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CTDO Magazine

Be a Planner

Friday, April 15, 2022

Leverage your role as a CTDO to enhance your organization's strategic plan and boost your value.

Benjamin Franklin quipped, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." It's a formula that has proven true for businesses, and few would argue with the necessity of effective planning.


Yet, many organizations continue to believe good strategic planning is simply taking ill-prepared executives on multiday retreats and asking them to post ideas around the room. Frequently, those same executives later attempt to translate the information into some type of strategic plan for the board to review and approve.

Unfortunately, and all too often, bureaucratic approval processes, management misalignment, and poor leadership ability ultimately prevent successful plan execution. That is far from a thorough and robust approach to developing and executing strategy.

Imagine how much better it would be if you as a chief talent development officer, with your skill set and talent, engaged fully in the process. To do so, it's essential to ask yourself three questions about the company's strategic planning process: 

  • Is our planning process thorough and robust enough to develop a plan that moves the company forward?
  • Are our leaders aligned and adequately prepared to execute strategy?
  • Is my expertise as a CTDO being fully leveraged to ensure organizational success? 

Strategy defined

In its simplest form, strategy is the coordinated means by which an organization pursues its goals and objectives. A strategy incorporates actions, both those to take and those planned for so that an organization achieves its objectives.

Challenge your executive colleagues to be mindful of the purpose of strategy development—your collective goal is to gain advantage and success for the business.

Organizational strategy development

The strategy development process typically starts with a review of the company's vision, mission, and values to help answer the question: Do these still represent who we are? 

Next, set goals and objectives to determine what the business wants and needs to achieve to remain competitive and successful. Then conduct an internal self-assessment of strengths and weaknesses to gauge organizational resources and capabilities to execute. 

Take an outward look to identify opportunities to leverage and threats in the market of which to be aware. From all of that, develop organizational strategies. Action planning, coordinated implementation, and strategic leadership are required to execute those strategies.

Typical Strategy Planning Process
Strategy Planning Process
Review vision and mission.
Set goals and objectives.
Develop organizational strategy.
Implement strategies and lead strategically.

Some companies take a more robust approach to the strategy development process. They conduct an intensive internal review by performing a talent assessment of internal leadership capabilities and potential as well as conduct an external business review.

The result is a more comprehensive understanding of the business's capabilities and resources to execute strategy and a broader look at the external factors affecting success.


Numerous studies indicate that excellence in execution is the number 1 challenge facing business leaders around the world. Regardless of how sophisticated or comprehensive a strategic planning process and plan are, if the organization fails to attain the intended results, then efforts have been for naught.

CTDOs play a significant role in helping companies execute strategy. The inability to work in an interdisciplinary manner is often cited as the main reason strategy execution fails. 

Identifying and developing leaders who can lead across organizational silos, set the long-term vision, block out distractions, and focus on strategic priorities are critical to successful implementation.  Developing leadership talent may be the primary way you positively affect the entire strategic planning and strategy execution processes. That is what CTDOs do.

Common pitfalls

Not engaging CTDOs in the strategic planning process is the leading reason most companies derail the successful implementation and execution of their strategic plans. You are in the best position to ensure that the most suited people are ready to execute the strategy. 

Another often overlooked pitfall is believing vertical alignment is best for execution. Organizations often rely on vertical alignment as they create their strategy, but the reality is that multiple departments must collaborate to execute the strategy. Guide strategic planning by emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach.

Other pitfalls include:

  • Disallowing flexibility
  • Resisting change
  • Failing to communicate the plan effectively across the organization
  • Neglecting to periodically assess and develop leadership talent
  • Not including key stakeholders in the process

Getting and staying engaged

Is there anything more critical to an organization's success than its people? As companies continue to face mounting challenges of finding talent—particularly leadership talent—your role and importance will grow.

Remind your executive colleagues and CEO of the critical knowledge, skills, and abilities you bring to the strategic planning and execution process and how important the talent life cycle is to the business.

