When it comes to strategic planning, many organizations turn to their board. Although often working in isolation, distant from the actual work and the employees, board members typically rally, roll up their sleeves, and map out a blueprint for the future. They do the best they can. But, in my experience, there’s a better way and a more meaningful use of board members, where they truly become champions of the organization and its people.
It’s fairly common for me to get a call from someone asking me to lead a strategic planning session for a board. One of the first questions I ask is, “Who will be most impacted by or most impact the success of the strategy?” The typical response is, “Frontline employees, leadership, and other key stakeholders and partners.” I then invite the person I am speaking with to consider inviting these individuals into the strategic planning process, knowing people commit to what they help create. By engaging people who do the work and additional key stakeholders, the organization will end up with a more robust and achievable strategic plan – one that people are committed to implement.
Another question I get is, “How should we handle the board, and get members to buy into a strategic plan?” Embedded in the question is some sort of distance between the organization and board or the image that the board’s role is just to review and approve the plan. In fact, the strategic planning process is an opportunity to engage the board and the organization, to help bridge the gap between them. By bringing together everyone’s unique strengths, perspectives, and insights, relationships are strengthened and the future becomes clearer. As a result, a more relevant and informed plan is created and executed.
Here is my advice to companies looking to their board for strategic planning:
- Reframe the role of your board.
View board members as conveners and as active participants in the process rather than as people responsible for doing it all – or doing nothing but reviewing and approving. Encourage board members to collaborate with a range of stakeholders to discover the best of the organization, to build meaningful relationships at all levels, and to champion people and ideas.
- Create a stakeholder map.
Identify the people who will be most impacted by a strategic plan and who could have the most impact in creating one. This will help determine who to involve in the strategic planning process.
- Engagement is key.
Once you’ve identified key stakeholders, find meaningful ways to engage them. Whether through one-on-one interviews, focus groups, small working group sessions, or a strategic planning summit, the more involved people are and the more they contribute their voice and ideas, the more committed they will be in executing the plan.
Organizations that are willing to rethink the role of the board in strategic planning – toward a more inclusive group of leaders, frontline workers, and additional key stakeholders – will inevitably create and bring to life strategic plans that result in overwhelmingly positive results.