Your 15-point strategic planning checklist – Part 5

I hope that my most recent post in this series helped to clarify the reasons for the preferred answers to questions 6, 7 and 8 on the strategic planning checklist. Now let’s have a look at questions 9, 10 and 11.

Question 9:

Do any job descriptions for employees or officers of the company fail to correlate with defined plan goals?

If you answered “yes” to this question, you have a big area of opportunity here. A planning approach should be accountability and performance driven. This may seem intuitively obvious, but in order to realise an organisational desired outcome, you must have a plan that is good and reasonable, yes, but you must also have the people to carry it out and they must have incentive and understanding to execute to that plan. Therefore, job descriptions and accountabilities must be in alignment with plan goals.

Failure to ensure this alignment jeopardises the effectiveness of strategic and operational plans. This is a common issue that must be addressed, even in very mature organisations. I see many clients that have strategic and operational plans in place that would otherwise be considered very sound, but they lack the staff accountability to bring that plan to fruition.

Good alignment of job descriptions and job responsibilities creates accountable employees, and reinforces strategic plan goals by using the communications strategy to relate directly to employees about their role and the organisation’s expectations of them relative to the plan. Furthermore, job alignment allows management to affect the outcomes through careful measurement of progress over time and take action when needed when tactical elements of the plan are not meeting expectations.

Staff incentive, understanding and value to the execution of the plan are far more important than specific expertise. Employees who understand what is being done and why – and when and how they can contribute – become empowered team players.

Question 10:

Do performance measurements for employees and officers of the company define accountabilities that tie back to the measurement of plan goals?

Hopefully you answered “yes” to this question. If not, keep in mind that, as with good job descriptions and well-aligned job accountabilities, a strategic planning process must address performance measurements that support plan goals and execution while tying back to incentives. While this is crucial to do, it adds a level of complexity to planning that is too often overlooked. This is due in part to the level of cooperation required with human resources and with management across the functional areas.

Aligning accountabilities with performance measurements requires a lot of discipline to think through all of the angles the first time it is enacted as a legitimate part of the planning process.

Regardless of the initial effort involved, constructing well-thought-out plan goals that can be measured, and aligning job responsibilities and corresponding performance measurements to reinforce those goals, should not be considered an optional component of the planning process.

Organisations already require the structures to be in place to manage performance across the enterprise. This work has already been done in almost all cases. The added dimension of alignment to plan goals puts the planning effort on a good footing to providing all layers of management with empowerment to measure and manage towards achievement of plan goals.

Question 11:

Were the organisation’s core values and culture considered when defining the plan’s underlying execution tactics?

The preferred answer is “yes”, of course! These are essential ingredients that must be considered when formulating strategy.

Core values are broadly shared values of the company that are evidenced in the corporate culture and the general work ethic of the employees. Some refer to core values as a shared “value system”, meaning a group shares a common set of cultural and moral beliefs. Strong core values benefit the strategic planning effort and would generally be classified as an accelerator towards goal achievement.

The exception to this generalisation is in the case of a negative culture that is out of step with the organisation’s leadership values. In that situation, core values become an inhibitor and must be changed over time to facilitate strategy achievement. In such circumstances, the strategic planning process would need to address transition strategies for changing corporate core values.

Likewise, culture is a critical component in short-term and long-term planning that, if not properly understood, can dramatically affect the execution of strategic and operational plans. Culture is the foundation of how the organisation works and how work will be completed on the plan in order to realise the key outcomes. By aligning planning with culture, it is possible to harness the organisation’s potential to improve upon performance.

A corporate culture can be classified as one of four models:

  • Cooperative: The organisation or team focuses on the customer and delivery to the customer, resulting in customisation and tailoring to customer needs.
  • Merit focused: The organisation or team focuses on how it can organise and create predictability, reliability, low cost and structure.
  • Actualised: The organisation or team focuses on fulfilling the human potential, helping to create better lives for its customers and offering self‑actualisation.
  • Creative: The organisation or team focuses on creating superiority of product or service, uniqueness, one-of-a-kind value-add service and product.

Associated with these four distinct culture signatures are corresponding organisational hierarchies (structures). The differences in culture and hierarchy relate back to how the organisation works and how work gets accomplished, and factor heavily into the operational aspect of planning.

Questions 12 and 13 on the checklist will be the subject of my next post in this series. For clarification of any of the points mentioned above, email me or call me on 020 7099 2621.