The Whom in Why, What, and How

Note: This is the third installment (of the first part) of my 3-part series on what I like to do - Strategic Planning - The Whom in Why, What, and How. Enjoy.

Last week I presented my thoughts on the importance of respecting the hierarchy of the steps to take in creating your strategic plan - "Why, What, and How." Now, let's look at the appropriate groups to tackle which parts of the hierarchy, in order of their occurrence.

Who Does What and When:

Just as it is critical that you establish the "Why" before the "What" and the "How," it is equally so for Who does which step, first?

I define the leadership of any organization, whether it be for profit or not-for-profit as the group that sets the vision and the direction for the enterprise. I believe the CEO needs to be a part of that group and exercise to establish the "Why" and the "What" but not the other executive staff.

Why? Three reasons:

  1. The C-Suite Team is working the problems every day and, because of their intense knowledge of the subjects being discussed, they could intimidate Board members and put a damper on the free flowing discussion that needs to take place within the group entrusted with the future of the organization.
  2. The best thinking is done within smaller groups; as soon as groups grow to sizes over a dozen, some people will just naturally hold back for various reasons; the central one being, no one wants to look stupid!
  3. The CEO serves at the pleasure of the Board/leadership; a planning session is an opportunity for the Board to have a dialog with its CEO, make plans, and evaluate each other and their ideas without the distractions of the day-to-day politics of the office and the staff. The staff is hired by the CEO and he/she should serve as a filter for those decisions made by the Board and these same decisions should not be delivered in real-time to the staff.

Now, you are ready for the "How"

There is no group better equipped to tackle the "How," than the staff leadership; C-Suite, Executive Team, Administrative team, etc.; whatever their title, these are the groups responsible for making it so. This team will take care of the operational side of your strategic plan and should be measured appropriately so. I find that, a strategic dashboard, using a stoplight color approach to measuring progress (or lack of) is a great way for the Executive Team to measure progress toward the overarching goals set by the Board and the CEO.

In closing, if you have been struggling with the rather finite distinctions I have been making in this dialog about "Why," "What," and "How," here is an easy way to remember it and help you to distinguish between the three. "Why" and "What" are all about outcomes; the "How" is about methods. Using these distinctions, take a look at your last strategic plan and see if you can spot the difference between the outcomes and the methods. If your current plan is more about methods then outcomes, it may be time to update your plan.

Next up in the series; "Bonus additional installment for strategic planning - creating and using a strategic dashboard."