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Plan Well – You Want Them to Accept It Not Applaud It

Plan Well - You Want Them to Accept It Not Applaud It

I recently experienced the same thing I tell my clients, and honestly, it was a bit deflating. Yet, it was the right feeling. It meant success. It meant the board’s efforts in developing its strategic plan, debating objectives, defining strategies, and nit-picking select words had been worth the effort. The new board member with whom I reviewed the plan, simply said, “Thanks for that overview. It makes sense to me. It seems pretty straightforward, but it covers a lot of ground, which it needs to. How can I help?” That was it. He didn’t applaud. He didn’t say, “Wow Liz. This is amazing! It’s the most concise, focused, yet results-oriented strategic plan I’ve ever seen!” He wasn’t awed or tantalized by the plan. He didn’t appear ready to start an organization-wide campaign to “get everyone on board” by creating new banners and giving out buttons. He simply wanted to start moving it forward. And because of that, the plan is already working.

Effective strategic planning (or for that matter any project planning) is only effective when it creates a clear roadmap for the team responsible for making it happen. When it creates excitement, shock and awe, then confusion, chaos, conflicts, and frustration are soon to follow.  And this is why many of my clients have painful memories of prior strategic planning initiatives. They were well intentioned. They felt good and right during the process. But they yielded a document of little value, that caused more headaches than value because no one remembers what they meant as the various pieces of the plan were created. Their plans sound nice, but require subsequent meetings to discuss what was meant instead of actually working the plan.

Because of this all-too-common focus on creating lofty plans intended to inspire instead of clarify, I tell my clients: If we’ve developed your strategic plan well, the rest of the team will understand it and accept it when it’s shared with them. However, be prepared: they won’t be amazed or barely able to contain their applause, because it won’t be awe-inspiring: it’ll be clear but challenging. In fact, some of them may say, “It took you how many meetings to come up with just these few sheets of paper?” And, that’s the type of reaction we want. We don’t want them to be amazed, in shock, awed, or paralyzed by fear. We want them to hear it or read it, and “get it.”  Because if they “get it,” they have a pretty clear picture of what we’re asking them to help work towards. When they “get it,” they aren’t paralyzed by confusion. They can help make it happen.

And that’s the purpose of a well-developed plan. Even though the planning teams wouldn’t mind just a bit of applause….



Copyright MMXII – Liz Weber, CMC, CSP – Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890

Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about Liz on LinkedIn!

Liz Weber CMCLiz Weber, CMC CSP

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.


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19 thoughts on “Plan Well – You Want Them to Accept It Not Applaud It”

  1. Jesse Stoner says:

    I agree, Liz. The awe and enthusiasm should be for the vision. The strategic plan should demonstrate a logical path to achieve it.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Yes Jessie – The awe and enthusiasm (& energy) should drive from the vision, and the clarify of how to make it happen stems from the plan. As I say above, when they “get it” they can help make it happen and move towards that energy. Thanks for commenting! L

  2. Doug Blackie says:

    A great perspective on planning Liz! All too often strategic planning becomes something of a sideshow with huge expectations that it will be the Holy Grail that leads the organization into the future. The plan should be like a roadmap: a bit of colour, concise, clear and simple to follow! Moreover, teams who have been actively engaged in a planning process -and have “skin” in the game- shouldn’t be surprised by the outcome.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Doug I love your take on this and you’re absolutely right. Too often I’ve seen organizations think “the plan” will be “the fix” to all of their ills. The plan is the road map — the fix to their ills is usually a result of fessing up to a number of bad decisions, in action, unaligned actions, etc. The plan is a guide, a map, and a tool to help those who want to make things happen for the better. Thanks for the post Doug!

  3. Lynn Brown says:

    Well first off Liz, when you said ‘he’… then I knew why you didn’t get the applause or the jumping up and down, Wow! Men are a bit different in that respect. But women, I believe if you brought it to me I would have given you the ‘Wow’ or a bit of a jump!

    But in all seriousness, your advice here is spot on. Planning projects is not only necessary, it is required for a project to succeed. Your insight in having a plan be so descriptive, so easy to understand that the whole team would be able to get on board more easily is well said.

    When the picture is clear, the path is easier to find.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Ha! The next time I need a pat on the back, I’ll give you a call Lynn! I love you last statement, when the picture is clear, the path is easier to find. Simple to say, not easy to do. Thanks Lynn and here’s a virtual high five to you! L

  4. Lois Creamer says:

    This post is an example of why I consider Liz a true thought leader. Her take on creating and implementing a clear thoughtful strategic plan makes so much sense. Do yourself a favor and take her advise and approach!

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Thanks Lois! I like to keep things simple–they’re just easier and typically more productive that way — even though they seem less flashy. 🙂

  5. Applause is wonderful, but if it comes too early it is like celebrating the victory when there is one minute left to play in a championship basketball game and your team ahead by just a three points points. There is still hope for the other team.

    Liz, what you talked about was simply the vision and the game plan. There is still a lot of work to do so, finish strong, get results,and win – – That is when there is time for applause and celebration — once the victory is secure. Great Post.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Great perspective Gregg: Don’t anticipate the party to start before the credit is deserved! Just creating the plan is nice, but it’s only the starting point. To use your analogy, it’s when the ref blows the whistle to start the first play, etc. It’s just the start. Too often I see organizations and planning teams think their work is done once they’ve created the plan; the document. Sorry gang, that’s just the start: the game is yet to be played. Thanks again Gregg! L

  6. Wally Bock says:

    I’ll piggyback on Jesse’s comment above. There should be enthusiasm for the vision or the vision has little chance of becoming real. The vision should be clear or there’s little chance of it becoming real. As for us consultants, our job is to help our clients create clear visions that generate enthusiasm. I love praise for my work. Sometimes I get it and it feels great. Sometimes I don’t, even for excellent, helpful work. That’s just the way it is.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Thanks Wally. Yes, if the vision isn’t able to trigger some energy, it’s not a good vision. It needs to create the excitement, the plan needs to clarify the path. And, as consultants, we need to remember, it’s not OUR plan or about US anyway. The plan needs to serve the client.

  7. Steve Riege says:

    The vision creates the AHA moment. The details of the plan while not surprising, bring clarity to metric driven activities. I agree Liz that these action details may not bring applause unless the results go beyond what’s possible to what was only hoped to be probable. As consultants, our standing ovation is found from within, realizing the honor of being brought into their inner circle of trust.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Nicely stated. Thanks Steve.

  8. Alan Kay says:

    A c-suite exec once told a team I was facilitating, ‘Your strat plan is great. But it’s 5% of the task. 95% of the effort goes into communicating it in a way that people will actually implement it’.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Beautifully stated. Thanks Alan!

  9. John Barnett says:

    Excellent post, Liz! I think a big hoopla for a strategic plan borders on jinxing it. You will see energy and enthusiasm for a plan that is clear, adaptable and achieving results. I prefer focusing on building and working a plan I know will work and overcome the inevitable roadblocks … there’s always time for back-slapping after we are successful.

    1. John you are so right. The energy will pick up once the employees understand what they’re working towards and it’s…..working! THEN and only then do should the prospect of kudos even be a consideration. Thanks John for taking the time to stop by.

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Posted by Liz Weber CMC on March 20, 2012 in Strategic Planning and tagged , , , ,