Strategic planning is something that many professionals think about, they also think about motivating their team. Some realise that linking the two can be powerful, but then don’t do it. Is it too much to ask of the team?

Strategic planning in a team meeting

Why involve your team in strategic planning?

Your want your team to take more interest in the direction of your firm, as you hope it will build commitment, motivation and help you to create a better strategy? Are the benefits you want from commitment and motivation:

  • Increased productivity – (less cost per income)
  • Staff stay longer (happier clients, lower recruitment costs)
  • Happier clients leading to additional fees per amount of cost

No, you just want the team to stop moaning?

That sounds really positive, but perhaps you were looking at it the other way.

You’re fed up of staff moaning they don’t know what’s going on, that they think there’s a better way and they don’t feel part of what’s going on in your firm. In other words you’re looking to improve staff relationships, save yourself hassle and improve your client interface.

  • Increased productivity – (less cost per income)
  • Staff stay longer (happier clients, lower recruitment costs)
  • Happier clients leading to additional fees per amount of cost

Why don’t more people involve the team?

If it’s that clear that there’s a real benefit, why is it that more small professional firms don’t involve their team in decision making, or at least sharing the vision?

  • You might not like the direction things go in
  • You might not have the time
  • They might not have the skills, despite their protestations.
  • You may worry that if given some control, you can’t override them without them ending up less motivated

A recent story

The team were unhappy that the owner was always making decisions, without real consultation, even though they were experts (and well paid) in their own areas. She was concerned and decided to get them to contribute to strategic planning.

  • Step 1: They were being asked to provide input and make recommendations for the things that they were always discussing amongst themselves. They went silent then said things like “it’s not our job” and “we are too busy”.
  • Step 2: They then wanted to talk in great detail about pet projects and perceived problems. Detail to a level where everybody else was unaware of what they were talking about. Aargh, her head hurt, too much input!
  • Step 3: She persevered and got them to talk about the broad areas of improvement that the firm needed to focus on. There were some great ideas.
  • Step 4: She then asked them to make some recommendations and say what they would prioritise, they again fell silent. A cynic could say that they wanted to moan about things, but not the responsibility to do anything about them.

In the end she took the broad themes they had discussed, wrote them down, with their words and reflected on them. She realised that there were some important points in them. Then she:

  1. Wrote the themes onto a flipchart, with their words, as context.
  2. Decided on the firm’s main priorities for the next three years, put them on another flipchart. These logically flowed from the context.
  3. Presented it to the team, context first (their words) and then priorities (with targets) as logical conclusion of their input.
  4. Put them into action, with relevant measures to ensure things were happening.
  5. She had realised that asking the team to go from no decision taking to creating a final result in one go was too much to ask.

The end result was that the team felt involved, even if they didn’t all like every single item on the end list. The team were more motivated than they had been and the strategic planning process had been enhanced.

What moral would you take from that example?

Written by Jon Baker The 5-50 Coach. I help professionals grow their firms from 5 to 50 employees, sustainably, profitably and still have fun. Have you got your "next step kitbag yet"? It's stuffed with guides, reports & templates helping you grow from 5 to 50 employees Click here for immediate access

Team working Photo used under creative commons licence. For more information, click here.