Part 4: Strategic Planning – The Meeting: Developing Cohesion
By: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services
The following is part nine of a nine-part series on strategic planning. This blog series includes identifying the need for strategic planning, setting a level playing field, defining the organization and its purpose, and selecting the initiatives, goals, and actions that will make the organization successful.
Trust falls anyone? Kidding. We will be doing some trust exercises but nothing that cheesy, we promise!
For this portion of strategic planning, we break the meeting into four distinct blocks or disciplines as Lencioni titles them. We have found the department or organizational leader should lead in all of these blocks by going first and setting a great example for others to follow.
BLOCK 1: ESTABLISH TRUST
Establishing trust is often a little touchy feely for some employees, and that’s okay. The first step recommended by Lencioni in The Advantage involves running the team through a personal history exercise. A personal history exercise is where each employee will say where they were born, how many siblings they have, what order they are in the siblings, and the most difficult circumstance faced as a kid. This is where people get to ‘really’ know one another. Employees have shared stories of lost siblings, lost parents, and extreme adversity. The same kinds of stories will come out in your meeting, and you will find a new level of respect in the room for each other.
BLOCK 2: GAUGING TYPICAL CONFLICT
Proper planning can help us to gauge potential conflict between employees. If the department or organizational leader has had some lead time, they will have the opportunity to document the last month of common conflicts that have come up to bring those issues to the forefront with grace and tact during the meeting. If the leader has not had the time or context to do this, your consultant can mine for conflict during the meeting. Often conflict issues come out by asking the question to employees, ‘What concerns you the most about the direction of the company?” If this question does not pull issues out, we must take teams through modified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis across each of the main departments to get feedback. Ah, nothing brings out conflict like calling an executive and their department out for perceived weaknesses. The goal of this analysis is not to create conflict but to teach the team to have and maintain an appropriate amount of healthy conflict. Many times, during these sessions, the typical conflict will start to manifest, and the leader or outside consultant running the meeting can stop, interject, and discuss each side of the conflict with the present team. See the previous reference to Harvard Business Review article, “The Best Senior Teams Thrive on Disagreement” that was discussed in Part Three of this Series. Conflict management is an ongoing effort where individuals and teams must not become siloed or self-focused but must maintain a big picture mentality that will help the whole organization thrive.
BLOCK 3: UNIFIED LEADERSHIP
Unity and alignment leadership among the leadership team is a must for the organization to succeed. Regardless of what the teams agree to or agree upon, it is all for naught if the team is not aligned together. The minute one leader comes back to their team and vents frustration with an organization initiative or another leader, the floodgates are opened to allow for all to participate in this same manner. It will be significantly more difficult for this leader to influence their team, to help them see the organization objectives before their own objectives, or to allow space for collaboration with other departments across the organization. Whatever comes out of the strategic planning room, the leadership team must be unified first and foremost to each other and to the organization’s cause. It is very important that the leaders’ people know their commitment to the other leaders and to the firm.
BLOCK 4: ACCOUNTABILITY AND CONFLICT
Leadership and employee accountability will be discussed in depth in a later installment of this series. For now ,suffice it to say that accountability is critical to the organization and that its focus is on the performance and behavior of both leaders and employees. This is where current leaders can cultivate the next generation of leaders by using tactful communication, sending clear directional signals, and identifying in a fair way when the rules are and are not being followed. Infighting and conflict among individuals will persist until leadership puts a stop to it. Every time unhealthy conflict is allowed, the values of the organization become more toxic, and an unhealthy environment is created for all employees involved.
Conflict should be allowed for issues and not people. The minute a team member is against another teammate for personal reasons, the business issue cannot be resolved. Ideas and issues must be presented and then evaluated among all those involved in the strategic planning process. This can be symbolized by team members writing down issues or ideas and physically taking them to the middle of the table. This signifies that these are the team’s issues and ideas, and they should be evaluated as such.
When we have balanced conflict focused on issues rather than employees, we can begin to make headway on the organization’s stress areas, which is the topic of the next installment.
At KHA Management Consultants, we have experience working with organizations on Strategic Planning. We facilitate the process with the organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employees. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.
KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the strategic planning experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.