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Why Your Employees Aren't Committed to Your Company Strategy



Great leaders dream of a better future – from business sustainability to growing future leaders, increasing speed to market, or operating with greater purpose. To turn dreams into workplace realities, leaders set strategies. Unfortunately, many organizations keep strategic plans a secret and don't involve leaders outside the executive leadership team. Evidence suggests that only 5% of employees understand their company's strategy. This is alarming, given that a direct positive correlation exists between employee commitment to strategy and employee involvement in strategy development. It is hard to argue that being more inclusive is a bad idea. But how inclusive should your strategic thinking and planning be? Here is what leaders need to know to be more inclusive in strategy development and how to overcome three common barriers.




Benefits of inclusive strategic thinking and planning


A strategy is simply a plan of action to achieve a stated goal. A business strategy aims to align followers and teams toward achieving a shared goal from the company's vision.

The best strategies in business meet the following four criteria:

  1. developed inclusive of followers,

  2. focus on helping others for the greater good,

  3. account for mixed future realities,

  4. and are implemented.

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality” — William Bennis

In this short video, Gary Hamel discusses why leaders must shift their roles from authors to editors and why traditional strategic planning must die.




Leaders must comprehend various complex situations. Strategic thinking uses critical thinking to consider the fundamental business drivers and challenges specific to an organization. It is about awareness of what could be and the foresight to help the organization be successful.


The following video breaks down the difference between strategic planning and strategic thinking.



Leveraging diversity enhances strategic thinking, creativity, engagement, and strategy quality. Although achieving complete transparency and involving every possible stakeholder is likely not feasible, there is high value for inclusive leaders and organizations.


Research has demonstrated a direct positive correlation between individual commitment to strategy and involvement in strategy development. Inclusive strategic thinking impacts the organization's bottom line, leading to a leader's success and significance.


When leaders solicit ideas from others outside the traditionally involved management team, it improves the creativity of the ideas and reinforces that leaders value employees. Creative ideas that reflect the customer's stated and unstated needs likely will come from those with no stake in the status quo and closest to the customer.


Being transparent with access to strategic input and processes enhances follower outputs. When the employees responsible for implementing strategic plans are the same employees contributing, there is increased awareness, engagement, buy-in⁠, and firm performance.





5 Key strategic thinking leadership competencies


A leader's ability to question and make connections between ideas and evaluate options improves strategic thinking. Here are five strategic thinking leadership competencies that are often underdeveloped:


Strategic Thinking Leadership Competency #1: Scanning

Looking for weak signals that may not immediately affect the business.


Strategic Thinking Leadership Competency #2: Visioning

Clarifying the organization's shared purpose and dreams with group benefit.


Strategic Thinking Leadership Competency #3: Reframing

Challenging current assumptions and fresh thinking about future possibilities.


Strategic Thinking Leadership Competency #4: Making Common Sense

An intellectual process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating data.


Strategic Thinking Leadership Competency #5: Systems Thinking

A holistic way to investigate how different parts interrelate and contribute to specific potential outcomes.


Making common sense requires critical thinking skills. Various psychometric leadership assessments can measure an executive's critical thinking capability. The Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA) is a valid leadership assessment based on recognizing assumptions, evaluating arguments, and drawing conclusions. For more information on the Watson-Glaser critical thinking appraisal, visit www.talentlens.com.

In addition to measurement, leaders looking to improve strategic thinking skills need time for deliberate practice and coaching feedback to shape strategic thinking habits beyond motivation and commitment. Partnering with a qualified executive coach is proven to improve strategic thinking skills.





How to be inclusive with your strategic planning and thinking


Before taking an inclusive approach to strategic planning and thinking, senior leadership needs to agree on the process, participating stakeholders, and the organization's business vision, values, and mission.

For larger hybrid organizations, it will likely be helpful to first place participants into groups based on their planned involvement, such as crowd, selected crowd, business leadership, and strategic planning decisions team. Finding a user-friendly system for all stakeholders is vital when choosing strategic planning technology.


A generic, inclusive strategic planning process engages others in ideation, refinement, and development.

  • Ideation. The first step is to listen. Stakeholders are invited to submit ideas using a planning platform. It is crucial to select a technology readily accessible and use multiple forms of communication to encourage participation in the strategic planning process.

