Strategic Planning Motivation

Positive strategic planning motivation supports corporate strategy.

Even imperfect strategic planning improves long-term firm results. Some planning efforts do not improve corporate performance.

A sense of ownership helps strategic planning motivation

Being involved in the process of formulating the strategy can give a stronger sense of ownership of the strategy.

If there are forces undermining the sense of ownership, there will be weaker motivation for strategic planning.

Owning ownership

Some bodies, such as cooperatives, and employee share owned businesses, spell out ownership rights and responsibilities. Even in such places, staff may not have a ‘sense of ownership’. By this, I mean, they may not feel a real drive to help the enterprise succeed.

It is not only the law that decides ‘ownership’. A sense of ownership comes from feeling part of what is going on. Feeling the organization is doing something worthwhile helps. Another factor is being in an organization that has high standards of corporate and personal conduct.

Managers must also speak and behave in ways that show they value participation in strategic planning. If not they may weaken strategic planning motivation. Even worse, they may stir up distrust of strategic planning.

When I ask people how they feel about strategic planning, I hear things such as - “investment in the future,” “feel more part of a larger team,” “opening up the process seems bogus, the managers will do what they want to anyway,” “It is great to be asked for my opinion”, and so on.

The spread of motivations obviously grows with the size, geographic scope, and complexity of the organization. However, even fairly small enterprises can experience diverse reactions to the efforts of managers to increase motivation in strategic planning by striving for a greater sense of ownership of the process and the plan.

Sometimes it is a challenge for those who own the enterprise to get motivated for strategic planning.

Variations in strategic planning motivation

People vary in their motivation to become involved in strategic planning. They also vary in their drive to carry out the strategies in the plan. Here are some of the ways of building up or undermining motivation for planning  -

  • Participation: some members of the organization, including volunteers in community service organizations, want to be included in decisions about the future of the organization. They expect that strategic change could affect their day-to-day work and their relationships with people in the organization. Therefore, they hope at least to know about the issues that may affect their working conditions.

    In addition, there are those who do not want to be involved in this way. Somewhat surprisingly, some middle managers, who often complain about the effects on them from decisions made by ‘head office’, are sometimes resistant to being involved in strategic planning processes. Some express this as complaints that are being subject to yet more pressure. Others may see their involvement as window dressing, because top managers, behind closed doors, will still make the decisions.

    There needs to be great care taken in design of the processes to involve these people. Managers should explain the roles people might play at various stages of the processes. They should also clarify who is accountable for aspects of the process. This is because organizations rely so heavily on middle managers to get things done in the enterprise. Having them transmit cynicism about the process can derail strategic planning motivation.
  • Influence: some people want to have a part in discussing broader, organization-wide decisions. Some want to participate just to be sure they know what is going on, and how it might affect their situation in the organization. Others want to influence strategic issues. Motivation for strategic planning in these cases can be complex, with mixed motives to do with personal or career aspirations, as well as exercising power to shape the organization.

  • Community: some people want to feel better connected with their fellow workers. They want to feel that the whole organization is working as a team, and they want to be part of a ‘winning team’.

  • Equity: some members want the organization to treat them fairly during any change process, resulting from strategic decisions. They want clear and realistic expectations. Others want to see resource allocations across areas of the organizations to be fair, and yet recognize special situations. They resist and resent ‘fake equity’. This is when an organization may cut a standard percentage on all budgets. Larger, already better-equipped groups can cope better than smaller less well-endowed units can. They also resist special treatment for certain top management ‘pet projects’.

Improvement in strategic planning motivation is possible

There is a lot of room for improvement in the way top managers involve more people in formulating and executing strategic plans! Most organizations can enhance strategic planning motivation, and thereby improve the quality of the strategic planning process, and the effectiveness of strategic plan implementation.

In my experience, fully a third of top managers in organizations never seek the advice on strategic issues from their members or colleagues. Perhaps another third make only token efforts, or even indulge in a charade of consultation.

Participating in the strategic planning process can have a remarkable effect on employee engagement in the organization.

In the many years I have been consulting on and facilitating strategic planning processes, I have seen some occasions when top management decided to involve all the other managers in at least some of the workshops. They got many employees involved in organization-wide data collection effort that would shape the future plans of the direction of the enterprise. The level of positive reactions from all concerned was amazing. The lift in strategic planning motivation was not only personally motivating for the employees, but to also for the executives in the leadership team as well.

How to improve strategic planning motivation

The major way to enhance strategic planning motivation and to encourage a high level of interactivity to gather, sort, and decide what direction the organization should go is the SWOT analysis workshop.

This follows the work of the planning team composed of a handful of top managers led by the CEO to examine past performance, set targets, forecast results of leaving current strategies in place, and measuring the anticipated gap in performance over the next few years. The question then becomes how to address the gaps. The framework for doing this is the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis.

What is the SWOT workshop for?

The point of the SWOT Workshop is to find the key factors the strategies must address.

Additionally, it is a great way to engage the managers below the corporate management team in the building the organization’s strategies. There are two aspects to this -

  • To improve the quality of decisions. The deep knowledge of the organization, and its context, brought to the table by the next layers of management is often greater than that of the top team.
  • Involving at least the next layer of management is also ensures that these managers, will play vital roles in executing the strategies.

Therefore, these managers will be able to strengthen strategic planning motivation among others in the organization.

These desirable things will come only if the SWOT analysis discussions involve sincere listening, sense of trust, respect, and good humour. If, in the period after the workshop, the top management planning team appears to disregard the material and suggestions provided during the workshop, strategic planning motivation, and possibly general morale, is likely to fall.

Top management commitment to this kind of participation is crucial to ensuring positive strategic planning motivation among all those who can contribute!

A key to a successful strategic planning is to engage the right people right at the start, and to keep them engaged right through execution of the plans.

The strategic planning process we recommend helps to achieve these things.

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