I recently heard a story from a seasoned professional – a colleague – who said her firm used to send its entire organization to Australia in January to present each business unit’s strategy. Her role was in sales and her division was responsible for outlining vision, mission and strategies for the following 12-month period. Other disciplines were required to follow suit with presentations aimed at showing investors the firm and its employees were aligned strategically to meet common goals and “blow through” quotas.
The result? “After our meetings ended and we returned stateside,” she said, “we all eventually forgot the goals and strategies we’d spent November and December developing and got back to giving our sales manager updates on leads and pipelines.”
In other words, strategies were never executed.
The question to our readership is, does your organization resemble anything like this story? Are hours spent developing written documents that rarely are dusted off and used? In our experience, businesses become so “busy” that plans and strategies are often abandoned before they see light. But, it doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits of the annual company meetings.
Annual Meetings Build Teamwork
Although we strongly believe the ongoing review, improvement and execution of your organization’s strategy is critical to its success, we agree that gathering groups of employees together in a single location allows for camaraderie, connections and trust. The pandemic is still alive and threatening as we write this piece, and unfortunately, Zoom and other impersonal technologies used now lack the benefit of providing in-person interaction. “We often found that colleagues from the U.K. had some decent ideas on how to track prospects,” my colleague told me. So while the original intention of the company-wide strategy meeting was off-target, purposeful trust and ideas resulted from the interactions.
Planning Permits Staff Time to Stop and Think
In another instance, I once had a sales manager from IBM who told me “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” These platitudes are likely tacked to many a salesperson’s bulletin boards around the world – and for good reason. When CEOs and Boards ask an organization to put together a strategic plan, it allows employees time to step away from daily tasks and therefore, allow for internal collaboration and communication on higher-level, creative work streams. While strategy may be ill-defined, the process and output of collaborative thought is still purposeful and “worth it.”
Organizational Culture as Capital
While the strengths of an organization are not easily monetized, it is easy to pinpoint how a destructive culture can prohibit sales, profits and shareholder value. When an organization does not allow for employee interaction, firms may face employee dissatisfaction, problems with role clarity and a lost sense of purpose. All of these issues lead to higher turnover, which impacts both financial and human resources (the time staff takes each week to interview the standard five candidates for replacement). In other words, a constructive, learning culture should be viewed as soft capital – or at the very least, a cost worth maintaining.
Our purpose of writing this piece is to assure firms that while strategic execution is challenging to follow at the departmental level, there are benefits derived from the process of staff collaboration and coming together as a single unit. While we encourage organizations to practice the theories of strategy, our message is to give license to senior managers to see the tangential and indirect benefits of the collaborative process itself.