Many people agree that effectively involving others in organizational improvement can build stronger solutions and enhance stakeholder commitment. However, we often see involvement as being superficial, disingenuous, or mishandled. Important questions an executive leader may ask are: Who should be involved? When should this happen? How do we structure meaningful involvement?
3 Key Questions for who should be involved
When the new Director of North Carolina’s Exceptional Children Division, William Hussey, recently began the process of building a three-year organizational improvement (i.e., “strategic”) plan, he used three simple questions to identify who should be involved:
- Who will be impacted by this organizational improvement plan?
- Whose expertise do we need in the plan development?
- Whose support is critical for successful implementation?
When, in the planning process, do we involve others?
The Director involved his executive level leadership team in identifying the major goals and objectives, as well as indicators (measures) of success for each of the goals. External stakeholder involvement is broken into three areas:
- Two advisory boards and school district clients (directors) will provide feedback on the major areas of emphasis…or the “what” (goals, objectives, success indicators).
- The staff within each section will give their best thinking on the “how.” Each section will develop an action plan detailing the activities that need to be completed in order to accomplish the goals and objectives.
- The staff throughout the division will provide their best thinking on the “what if.” After the organizational improvement plan draft is completed, staff perspectives will be gathered on the barriers to success with the implementation of the plan.
How do we structure meaningful involvement?
The executive leadership team was formally trained to use proven problem-solving and decision-making strategies so that there would be a common language and transparent approach for this collaborative process. Again, process questions are used to guide each group:
- Advisory/client groups—What are your concerns/issues with these goals, objectives, indicators of success? Which concerns are most critical? Why?
- Section staff—What needs to be done within each section in order to accomplish the goals and objectives and who will be accountable? When does this need to be completed? How will we monitor this?
- Whole division—What are the potential problems with implementing this improvement plan? What can we do to prevent those problems—and their causes—from happening? What contingent actions should we have in place for “Plan B?” What potential opportunities should we plan for that would maximize the benefits of implementation of this plan?
Although effective involvement is complex, this real world example demonstrates that using transparent processes based on strategic questions can help you avoid superficial, disingenuous, or mishandled involvement and help build a stronger organization.
How do you ensure successful stakeholder involvement?