I recently came across an interesting article on corporate strategic planning just as I was going through that process for our installed sales initiative at Stock. If you've followed this space for any length of time, you'll know I am a strong proponent of making strategic plans, then writing action plans and, after that, circling back to ensure the plans produced the desired results. The reason this article was so interesting is that it pointed out clearly that, regardless of how thoroughly you wrote your plan and how detailed you made your action steps, it is doomed to failure if you don't take care of one little item.

What's that vital step? That the stakeholder in any corporation, from the president/CEO down to the person holding a broom in the warehouse, will not buy into your plan unless they see it as their plan, too.

Think about this for a moment. We spend countless hours as executives planning for every possible outcome, looking at lumber forecasts, building permit data, Census Bureau information, and numerous other resources (even long-range weather reports, it seems), to piece together a plan of attack that will move our businesses one step closer to that magical profitability mark. But the one critical resource we often fail to consult are the staffers we will depend upon to carry out our marvelous plan. And if we do, we seldom listen to what they have to say. Oh, we hear them–we just don't listen.

So what did I do differently? First, I went to the people directly responsible for Stock's installed sales programs and asked a few simple questions: What can you do? What are your capabilities? What are you the best at? And where do you honestly see yourself in six, eight, or 12 months?

I didn't want to bias their response by indicating what I wanted. Rather, I needed to see what these individual managers felt about their divisions and operations.

After receiving and digesting that info, I began creating the plan for the entire division, based on measurable results and honest feedback from those front-line employees. After all, it isn't "my" strategic plan; it is the plan that we will use as a go-forward option for our individual markets.

Regardless of how well thought-out my plan might have been, unless every stakeholder in this division buys into the program, our results will be less than desired. After each manager responded, I circled back and discussed individual goals and action items with that team. Then the overall plan began to take shape. Everyone had a chance to review their individual responses and carefully consider those issues specific to their market.

Some of you reading this might recall my August 2009 column in which I urged you to evict "C.A.V.E. Dwellers" from your premises. C.A.V.E. stands for Citizens Against Virtually Everything, and the piece talked about the danger of staff members who only give lip service to a program or plan and then work to undermine it. That column and this one tie together well. If you don't get every stakeholder involved from the outset, you could end up dealing with employees who will work against your plans to prove themselves right.

Now I suppose you want to know how my recently enacted marvelous plan is working, what results we've seen, and how successful this exercise turned out. Well, stay tuned: We're just getting this dance started.