Over the last few years, we’ve had the opportunity to work with dozens of Fortune 500 organizations to aid them in the development or deployment of their strategic plan. The strategic planning process usually starts with some form of “data gathering” or “insights generation” intended to challenge perceived norms and provide an input to the development of the strategy. Leaders have become very comfortable looking at external trends, customer feedback, and consumer wants and needs. However, all too often, one essential input to strategic planning is ignored at the front end of the process: the point of view of the employees.
This is not to say that strategy is a democracy or that strategy should be developed solely based on employee insights. However, ignoring the people who interact with customers each day or those who ultimately own the execution of the strategy on a daily basis can make successful execution that much harder. The insights from engaging field employees provides useful inputs into how to deploy the strategy (and to validate it’s the right strategy) because leaders can gain an appreciation for their people’s perceptions and beliefs.
This is especially important in a distributed business model, where decision rights and formal influence sit at lower levels of the organization. In these organizations the corporate center can become too detached from reality if they don’t harvest the insights of their people in the strategic planning process and on a continual basis. A Fortune 100 executive addressing his staff put it well in a recent meeting, “Our employees have millions of touch points with our customers, and not one of us in this room is responsible for even one of those touch points. We need to be just as curious about what our employees are saying as we are about our customers today.”
Even though this is a new concept in some boardrooms, we aren’t the only ones talking about this; a recent HBR blog advocates a similar approach.
Have you seen a shift in your organization or at the leader level to better incorporate insights and perspectives from the front line?