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Written by David Ducheyne.

Strategy and HR

In 2019 I was one of the SHRM Bloggers. When I was looking through the program of SHRM 2019 Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas, I noticed the contribution of Sherrin Ross Ingram, the CEO of the International Center of Strategic Planning (Chicago, USA). Being a former CHRO who helps organizations to execute their strategy, I was immediately triggered. A speaker on strategy on an HR conference?

So I had the pleasure of exchanging some ideas about strategy and the role of HR in strategy execution.

The Center uses data on products and services in a variety of ways like helping organizations to better allocate resources, to facilitate strategic planning meetings, to act as interim chief strategy officer. They do whatever it takes to help people to develop a solid understanding of their strategy and to maintain consistent execution.

How to make strategy happen?

Aren’t strategies are often dead documents, gathering dust in a drawer? Why does this happen?

This comes from a time when people did five to 10-year strategic plans. The strategy document was always high level so that it did not seem relevant and practical for day-to-day operations. We want to make it simple. We focus on one-page-plans. We encourage our clients to reference that document daily to make it like a living document.

Some people say that strategic planning is out given the volatility of the markets. What would you say about that?

I obviously disagree. Too often people are shooting first and then aiming. It does not take that much effort to sit back and use a methodical process to go through a number of questions. And you’ll find that you’ll have more successes over time.

So, it’s about direction. Often people are not involved. How do we get people committing to the objectives?

One of the filters I will be using at the 2019 SHRM Conference is how an organization encourages contribution and collaboration on the strategic plan from different levels of the organization. Different levels have different perspectives. It’s a lost opportunity when companies think only the C-Suite has a vision and can meaningfully contribute to the plan. So, they come up with a great plan but don’t get the buy-in. Companies can do a lot of things to avoid that from simple surveys, to one-on-ones. The more people can contribute the more they want to see it succeed.

So, strategy is about co-creation?

Absolutely. It has to be a co-creation process if you want other people to execute it consistently. You can a put on a nice road-show to introduce the plan, but people will resort to old behavior and old thinking sooner or later without real buy-in.

Strategy is about change and behavior?

It’s sad when organizations have a strategy that doesn’t consider the individuals that will implement it. That means we need to understand which kind of behaviors need to be reinforced to make the execution successful. Almost everywhere I go, this behavioral aspect is ignored. But that is the “Essence of Strategy.”

What about resistance to strategy?

I was talking to a client who was frustrated about the level of execution in spite of the effort he had put in to developing the plan. But what he did was so left-brain without consideration for the individuals or the emotions that would drive the required behaviors. Most companies just assume that people will do what is necessary. And that’s not an accurate understanding of human nature.

What is in your opinion the involvement of the HR Profession in strategy?

Not only the HR profession is needed in strategy, it is another missed opportunity when they are not included. Good HR professionals not only look at the technical requirements of their job, they look at the human performance side as well and they hopefully develop strategies and support programs that help their companies to achieve their objectives. That’s what the good ones do.

Some companies still think that HR is an administrative or social profession.

That is unfortunate and a real lost opportunity. Bad HR people have given the good HR professionals a bad reputation. I worked with a company that resisted hiring its first HR manager because they saw HR as the enemy of management.

What’s the link between strategy and leadership?

You can’t have one without the other. Leaders who don’t do strategy are not real leaders… they are managers. And strategy without leadership is nothing more than wishful thinking. Strategy and leadership are integrally interconnected. The tag line of my company is leveraging the science and the art of strategy development and execution. Yes, there are best practices. But there’s also the art side, which includes the people side of operations. Strategies thrive when you blend the art and science in a harmonious way that supports the culture.

A final word of advice for leaders, what would be the golden nugget?

Always get outside perspectives. Vet your strategy with outside peers outside of your industry. Most leaders develop strategies and operate in the bubble of their company or industry culture. The biases of being in the bubble will deceive you into thinking that you are being innovative, but you’re not. It’s important to ask people from other industries for their insights and feedback.

So, is it about looking for the dissenting voice, the counterargument?

Yes, absolutely. You definitely want to have heard the counterarguments. It’s healthy to be aware of them even if you decide to ignore them.


Sherrin Ross Ingram, CEO of the International Center for Strategic Planning (Chicago, USA), is a Master Strategic Planning Facilitator and an Independent Corporate Board Director for companies in need of fresh strategies, an updated strategic plan, improved strategy execution, or restructuring to increase competitive advantage. She is a frequent speaker on strategy development, execution and leadership topics at business meetings and conferences around the world.

This article was published on the SHRMBlog 2019.


David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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