How to position yourself as the central corporate strategic planner – Part 1

Why credibility, trust and acceptance are the key success factors for the corporate strategic planner and why they are so hard to gain

You’ve got the job of your dreams. Or:
You’ve been assigned the task. Or:
You’ve been struggling with this task for some time without any progress.

You are responsible for your company’s strategy! You know how to do strategy. But how do you actually make the organization cooperate with you?

The key is that everybody slightly involved in strategy making should accept you as the central instance. You have to build trust and credibility.

With that as a foundation to build upon you are prepared to tackle all the other challenges that arise in the field of corporate strategy.

Why becoming accepted as the central strategic planner has to be your top priority

Strategy is a central function in every organization. It is the prime responsibility of the owners or the corporate management team. As organizations grow, they may see the need to set up a specialized function or team responsible for strategy.

If you are new in this function, you are likely to meet some reservations and concerns. This is especially true if the whole function of the strategic planner is new to the organization.

It is a matter of fact; you will only be successful in your new function if the people you’ll have to work with will accept you as a helpful partner. You and/or your team have to gain trust and acceptance throughout the organization, because:

  • As a corporate strategic planner, you need both – specialist knowledge in strategic planning and in-depth knowledge of your organization. Except you’ve been working there for 20+ years, you can’t obtain the latter one without the help from the people there.
  • A strategy developed in the “ivory tower” of the corporate strategy department will have a tough time getting the “buy in” of the organization. Implementation will be difficult.
  • Without a reliable personal network in your organization, you won’t get access to all the good ideas already there that could become part of your strategy.
  • Similarly, this network is your early warning system for upcoming trends, changing circumstances, slowly unfolding problems, and so on.
  • The feedback from specialists and managers is your strategy’s acid test. They will identify a lot of its weak points for you.
  • To cut a long story short: With the acceptance and support of the whole organization, your job will be much easier and your results will improve.

Sources of reservation and concern

I have experienced some general reservations concerning me as a person or the central strategic planner function as a whole. These are the barriers for you to be accepted.

People might fear that

  • you are a know-it-all who wants to develop strategies without knowing the business / the market as good as they do
  • you are just another number-cruncher who prepares mindless slide decks
  • you want to interfere with their work and tell them what to do
  • you have a hidden agenda they cannot assess
  • they might lose control
  • your function is just an addition to the already bloated administration
  • you might interfere with their hidden agendas

You will encounter even more concerns on different levels of the organization:

  • Staff members and experts might have had bad experiences with (external) strategy consultants in the past. They may also fear that this is just the start of another round of cost reductions and layoffs.
  • Middle managers and business unit managers will especially fear a loss of control. The strategy team might want to take decisions that were theirs to take so far. This is about loss of prestige as well.
  • Top management has to trust their new strategist / strategy team. Not all members of the top management team may be convinced of the need to have such a function at all.

This mindset may be hard to change. Fears and concerns mostly come from unknowingness and uncertainty. Negative experiences in the past will exacerbate existing prejudices.

Read in the second part of this article how you can build acceptance and creditability as a central strategic planner.

Our book recommendations for strategic planners:

  • The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs
    Cynthia Montgomery
    By distilling the experiences and insights gleaned in the classroom, Montgomery helps leaders develop the skills and sensibilities they need to become strategists themselves.
  • Hannibal and Me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success and Failure
    Andreas Kluth
    Inspired by ancient history, Hannibal and Me explores the triumphs and disasters in our lives by examining the decisions made by Hannibal and others, including Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Jobs, Ernest Shackleton, and Paul Cézanne. The result is a page-turning adventure tale, a compelling human drama, and an insightful guide to understanding behavior.
  • The Strategist’s Toolkit
    Jared D. Harris and Michael J. Lenox
    The authors have carefully selected 13 analytical techniques that every student and executive needs to master.