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Strategy Without Buy-In

While it is important to take the time to develop a strategic plan, it’s even more important to create an organizational culture able to support a strategic plan.

By Jenn Harrison

Feb 23 2016 at 4:11 a.m.


Your organization has spent a vast amount of time developing the new strategic plan. Management and the board has spent many hours and even a few days at a strategic planning retreat developing new goals for the organization, and now it is time to roll it out to the rest of the employees. 

It’s the day of the big meeting, so everyone is gathered in the largest room you find available. Donuts, bagels and coffee are consumed as fast as they are distributed. The presentation begins, sharing all the goals, action plans to reach those goals and how the employees will help the organization achieve these. At the end, you feel like everyone will be cheering, pumped up and ready to go to work to achieve these goals. As the presentation ends, though, you hear crickets, if even that.

So what happened?

While it is important to spend time creating a strategic plan so all aspects of a company know the direction the company is headed, but if there are issues within the company culture, a strategy is useless because there is no buy-in. If employees already live in an environment with broken processes or perhaps a breakdown in communication, trying to meet the strategic plan’s goals may seem even more impossible.  Pushing a strategy on a broken company culture creates even more heartburn within the culture, and could essentially force the company further away from its strategic plan. 

So how do you change this to gain employee buy-in?

• Assess the organization – When there is a broken culture within an organization, sometimes management is aware of the situation, but maybe not to the full extent needed. You may be able to talk to employees in small focus groups, conduct a survey or even hire an outside consulting firm to evaluate where the problems lie.  

• Engage your employees – Once you have an understanding of what is broken within the culture, don’t just try to fix it yourself. Engage your employees. Bring them in and tell them what the problem is and have them help develop a solution. They know what is wrong. They have been living it every day. They may already have ideas how to fix it. By giving them the opportunity to be part of the solution, you are creating buy-in.  

• Communicate – Communicate throughout the entire process to all the employees. Make sure they are aware what you are doing to try to make improvements. Then, make them aware of the improvements that have been made.

• Strategic Plan – Once you have some improvements in progress, engage the employees again on how best to implement the strategic plan. Provide them the vision and goals, and then allow them to develop an action plan to reach these goals. It can be on the departmental level, and then employees can bring it to the individual level.  

While it is important to take the time to develop a strategic plan, it’s even more important to create an organizational culture able to support a strategic plan. By engaging employees to help develop solutions, you have taken the biggest step in executing your strategic plan.