By Romulo Pinheiro, partner at FALCONI
Execution: carry out, put into practice, to finish something. This is certainly the most discussed aspect in business and academic circles regarding the strategic planning process, and at the same time, it has become its weak point and the main argument of its critics. After all, why devote yourself to drawing up a plan that will not be executed?
It so happens that, it is precisely in the process of drawing up the plan that one of the keys to its execution is found. We have identified throughout our experience that one of the main factors hindering implementation is behavioral – more precisely, a lack of a sense of ownership by the managers involved.
The more traditional approach concentrates the plan’s elaboration with Senior Management, or in some cases, only with the Board of Directors. When these plans reach middle management – who will actually handle the execution at the endpoint – the actions have a high chance of being rejected, because they are simply not recognized as adhering to reality. Who has never heard such reactions as “here the world is different” or “Senior Management has gone mad;” or “this plan is not feasible”?
Why does this happen? Our hypothesis: due to the low level of involvement and participation of middle managers in the process of preparing the strategic plan!
Middle management tends to be much closer to the reality of the operation. Of course, a broader external vision may be lacking, and Senior Management has the role of bringing that into the process. In fact, the bridge between the organization’s major goals/strategic guidelines and the external environment – customers, suppliers, etc. – is done by middle management.
To be clear: having a more collaborative planning process does not mean a more “democratic” one. Ultimately, who will decide, for example, to allocate or reduce resources in a new front (product, segment, region) will be the shareholder.
The final executive decision will always be the shareholder’s, within the system of governance adopted by the company, with Senior Management, the Board of Directors, committees, or others. That same shareholder, however, will feel more secure in his decisions if the process has gone through the scrutiny of management – and faced reality.
What should I do as a manager?
By participating in the planning process, managers enter a dynamic that allows them to propose, criticize, and take on strategic initiatives. That generates a “feeling of ownership” that is necessary but absent from the plans we have seen. A strategic plan can be drawn up in a variety of ways, but it will come to an end if it lacks credibility among management.
In short: a strategic plan can go through a variety of drafting approaches, but will always succeed (or die) in the hands of company managers.
Text published in the March edition of O Papel magazine.