Commitment and Accountability Build Strategic Plans

By Dana Gillis, Executive Coach — Before the possibilities of the fast-approaching new year unfold, business leaders are focused on reviewing organizational accomplishments of 2017 as well as its challenges. Most importantly, the question of “what’s next?” is being asked from corporate boardrooms to kitchen table tops of upstart business ventures. Crafting next year’s strategic plan, while extremely important, can take any enterprise only so far. It is commitment to the plan and holding people accountable that matters most. Without commitment, there is no accountability. Sounds easy enough, but if that’s the case, why do many organizations struggle to achieve desired results?

Plan! What Plan?!?!

A well-worn quote says, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” For many businesses, those good intentions take the form of a strategic plan. Hours of intellectual capital are expended each year by corporate executives in the hope that great results are the product of their strategic planning. Many gold-plated strategic plans end up on the bookshelf of obscurity. The plan is hardly referenced, much less followed, as the new year slips by . . . one tick of the clock at a time.

Strategic planning gone off track can be the result of two factors. The planning process doesn’t identify and involve the right stakeholders, or there is an organization-wide lack of accountability focused on attaining the aims of the plan. As a result, there is a lack of buy-in or commitment. People either are not clear on where the plan is taking the organization or they disagree with the destination. The lack of clarity related to direction makes it difficult for people to commit to a vague plan. Subsequently, holding people accountable to the plan is difficult, if not impossible.

Be Committed. Stay Committed.

The foundation for any successful strategic plan is a commitment to accomplish the goals of the plan from those responsible for its implementation. An important step for a leader in the strategic planning process is to determine who should be in the room when crafting the plan. Input from key stakeholders is critical to ensure a requisite level of buy-in to accomplish desired goals. Primary stakeholders are more likely to engage in moving strategic initiatives forward when they have “skin in the game”—their interests align with the desired results of a jointly crafted strategic plan.

Once stakeholders buy-in to the strategic plan, an organizational leader must focus attention on attaining desired results. That’s easy if the leader does everything him/herself—which is not even remotely possible in most cases and certainly so for large enterprises. Once relevant parties agree to a plan of action (commitment), everyone must hold each other accountable to achieve desired goals. Attainment of results is the byproduct of a corporate culture that fosters and encourages individual and collective accountability.

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