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Before 2020, public, private, and not-for-profit organisations already confronted the dual challenge of adapting to the post-GFC world of constrained resources while facing ever-increasing demands for better products and services.  Throw in a global pandemic – and we have the perfect melting pot of needing to do more, with less!

There has never been a more crucial time for organisations to focus on strategic planning, and to do this in a way that delivers the best outcome overall for stakeholders.

It may seem obvious, but organisations really need to consider a range of perspectives when developing strategy.  Whether it is generating ideas, evaluating alternatives, or ultimately deciding what is ‘in’ and ‘out, the judgements at each stage of the strategic development process require multiple points of view.  

And one thing for certain is that you can’t presume to understand the perspectives of your stakeholders.

There are a range of ways that you can involve stakeholders in the decisions that matter in your organisation, and some of them are really simple.

For example, you can invite stakeholders to help you develop the strategic planning process itself.  This is an excellent way to have them contribute up front to how decisions on strategy will be made before you even start looking at content.

Other places to look are in the generating of ideas. Workshops are a really effective way to have stakeholders provide their thoughts on alternatives and options that might contribute to organisational strategy.

Maybe they’ve got ideas for new products or service lines? Maybe they are aware of opportunities outside of your organisation that that you wouldn’t even see? Maybe there are pain points in what they do that you could help solve? Having them actively involved in identifying initiatives and tactics that can be included in your organisational strategic plan can only be a good thing.

Perhaps one of the more controversial, but highly beneficial, places to have stakeholders involved in your strategic planning process is in evaluating the alternatives themselves. Often organisations close the doors at this stage…. Ideas go in, magic happens behind the scenes, and out pops a strategy.

Funnily enough, stakeholders can feel particularly disengaged at this point, when what comes out the other end may not reflect their views; even if they’ve had an opportunity to contribute at the start.

So although it may feel hard or awkward, having stakeholders help you to work through the value of each of your options, why they value them, and how much they value them can be both highly beneficial for your stakeholder relationships as well as beneficial for achieving the best outcomes overall forever for your organisation.

Of course, these are just some ways that stakeholders could contribute to your strategic planning process and there are many more.

Finally, what happens if we don’t include our stakeholders in the strategic planning process? Well, lots of impacts.  Most significantly, we can find ourselves in a world where there is no commitment to the strategy itself.  And what good is that? A strategy that we can’t execute on makes a lovely paperweight, but isn’t good for much else.

A decision without commitment is like a tiger without teeth.

No matter how great our strategic planning and decision-making process, there is always room for one more stakeholder.