Make your strategic planning process INCLUSIVE

Strategic planning is an essential part of any organization’s success. It helps businesses to define their goals, set priorities, and allocate resources effectively. In today’s diverse and rapidly evolving work environment, it’s more important than ever to prioritize inclusivity in all aspects of business planning, especially strategic planning. Being more inclusive in strategic planning will help organizations create better outcomes, build stronger relationships, and improve overall business performance. Ensuring this planning process is inclusive and diverse is crucial to capture various perspectives, build trust, and fostering a sense of belonging within the organization.

Inclusion in strategic planning means that the voices of all stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and community members, are heard and valued. Here are some tips on how to be more inclusive in strategic planning:

  1. Communicate the goal of inclusion broadly: Before Discovery and the planning process begins, this intention of bringing more voices, top to bottom and side to side, is announced. This desire to access more ideas and diverse thinking is made public. The Discovery process is disclosed. All participants in the Discovery are asked to be honest and to speak their truth with assurances that these conversations with the strategic consultant will be confidential. No comment will be attributed to an individual or department.
  2. Encourage participation: Create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. Active involvement of all stakeholders happens when the strategic consultant ensures all voices are heard and treated equally. Everyone needs to know that every voice has value and deserves respect.
  3. Involve all levels in the planning process: Diversity and inclusion should start before the strategic planning starts. Creating a diversity of thought and ideas starts by having Discovery as an integral part of the planning process. at the planning team level. A strategic planning consultant conducts Discovery. The consultant interviews staff to learn the status of strategic alignment in the past, cultural alignment to the mission and values, leadership alignment for consistency across the organization, and needs/ideas for improvement or change by those doing the work. These interviews are anonymized and shared with the planning team, setting the planning process’s starting point.
  4. Create a diverse planning team: Ensure the leadership team is diverse in gender, race, ethnicity, and age. This may require adding voices to the conversation outside the leadership team in some organizations. Through diversity and inclusion, unique voices are brought to the planning table. This diversity and inclusion practice will provide different perspectives, experiences, and insights into the conversations and help identify potential biases and blind spots in your strategic planning.
  5. Recognize and address unconscious biases: Unconscious biases prevent people from contributing fully to the planning process. A strategic consultant will call out biases creating awareness. Unconscious biases include:
    • Confirmation bias – only looking at the data that support what one or more people want to believe or trust.
    • Bobblehead bias – everyone agrees to the loudest or highest-ranking voice.
    • Silo bias – overstressing one business unit at the expense of other silos.
    • The planning team is putting too much weight on opinions versus data-driven choices.
  6. Use data and research: Data and analysis will help inform decision-making, mitigate bias, and ensure all stakeholders are represented. Use data to identify trends, understand customer needs, and evaluate potential risks and opportunities.
  7. Communicate the plan effectively: Once the strategic plan and objectives are identified, communication is vital to validate that the planning process is inclusive. Communicating the strategy and its goals is for all stakeholders, and consistent updates on progress will keep the plan alive. In addition, this communication plan will build trust, create buy-in, and foster a belief in the plan. The outcome is the staff becomes more engaged with the strategic plan and its objectives and brings a greater sense of belonging within the organization.

In strategic planning, inclusion, top to bottom and side to side, is essential for creating a vital, thriving, sustainable organization. Organizations can ensure that all stakeholders are heard and valued by developing a diverse planning team, encouraging broad participation through Discovery, recognizing unconscious biases, using data and research, and communicating the plan effectively. This approach can lead to better decision-making, improved outcomes, and a more inclusive and diverse workplace culture.


Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at

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