The key to strategic plan success

February 2008 » Columns
A strategic plan helps Kleinfelder remain consistent with its vision, mission, and core values while promoting firm-wide profitable and responsible growth.
Gerald J. Salontai, P.E.

As a fast-growing provider of professional services with a wide breadth of expertise and range of services, it was clear that Kleinfelder needed to take a new approach to its business in order to be successful in the professional consulting industry on a national level.

Kleinfelder, Inc.

  • Headquarters: San Diego, Calif.
  • Number of offices: 66
  • Total number of employees: 2,150
  • Year firm was established: 1961
  • Total billings for last fiscal year: $290 million
In developing the 2010 Strategic Plan, the company wanted to remain consistent with its vision, mission, and core values while promoting firm-wide profitable and responsible growth. To that end, the firm set its sights on becoming a larger and more diverse organization, applying its resources as one company to local, national, and global clients. As an employee-owned company, firm-wide commitment to the goals laid out in the strategic plan was absolutely critical, and as with any plan, it became the roadmap to follow in determining the best direction for the firm.

Many firms do strategic planning, however, most do not communicate the entire contents of the plan to all of the employees, but keep it under wraps to a smaller segment of the company and may communicate only a few highlights company-wide. These plans are often dozens of pages long, complex, and contain definitive numerical targets with the average employee being generally unaware of the direction of the company. At the same time, many of these firms hold only their top leadership accountable for implementing the plan.

Kleinfelder has created and implemented strategic plans since the late 1980s. In recent years, the firm has experienced greater success with the plans by developing more concise documents and engaging a broader population of the company in plan implementation. To garner additional attention for the plan from all employees, the firm’s leadership believed it was necessary to take a nontraditional approach to writing and communicating the plan. It was determined that the plan needed to be clear and concise and could be shared, understood, and have value for the entire organization. Additionally, employee-owners needed to take ownership of the plan and believe in its ability to advance the company’s success.

In its entirety, the 2010 Strategic Plan fits on a single sheet of paper printed on both sides. This was a fresh departure from the past, especially considering the plan would determine the direction and operations of a major company for several years. Then each year, annual fiscal priorities are established that support one or more goals and strategies contained in the plan to ensure incremental progress is made toward achieving the plan. The simplicity of this approach is perhaps one of the primary reasons the employee-owners were so quick to adopt and implement the plan.

The roll-out presentation of the 2010 Strategic Plan was done in-person by members of the executive committee, including me. Each year, this team revisits Kleinfelder offices to discuss the previous fiscal year, priorities for the coming fiscal year, and overall progress toward the 2010 Strategic Plan. This annual return to the plan by the executive leadership not only promotes understanding of the plan and encourages its implementation but also enforces the leadership’s commitment to the plan’s success.

Local management and executive leadership continually refer back to the plan throughout the year to explain their decision making, client pursuits, and successful project ventures, and to develop annual goals with the intent of bringing the company closer to achieving its long-term vision. The plan is referred to and used in nearly every staff meeting held across the firm.

A concerted effort is made at every level of management to have every decision, no matter how small, clearly communicated and tied back to the strategic plan. Most importantly, individual goals for employees are directed to specific aspects of the objectives and strategies contained in the plan.

It is clear that employees have not only committed themselves to the plan but also believe in its ability to drive the company in a very exciting and successful new direction. The simplicity of the plan and the presentation given directly by members of executive leadership to nearly every Kleinfelder employee has made a clear difference in the success of its adoption and implementation.

This dynamic employee-owned firm has truly taken ownership of its future and will surely profit from the firm-wide commitment to its 2010 Strategic Plan—setting a bold new direction to ensure its place as a leader in the industry.

Gerald J. Salontai, P.E., is president and chief executive officer of Kleinfelder, Inc. He can be contacted at gsalontai@kleinfelder.com.


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