Tips from a F.I.S.H.erman

More than a year after the Focused Initiatives for making Success Happen (F.I.S.H.) initiative roll-out, Faber-Castell CEO Jamie Gallagher shares his advice on companywide strategic planning.

* Expect initial resistance. When the program was introduced at Faber-Castell, many employees said they couldn’t afford the time to do the additional work involved. Gallagher said management’s response was, “You can’t afford not to do this.” Once employees got involved in the process, many found it to be the most enjoyable part of their jobs.

* Be diligent and committed. “To launch this and then abandon it, it would be better if you never launched it at all because it would really strike at the heart of the level of commitment of the executive management team,” Gallagher says.

* Give immediate feedback. One F.I.S.H. group brought innovative ideas to the executive committee early in the process, but feedback was delayed, and the group began to lose motivation. “To let that go with an environment of uncertainty,or without some clear direction hinders the process,” Gallagher says.

* Fine-tune it. Don’t be afraid to abandon a project or initiative when it hits a dead end. “If (the employees) see that this is a dead end, you’ve got to trust them,” Gallagher says. “Drop that one and move on. … That’s why we have eight (initiatives) today, and we started with 15.”

* Just do it. “Get people involved and do it in-house because I can tell you we’re not running out any time soon to go find a strategic planning consultant,” he says.