The strategic-planning process of forming high-level goals and
execution plans for an organization is an especially compelling
area within executive development. Why? Because strategy
formulation is the process of choosing the best path for an
organization. It is based on customer needs, competitive realities,
and internal capabilities. Organizations that can integrate all
three effectively into their strategic plans are likely to have
more robust strategies and better performance records.
In most organizations, however, strategic planning and executive
development exist as two separate processes. In fact, most
development professionals do not know how to integrate the two.
But, by not integrating strategic planning and executive
development, you run the risk of creating strategies that simply
don't work. Why? Because they are not grounded in reality.
Sometimes, executives assume that any strategic plan, no matter how
radical it may be, is achievable and that with the right
development activities, management will grow into their new roles.
However, management talent, like any corporate resource, can only
change so much, especially within tight timelines.
So, what can you do to integrate strategic planning and executive
development? Here are some key principles to adopt:
Get acquainted with the current strategy formulation
process. The last thing you want is to be left out of the
Insist on senior-level involvement. Ensure that
top management, starting with the CEO, is aware of the executive
development programs and that he or she has bought into
the process. The biggest factor that determines the success of
executive development programs is the CEO's involvement,
which goes well beyond the CEO's awareness.
Integrate business plans and executive-development
plans. Be careful not to allow the separation of business
plans and people plans. Rather, make the case for your involvement
in the strategic-planning process by underscoring the unique
perspective that only you, as a development expert, can provide.
Inject objectivity and facts. There needs to be a
ruthless pursuit of having the right leaders in the right roles at
the right time, which means casting aside politics, something that
is often easier for a development professional who is removed from
the business units. Bring the facts to the table in the same way
that other functional areas in the business do. The head of
marketing brings market facts, the head of production brings
manufacturing data, and so forth. You should bring information on
what level of senior management talent the organization has today,
and who is in the pipeline.
Balance science with intuition. Know your
limitations as a development professional: You may not have had the
chance to observe management candidates in situations of character
and personality as other senior management may have. The people
process is a science and an art of intuition. Recognize that others
will bring valuable perspectives, such as who the best candidate
might be for a role in terms of chemistry, not something a
competency model can capture.
Don't forget your day job. As plans get
communicated throughout the organization and responsibilities
cascade to all levels of employees, specific goals and objectives
become a defined part of top management responsibilities. At this
point, there is typically another awakening to skill deficiencies,
given the new plans and roles. Proactively see that these gaps are
addressed. Monitor the progress of top executives and address any
potential derailments early on.
Executive development is playing a very different role in the
organization than in the past, and this role will continue to
evolve. You can manage executive development as a much more
strategic fashion than just building competencies in the upper
ranks. Executive development's potential to craft and execute
strategy is waiting to be unleashed.