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One Day Strategic Planning Meeting - Sample Agenda
By Anthony Taylor - November 23, 2016
SME Strategy is a strategy consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations align their teams and operations around a shared vision, mission, values, goals, and action plans. Our strategic planning services offer guidance on how a strategic planning facilitator can provide support in constructing an effective strategic plan that ensures your strategy is communicated and implemented across your entire organization.
We've created this one-day strategic planning agenda to help with your planning needs, for those who don't have the time for a two-day session , or for those who may be reviewing their strategy on an ongoing basis.
Looking for a Virtual Strategy Session Agenda?
To maximize your time, make sure to get your team involved prior to your one day strategy meeting. Our free strategic planning questionnaire offers the key questions to help start your strategic planning process :
We have found that in a one-day planning session or meeting you have time for three or four important conversations.
Typically those are:
- Vision: Where are we going? Watch : How to Start the Vision Planning Process
- Mission/purpose: Why do we exist? Who is the customer we serve?
- Strategic Priorities: What do we need to focus on to achieve our Vision? Watch : How to Set Strategic Priorities
- Action planning for the strategic priorities
Depending on your organizational structure, and your organizational needs you'll need to do more or less discussion about Values, Threats, Competition, and SWOT.
A few things to note:
- This one day planning session is perfect if you have a small team of seven or so people. If you have more people, then you might want to leave more time.
- The survey is a survey we run with our clients to help them get in the right mindset, and ask the key questions before the session happens to cut down on some of the discussion.
- Strategic priorities, KPI's and the biggest priority all roll in together, but are separated because it leaves fluidity for ample conversation and to adapt the agenda.
We can help you align your team around a clear vision, mission, values, goals and action plans,
s o you can lead your organization more effectively and get better results.
This one-day planning agenda is great for a small company or non-profit that needs a refresher on the direction of the organization.
If you want to make the most of your limited time for strategic planning, learn more about using a strategic planning facilitator for your session.
Are you looking to create a more comprehensive team strategy?
View our sample: 2 day strategic planning agenda. .
Half day strategic planning session agenda topics:
If you are a business with more than 10 people we highly recommend that you host a one day strategic planning meeting at least every 12 months, ideally with a strategic planning consultant to allow everyone to participate as well as speak freely.
If your budget does not allow for a facilitator for a full day you can also explore running a half day or 3/4 day strategic planning session.
The session allows for 2-3 important conversations to get everyone on the same page.
Sample strategic planning agenda topics include:
Half day planning meeting agenda:
- Where have we found success in the past?
- Core Competencies/ competitive advantages
- SWOT (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
- Open discussions
- Where are we at right now as an organization? (Internally)
- What do we do well, where can we improve, what would we like to see? (3 wishes)
- Organizational values | Guiding principles.
- What negative behaviours might be addressed with a statement of values?
- To what degree do the stated values differ from actual behaviour?
- Why should we go there?
- What is winning?
Getting your team together for any amount of time to talk about strategy will produce benefits.
Whether you get together for a one-day planning session, go through the whole strategic planning process over two days, or meet for a few hours to talk about some key issues, it will help your team become more aligned, and be more clear on what needs to be done to move forward.
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How to hold a strategic planning meeting: A simple, step-by-step guide for facilitators
November 22, 2021
If you’re running or facilitating a strategic planning meeting, there are many factors to consider.
It’s much more than just bringing everyone together to have an open discussion — and it doesn’t just happen on its own, either.
There are several steps you can take to ensure that your strategic planning meeting runs smoothly, but it all starts with preparation.
Today, we’ll explore a few ideas to help you hold a successful session, starting with the basics.
Try Miro’s Strategic Planning Template
Table of contents
21 min read
What is strategic planning?
Best practices for running a successful strategic planning session
How to run a strategic planning meeting in 7 steps
Sample agenda for a strategic planning meeting
It all comes down to solid preparation and visuals.
Strategic planning is the process of analyzing a current situation within your organization and making sure it’s aligned with your specific objectives. If it isn’t, you and your team must develop a plan to “correct the path.”
So, why is strategic planning important?
In short, strategic planning helps you get from where you are today to the future you want. It’s a way of breaking down big, daunting goals into manageable steps that address your current situation and guide your work.
Here’s where strategic planning meetings come into play.
Meetings are the cornerstone of the strategic planning process.
These meetings are typically held by facilitators , but anyone can lead a strategic planning meeting.
We’ll provide you with specific instructions to hold a successful meeting a bit later, but first, let’s answer a crucial question.
What is the purpose of a strategic plan meeting?
Broadly speaking, a facilitator will use meetings to either:
- Gather specific information and feedback from team members, executives, and stakeholders.
- Help team members work together to solve problems, think strategically, and create new ideas to improve the organization.
These meetings aim to provide clarity in decision-making.
This is not a typical meeting where participants spend time reporting out. Strategy planning is all about brainstorming and collaboration .
This way, you can develop solutions to tangible problems in your organization and set the tone and strategic direction for your team.
Who needs to be included?
The best way to ensure that you get all of the most relevant voices in the room is to create an invite list.
Include people from each relevant department, if possible.
This way, you can cover a more complete spectrum of your company’s operations and activities.
You’ll want to include upper management, but don’t stop there.
Bring in members of the sales department, investor relations, human resources, and any other relevant departments or stakeholders.
You might also consider inviting people from outside of the organization who can provide a fresh perspective.
This is particularly useful for organizations that are doing business in a new market or have started offering new products.
Now that you understand the importance of effective strategic planning meetings, the question becomes, how do you actually hold one?
Let’s cover a few of the best practices:
Build buy-in before the meeting starts
First, you’ll want to build buy-in with everyone involved.
Keep what you’re doing top-of-mind, whether that’s through casual conversations or company-wide memos.
