Recently, I watched a movie about a teenager named Anthony. Set in the 1980’s, Anthony was about to finish high school but was unsure about what he might do after graduation. He was a good student. He’d earned good grades. He was well liked. He had a nice girlfriend who his parents adored, and he was surrounded by well-intentioned friends and family members who really wanted Anthony to do well.
His Dad, a CPA, assumed that Anthony would earn a Commerce degree and return home to work in his firm. His Mother disagreed. She suggested he save some cash and travel for a year. His older brother encouraged him to go to university. (“There are lots of babes there!”) His older sister, pregnant with twins, encouraged him to follow his dreams. A whole cast of teenage characters rounded out the picture – the jock, the stoner, the geek, the goth actress, the rich kid – and each shared their own visions of the future with shades of teenage enthusiasm, eyerolls, and ambivalence.
So many choices. So many conflicting perspectives.
As Anthony’s Dad droned on about the importance of having a plan, I laughed. How often have adults preached to teens about “having a plan”? Maybe you’ve given the speech yourself. I have. Does this sound familiar? “You need to have a plan. Life is short! Pretty soon you’re going to be my age. What then? Have you thought about that? You won’t live in my house forever, you know!”
Whether you have teens or not, I wonder if you’re giving the same speech at work without realizing it?
I’ve had numerous conversations with leaders about ‘those young people who don’t have a clue’. At the same time, some of the same organizations are yielding to the weight of poor planning and poor communication. Anthony’s Dad’s accounting practice wasn’t doing well. He was a good accountant, but he was working in, not on, the business and he didn’t trust his employees enough to delegate. The ‘big jammer’ was just around the corner.
So, the point - it’s gloriously easy to promote the virtues of planning when you’re on the outside.
When I talk about strategic planning to companies. The reactions aren’t much different than the teens portrayed in the movie - there is enthusiasm, overwhelm, the occasional eyeroll, and ambivalence too. There are also objections. Here are three that are quite popular:
It’s too time consuming! True, it can be if you’re not focused. While many companies still engage in SP “retreats”, I’ve been part of some terrific Strategic Planning Workshops that were wrapped up in 6-hours. A recent one we completed for a large non-profit was delivered in three separate two-hour sessions over the course of a month.
We have too many new employees! From what I’m seeing, employee onboarding is a challenge for most companies, large and small. I’d argue that by Including some of your newbies in the SP process you can help get them up to speed faster. They not only learn what’s important at the company, but they also learn why their position is important. When employees feel they are contributing, they stay around longer.
It didn’t work. We tried that. Hmm … perhaps but most Strategic Planning “fails” are attributed to execution. Could it be that the plan didn’t work because you didn’t have a lot of experience executing an annual plan? Don’t fret about it – every great downhill skier can talk about their spectacular wipeouts and before they learned how to go faster and, then, faster still! A solid plan, coupled with a patient approach will earn some ‘wins and some important buy ins. Soon you’ll be ready for moguls!
If you’re a leader and you’re in a state of overwhelm, you’re not alone. If you’re brave, and willing to change your leadership practice and embrace planning you’ll change the culture of your workplace. Overwhelm will dissipate. The future will become clearer for everyone - including the ambivalent ones - and you'll have more energy. There may still be a few eyerolls but no jammers.
What happened to Anthony? Well, he forged his own path. He followed the love interest to to Paris and returned home. Then, after some heartache fueled meanderings, he committed to his dream of becoming a music producer and the girl came back. Queue happy music. Roll credits.
Anthony didn’t work in grocery store. Just the same, I’ll end with some advice from Billy Joel "Oh, but workin' too hard can give you a heart attack! You oughta know by now"
Have a great day! Come join us for Strategic Planning Day on January 10, 2024. To find more click here.
Norm Adams is a Certified Professional Business Coach with more than 25-years business experience in both Canada and the US. One of the first albums he purchased was “The Stranger” by Billy Joel, which featured “Movin Out (Anthony’s Song)”. You oughta know by now that ‘working too hard can give you a heart attack-ack-ack …’
Join Norm Adams and Dave Fuller on January 10, 2024, for Pivotleader's 7th Annual Strategic Planning Day from 10:00 am to 2:30pm. To find out more go to https://pivotleader.com/spd2024.