If you are doing strategic planning activities for a support function within an organization, you can face challenges deciding what the plan should emphasize.

It’s easy to focus on creating important capabilities for the functional area (i.e., implement better accounting systems, develop an improved human resources process). It is probably equally easy to fall into the trap of simply taking orders from the P&L side of the business, limiting your focus to simply listing what the line organization tells your area it needs from you.

For strategic planning activities within a matrix organization, however, the ideal is to foster a shared strategic mindset between the line organization and support areas. Both line and functional areas should be leading the organization in the same direction with complementary strategic initiatives. This is the reason we are emphatic about having both line and functional leaders participate in strategic planning activities for functional departments.

2 Strategic Thinking Questions for Strategic Planning Activities in a Support Organization

One way to instill the mindset that a functional department also needs to take on a leadership role in the organization during strategic planning (and afterward) is asking and answering these two strategic thinking questions:

Within our strategic plan…

  • Our department will drive _____________?

  • Our department will enable _____________?

At the start of your strategic planning activities, solicit ideas broadly with these strategic thinking questions. Identify a comprehensive list of ideas for where the functional area will DRIVE initiatives to make the organization better. Do the same for how your work will ENABLE the important objectives for the entire organization. Identify themes and narrow your answers. You are not looking for a final list of dozens of strategic initiatives. You want just a few areas where your functional area can concentrate. These should be strategic initiatives where a functional area can meaningfully and visibly improve core metrics for the overall organization. - Mike Brown

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