How to Resist the 'Not Now' Pushback from Executive Teams
April 23, 2024
How to Resist the 'Not Now' Pushback from Executive Teams

Welcome to the 22nd edition of The Pulse, your bi-weekly newsletter of Insights for Strategy Leaders. And welcome to all of the new subscribers since last edition!

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Resisting the ‘Not Now’ Pushback from Executive Teams 

In the last edition of The Pulse, I wrote about the importance of building Strategic Planning around People, Process, and a Solution to bring your strategy to life.

I thought this was a timely message, because recently we’ve seen a rise in organizations struggling with commitment to the process of building a Strategic Plan, and more importantly, sticking to a rhythm for executing and reviewing that plan. 

In particular, we’ve seen Executive teams pulling away from buying into the transparency and consistency that comes from a regular operating cadence, and instead focusing on a singular goal like revenue, profitability, or something else that tends to be finance-driven. 

And let me start with this: a singular area of focus can actually be the most powerful thing for your business, especially if there is a critical need to increase gross margin, elevate retention numbers, or simply drive profitability. 💸

However, that singular focus can often result in folks building their silos even taller and getting blinders on that only pertain to their areas of the business.

It’s essential that organizations don’t lose sight of how they empower every employee to understand how their work aligns with that focus for your organization, and how they prioritize their work in a way that supports other teams and their work cross-functionally.

After the last edition of The Pulse, the most frequently asked question I received was 'How do I get other Executive Team members bought-in?'

As I pressed into those conversations further, one thing became abundantly clear: buy-in is not about buying a solution like Elate. Further, buy-in is not going around the room asking every Executive Team member, ‘What do you think about revamping our Strategic Planning process?’ 

For the second question, you can bet your bottom dollar that you are going to hear ‘not now’ as one of the fundamental objections.

And look, I understand, there will always be other priorities. Especially, if you have crafted a strategy around a singular focus like revenue. In one of my previous Pulses, I even referenced the power of 'Not Now' when it comes to being ruthless about prioritization.

However, there is truly no better time to ensure you have the right structure in place to achieve that target than when you are asking your entire organization to sprint towards one shared outcome. 

If you want complete visibility, transparency, and an understanding of how each team member’s work drives towards achieving that outcome, then you need a framework that supports setting those Objectives in the first place, and helps individuals decide whether to pivot or persist on those Objectives as we get into the thick of the year.

Related: The Problem with Setting Fluffy Objectives

I don’t know a single Executive who doesn’t already have enough on their plate. And for many of those Executives, their goals and ability to achieve them, determine their pay or even their standing within the company.

But it is the responsibility of Strategy and Operations Leaders to communicate ‘why’ creating a Strategic Planning process that entails people, process, and solution will actually help those Executives and their teams achieve those Objectives.

Again, this comes back to building a culture internally that provides Executives a safe space to share the hurdles their teams are facing or challenges that other teams can help address. But it also means being able to correctly communicate how the process works. 🔊

You have to share why ‘not now’ can’t be the best reason not to invest in an operating rhythm and Strategic Planning process. Because if that’s the case, and you maintain the status quo, as it relates to setting and executing Objectives, will we really be in a better position 12 months from now?

The likelihood is that you won’t. So when ‘not now’ is raised by your team, here are four questions to ask:

  • Help me understand why now isn’t the right time. Do we feel like the current processes we have in place are yielding results?
  • Do we feel like employees have alignment and visibility into the strategic direction? If so, are we seeing results? If not, is that part of the cause for why we aren’t seeing results? 
  • As an Executive, do you feel like you have a pulse on how the wider organization is moving closer to [Insert most important priority here]?  
  • Is Strategic Planning a check-the-box exercise for us, or are we seeing value in the annual process for setting Objectives and regular cadence for how we review them as a team?

I’ve heard it said “The pressure is a privilege.” As a Strategy and Operations Leader, or any Leader for that matter, the responsibility to execute the most important, coveted plan is a privilege. And it's HARD. But the ones who lean in and constantly focus and refocus the team on what matters and why (the process), while creating psychological safety (the people), are the ones who will succeed. 🎉

Implementing, revamping, or even simply committing to your Strategic Planning process is not a chronological timeline of people, process, solution. Instead, each of those areas should be viewed as equal, necessary parts to the Strategic Planning flywheel that will continue to fuel the narrative and objection around "not now". 

When we have people bought-in and all committed to setting a Strategy that will be reviewed regularly, communicated accurately, and streamlined to allow for action to be taken, then we have a foundation that will stand the inevitable challenges that come up over the course of the year.

With the commitment of Leaders, now the process can take shape and do what it was meant to do: drive clarity and proactivity.

This all sets the stage for a solution that amplifies the impact of our Strategic Plan and process. 

While all three parts build upon one another, this last piece, which is candidly where Elate comes in, really amplifies the impact and benefit for your Executive team.

If you sell them on streamlining reporting and saving time to ensure they can focus on what matters, rather than trying to bring together weekly updates, then a solution helps make this happen.

If you share how they can shift from reactively engaging with team members when a metric falls behind to proactively driving the conversation in advance, then a solution will certainly help provide signals in advance to help drive those conversations.

Or, if you have a process that has yielded results, but just simply isn’t scalable, then a solution can help solidify that process and automate how the process comes to life.

Again, there are countless reasons why a solution can yield results and allow organizations to better execute upon their strategy. But none of the parts of people, process, and solution can be done in isolation. 🚫

The pushback of ‘not now’ has and will always be a common challenge from other Executive team members, but it’s important to share the full vision for how the process can be leveraged for their benefit. Especially in the face of attainable, yet challenging goals.

That's all for today... thanks for making it this far. Guess I had a lot on my mind. Have a great rest of your week.

- Brooks


PS. Email me, let me know what resonated and what's top of mind. I love hearing your thoughts and knowing you're reading.

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