In the game of football – both the American gridiron variety and the FIFA-version preferred by the rest of the world – success is determined not just by the genius of the game strategy and the plays designed by the coaches. The ability of the team to execute the playbook under any conditions – cold rain, blazing sun, high altitudes, oppressive humidity – will make or break the game’s outcome. 

It’s strange, then, to consider the pitfalls many company leaders fall into when developing their own strategic plan. These corporate coaches often spend the majority of their time scouting the competition and assessing market conditions. 

However, the question of whether the teams responsible for actually delivering the plans generally doesn’t factor into the planning process. 

In reality, the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are so carefully collected, reported, and modeled are inherently backward-looking and don’t capture important elements of the current state. In an uncertain world, the data points those KPIs miss are fundamental to the success of the strategy, such as: 

  • Are your leaders effective and equipped to lead through uncertainty? 
  • Are your teams aligned behind their leaders and clear on their roles? 
  • Are your reliable sources of strength in good shape? 
  • What weaknesses exist that could derail the strategy? 
  • What opportunities do your employees see for the business? 
  • What new threats should we have on the radar? Are key employees looking for new jobs? 

When it comes to strategic planning, where you’re starting from comprises more than just your numbers. What are your team’s perceptions? How aligned are they with your goals? Do they know how their roles contribute? What concerns do they see? 

If you rely solely on KPIs for your starting point, you won’t have plotted your position accurately. You won’t know where you really are because you don’t know how your team feels, how aligned they are with purpose and strategy, what opportunities they see, or how engaged they are. 

In reality, the team is the deciding factor. It is mad to not consult them and understand what they’re feeling great about and what concerns them at this moment. 

From a strategy standpoint, I recommend looking at your company employee engagement data through the same lens you would conduct a SWOT analysis: look for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This will deliver a holistic view of the current state of your team, and thus inform your starting point. 

You need your troops to help you execute and achieve, therefore, you need to first understand what they’re thinking. If they’re thinking about finding a new job, or if they’re thinking about different priorities, then your strategic plan will feel the impact. 

In addition to making your strategy more accurate, and thus improving your chances of success in the coming year, the act of involving your team will benefit you, the engaged leader, in three important ways: 

  • You will gain confidence when you affirm a hunch you had about the business. It now becomes a truth upon which you can rely. 
  • You will spot opportunities to make material improvements you may never have recognized. 
  • You will encounter some really nice surprises in the form of incisive and thoughtful feedback and increases in engagement that delight you, and reveal the true magic of your team. 

The end result of adding the analysis of your own team means you’ll be creating a realistic strategic plan that doesn’t rely upon luck, thereby stacking the deck in your company’s favor for the upcoming new year.