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The OD Practitioner

An Improved Strategic Planning Process – The People Component

Tina Barry of Barry Consulting Group

As an Organizational Development professional, strategic planning should be my “bread and butter”. A mainstay of the work I do. Crucial for my client’s success (and mine).

It’s not that I don’t think it’s important or even fundamental for businesses (nonprofit or for-profit alike) – I do. To quote a recent Forbes Magazine article, “Strategic planning is a critical business practice for positioning an organization for success, aligning leaders to a common plan, and guiding management decisions.”

So, I recognize it has great value. I am even inspired by those O.D. professionals who do this work thoughtfully, efficiently and to the great benefit of their clients.

A good strategic plan requires several steps to prepare; incorporate stakeholders’ input (including funders), complete an environmental scan, invite participation from the Board of Directors (or other body that acts in a fiduciary capacity for the organization) as well as involvement from staff and leaders.

Then the plan is finalized and announced to the entire company (often with great fanfare and excitement). At this point the strategic plan is expected to be fully implemented in a timely, efficient and professional manner.

And, more often than not, that’s when the wheels fall off.

Because as often as a strategic plan has included critical data, current market conditions and has reinvigorated the Board of Directors toward the new direction, it might have left out one important component.


People need to implement the plan. They need to understand it thoroughly and how they fit into it. They need to learn new skills for this new “reality”. And they need time to apply these skills to their work, their teams and their clients.

And so often, this is what strategic plans do not include.

To be clear, this is not an indictment of strategic plans or the valuable process to complete one effectively. Far from it. This planning process is vital to the health of organizations to update their methods and improve focus.

However, this is to make a case for another step to work hand-in-hand with strategic plans – a case to include the people component.

To quote Debbie Zmorenski in her article, Don’t Forget People in Strategic Planning:

All managers know that execution is critical to the success of the strategic plan, but making the plan work is an even bigger challenge than creating the plan, in large part because execution requires a disciplined process or a logical set of connected activities that enables the organization to successfully integrate the strategies into the operation. Many factors inhibit the successful execution of the strategic plan, and all of them are tied to the people of the organization.

So, we need to add another essential component to the Strategic Planning process – the people responsible for implementing the plan.

And to do that, we need to incorporate employees into all aspects of the process – asking questions, planning, collaborating, finalizing and eventually, executing.

We will call this Strategic Planning – The People Component.

Here are the steps of The People Component:

  • Before Include them in every aspect of the journey:
    • Engage your team in the initial goals and objectives of this plan
    • Keep them informed in the process and in each step taken for the project
    • Be realistic about time frames, expectations and outcomes
    • Acknowledge changes may take place to the process as time goes on (and add your promise to continually update them)
  • DuringBe transparent about what you’re learning:
    • The good, the bad, the ugly
    • What “surprises” have occurred?
    • What do they observe from their perspective?
    • How does any of this new information impact the plan?
  • After Involve them in the process to assist with Implementation
    • Use tools to determine what is needed for teams to execute the plan
      • Surveys
      • Focus groups
      • One-on-one meetings with staff members
    • Create Committees to assist with execution:
      • Prepare team members for their involvement
      • Then use them to implement the steps of the plan
    • Establish regular assessments to determine progress (and report back to teams for adjustment to timelines or even scope of the project goals)

And throughout each step, constant communication is necessary for success. A robust Communication Plan is needed to connect the team with each step of the process. For many organizations, several methods of communication should be utilized to reach all individuals in the way they “hear it” best:

  • Organization-wide intranet articles to highlight and update each step.
  • Critical updates and other factors to be shared at staff meetings.
  • Executive “Coffees” to allow team members to receive updated information and ask questions for clarity from leaders at the various levels of leadership.
  • Include pertinent factors in one-on-one meetings with each staff member, as it effects their role and areas of responsibility.

Strategic Plans have long been an important and even crucial step for organizations to update the way they do business and to continue to be viable. The People Component ensures the work gets done after the strategy has been completed. Engage your people in every step of the way and they will create success for you, your organization and themselves.



  • Don’t Forget People in Strategic Planning (Reliable Plant)


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