People, Process, Solution: Ensuring People Aren't the Blocker
April 15, 2024
People, Process, Solution: Ensuring People Aren't the Blocker

If you’ve interacted with our team here at Elate or heard me speak, you’ve likely heard reference to the concept that Strategic Planning, when done well, revolves around three core elements: People, Process, and Solution.

Oftentimes, we see that organizations struggling to consistently build and execute strategic plans with conviction haven’t set a strong foundation with the right people, process, and solution to bring their strategy to life.

A few examples of what we see go wrong include:

  1. Holding quarterly goal-setting meetings without establishing accountability or an operating rhythm to review, discuss, and take action.
  2. Failing to communicate strategic initiatives to employees and/or lack of visibility across teams.
  3. Adopting manual processes that may work for a few months but become unsustainable due to the time and effort required to maintain them.

While these are just a few examples of where we see Strategic Planning and the execution of the strategy fall short, we consistently see one challenge in particular that is becoming more and more pervasive in the organizations coming to Elate: People.

Before delving deeper, I want to clarify that this isn't a blanket indictment of all individuals involved. Nor do I advocate for excluding people from the Strategic Planning process; quite the opposite, in fact.

For most of the organizations we work with that are struggling to effectively implement and deliver on their Strategic Plans, we frankly need more buy-in from people.

In particular, the people that sit at the Leadership or Executive Team level.

For numerous organizations, 2023 proved to be a challenging year. While there are promising signs for 2024, it's likely to remain demanding for most.

This has led to two prevalent scenarios for many of the organizations we work with…

1. Firstly, a relentless shift of focus to revenue.

New business growth, renewals, upsells, fundraising, donors, just about anything you can think of related to dollars coming in the door at any and all costs.

And look, as a growing company, I get it. Growth is always the main focus.

However, when the executive team becomes so excessively fixated on this that revenue is the only metric being tracked, communicated, or deliberated on, it risks disengaging and disenfranchising the parts of the organization not focused on closing or renewing dollars.

Growth can be a singular focus and most important thing for the organization. And while revenue growth is crucial, employees must understand how their work contributes to this overarching goal.

How do the decisions regarding new product features align with our strategy of elevating contract value or increasing new business in a certain market segment? Similarly, how does an investment into a new support processes contribute to bolstering customer retention and renewal rates?

If we as leaders solely emphasize revenue targets without contextualizing them within the broader organizational strategy, it's a disservice to the workforce.

Further, if we aren’t providing visibility to those team members to understand how their work contributes, then can we really be surprised when they feel burnout or a lack of motivation to rally around that number?

As Leaders, oftentimes we make assumptions that everyone knows our company targets, but in reality, they may not. They might understand their departmental goal, but they are seeing it only through their silo.

This creates a false sense of success, because every siloed team thinks they are chasing after or achieving the right things, but we're actually all spinning our wheels on the wrong things. We then get to the end of the year and wonder why our plan wasn't successful.

This all comes back to visibility, transparency and the idea that everyone is playing from the same sheet of music.

(2) Secondly, during challenging times and when numbers are falling short, there's often a reluctance to embrace transparency and accountability.

Leaders may shy away from introducing new processes or tools due to "software fatigue" or apprehension about exposing shortcomings in existing practices.

And for good reason.

Most teams are already inundated with more software than they know what to do with, and no one wants more process for the sake of process. So inevitably, we have seen that other members of Leadership teams have pushed back on the idea of changing a strategic planning and reporting process that is often clearly broken.

I do think there is certainly weight to the belief that we all have a bit of software fatigue, and it’s hard to introduce processes that require change management.

However, is clinging to outdated, ineffective processes that lack visibility and produce subpar results a valid solution? Are concerns about change management and software overload genuine impediments to adopting more efficient practices for Strategic Planning?

Or, is it a fear of what may get exposed?

These questions prompt introspection and are for you to evaluate within your company. And frankly, it’s something I need to always be asking myself here at Elate.

➡️ Do we foster an environment where employees, especially Leaders, feel like they have the environment to share when results aren’t being met?

➡️ Do Leaders feel they have a safe space to ask for help or share if something is Behind?

➡️ Do we have a culture of support and collaboration, or do concerns become a political chess piece?

People, Process, Solution.

I firmly believe in this trifecta for Strategic Planning, because all three parts are integral and work together ♻️. Although we sequence them as People, Process, Solution, this isn't to say it should be viewed only in chronological order. Rather, think of them as three equal and necessary parts to the flywheel.

However, if there is one component that kickstarts the flywheel, it’s People.

So if you feel as though people are part of the challenge you are having in introducing or elevating your process, consider the following:

  • Do your Leaders understand the why behind your Strategic Planning process, and how it is built to help them and their teams?
  • Have you cultivated a culture where Leaders feel empowered to share when they need help? And more importantly, do you rally around them and support them when they do?
  • Are you transparently communicating the organizational priorities to employees in a way that enables them to align their efforts with your strategic objectives?
  • Are you confusing employees by setting individual, fluffy, performance management goals without any connection to the overall strategy?
  • Finally, if we’re all fixated on a singular goal, are we ensuring this focus permeates to all levels of the organization, not just Sales?

People are the linchpin 🗝️. They make all the difference.

And at Elate, I genuinely believe that they are what make this an incredible place to work, and the reason we are building something special for Strategy and Operations Leaders.

However, as a Leader at Elate, I must continually challenge myself to serve as a steward of the business in how we serve our customers, employees, and stakeholders. Which means, ensuring that everyone is aligned around a singular vision we have for the company.

As you move through the rest of 2024, don’t hesitate to reach out to myself or our team if you’re interested in learning more about Elate and how we are helping Strategy and Operations Leaders bring together that long-term vision with execution across every part of the organization.

That's all for today... have a great rest of your week.

- Brooks

PS. For those who have been following The Pulse and are curious to learn more about us at Elate, here's a short video! Hope you enjoy.