Selecting Your Strategic
Planning Team Members
By Bill Birnbaum, CMC
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Clearly, you’d love to inoculate all of your employees with the love of learning and with the thrill of thinking strategically. Hopefully, in time you will. But, as with any other process, you’ve got to start someplace rather than everyplace. This suggests that you’ll need to select a number of individuals to become members of your strategic planning team. How many individuals? As few as five or six to as many as ten or twelve. Fewer than five or so and you’ll have a difficult time maintaining a high energy level in your strategy sessions. Too many and your sessions might well degenerate into tactical, rather than strategic, discussions.

Regarding the selection of your team members, you have two fundamental choices. First, you can take the very traditional approach and select according to the organization chart. All of your vice presidents. Or all of your department managers. Or all branch managers plus all department managers. While that method of selection is certainly politically correct, it generally doesn’t result in the team which is best prepared to think strategically.

An alternative approach (less politically correct, I warn you) is to select team members from various corners of your organization according to just one criteria – ability to think strategically. As this selection method is less politically correct, you’ll be sure to ruffle a few feathers (“Hey, why was Ernie selected, while I wasn’t?). But you know what? You can answer, “Because Ernie has demonstrated that he’s a strategic thinker.” And that answer will drive home a most important point. That your organization values strategic thinking…and thus, strategic thinkers.

However you choose your planning team members, make sure they’re smart. There is no substitute for intelligence among the management team. No process in the world will substitute for lack of intellect. So you’ll need to start with smart people on the planning team. Visionaries too. Not everyone has a flair for thinking about the future. Be sure that at least a few of the people on your strategy team have such flair. That they both enjoy the challenge and are somewhat skilled at future thinking… at least they’re interested and eager to learn.

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