When I work with a firm to help develop its strategic plan, I especially enjoy meeting one-on-one with management and staff to listen to their thoughts and concerns. While each company has its own unique issues, I tend to hear one particular question a great deal: “Where is our firm going?”

Upon noticing this comment echoed by many people within the same firm, I usually can safely conclude that management is not communicating effectively – or sufficiently – with the staff. This creates a frustrating situation for everyone: staff members in architecture and engineering firms seem to have an insatiable appetite for information from management, and yet management doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable that they always have something worth communicating.

What’s the answer to the communications dilemma? Well, in addition to the great value of a strong strategic plan (yes I’m biased, but my bias is well-founded,) it turns out that a strategic plan is also the Ultimate Communications Tool. Armed with a powerful plan, management really has something worthwhile to talk about: a vision for where the firm is going; a roadmap describing how it will get there; and perhaps most importantly, the ability to describe to the staff how they fit into the plan.

A company whose strategic plan permeates the fabric of the firm can use its plan as an ongoing communications vehicle to keep people motivated, energized, and positively focused on their future with the firm. When top management continually refers to the plan, it gives the staff a sense of confidence that someone with a strong vision for the future is steering the ship. The staff members’ feeling of security that flows from this management approach is a no-cost technique to retaining your best employees.