Bring in the Big shots

By Charlotte Hochman. Photo: Unsplash Reading Time: 3 minutes

‘Bring in the Big Shots’ is the first of four parts of ‘Lead On’, a series addressing how to involve others in the strategic planning process.

When involving many people in a strategic planning process, it is essential that the first person to show up be the head of the organization – one of the big shots. It is not only the presence, but the personal involvement of the leadership, that is required for other people to give their time, ideas and faith to the process of co-building a strategy with as many voices possible.

The person that people in the system associate to decison-making power needs to be in the front row of the process — be it the CEO, the dean, the mayor or whichever other title carries actual executive power in the given system.

We are not talking only about a formal invitation carrying their signature. While this is useful to show the organizational endorsement of the process, we are talking, beyond that, about that person showing genuine curiosity and a visible stake in the game.

This person needs to convene the others. And of course, they need to show up at every major meeting point – not only in body but in mind and soul, with humility, question marks, and the decision to dedicate the imminent session to active listening, a rare request for people in this position, rather than talking or taking position.

This person also needs to clarify the outcomes that the organizaton is trying to achieve by this process, otherwise they will be perceived as mere discussion meetings. There is a call for a clarity of purpose that only this person can provide.

It is important to understand that to ask for people in a system – be they students, employees or citizens – to give their time and ideas to co-building a strategy is a big ask. It should never be minimized by leadership. You are asking people to play a role that goes beyond their usual role, and to trust a process – co-building a strategy – which is new to them. They are helping leadership to do their job properly. So if whoever embodies leadership is not there to personally ask people to step in, and there when they show up at the meeting points, participants’ trust will be lost immediately.


Once the big shots are in the front row, the action can start.

Charlotte Hochman is the Executive Director of Wow!Labs, accelerating innovation for companies, cities and universities in emergent situations. She has founded incubators and designed curriculums for leading institutions. Charlotte is a Fulbright scholar, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at INSEAD, Designer-in-Residence at CCA in San Francisco, a BMW Foundation Responsible Leader, and a panelist at Obama’s Presidential Summit. Discover her work and access her guide "People spaces: How to create, convene and take part meaningfully in new spaces online”.



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