What Are the Vital Questions We Can Ask That Will Create Strategic Success?

The other day a client remarked to me as we were discussing strategic planning for 2014, “our biggest challenge isn’t strategy but in the execution, and that is where we should concentrate our efforts.” Often we become so caught up in the strategy that we fail to understand the importance of executing, which is only achieved if you have created organizational buy-in and engagement. And that can be a tall order.

However, there is an old saying that continues to be true: “if you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what we’ve always gotten.” Have you noticed that your way forward often looks the same as it did last year even if the results you got were not what were promised? A new answer is to examine how the team and the entire organization are connecting and engaging to create the desired strategic results.

Today we find ourselves at the end of another calendar year with the bright promise of next year less than a month away. So what are the questions we want to ask as we move forward and create the implementation plan?

There are so many ways to create strategy and yet implementation seems to be something we can do successfully only if we are willing to open up to new information and new perspectives. This involves using all of the wisdom and vision that are available.

Here are some important questions, inspired by Judith Glaser, author of Creating We, to ask as you strategize for 2014:

  1. As we create the future, what behaviors do we want to bring forward?
  2. Who are we and where are we going? Ask high-level questions that describe the business as a whole vs. just specific initiatives or priorities.
  3. What are our values and are they aligned with all of the people who need to step forward to implement our plan?
  4. What are the important values of the customer, both internal and external?

The purpose of high level discussions is to have a broad picture to then refine to create strategic plans.

Another important question to ask as the above are answered is: How do we engage those who will fulfill the promise, and develop a way for them to interact and to succeed? This is where there is often a disconnect and when the implementation process begins to lose focus and direction.

I suggest developing a scientific approach to implementation that recognizes and develops the most important resource in any business; the people and the teaming who must be successful to create results.

The mindset that communication, connection and engagement are essential must begin at the top. The leadership team begins the process of communication by development of specific goals for connection and engagement. This lays the groundwork for the other two essentials which are accountability and a focus on solutions rather than the problem.

Here are two specific options for increased communication that you can do right away:

  1. Share your agenda: Begin  by framing your agenda so that others are clear about it. It is framed as an idea with an inquiry about how the listener or group is responding to what you have said. Many of us remember meetings that went nowhere because the agenda was not adhered to and conversations degenerated into distraction. This can result in the fear of questions, so we need to redefine how we frame and communicate our agenda as we encourage people to take more accountability for their conversation and ideas.
  2. Ask questions: The  other people in the room may have questions for clarification, and they may be hesitant to give opinions. I have been in senior leadership meetings where the CEO declared an idea and others just nodded and agreed. After the meeting the VPs went to each other’s offices and gave their opinion to one other person, and never shared with the group or the CEO. This created fragmentation which was not recognized because the habitual non-communication was built into the process of the team.

You as a leader you need to establish a safe environment for your team to interact and to share points of view, as well as ideas for implementation.

Accountability partnerships will help expand the opportunity for team members to be held accountable by peers, as well as their leader. In this model everyone is a leader, even in the group of peers. In this model, leadership is not a role but an individual and organizational behavior.

The implementation process for next year’s strategic plan is something that will be ongoing and necessary as goals are met and challenges are handled. At each staff meeting remember to give some attention to the process of communication and state the focus of the agenda. As this continues, the process of being effective in communication and in engaging others will become more automatic and habitual.

Here is a short assignment to put engagement first as you begin the process of implementation.

  1. A business goal that I would like to accomplish this year is:
  2. How can my associates or other members of my team enhance and develop my vision?
  3. What can I do or say to engage others?
  4. What do I want to hear or experience to be more engaged?
  5. How can I become more engaged myself?

Answering these questions begins the process of engaging and alignment that makes the accomplishment of objectives move more quickly and effectively. See how it works for you!

Have a good couple of weeks and I look forward to connecting again soon. In the meantime, if you have any questions, challenges or successes you’d like to share, please be sure to leave a comment. I would enjoy hearing from you! – Patricia