Model the process  

Familiarize yourself with the strategic planning process and lead by example by modeling it in your areas of responsibility. Once the organization formalizes its strategic plan, use the same method to develop a strategic plan within your leadership domain that aligns with and supports the business strategies. Be sure to: 

  • Align talent goals with business goals.
  • Develop talent analytics to measure goal execution and success.
  • Review talent within the domain for performance and potential.
  • Create succession planning charts for leadership growth and development.
  • Develop retention strategies for key talent leadership.

People are the greatest resource for any successful business. You and the company must identify, acquire, develop, engage, and retain them. Provide them with a road map for professional and organizational success so that they can be successful. A robust, comprehensive strategic plan helps provide that map.

As businesses struggle with the people equation, you are vital to your company's overall success. Engaging in the strategic planning process is not optional.

John Zorbini is an executive consultant and coach. Contact him at [email protected].

Key Terms, Definitions, and Components

As a CTDO, you need a clear understanding of the basic language associated with strategy planning. Here are the primary terms and definitions with which to familiarize yourself.


Strategic planning: The process of creating specific business strategies and a road map for how the organization will implement and evaluate them to ensure success

Strategic plan: A document to communicate to stakeholders the organization's goals, the actions needed to achieve those goals, and the metrics to measure that achievement

Mission and vision: Declaration statements of a company's fundamental purpose, what it values, and its view of the future

Goals and objectives: Broad indications of company intentions and the measurable steps for achieving them

SWOT analysis: A tool to assist organizations in examining internal (strengths and weaknesses) and external (opportunities and threats) factors that could affect their ability to develop and execute strategy

Talent review: A structured process for assessing individual leadership performance and potential for growth

Business review: A structured process for assessing key business line performance and growth potential

Strategy: The coordinated means by which an organization pursues its goals and objectives to gain an advantage and achieve success

Strategic leadership: The ability to work in an interdisciplinary fashion, set a long-term vision, avoid distractions, and focus on the priorities to achieve success

Strategy execution: The process of translating the organization's strategic initiatives into action and obtaining intended results

Strategic thinking: The ability to recognize the relationships, complexities, and implications of a situation; anticipate possibilities; and plan what to do—a best guess about the future

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

John Zorbini has spent his career helping organizations understand the strategic link between effectively managed human capital and successful business results. John’s unique background and experiences as a senior executive, professional speaker, and certified leadership coach, combined with his collaborative and results-focused approach, makes him ideal to consult, coach and facilitate all levels of leadership. For Stewart Leadership, John specializes in working with clients in such areas as succession planning, full-cycle strategy planning (business & talent review, succession review, leadership development review), human resources consulting, and executive leadership coaching.
For 30 years, John held various leadership roles for three of Wisconsin’s largest employers, spending 25 of those years in the chief human resources officer position. Having an intimate understanding of the complexities and daily challenges of boards, executives, and other leaders, has enhanced his ability to quickly relate to and assist those with whom he works.

As a professional speaker, John has delivered hundreds of workshops and presentations and continues to be a much-in-demand facilitator and speaker. Additionally, John has over 20 years of university-level teaching experience (undergraduate and MBA) as an assistant and adjunct professor at Marquette, Concordia, Cardinal Stritch, and Mount Mary Universities.

John received his bachelor’s degree from West Liberty University in West Virginia and his master’s degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee. He completed his fellowship for executives at the Advisory Board in Washington, D.C.

He has served as a board president or board member for governmental agencies, civic groups, and not-for-profit organizations, including former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s Council for College & Workforce Readiness (where he represented all businesses in Wisconsin); current Governor Tony Evers’ Career Development Committee; the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s Workforce Development Council; the Mount Mary University Board of Trustees; and others. He currently serves as Chairman of the Washington County Ethics Board.

John has always been an active member of his community. He has been the recipient of his community’s Citizen of the Year Award, and two school district’s Friend of Education Award. He and his wife, Pam, reside in Erin, Wisconsin.

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