We’ve all heard the old adage that “crap” rolls downhill. Truth is, most things go that direction in some organizations – especially when it comes to developing corporate plans. You know the drill. Managers go away and huddle in their cozy planning cocoons. They ponder lofty notions like values, vision and mission. They create goals and objectives and strategies – maybe even some high-priority tactics. Then they pass it down like tablets from the mountaintop with the mandate to go forth and implement.
Cultivate an Appetite for Planning
Fortunately, managers increasingly are starting to “get it.” They’re realizing that when they “cook” the plans before employees have a chance to have a say in what should be on the “menu” and how the “meal” should be prepared, it’s likely to leave a bad “taste” in people’s mouths. Taking the culinary metaphor a bit further, put yourself in their position. If you only had one restaurant in town (your employer), and the only thing you could eat was what the chef (senior management) put in front of you, how satisfying would that be? More to the point, how “engaged” would you be in the whole dining experience, and what’s the likelihood you’d recommend the place to other customers?
Add Engagement to Taste
Of course, there’s also the bromide that warns of having too many cooks in the kitchen. So what’s the answer? How can you engage employees in organizational planning, and still maintain effective control of the process? Admittedly, the larger the organization, the bigger the challenge. The good news is you don’t have to involve everyone, and it doesn’t have to be a complicated undertaking. The methods depend somewhat on what kind of plan you’re creating, but here are some guidelines for getting employees engaged in virtually any type of planning:
1. Start by thinking of employees as participants to engage at the beginning of the process instead of workers to direct at the end.
2. Involve groups of representative employees that comprise all the “realities” of the overall organization.
3. Alternate small group discussions with large group review and evaluation.
4. Foster conversations and formative dialogue rather than “dueling monologues.”
5. Employ a broadly representative steering committee to consolidate central questions, concerns, obstacles and recommended action items that senior managers can use in the final planning work.
Finish with Aligned Execution
That’s just the first phase, though. Fact is, far more strategies suffer from poor execution than insular planning. After the plan is completed, it’s important to engage ALL employees in conversations about where the company is heading with the plan…how it’s going to reach its goals…what each person’s roles and responsibilities are…and how they can contribute. Bottom-line, if you want what’s being said and done outside the organization aligned with what’s being said and done inside, employees have to be engaged in planning from start to finish, not just carrying out orders at the end.
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