Who is involved in strategic planning?

The determination of who is involved in strategic planning is crucial to the success of the strategic planning process.

Who participates in strategic planning can also influence whether or not the plan is implemented effectively.

We need a multi part answer to the question of who is involved in strategic planning. This is because is there are several components of the strategic planning process.

Each part of the process requires different things from different people.

Who should be involved in the process of strategic planning?

A way to answer to the question of who is involved in strategic planning for any given organization is to ask another question. Who is responsible, or accountable for the formulation and execution of the corporate strategic plan?

Who is involved in strategic planning because they are accountable for it?

The short answer is the chief executive officer.

It may be lonely at the top. But the CEO should not walk alone when it comes to strategic planning. The key to a plan that is likely to improve the chances of enhanced long term performance of the organization, is that the planning must be performed by a team of top-level executives. A team consisting of the chief executive and their closest colleagues, is by far the most appropriate group of people to accept accountability for formulating, and implementing, the overall strategic plan of the organization.

Contrary to popular practice in many sizable organizations, I therefore rule out, in most cases, the corporate strategic planning process being carried out by a specialist strategic planner, even if they are designated Chief Strategy Officer.

Who is involved in strategic planning?
Begin with the Chief Executive

No one other than the CEO has the authority to even mention some of the strategic elephants in some organizations. For example, the idea that the subordinates of the head of a family run business could discuss going public, without the CEO being present is unthinkable.

The idea that any executive could discuss diversification or an acquisition without the chief executive being there makes no sense. But issues of this potential impact are precisely what the corporate strategic planning process is designed to address.

The chief executive must lead the planning process through teamwork

Today, a more collegial team style of management is largely displacing autocratic one man rule. It is therefore essential that the CEO discusses the truly momentous strategic challenges with their closest colleagues. It would be crazy in most contemporary organizations to have a process of corporate strategic planning, in which their full participation is not a primary characteristic.

Of course, in those cases where the chief executive is an autocrat, he will not wish to discuss such sensitive affairs with his colleagues. Yes, it is usually a 'he'! Nor will he need to — he is the sole decision-maker, there will be no others!

The increasingly common CEO as team leader, however, must do so. They must obtain the involvement and endorsement of their most senior colleagues for all the most significant things they do. They must, of all things, discuss corporate strategies with them and build an enthusiastic consensus on the handful of top corporate strategies.

A corporate planning system that failed to weave this participative approach right through the fabric of the planning process would struggle for credibility in today’s managerial climate. Apart from this reason for constituting the top managers as such a planning team, there is another of almost equal importance.

Who is involved in strategic planning?
Those in the know!

A corporate strategic planning team made up of the CEO, and a few other of the top managers, will know more about their organization than anyone else on the planet. Anything they are not conversant with they have the authority to find out.

A corporate strategic plan based on faulty information will be of little value; a plan based on the knowledge of these top managers will have enduring value based on a sound foundations.

The conclusion is plain: the strategic planning team must be led by the chief executive and must include his or her most immediate colleagues.

Who is involved in strategic planning?
Don’t stop at the top team!

While the CEO led strategic planning team has the accountability for the process, this does not mean they alone are involved.

The purpose of the organization should be the guiding star of the strategic planning process. The corporate ethos, policies on corporate conduct, or more broadly, the culture of the organization should also pervade the deliberations around the strategic plan. These things, purpose and conduct, should be fully committed to by the people of the organization.

One aspect of your people living out this commitment to organizational purpose, and adherence to corporate cultural norms, should be their scope for involvement in, or influence over the strategic planning process. This applies across the spectrum from governing board members, who represent the Intended Beneficiaries of the organization, to a range of managers who, with their team members, are chartered with achieving the benefits for the Intended Beneficiaries.

Therefore, involving the whole organization, in at least part of the planning process, is important to ensure the levels of commitment required to successfully deliver on the promises of the strategic plan.

Although everyone cannot literally be involved in every aspect of the strategic planning process, except in the tiniest of enterprises, each person has a role to play.

So who is involved in strategic planning? You might like to have everyone involved, in certain ways and at certain times. Thankfully, you can find ways for most people to contribute in a way that does not result in a full scale planning mess!

Who is involved in strategic planning is something that also needs to be planned for!

Who is involved in strategic planning?

One answer is ‘… anyone the strategic planning team deems could be of assistance in the process. This includes any stakeholder representatives who could ensure that all affected groups are at least not harmed by the process, and its resultant plans. More positively these other interest groups need to be constructively engaged in the process, and in the execution of the agreed strategic plans.

This can include any or all of the following, depending on the stage of the strategic planning process, and the nature of the contributions required.

  • Governors,
  • Chair of the governing body,
  • CEO,
  • CXO members of the CEO led Planning team,
  • Managers once removed (MoR) from the CEO,
  • Other executive staff,
  • Operators,
  • Facilitator,
  • Advisors and assistants,
  • Consultants
  • Interest Groups, and
  • Beneficiaries.

The following diagram depicts he strategic planning process around which most of the content of simply strategic planning is built.

Who is involved in strategic planning can be illustrated using this set of stages, and indicating possible involvement of each group at each stage.

Note that it is purely illustrative, and the actual decisions on who is involved in strategic planning at each stage, would have to be tailored to the structure of the situation for each organization.

Note. The process may in some situations employ the services of strategic planning consultants. We take the view that usually these consultants are most useful when acting in the role of strategic planning facilitator.

This facilitation role enables management planning teams to come up with strategies appropriate to their situation, and based on their intimate understanding of the organisation. We resist the idea of strategic planning consultants who create the strategies for the managers.

Someone inside the organisation should play a role in ensuring the strategic planning process stays on track. In a large complex organisation this may call for someone with the role of strategic planning manager.


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