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Research Triangle Business Advisors

September 2013 Newsletter


The Perceived Problem

One of the biggest concerns I hear from top executives and business owners is that their people fail to complete tasks quickly enough. There are concerns that employees tasked with implementation of a plan are not making decisions fast enough and, don’t act on these decisions with any urgency. When leaders attempt to make sense of this, they often assume that employees just don’t care, and they are not acting in the best interest of the business’ success. I think these managers don’t understand their contribution to the problem.


Bob De Contreras




Employees Can't Carry Out A Plan:
If They Didn't Help Develop It


The Real Problem

Part of the failure is in the business’ planning process itself. Senior leaders spend large amounts of time creating plans, often in isolation. When they return with a plan in hand, they are seeking “buy-in” from their team. In other words, the plan is dumped on employees, who are then tasked with implementing it — without understanding the nuances and debates that went into its creation.

It’s natural that when the implementers hit a roadblock, they have a hard time moving forward because they’re missing crucial information. They weren’t exposed to the alternatives discussed and discarded. They don’t have the “whys” inherent in the plan and, as a result, developing Plan B is time-consuming to construct and vet. This delay results in a loss of focus, motivation, time, and money.

Lessons in how to improve this process can be taken from the development and construction of a building. In the past, project owners hired architects to design the building, and those blueprints were handed to a contractor to build. More often than not, the contractor had to decipher and fix inconsistencies or inefficiencies that a lack of in-the-field experience may have led the architect to create.

After losing money and time to this ineffective process, the design charrette meeting gained popularity. In these meetings, the owner, architect, and contractor come together to discuss the project. The person who will build the structure can offer his expertise on the most effective ways to achieve the owner’s goal, and the architect can include those in the blueprints. The involvement of the implementer — the contractor — streamlines the process significantly.

When the implementers are part of the planning process, they can not only add perspective to the plan, but they are also immersed in its tradeoffs and nuances. Using this process, when the unexpected arises — and it always does — implementers can make course corrections quickly and act with visible focus.

Employees Drive Your Growth Strategy

By involving your employees in your strategizing, you’re preserving and protecting your business’s success. For their response to be effective, they need more than marching orders. To do this effectively, keep these tips in mind:

  • Have high expectations for your management. Employee succession, retention, and development are the responsibilities of first line managers. Leaders should be developing skills and transferring company and industry knowledge, as well as training future leaders. If they’re not doing their part to develop successful employees, even the best HR team won’t be able to retain talent.

  • See your employees as people. When leaders attempt to make sense of people’s capabilities, they tend to simplify their complexity. This leads to a reduced view of humans, with managers simply seeing staff as expenditures, resources, or sets of competencies. Effective motivation comes from management that provide meaning and value that is personal.

  • Let HR be a strategic business resource. Your human resources department must contribute much more than benefits packages and compliance; they’re your source of talent acquisition. Don’t restrict and limit the department. Lead them to understand the business, the people and skills necessary to achieve business goals.

To effectively integrate the development of your employees and your business strategy, try incorporating the following:

  • Get employees behind leadership. Ensuring your employees are enthusiastic about improving the company is essential. Doing this requires transparency, trust, and mutual respect. Too often, management retreats to offsite resorts to develop plans, only to return and force it upon the rest of the company. Employees rarely buy into a completed product — “The Plan” — in one gulp. Give employees the opportunity to find something they can fall in love with by engaging them in the planning process.  

  • Inform your team. Talk about your business. Share and discuss the industry, competitive environment, vendor relationships, and dynamic customer characteristics that drive your business, with everyone. Be honest about company performance, challenges, wins and losses. Welcome genuine input and questions. Most managers have insufficient strategic acumen. Take the time to build it.

  • Let inclusion drive strategy. Employees should be included throughout the plan development process, and there’s plenty of space to engage everyone in the company at some level. For a better outcome, elicit input from all employees, and delve into how their customer interactions and commitment to quality can become benchmarks of performance.

It can be scary for senior managers to consider including “the whole company” in their plan development process, and it does take courage. But this marriage of people and strategy breeds successful businesses. By making the implementers part of your planning process, you’ll guarantee your employee contribution to the company’s success.

Cary | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park | Greensboro | North Carolina
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