Putting Inclusion to Work…The How for Strategic Planning

We have heard from enough leaders and diversity and inclusion (D&I) officers who say they are struggling to take the next step with inclusion…integrating with common work practices. As mentioned in our previous post “Putting Inclusion to Work…Introducing the How”, leaders and teams know they need to work differently to keep up with the increased pace of today’s world and also that they need to create a sense of belonging for everyone. The key is to learn how to do common work differently to get better results and create a sense of belonging and inclusion. In this article, we’ll share how strategic planning can be done differently.


The Problem with Strategic Planning

In ]traditional approaches, strategic planning is often a reaction to current challenges and constraints. An exclusive group of people (e.g. a leadership team) crafts the plan behind closed doors, perhaps after doing some surveys and/or interviews with staff and customers. The plan becomes a big binder of goals and objectives that finds itself prematurely on a dust-gathering shelf. When people across the organization are not engaged as co-authors, costly change management interventions must be deployed to get disengaged people “on board.”  80% of traditional strategic planning efforts and change management programs fail.


Shared Strategic Planning That Engages Everyone

Strategic planning can be one of the most powerful ways to give everyone a voice by:

  • Co-creating the future together
  • Inviting them to sign up for strategic work
  • Recognizing the strengths and passions each person can contribute
  • Making the plan ongoing and visible so people can engage at any point in time

It all starts by inviting everyone and giving all a voice to dream together. It’s easier than you might think. This isn’t just surveying team members or creating a virtual suggestion box. It’s about ensuring everyone has a chance to write down or speak out their dreams and questions together, and then helping to prioritize what gets worked on from there. Imagine a team using post it notes or index cards to capture all of the various questions, ideas, and impacts that they can think of.


Next, the team works together to clarify, ask each other questions, discuss, sort and prioritize projects and initiatives. Introverts, extroverts, people with different views, backgrounds, experiences, etc. all have a voice this way.   From there everyone can identify the strengths, assets and resources that they can contribute to the work (again, think of people writing them down and sharing them out live).


Each person has the chance to sign up to work on strategic priorities based on their strengths, passions and learning questions. When they do start to work on strategic priorities, it’s done out in the open so everyone else can see the work and weigh in with ideas and questions using social technology.


Teams then manage, make progress toward and refresh the “plan” on an ongoing basis,  (See “Four Ways to Turn Strategic Planning into Strategic Doing” for more insight on how this works). Project teams are invited to work at their own pace toward the strategic priorities. To stay agile and realistic project teams meet every two weeks to celebrate successes and  prioritize the work they actually have bandwidth for in the next two weeks. The goal here is progress. After 6 months, everyone comes together to refresh the overall plan again.


Everyone on the team feels like they have had a say in the priorities of the team/organization, and also what will happen next. People contribute, respectfully ask questions, stay aligned, and make new connections. Even if there is disagreement, everyone is heard and respected because they work from questions and not assumptions.  We use a process called The Agile Canvas. When planning happens this way, we get a better strategic plan that actually drives progress while creating a sense of belonging through the way the work is happening.

Coming Soon: The How for Better Meetings

Evan Ishida

About Evan Ishida

The work I love is designing solutions and experiences that help people learn, collaborate, create, and innovate together. As a proud Ohio University Bobcat, I began my career as an internal consultant, and team leader in large global Fortune 200 corporations where I focused on learning and development, instructional design, communities of practice, and learning technologies.

Leave a Reply