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What should the CEO be asking the Board about Strategic Planning?

I have been on many Boards that get very excited about Strategic Planning. The Directors roll their sleeves up to become animated and engaged. It is such a break from the normal mundane Director’s roles of compliance, risk management, monitoring, shareholder relations and appointing you as the CEO.

There is not a Director on earth that believes they have been appointed for compliance & risk management. They all think they are there for their wondrous strategic capacity. Even the accountants and lawyers on the Board! 

If you think about the previous articles we have talked about on strategy, then the Board needs to ensure that when you all find a great strategy, they recognise it. It is often said that ‘if you don’t know what you are looking for, you won’t see it when it is right in front of you’. The Board needs to know what it is looking for. Before the Directors have yet decided what the outcome of the plan will be you, as an Asking Leader CEO, need to lead your Board through a A Series of Questions about what is the criteria for a great Strategic Plan.

1.      As CEO you need clear Guidance on how much;

a.      risk?

b.     Scope?

c.      Depth?

d.     Resources?

You may want to lead your Board through a rational discussion about;

i. Why we want a strategic plan?

ii.     What are the impacts of having, and not having a plan?

iii.     If we created a successful strategic plan, how would know? How would we measure that success?

iv.     If success is critical, then how much time and money should we invest? How much priority should the plan have?

2.  The board should discuss how to allow the entire organisation to be involved. That is, the Process. Which of the myriad of processes does the board agree will create the engagement, creativity, innovation and measurable actions? Some like to do this in-house with their own resources.

The organisations with sufficient resources will employ a professional. It is a matter of working out what your needs are and identifying the right consultant and process for you. Many Boards decide on their consultant on ‘feel’. You will want your Board to be quite analytical about your needs to lift the decision above the level of ‘feel’. Your Board needs to ‘know’ why they have made their choice of consultant. Similarly, the Board needs to know why they have chosen a particular process.

3.  The CEO should encourage the Board to insist on Simplicity. Once, a long time ago, strategic plans were sold by weight. The bigger the better. Today, we need simple. Concise. Toyota, the founders of Lean Thinking, introduced the One-Page Plan. From the one-page plan, the CEO can then design actions, measures and accountability for every aspect and person in the business.

4.      Finally, you need to ask the Board about Execution. No Strategic Plan is complete without a Strategic Execution Plan. Will you, as CEO be given the authority to build a team approach to delivering the success of the Strategic Plan? Will you be able to involve the Board in making the Main Thing, the Main Thing?

Will you be the newly titled, the Chief Execution Officer?

Here, I have suggested you ask the board for

1.      Guidance

2.      A process

3.      Simplicity

4.      Execution plan

What else do you suggest the CEO should ask the Board for when developing a Strategic Plan?

Now they’re ready. After all the discussion, the Directors are encouraged to stop worrying about compliance & risk. Now they can be really strategic! No one can tell them what can’t be done! Make sure they enjoy it, because soon enough they will be back responding to the boring stuff.

If you want to find out more about guiding your Board to the development of a Strategic Plan contact me here on LinkedIn. Or go to Or listen to Stephanie Christopher’s interview on TECLive. And Oliver Freer’s interview on the Human Potential podcast

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