If you are tapped to participate in your firm’s strategic planning process, it’s important to approach this work as a career building opportunity, and not simply “more work” piled on top of your already overloaded schedule.
A solid performance in front of the senior leaders can be a career-maker for you.
7 Suggestions on Maximizing Your Opportunity During Your Firm’s Strategic Planning Process:
1. Embrace the Opportunity. I’ve watched as too many professionals have approached these events with the attitude that they are giant time-wasters. There’s much wrong with many strategy processes and events (see my reference links below), however, know that the people responsible for choosing you to be successful are in the room and both looking for help and taking note of who’s contributing.
2. Do Your Homework. You’ve been invited because someone thinks highly enough of what you do and know to make it worthwhile to give you a platform to contribute. Spend time ahead of the meeting refreshing in your area of expertise from the outside looking in through the windows of your firm. Whether you are in marketing, engineering, sales or customer service, get current on competitors, tune into emerging market trends and customer perspectives and even (groan) the opinions of the industry pundits. Your expertise wrapped in the context of the external environment is significantly more valuable than your technical opinion alone.
3. Do Your Homework Part 2. If you’ve not been involved in the work of strategy before, spend some time with two recent books: Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by George Rumelt and Understanding Michael Porter by Joan Magretta. Come to think of it, if you have spent time in this process before, still spend time with these great books. They distill what might seem like a foreign language mixed with alchemy down to some important and easy to understand concepts about strategy and creating value.
4. Leave Your Pet Projects at Home. As tempting as it is to view this as an opportunity to push an agenda, your executive team members will smell this a mile away and potentially discount your value when they sense that your perspectives are tainted with ulterior motives.
5. Speak Up When You Have Something Relevant to Say. A room full of people with titles can create a bad case of “Lockjaw” for those new to this environment. Remember, you’re present because someone viewed you as having something to contribute. As challenging as it may seem, when you have what you deem as a relevant idea or observation, speak up and earn your space at the table. Share ideas, comment on the ideas from other participants, and importantly, when your area of expertise is the subject, make certain to be present and engaged. Of course, moderate your volume/frequency of participation to a level that shows you as an expert, but doesn’t position you as a loudmouth.
6. If You are a Technical Expert, Remember to Translate for the Mere Mortals. My encouragement to show off your expertise comes with a qualifier: it’s not an opportunity to showcase how smart you are…it’s an opportunity to help everyone grow smarter. Cut the technical jargon and engage at a level appropriate for the other participants. If necessary, grab the white-board and share diagrams to help people understand your ideas.
7. Grab Some of the Post-Session Work. While many people resist the idea of taking on added work, your senior managers are seeking help for the research and initiative exploration so critical to assessing opportunities and making investment choices. Your assistance with the heavy lifting between sessions is a great way to get in and remain in the game as a valued participant.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Always seek out and accept opportunities to extend your network, enhance your visibility and get involved with the process of value creation for your organization. These are rare and valuable opportunities and more than a few careers have been made on the basis of a good showing in these sessions. Remember, someone must choose you for that next opportunity, and all of the people who do the choosing are sitting at the table when it comes to strategy work.
Additional Posts on Strategy:
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