6 Ways to Increase Collaboration in Strategic Planning
In traditional strategic planning, executive leadership gathers in a room and outlines the future. What are key initiatives, objectives, and goals for the year?
The fodder for this discussion is often drawn from the previous year’s performance. Combined with shareholder expectations and future aspirations and the plan comes together.
This is ‘top-down planning.’
But there is an alternative way to facilitate strategic planning. One that provides a more rounded perspective, and, more often than not, a better plan.
Cross-functional collaboration and planning.
This process brings together stakeholders in the organization who have varying functional expertise. Together, they tackle specific challenges that the organization needs to solve. With cross-functional planning, more perspectives help spur innovation and promote the sharing of information and expertise across the organization. You also level the playing field between leadership and the employees who execute the strategy.
This method of strategic planning promotes a flatter organizational structure but can be chaotic if it is not structured properly.
We’ve outlined six ways to help increase cross-functional collaboration and planning.
1. Consider and Involve all Relevant Stakeholders and Departments for Business Initiatives
Imagine one of your key business initiatives is to reduce customer churn by 10%. With the “what” identified, the next step is to determine the “how”. How will we reduce churn by 10%? What actions will we take to impact this number?
When planning the “how”, first include all the stakeholders. In this example, include the departments that interface with the customer from on-boarding through renewal.
Who all contributed?
Well, marketing may have originated the lead and set expectations through marketing messaging. The Sales team worked to understand the customer challenges and provide a solution. The Customer Success team managed onboarding and ongoing support to delight the customer. And lastly, Finance handled any billing and collection needs.
By bringing in all stakeholders who act as touchpoints for customers, an organization can consider all possible opportunities for process improvement to reduce churn. Is the issue in inconsistent expectations from sales to customer teams? Is it misalignment from marketing messaging? Or is it something in the implementation process?
Only through leveraging cross-functional collaboration can one understand the connection points between problems. With the understanding in place, a solution can be identified.
This model applies to most initiatives. Involve all stakeholders who are directly and indirectly involved for a 360-degree perspective.
2. Create a Steering Committee with Cross-Functional Representation
With the goal of including all stakeholders, what now? How do you ensure the right people are involved and that it’s not a chore to gather the needed people?
Establish a steering committee to promote discussion around key issues experienced in each department.
Provide a collaborative environment for stakeholders to explore problems, create connections between problems, and brainstorm ways teams can collaborate to solve the problems. This ensures that agreed-upon initiatives have the broadest impact across the organization.
Select leaders from each department and work to involve stakeholders across all levels of the organization for the most rounded perspective.
3. Encourage Regular Collaboration Between Departments in a Structured Environment
Establishing regular meetings and communication between stakeholders across departments is the best way to root out impediments to success in a timely manner.
While having organizational representation during planning is important, it shouldn’t stop there.
Encourage members of the steering committee to regularly discuss key business issues by scheduling bi-weekly or monthly review meetings.
Between meetings, establish a system for communication that allows for ad-hoc planning and collaboration around business issues in real-time.
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4. Establish Periodic Review Sessions for Departments to Meet and Discuss Progress and Impediments
While cross-functional meetings are important, don’t forget about inter-department communication.
If they aren’t happening already, establish regular departmental meetings to discuss progress on key initiatives. Consider a cadence to occasionally include company leadership and the steering committee as observers.
These meetings should discuss departmental issues and allow for complete transparency into operations. Long-term, this helps encourage a culture of continuous improvement.
5. Create a System for Shared Resource Allocation on Shared Initiatives
It is common for departmental managers to blame lack of resources or budget constraints. Why did we miss our target? Well, not enough resources of course.
As discussed in the example to reduce customer churn by 10%, at least four departments are involved in successfully attaining this metric. As necessary, these four departments should share resources, time, and energy to ensure success.
Encouraging shared resource allocation gives every department skin in the game while increasing the number of resources available for success.
6. Create a Shared Deliverable Calendar to Ensure Timely Execution of Initiatives
Steps 1-5 helped to establish systems for cross-functional teams to meet, share resources, and outline key shared initiatives.
The final step is to promote transparency to encourage timely execution.
Create a shared deliverable, or dashboard, that outlines key objectives and tasks, due dates, and accountable parties. This ensures that teams across the organization know what needs to be done, by when, and by whom.
This sense of shared success across the organization creates a culture of cross-functional accountability. A culture that translates well when entering your next planning cycle.
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