How to Tell if a Planned Initiative is Strategic

Alexandra Levit, Managing Partner, PeopleResults
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As I mentioned last month, I recently attended a great SHRM session from Elizabeth Ruske and Betsy Sobiech of Tiara Coaching that covered how to use ROI to make your case for a new program. An important aspect of this is ensuring that your proposed initiative is strategic in the first place. Here are some questions to consider in that vein.

What Makes a Program Strategic?

  • The mission of the program is well-aligned with the mission of the business
  • The program fits in well with the business’ future plans for growth
  • The program touches multiple parts of the business
  • The program addresses a critical business, employee, or customer need

What Business Concerns Might Your Program Address?

Using the example of women’s leadership described in Part I of this post, these might include percent of female employees, percent of engagement of female employees, percent of women in leadership roles, percent of female employees staying, # of women in succession plans, external recognition of the company, percent of talented women applying for jobs, and the percent of clients who are women.

Does Your Program Meet Some or All of the “6 Ps”?

  • Purpose: The business’ overall mission and purpose are advanced by the program.  Example: “We aim to be the most cutting-edge provider in our industry, and diversity of thought is essential for innovation.”
  • Profit: The company’s bottom line is advanced by the program.  Example:  “We will save millions every year if we can retain female middle managers we typically lose after a short tenure.”
  • People: Employee commitment, engagement, motivation, and performance are advanced by the program. Example:  “Nearly all attendees at our first women’s affinity group meeting said the event re-invigorated their enthusiasm for the company.”
  • Planet: The positive difference your company wants to make in the world is advanced by the program.  Example: “The percentage of female leaders hasn’t changed since 2007.  We have to do our part to move the needle.”
  • Presence: The business’ reputation and brand are advanced by the program.  Example: “This initiative will assist our efforts to be recognized as a great place to work by Working Mother and Forbes magazines.”
  • Processes: We can establish repeatable procedures to cement, grow, and support the program over time.  Example: “A dedicated women’s leadership committee will ensure that our program components refresh every year and continue to add value to our business and employees.”

Far too often, we throw money at a program because it sounds like a good idea, or because a manager told us to do it.  And as a result, programs may exist in a bubble, and/or may do very little to further true progress.  The strategies discussed in the last two posts provide a system for determining which programs should proceed and how to build a bulletproof case for them.

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