  • Refinement. Ideas are tagged and compared through comparison sorts. Stakeholders are invited to prioritize the ideas submitted using pre-identified criteria such as culture alignment, cost, quality, and timeliness. This phase also includes a checkpoint for leaders to ask for more information and accept, revise, or reject ideas. The use of scores makes it easier to filter ideas.

  • Development. After collecting and refining the ideas, it is time to transform them into a strategic plan. Stakeholders from each part of the business are asked to take the refined strategy and create a detailed plan. A strategic plan typically includes a vision statement, mission statement, goals, objectives, tactics and measures, and a review timeframe.



How to overcome 3 inclusive strategic planning and thinking barriers


Advances in technology enable a more inclusive, timely, and less costly approach. However, an inclusive approach has some potential drawbacks to address rather than ignore, such as bias, agility, and communication effectiveness.


Strategic Planning & Thinking Barrier #1: Bias

When being inclusive, leaders must avoid potential bias toward certain stakeholder groups. There is no need to go through the work of being inclusive only to have a process that devalues different inputs based on a tendency toward a particular group's feedback. Approaches that promote anonymity of feedback are demonstrated to reduce bias and not negatively impact output buy-in.


Strategic Planning & Thinking Barrier #2: Agility

Leaders need to pay attention to time and effort when being inclusive. It is easy to be less agile and get caught in analysis paralysis when being inclusive. Solid project management processes can help leaders avoid the trap of over-analysis.


Strategic Planning & Thinking Barrier #3: Communication Effectiveness

Thoughtfully incorporating technology has many positive impacts, but that does not mean it is without challenges. Numerous research studies have shown that different communication mediums have varying degrees of effectiveness in supporting in-the-moment feedback, information sharing, communication cues, emotions, and message customization. It probably goes without needing scientific research to understand that face-to-face communication is the most effective type of communication.

Schedule a meeting with us today if you need help creating compelling and inclusive strategic plans. With a flexible, systematic, and proven method, you can establish robust strategic plans that transform your business to achieve success and significance.


Key Summary Points

  • It is hard to argue that being more inclusive is a bad leadership habit.

  • A business strategy aims to align followers and teams toward achieving a shared goal from the company's vision.

  • The best strategies are developed inclusive of followers, focus on helping others for the greater good, account for mixed future realities, and are implemented.

  • A leader's ability to question and make connections between ideas and evaluate options improves strategic thinking.

  • Making common sense requires critical thinking skills. Various psychometric leadership assessments can measure an executive's critical thinking capability. The Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA) is a valid leadership assessment based on recognizing assumptions, evaluating arguments, and drawing conclusions.

  • Leaders looking to get better with strategic thinking skills need time for deliberate practice and coaching feedback to shape strategic thinking habits beyond motivation and commitment.

  • A generic, inclusive strategic planning process includes engaging others in ideation, refinement, and development.

  • Advances in technology enable a more inclusive, timely, and less costly approach. However, an inclusive approach has some potential drawbacks to address rather than ignore, such as bias, agility, and communication effectiveness.



References:

Amrollahi, A., & Rowlands, B. (2017). Collaborative open strategic planning: A method and case study. Information Technology & People (West Linn, Or.), 30(4), 832-852. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITP-12-2015-0310


Bennis, W. G. (2008). Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. Journal of Property Management, 73(5), 13.



Hughes, R. L., Beatty, K. M., & Dinwoodie, D. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader: Your role in your organization's enduring success. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.


Kaplan RS, Norton DP. The office of strategy management. Harv Bus Rev. 2005 Oct;83(10):72-80


Nwachukwu, C. E., Chladkova, H., & Olatunji, F. (2018). The relationship between employee commitment to strategy implementation and employee satisfaction. Trends Economics and Management, 12(31), 46-56. doi:10.13164/trends.2018.31.45



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He is the founder of Organizational Talent Consulting in Grand Rapids, MI, and Program Director of online graduate and continuing business education at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. Executive leaders who work with Jeff describe him as thoughtful, decisive, intelligent, and collaborative. Jeff is a business executive with over twenty years of talent development and organizational strategy experience working with C-suite leaders in Fortune 100, Forbes top 25 private, for-profit, non-profit, and global companies in many industries.

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