Always remember that high involvement in the process of strategic planning tends to generate better outcomes and a greater sense of ownership. Many organizations are using broad engagement strategies to increase participation in and commitment to strategic planning.

Key stakeholders that are meant to be involved in strategic planning are those that have vested interest in the success of the organization. They include employees, unions, customers, vendors, shareholders, regulatory agencies, owners, supply chain partners, community members, and others who depend on and /or serve the organization.

Have it in mind that each has a unique perspective about what it will take for the organization to succeed. For instance, external stakeholder opinions and insights are always valuable in the early stages of planning where they add insight to understanding the operating environment, as well as to a vision of the organization’s future.

Employees also tend to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and also know what gets in the way of success, and have first – hand knowledge of what it takes to deliver. They are the largest expense to the company. They often communicate directly with your customers. They single – handedly control most perceptions that consumers have about the brand.

For these stakeholders to fully grasp how your strategic plan is different and better than the competition, they need to be in touch all through the process and with market realities. The challenge, however, is in how to effectively convey those realities so that your people can act on them.

It starts by building internal campaigns based on market and customer insights; you bring your strategy to life for your stakeholders through this important lens. You will have to package the process and content so that it can be shared broadly with all departments in your organization, but in a hands – on way.

Expose directors and managers first then provide them with easy – to – implement formats for bringing their teams together, with toolkits that include all the materials they will need. The purpose of bringing these units together to create a strategic plan is to encourage teams to develop department – specific responses, and to generate new ideas and new behaviours based on what they’ve learned.

How to Effectively Communicate Your Strategic Plan to Stakeholders

In terms of strategic planning, a stakeholder is defined as anyone who has vested interest in a company, such as managers who will lead plan, employees who must help to implement plan, and clients who will be impacted by plan. The strategic planning process affects each stakeholder group differently. Here are ways to ensure you effectively carry every group along.

  1. Identify your stakeholders

First start by considering the people who are affected by the plan, have influence or power over the plan, and have an interest in the results of the plan. These individuals include both internal and external stakeholders. Analyze how each stakeholder group is likely to feel about and react to change so you know how to communicate effectively with them.

  1. Communicate, communicate, and communicate!

The next rule after identification is sharing information in a purposeful and consistent way. Note that all key stakeholders need to know the organization’s core purpose.  External stakeholders need to understand why the organization exists and what value it provides for its customers, vendors, and the market. Internal stakeholders are expected to know where the organization is going so they can align their work with those goal(s) and direction.

To achieve this process, use all communication means available – newsletters, electronic messaging, e – mail, meetings, posters, payroll inserts, etc. Be consistent in the messages, and use them to show them how they fit into the plan and how their contributions have helped shape the choices made. Remember to be visual, and make the messages visible everywhere. People who know what is expected and how they contribute are more engaged and committed than those who do not.

  1. Actively involve stakeholders in the process

At this point, ask for input about strategic planning in meetings, through surveys, with targeted suggestion boxes, in employee newsletters. Involve representatives of stakeholder groups in discussions for strategic planning, and do not limit planning and review sessions to top level of management. Also involve representatives from as many key stakeholder groups as are appropriate to the discussion at hand. Note that this can be done formally in large group planning activities, or informally by including different key stakeholders in a variety of meetings.

Also consider using department meetings as an opportunity to solicit input on the plan and its results. Help stakeholders understand the difference between strategic initiatives (long – term, big picture) and the tactical (day – to – day) work with which they are most familiar. Start by showing them how the two levels are aligned. A better understanding leads to greater ownership. Keep the messages flowing for constant reinforcement of the shared ideas, and give feedback on how ideas are being incorporated into the process.

  1. Prioritization

After you must have agreed on your strategic goals and identified a set of themes that will help you achieve them, you can start prioritizing specific initiatives within those themes. This is where open communication with department heads in engineering, sales, marketing, and customer support becomes important. Analyze their top priorities and determine together how those priorities fit into your larger themes and strategic goals. In the business world, once you can involve your stakeholders in the prioritization process, they will much more likely to be on your side. Leverage a structured thought process to evaluate potential initiatives.

  1. Make sure people know what the strategic plan is and where they fit in 

For instance, engaging employees in the planning process itself helps build ownership within the organization. For those not directly involved in the process, make sure they know what the plan is, where they fit in it and how they contribute to its goals. Also give them time to discuss and internalize it. Stakeholders who do not understand the plan may find it difficult remaining engaged and moving in the desired direction. Strive to meet and work with units and departments to show them how they contribute.

Create measures of their work that analyzes how well they are contributing to desired strategic outcomes, and provide feedback on these measures frequently and consistently.  Do everything you can to make sure that the work of the organization is aligned with the plan to keep all employees focused on a common vision.

  1. Execution

After you must have done the above and also prioritized initiatives to reflect your strategic goals, it’s time to translate these vision into actionable steps. The roadmap you use now is expected to become more detailed. You’ll want to allocate resources for each initiative, assign ownership of initiatives to different team members, and designate release dates.

Also ensure each team knows what they are working on, and understands how their projects contribute to the bigger picture. When using multiple roadmaps, make sure the colour – coding and tagging are consistent.

Conclusion

No one man can single-handedly manage every detail of a product’s development. Any successful plan is the result of a talented, well – informed team working together toward a common strategic objective. Without a goal, you can’t align the organization to a common desired outcome. Without a roadmap, you have no idea of the options available to get there. And without commitment, you cannot ensure that your stakeholders will move in the direction you need to go. Building commitment through broad stakeholder engagement is an increasingly important element of the strategic planning process.

Ajaero Tony Martins