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From Site Selection magazine, September 2023

The Home Stretch

Karen Shchuka


t’s appropriate in a way that this last letter in our series on building a new strategic plan happens as the IAMC Fall Forum convenes in Boise when we meet with our peers to share ideas and grow relationships.

Over the course of the series, we’ve studied the necessary steps to crafting a business plan for initiatives that expand the goals of the corporation, whether it be new ways to reduce cost, methodologies to expand our footprint or innovations to optimize our portfolio. Throughout, our relationships have figured heavily in the development of that plan. Now we’re in the home stretch, but there’s one more step to take before presenting your program to the C-Suite. Now you must seek honest critique.

At this point you’ve set the criteria for your plan, done your research and talked either formally with colleagues in your company or casually with broader industry peers, as you would at a Forum. You’ve pared that wealth of information down to a cohesive business case, highlighting both the associated costs, if any, and the benefits of the program.

Now it’s time to let the stakeholders most affected by the plan weigh in, sources such as your associates in Finance and Operations. Recognizing that their focus is by necessity specialized, you set their expectations when you were in your fact-finding stage, and you explained that not every idea can make it to the final version. If you haven’t done that, their expectation may be to see their suggestions cross the finish line.

It’s also important to be inclusive here of your own leadership. You can’t jump steps, knock on the president’s door and suggest a chat with the CFO. So, your boss, let’s say the SVP, should see your plan, comment and ultimately buy in, with a willingness to commit the necessary resources. Then up the chain of command you go, seeking comments and collecting support along the way.

Be sure to edit as you go. As confident in the program as you might be, it’s important that you abandon pride of ownership. Remember, you’ve embarked on this journey for the potential good of the company. Expect and accept changes. Allow those changes to inform and improve your program. Editing is key to its success.

By the way, the editing will continue, even if the program receives blessings straight up the line. By definition, such a program, outside the border of everyday business, is a pilot program. It might sound great on paper, but if it falls short in practice, it must be tweaked or even killed. Be happy to do so. Learn from the experience (there’s always another idea waiting in the wings) and move on. That’s what pilot programs are all about.

But that’s down the road. First, the C-Suite must buy in. At this point, you’ve garnered support from all the stakeholders, and you’re ready to make your presentation. Make sure your leadership is with you when you approach the corner office. And yes, plan to make this presentation in person. This isn’t a job for a simple email.

It’s important to present to corporate leaders the essential facts — the who, what, where and (most important) the why of the program. If your edited document is a 50-page tome, pare it down to a high-level presentation, tailored for quick absorption by extremely busy people.

Come to the meeting anticipating questions and knowing the answers beforehand. Keep backup matter, in appendix form, at the ready or available for their perusal. And then, let it go so senior leadership can decide the next course of action. Remember, the time you spent, the effort you put in, the vision you developed are all about the company and supporting leadership in the decisions they need to make. No matter what their decisions are, you will have served them well.

I said at the beginning how appropriate it was that this letter comes as IAMC’s Fall Forum convenes. I’m in my home stretch as well. Not only is it a fitting end to the series, but it also times well with the end of my tenure and PepsiCo’s Betsy Power taking the gavel as your 2023-2024 Chair. It’s been a pleasure and a great learning experience for me, and I’m sure Betsy will find it the same. Thank you all for your ongoing support. 

Karen Shchuka

Chair, IAMC Board of Directors

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