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Strategic planning involves assessing your organization’s current position, identifying opportunities for future growth, and committing to the path that will best set the organization up for future success. An important part of this process should include clarifying strategic priorities for the upcoming one to three years and ensuring your team stays focused on those key priorities as you move forward. The approach can vary from one organization to another; however, stakeholder engagement is a powerful tool that informs the process by providing informed perspectives of your organization’s current reality and future direction.

By engaging with staff, board members, clients, partners, and business influencers, stakeholder engagement contributes impactful information that helps leaders make informed decisions about where their business is today and the possibilities of where it could head moving forward. We’ve noted three different stakeholder engagement processes that each bring their own benefits and challenges. Let’s evaluate:

1. No stakeholder engagement

Some organizations believe they do not need to engage their staff, board, or external stakeholders prior to, or after the planning sessions. While this may be the most efficient process, it means that forming current reality and strategic priorities are solely the perspectives of the individuals in the planning sessions. Personal bias and groupthink can creep into the conversations, potentially using inaccurate information as the starting point versus what is truly happening at the organization.

2. Staff and board engagement

Engaging staff, board members, or a combination of both, brings perspectives that the senior leadership team may not see. Staff are active in the day-to-day business and may have operational, customer-centric, or culture-based ideas to bring to the table. Board representatives own a strategic lens to challenges and are often effective at forward-thinking. The perspectives of both groups are vitally important in ensuring planning starts with a fulsome view of the organization.

3. Staff, board, and external stakeholder engagement

The most thorough stakeholder engagement for strategic planning includes staff, board, and external stakeholders such as customers, prospects, or industry influencers. While this process is the most time-consuming, it brings both internal and external perspectives to the table. Hearing from customers allows an organization to clearly outline its current reality and identify any gaps. As Incite President, Ted Kouri, wrote in his blog Writing Your Next Chapter: Defining Who Your Organization Will Become, “you can create an emotional connection with your stakeholders by asking them to participate in making your future a reality.”

An organization’s strategic planning process may change each year due to time and budget constraints, but do not overlook the power and impact stakeholder engagement can provide. Consider having a thorough process every 2-3 years, garnering much-needed buy-in from multiple groups including staff, board, and external stakeholders. Including them in the process gives a broad range of perspectives and will potentially spark new ideas and approaches.

Here to help

Unsure of where to start your strategic planning process or stakeholder engagement initiatives? Incite has more than twenty years of experience creating strategic plans and engagement strategies for our clients. We have tackled complex challenges in various verticals providing us with a unique lens on how to help businesses navigate these issues as they arise and how to plan accordingly. Please reach out to the author of this article, Joel Mazurkewich using the contact button below.