A recent project with a long-time client gave us the opportunity to reflect on what changes came about as a result of the work we did with them on an organization-wide strategic planning project. The process was a big commitment for the leader and for many others in the organization. It involved months of bringing people together from different levels in the organization for conversation, data collecting, imagining, strategizing.  A fundamental assumption was that everyone in the organization had something to contribute to thinking about the organization’s future and it would take broad buy-in to make big changes.

At the end of this work, the leader wanted to look back on what came out of it – what parts of the culture really changed and what they wanted to hold onto as they moved into the future.

Through a series of interviews with a variety of internal stakeholders Betsy and I asked, “What is different now that strategic planning is done?”

One theme that was loud and clear was the movement away from a family to a team approach. As one staff person said, “Moving away from the traditional family environment to a team is very important to me. It’s great to have a family environment where everyone cares about you, but you can do that as a team as well. Whether you like it or not, we’re a business and need to function that way.”

Another person we interviewed put it this way, “We’re taking a team approach vs. a family – this leads to more honest communication. With family, people are afraid to share constructive feedback.”  

What’s the impact your organization wants to make?  You’re going to need a strong team to get you there – one where people can communicate honestly and directly, regardless of their role. In families, it takes a long time for us to move beyond being just a dad or just a big sister. Luckily, in organizations it can just take a few focused months.  By deliberately inviting people from different levels of the organization to be involved in your strategic planning, you’re off to a good start for thinking and acting like a team.