeply engaged in the process, here are three critical aspects to think about:
Who’s Involved: Who should be involved in the Strategy building process, and at what point in the process? There will be a Core Team, those who must attend Strategy-related sessions, and will have a say in the final outcome. There are also subject-matter experts you might want in the room at certain times – for instance, an R&D expert when the team discusses and debates opportunities related to Big Bets around innovation OR you might want to check in with the Board at key points in the process.
How to Engage Them: Different people, different styles. Think about how to get everyone involved, and plan different ways for people to participate. Some people prefer one to one conversations, others prefer a group discussion; some need time to digest in order to formulate their response, others like to figure it out as they talk out loud. There’s no one way to approach this. What’s crucial is that you provide different ways for people to contribute so everyone feels included and engaged.
What’s Done Inside & Outside the Room: Developing Strategy means extra work for already busy employees. When people get together, you want to use that time for well-informed discussion and debate. What information could be issued as a Pre-Read in advance of the sessions? Who might be consulted in advance so their perspectives can be shared in the room? What issues could you ask participants to think about & report back on before you all get together?
We all know that familiar adage, it’s not the destination, it's the journey. That holds true in Strategy building. Identify the right people for the discussion, then take them on a journey that challenges and engages them. We bet you’ll be happy with the outcome: a Strategy the team understands, supports and is passionate about executing.