This McKinsey Quarterly article (registration may be required, and is free), The Social Side of Strategy, provides insight into current trends providing for more stakeholder input into the business strategic planning process. Among their objectives is this invitation:

If you’ve ever wondered how to inject more diversity and expertise into your strategy process, … or to avoid the experience-based biases and orthodoxies that inevitably creep into small groups at the top, it may be time to try shaking things up.

The article speaks for itself, but I want to point out the essential integration of conversation in many of the examples cited. The idea of conversation, as I define it here, is tacitly assumed, whereas I would suggest that it needs to be more overtly identified. A deliberate business culture embracing circumstances for conversation are a prerequisite to the success of these community-based strategy approaches.

The HCL Technologies case study succinctly articulates the benefit of conversation. The CEO, Vineet Nayar, in conceiving several business planning options:

“Challenged his colleagues to use three key principles to revamp the planning process: make peer review a core component of strategy evaluation, create radical transparency across units, and open up the conversation to large cross-sections of the company.”

The ensuing effectiveness for the strategic planning process and business outcomes illustrated the utility of conversation, including the:

  • Diversity of viewpoints that diminished group think.
  • Authenticity engendered in the content creation.
  • Trust and accountability this culture of conversation generated.
  • Quality of innovative concepts.

McKinsey’s data demonstrates that companies benefit directly from constituents that are:

“Engaged with a company’s strategy. Those employees not only understand the strategy better but are also more motivated to help execute it effectively and more likely to spot emerging opportunities or threats that require quick adjustments.”

As I suggested earlier, a culture of genuine conversation is essential to business innovation and sustainable success. In the words of Marco Keim, CEO of AEGON The Netherlands,

“We started a digital-networking platform called AEGON Square and got the conversation going… Dialogue really helped in fostering organization-wide alignment.”

How are you ensuring that the circumstances exist to encourage conversation?