A client recently asked me for guidance on how she should gauge her managers' understanding of their organization's strategic plan. She doesn't believe her managers fully appreciate how important their roles are in ensuring the plan succeeds. She fears they believe it is up to the executive staff to make it happen and ensure the longevity of the organization. I suggested she have an individual meeting with each manager and ask each manager ten little, but very insightful questions.
What will this organization look like when we successfully implement our plan?
Have them describe changes in physical facilities, the employee population and makeup, customer mix, organizational culture, product and service offerings, etc. This question forces them to tell her what they see as success - or the vision. Their answers will let her know if they are clear on what they are all supposed to be working towards.
What will your department look like when we successfully implement the plan?
Again, this question gives her insight into their ability to anticipate tangible and intangible changes in their own departments.
Given the above, what are your top five initiatives planned for your department to ensure it and the overall organization meet its vision?
Here, she needs to ensure they provide her with specific projects they are undertaking or will undertake. Their answers will also give her an idea of their project planning skills.
What challenges do you anticipate in implementing these five initiatives?
Their answers will help her determine if their strategic thinking skills account for challenges and if they do or do not get bogged down by them.
What specific actions can you take to work around these challenges?
Their answers will give her an indication of their problem solving abilities.
What support do you believe is critical from other departments or other people within the organization?
Again, their answers will indicate their problem solving skills.
Within your department, who have you identified to help you with this project?
This question helps identify how seriously they take this project. Have they delegated it to someone else or are they building a team within the department to work on the plan?
What training or skills would be helpful for you or your staff to have as you implement this project in your department?
Their answers will give her an idea of what skills are missing and what training, if any, they believe they need.
What new skills do you believe your staff will need once this project is completed?
Here again, she will get an idea of her manager's ability to project staff and departmental growth and skill development needs.
What could I do to help you the most through this project?
This final question opens the door for them to identify for her what they do and do not need from her.
These ten little questions provide insight into not only a manager's strategic thinking abilities but also to a manager's problem solving and employee development planning skills. Ten little questions that help the person asking the questions, as well as the managers answering them.
Ten little questions that could help your organization too.