Virtually every business prepares a budget and calls it planning. Some actually develop strategic plans every couple of years to go through an exercise in search of new ideas and approaches. Very few, if any, reap or even appreciate the benefits of planning outside of the financial benefit they hope to realize. While the intentional outcome of these efforts is profit-based, the other powerful benefits are often overlooked. This includes building the necessary buy-in and trust within the organization to achieve the financial goals. For many organizations, this is the missing key that’s needed to support effective execution of the plan. It’s the lack of genuine buy-in that confines the plan to the top shelf of a bookcase somewhere.
The best planning is a collegial effort that includes all the key people. A plan is not a simple extrapolation of trends or even a prediction. Instead, it begins with a vision, then maps the steps to reach it. It’s an idea sharing event where the objective is to build a successful business that benefits four key stakeholder groups: the community within which the organization operates, the customer it serves, the company employees who provide the resources and the shareholders who provide the capital. Simply put, planning is a communication process. It seeks to control the environment inside and out to provide direction and clarity of purpose. The process seeks to gather intelligence about the market the company serves, customer needs, and even the company culture. Armed with these insights, it must determine a proper link between the company and the four key stakeholder groups. Essentially, the plan facilitates the flow of resources. Employees are the internal resources that actually execute the steps that make the journey possible.
One of the major blocks to effective planning isn’t necessarily the plan, it’s the execution. Unfortunately, execution is often blocked by those leading the charge. Why? Because the execution has been dictated, meaning employee buy-in was assumed just because management said so. Remember the lines, “Ours is not to reason why but to do and die,” from the poem the Charge of the Light Brigade? Well that day is gone. Today, people want a reason to execute. It is well-documented that employees are more effective and more efficient when they’re in on the thought process. When this is true, they own the execution and are compelled to act.
Buy-in isn’t automatic. Leadership’s role is to work through the logistics so that everyone fully understands the needs and challenges impacting the desired outcome, or goal. This is how we get everyone pulling in the same direction. Change is difficult because we’re comfortable doing the same thing and getting the same outcome. We know change is an integral part of our daily lives, and it keeps accelerating. We may not like learning a new phone, TV or car, but it’s here and we have to deal with it. If you’re in the bowels of the organization and can’t see what’s happening in the market, then change seems crazy because what we’ve been doing is working. If we’re on the bridge of the ship and see the storm coming, we know we have to move to avoid a crisis. But if no one else is privy to the storm, the orders may sound confusing. The planning process alerts everyone to potential dangers, then solicits ideas for action from those we want to act.
This unified approach means everyone trusts the plan and shares in the results. Trust is the core of the relationship between a leader and their followers. We vote for leaders we trust. We follow leaders we trust. We respond to leaders that we trust will act together within the agreed upon plan. If your planning process doesn’t include building this essential trust, then you are just putting ideas or numbers on a page and hoping they come true.