Have you ever really known where you wanted to take your business, but struggled to get your team to “get it” and deliver?
When you started your business, you likely had an idea of what the future could look like and saw the direction it would take. Most people’s visions don’t turn out exactly as planned, but you tweak along the way and continue toward a prosperous future.
The question is: Have you adequately imparted that vision to your employees, and do they have a grasp of how the organisation is supposed to get there?
Several years ago, I was brought into a multinational firm and asked to help assist in developing their regional strategy. I wanted to know what they’d tried in the past and was given the name of an executive who had worked on that project.
I approached that executive and asked if I could get that strategy as a starting point. They opened up their bottom desk drawer and pulled out about 30 copies of the strategy. I didn’t know if someone had just overestimated at the copy machine, so I asked why they had so many.
The executive said that they had decided not to share the plan. The reason? They were afraid it was going to get leaked to competitors.
In playing into their fear of the other companies in their market space, they kept everyone in their company in the dark! How could they pursue a strategy that their employees didn’t even know about?
The Strategic Plan Needs to Be A Tangible Thing
I can recite the lyrics to several of my favourite 1980s songs, all of my teacher’s names from high school and where I hope my next two or three adventures take me in the world. All of those things live in my head and I’ve not committed them to paper.
That’s OK, because those are all trivial things. When I come into an organisation and first sit with the owner or CEO and ask if they have a strategic plan, they’ll respond in the affirmative. Then I’ll ask to see it and they’ll point to their head and say something to the effect of, “It’s all up here.”
The follow-up reason I’m given? “Oh, I’ve been working on it for years. I know exactly what I want to do and, so far, it seems to be working.”
That’s not a reason, of course; it’s an excuse. Your strategic plan is a little more important than the lyrics of a Men at Work or a Midnight Oil song. It can’t only live in your head.
Odds are, this type of leader doesn’t like paperwork, but as a company grows, it’s important to remember that not everybody understands things the same way, and the opportunity to read and re-read a strategy is necessary for many people.
It’s much harder to challenge an idea when it only lives in the abstract in someone’s head. By committing it to paper, people get a better sense of what’s happening and can improve upon it. You’ll always end up with a better result.