How Strategic Planning Impacts Your Company's Culture
October 9, 2023
How Strategic Planning Impacts Your Company's Culture

The Strategic Planning Process Impacts Culture - Here's How

For many employees within an organization, the process of Strategic Planning is a large unknown. Certain information may trickle down to different parts of the organization, but most folks don’t have visibility into what is actually happening or how the plan itself is coming together.

Take this a step further, and it might seem miraculous if employees ever get to see the finalized strategy or plan for the upcoming year.

This disconnect from the process and perception that it consists of a lot of smoke and mirrors can be incredibly impactful on the way employees feel connected to the overall strategic direction of the organization. While there will certainly be areas of a strategic plan and financial goals that contain sensitive information, the reality is that if the strategy itself is created in a vacuum, owned entirely at the Leadership level, then you are just asking for employees to feel disenfranchised.

Especially in today’s market conditions, far too many companies are asking employees to take on additional responsibilities without providing the necessary support for them to succeed. They're working with reduced headcounts for their teams, a slashing of budget to support the initiatives, or even additional work piled on their plate from a role that was never backfilled. These are just some of the common examples we are seeing across countless organizations right now.

Yet, for every scenario where we encounter these challenges, we also hear a clear, consistent message for how companies can help alleviate this challenge for employees: we need more visibility into what matters and where we spend our time.

Connect Your Strategy With Employee Goals

For companies that disconnect the strategic planning process and how employees set goals, this is a decision you are making. A cultural undertone predicated on the belief that your employees don’t need to understand your strategic direction or how they contribute to successfully achieving your goals.

As an example, we had a COO at a 500-employee company share, “Our performance management tool told us 98% of employees hit their goal. Yet, we as a company were below 50% of our operating plan.”

Now, if that’s the case, tell me why employees wouldn’t feel as though they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes?

The brutal truth is that they have been fleeced.

Layoffs, a call to return to the office, and budget slashing are just some of the ramifications that will now come from that organization’s inability to meet their operating plan. But much less measurable or seen is the angst that this now creates across the company.

When employees see that they met their goals, that their teammates met their goals, and yet there are still drastic ramifications to the company underperforming, then it begs the question of ‘Why are we doing this to begin with? I’ve already got enough on my plate, why do I need to punch a timecard saying I did work this week in a performance management tool if it just doesn’t matter?’

Culture Sits Above People Process Solution

During a recent Strategic Planning panel hosted by our team here at Elate, we were fortunate enough to hear from world-class Operators across three different companies: Buildertrend, Lessonly (Acquired by Seismic), and Thornburg. One of the biggest takeaways was that while strategic planning often follows the path of people, process, solution, the reality is that sitting above it all is the culture you are building by involving employees in the process.

It’s important that while Leadership needs to set the long-term direction (think 3, 5, 10 year strategy), you are involving members throughout the organization in the process. Gaining buy-in, communicating goals, and pressure testing what you are setting out to achieve with perspectives from the given experts across all areas of the organization.

Megan Longo, Chief of Staff at Buildertrend, shared that while the process has continued to evolve for them, the decision to communicate the plan with the team has enabled them to take action quicker and stay aligned.

“When team members understand the Themes of the organization, then they have visibility into what we are trying to accomplish. While we’ve moved to a more quarterly rhythm versus a big annual undertaking, this has helped us identify when we keep going in a certain direction or pivot. And if we do pivot, team members understand why because they know the Themes.”

For companies that are able to maintain focus and prioritize the right objectives, it isn’t a surprise that they create a culture where team members can clearly discern where the company wants to go and how they get to the end destination. It’s built into their culture.

For Strategy and Operations Leaders looking to tear down silos and ensure they have alignment across the entire organization, we’re here to help.

Elate was built by Strategy and Operations Leaders for Strategy and Operations Leaders after our failed attempts to drive true alignment, visibility and execution of strategy by leveraging spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations, and makeshift tools like Project Management or even Performance Management that weren’t purpose built.

If you’d like to connect with one of our team members, we’d love to share more. Reach out today