If the mention of strategic planning causes your leadership team to start muttering about “useless meetings,” “wasted time,” and “nothing changing,” and if the rest of the team gets excited because the boss will be out of the office for a few days, perhaps a redesign of how you approach strategic planning is in order.

We have found that most strategic planning is doomed to fail (and most strategic initiatives do) because it lacks just five essential elements. This article provides an introduction, and articles over the coming weeks will take on each of the five in greater depth.

1) Start with a foundation of inclusive reality:

Strategic planning typically begins by establishing the current state of an organization’s physical health—growth, P&L, promotions, capital improvements, etc. Just as important, but rarely considered, is the health of the organization’s relationships—specifically, those with employees and those with clients and partners. Without insight into these two partnerships, any strategic planning is based on an incomplete picture of the business environment.


Examining those relationships allows you to:

  • give everyone who matters to your success – employees, clients, partners and suppliers – a hand in creating it (inclusivity)
  • establish a real picture of where your organization stands and how it is perceived (reality)

Examining those relationships allows you to:

  • give everyone who matters to your success – employees, clients, partners and suppliers – a hand in creating it (inclusivity)
  • establish a real picture of where your organization stands and how it is perceived (reality)

For a deeper dive on the concept of inclusive reality, click here

2) Be clear about the intention of the strategy:

Are you looking to become more competitive and grow within the current reality of your industry or are you looking to create a new reality for your organization to grow within? The answer will determine who is part of the strategy team and the kind of mindset you need to be successful.

If you feel your growth is going to come from selling more of what you already provide at higher margins through greater efficiency, you want to involve people with a continuous improvement, evidence-based mindset. However, if success requires generating services and market relationships unlike anything you have done before, you need people who are willing to think beyond what they know and have a test-and-learn mindset. They must be willing to consider ideas that have no precedent or evidence they will work.

For a deeper dive on the concept of intention, click here

This article was recently featured in the Hartford Business Journal  as five ways to become a strategy superstar. 

3) Create a shared image of success:

As leaders, we tend to have a pretty clear picture of what success looks like for our organizations. But how often do you share that vision with your team? And how is your teams’ understanding of what your personal commitments to the organization look like? Fear of disagreement or personal vulnerability are often the barriers to this clarity.


In our experience, this fear is unfounded. When people have the opportunity to share and discuss how they see success, it is always more aligned than the group expects. Take the time to establish a shared image of success. Without it, your strategy will be ungrounded and meaningful success will be impossible to measure.

For a deeper dive on how to create a shared image of success, click here

4) Identify a reason to care about the strategy:

Graphs, and spreadsheets, the most common ways strategy is communicated, offer nothing to hold on to. Most strategy vision statements use language that is impossible to feel or imagine. Phrase likes to become the bestto be the biggest, and to be the most sought after sound good on the surface, but they are not inspiring at a human level. What rarely gets discussed, let alone put into language, is why. Why do we want to grow? Why are we being asked to work harder?


Exploring those questions with your team will point to big ideas and inspiring ambitions. Sharing the outcomes with every member of the organization responsible for executing the strategy can make all the difference between a team ready and willing to implement the strategy, and one that needs to be pushed at every step.

For a deeper dive into how to reveal a reason to care, click here

5) Commit to help each other grow and develop:

Leaders have been taught to believe they always need to know the answers. However, when you are moving into the uncharted waters of a new strategy, what to do can’t be clear and what will happen is impossible to know. Leaders have to evolve the way they express their leadership and be willing to develop leadership capacity they didn’t know they needed. They need to provide the development resources their employees need to be successful as well as create an environment where it is okay for leaders to be vulnerable and ask for help.

For a deeper dive into how to create conditions for development and growth, click here

Apply these five ideas to your strategic planning and you can design and live into a better future for your organization. Look for a deeper discussion of each of these concepts in the coming weeks, and if you would like to explore these or any other ideas or challenges you are facing as you think about your future, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Want more from Fathom?

Sign up to receive updates about our articles.