When discussing planning with clients, they often ask – “What’s the most important aspect of planning?” They ask if there is a great software tool, or a new and innovative method for conducting the planning process. Is it the quality of the people you select to participate? Maybe it’s the type of consultant you hire. All of those are great inputs into the task – but we always answer that the number one item in completing a strategic plan is the commitment to plan.
What commitment is needed? It’s not just showing up with the money – although as consulting processionals we always appreciate clients that pay their invoices promptly! Commitment is more than anything else a mind-set. You must be willing to complete the process, and then listen to the output from the process. And of course, change accordingly.
Bob once acted as a participant in a strategic planning process. When the consultants returned to present their initial findings, he was interested to see what management and the board said to the well-researched assessment of where the entity was in the process. Immediately after the consultants presented to a rather large group, management stood up and declared that they were already ahead of the consultant and were going to continue their current direction. The audience fell silent and a couple of people almost gasped out loud. Management’s statement was not at all what anyone else had heard from the consultant. It was clear that the management team wanted a “white wash” of what they were currently doing, and whatever the consultant said, they were going to take it that way.
The other common occurrence we see is the creation of “shelfware.” You know, that great study which is nicely bound and sits on the bookshelf of every executive in management. The cover has likely never been opened, but it looks great. It is often pointed to as a shining example of how the company hires the best and brightest to work with them on making the company the best that it can be!
The purpose of hiring consultants is often to have a fresh set of eyes or a different approach to the questions of corporate direction. Leveraging outside consultants often allows your own people to provide their best ideas without attribution. Commitment comes in the organization’s willingness and ability to hear what is said.