We deal with a lot of organizations wanting to change significant aspects of what they do. Whether their aim is to break through a challenging roadblock, maybe course-correct or sometimes completely reimagine their future.
One major aspect of our work is to help with strategic planning, and it continues to baffle my mind how typical consultants have guided organizations to approach this, as well as how they embed it into what they actually do. It often seems like the strategy is very much separated from people’s day-to-day activities. The objective of the process being targeted on the actual creation of the plan, but missing the opportunity of being effective in creating the change they seek over the longer term.
Additionally, the focus is often functional and based on what an organization does (outputs), rather than based on the effect of change on people or their impact (outcomes).
The point being, if you aren’t connecting your People with the Purpose of the organization, then you’re missing the whole point of creating an effective strategic plan.
I’ve gone through this with many organizations and some understand the difference, but others remain mired in the traditional planning processes and the need to create what I think is really just a reference guide. While there may be some opportunity for individual learning through this type of process, it feels like they are approaching it mostly as a box-checking exercise.
In reality, they are creating a comfort blanket (often for their board or executive) that acts to satisfy the theoretical process of examining their strengths, weaknesses and the likely impact of external issues on their organization. That examination is part of it, but it’s not the aspect that makes the biggest difference.
Light Trail Consulting is a certified B Corp and like the rest of these purpose-driven companies, we have a larger objective than just making money. Our goal is to increase the impact of the socially-minded leaders and organizations we work with; especially non-profits, community service organizations, and other values-aligned companies, which are our real focus.
When we work with an organization on its strategy, we always start with the why – its purpose. This is the foundation on which any successful plans are likely to be built. When purpose can be connected to people’s values, you create a strong link and motivator that is difficult to break.
It builds buy-in from stakeholders, helps create strong employee engagement and ensures sustained positive change, even when plans need to adapt…because they will, and it is something that needs to be accepted more and more. You can’t remain slaves to your plan or beat yourself up that you haven’t considered everything when creating longer term, strategic plans.
This centering on purpose and values helps you respond to changes in the right way – you don’t react or modify plans because it seems like a good idea, or due to the sudden flavour of a new leader/board, but guide change with a focus aligned with your purpose.
With a team of people that is connected to your purpose, it builds resilience to change and ensures the core strategies of your organization remain at the forefront, even when you need to adapt. Additionally, focusing on the link between Purpose and People reinforces a positive culture, as well as connecting the organization to its wider base of stakeholders and the likelihood of successful outcomes.