I thought I knew everything about my company… until the day I stepped out of my management role and into those of front-level staff.
Working in new job tasks was the most eye-opening thing I ever did as a manager. The act of observing their roles first-hand made it crystal clear where the problems were originating. And… spoiler alert: 99% of problems in a company are because of poor management decisions!
I call this boots-on-the-ground observation method the “Employee for a Day experience.”
It’s terrifying, enlightening, humbling, and eye-opening.
And it works like magic.
Here are some ideas for how to implement this incredible (free!) tool for yourself.
This type of evaluation will stretch you. You may find information about your company that is embarrassing. And you might decide to keep it private—known only to you or your leadership team. Or you could share the results with staff or customers. There’s nothing wrong with editing the content to fit the audience (especially if you’re an introvert like me).
But if you’re willing to be totally transparent, sharing a Year In Review with the entire world is extremely effective.
My great-grandmother, like most women in the early 1900s, had two sets of dishes. One was a plain set for everyday family meals, and the other was a very fancy set that she only brought out on special occasions. Each plate, cup, and saucer was decorated with a design of delicate pink roses, curled ivy, and a beautiful gold inlay that encircled the scalloped edges.
She left the set to my grandmother, who then passed it on to my mother, who quickly discovered that fine china with gold detail is no match for the power of a modern dishwasher. The inconvenience of hand-washing every single item (and the risk of chipping or breaking the dishes) was too great. So those heirloom dinner dishes were hidden away in a china cabinet and only emerged on rare occasions.
As a strategic risk expert, I believe many leaders treat their strategic plan like a set of fine china. They know their plan is important; they invest time and money to create it. The final plan is detailed, logical, and beautiful.
Do you ever go through an “a-ha moment” that suddenly makes you aware of a totally new perspective?
That happened to me a few years ago. Like many top-level leaders, I had slowly and imperceptibly developed “Corporate Ladder Bias” during my transition from employee to executive. This subconscious change occurs when our field of vision is consumed with all the problems and headaches at the management level. We become blind to the day-to-day frustrations of what I call the “Foundational Staff.” These are employees at the lowest levels of an organization, including:
Strategic planning is a fascinating and complicated process. There is no “correct” way to create a strategic plan; every leadership team has a unique definition of where the company is going or how you’ll get there.
While this wide range of options allows for tremendous latitude and flexibility, a company’s planning process can be TOO easygoing. It’s a bit like having a body with all the bones connected (immobilized) and one that has no bones at all (a bowl of jelly). Both extremes — too rigid or too relaxed — make it easier for threats to creep in and destroy what you’ve worked so hard to create.
Most organizations use a Strategic Plan (though certainly not all, in my experience). And most plans define the company’s Vision, Mission, Values, Objectives, and Measures — which I abbreviate as VMVOM.
But while a plan can look great on paper, most strategic plans do not consider strategic risks.
In this post, I’ll review 5 types of risks specific to the strategic planning process, and which one I believe is the most critical to organizational growth.