In addition, make sure to have a clear agenda prepared, so everyone knows what they can expect out of the meeting. Start by defining the goal, then detail how you’ll get there.
Also, get all the materials you need together in advance.
That may look like coordinating with IT to make sure everyone has access to company software, sending out pertinent documents in advance, or mapping out who will be speaking at the meeting.
Make sure to communicate your expectations clearly so that everyone knows what is expected of them and why.
You’ll want to spend time in your planning stages to keep the tone positive, while at the same time being realistic about what’s possible.
Ultimately, your goal should be to align the team around a shared vision and mission so that you can move forward with a shared perspective.
Now, how can you communicate this agenda?
We suggest you use a centralized space where everyone can see your agenda.
For example, you can use Miro’s Agenda template to create and share your agenda with participants.
You can also use the template to keep notes during the meeting and add refinements later.
This way, everyone can see what’s been discussed and the next steps for moving forward.
Remember; this should be a collaborative effort, so consider asking for ideas from everyone about what they’d like to see covered.
Just don’t forget to actually take those ideas into consideration.
Develop a transparent strategic planning process
During the strategic process, you’re inviting employees to have meaningful discussions around the company’s vision statement, strategic goals, and strategic objectives.
It’s important to have a roadmap in place for how you will facilitate the process so that employees know what to expect.
Your meeting should be an open, engaging discussion with transparent dialog. During the meeting, everyone should get a turn to talk.
Make sure you have a clear process that allows everyone to participate and feel heard, no matter what their role is.
In the planning stage of a meeting, it’s important to have as much input as possible.
You can involve everyone by holding a virtual brainstorming session with this brainstorming template . Once you create a board, you can invite people to collaborate in real-time.
This template helps you create a more engaging and collaborative session while allowing every person on the team to contribute their thoughts.
Create an agenda and stick to it
We all know what happens when an agenda is not set or adhered to.
Creating an agenda for your meeting helps you and your participants stay on track. This agenda should include topics, questions, milestones, and people.
Milestones are the larger topics that will be broken down into smaller questions, and these questions should flow to the ultimate goal of narrowing down your strategic priorities.
You can create milestones by putting together a list of discussion questions that will help your participants get on topic and help you check in with the group.
Your agenda might include an opening discussion, a brainstorming session on ideas, and a closing review of next steps.
When developing your agenda:
- Keep it short: The last thing you want is your meeting to drag on for no good reason, so try to limit each agenda item to ten minutes or less. The whole meeting should only take an hour or two, at most.
- Be selective: Don’t include too many topics or ideas that will bog down your meeting.
- Create a contingency plan: You never know what might happen during your meeting, so always have a backup plan in case your agenda falls through.
- Plan for breaks: For longer meetings or workshops, set aside at least half an hour to take a break, such as during lunchtime.
Make it interactive
As much as possible, you’ll want to make this a collaborative effort, so it’s important to get everyone involved.
For example, you might want to break the group down into smaller sub-teams to brainstorm opportunities for new product features.
You could also task each group with creating a list of opportunities for particular departments within your company.
The point is that you’ll want to encourage open and honest dialog about challenges your company is facing and, where possible, break down any barriers that might stand in the way of progress.
Make sure to collaboratively create strategy documents, provide regular updates on progress, and discuss strategic issues in real-time.
This way, you can work side-by-side to improve your performance, no matter where in the world your team members happen to be.
To get the most out of each session, you should prepare thoroughly — from the agenda to who you’ll involve and how.
Whether you’re holding a remote, hybrid, or in-person meeting, this process will help you out.
1. Define a clear outcome for the meeting
A strategic planning meeting can go totally off-the-rails if it’s held without a defined objective. That’s why the very first step is to define a clear, tangible goal for the meeting.
For example, your objective might be to better align social media with your marketing strategies .
In this case, your meeting might include a discussion on the purpose of social media, its role in the planning process, and how to better align your social media campaign with your organizational goals.
If your goal is to develop a new product , your meeting might look different.
Consider discussing who the target audience would be and how you can get in front of them. You could also discuss how the product should be positioned in the marketplace and what strategies you’ll use to get it there.
You can also set specific strategic planning meeting themes as part of your objectives, such as business growth or innovation.
The point is to be as specific as possible with your goal. That way, it’s easier for everyone to stay on task and make the right decisions.
2. Break the ice
A strategic planning meeting can be a big undertaking, so it’s important to break the ice by engaging participants in some friendly conversation.
You may want to ask participants what they think of the company’s latest direction or engage them in a fun icebreaker activity.
You can also ask them what they think of the new business strategy and how they would implement it.
Or you could ask participants to complete an activity that allows them to interact with one another and develop a better understanding of each other’s unique skills.
For instance, you could assign participants to form teams, then ask them to create a project plan to solve an issue the company might be experiencing.
You can also break the ice by having participants introduce themselves.
If you’re holding a remote or hybrid meeting, you could have participants discuss what they think in a private online chat room, or you could use an instant messaging program for the same purpose.
Make sure they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas with each other before starting the main agenda.
The bottom line?
The more connected the group is prior to the meeting, the more effective the meeting will be.
3. Set clear expectations
Once you know what you want out of the meeting, the next step is to communicate any expectations of participants, such as things they should prepare in advance of the meeting.
Here are some useful guidelines to keep in mind when you’re setting expectations:
- Provide details: The more detail you provide, the clearer it will be as to what’s required.
- Assign roles: Make sure everyone knows their role and responsibilities within the meeting audience.
- Use timelines: Use timelines to remind everyone of what needs to be completed before the meeting and send reminders if necessary.
- Communicate effectively : Encourage participants to talk with their teams about the fact strategy planning is happening. They may want to set up smaller meetings to gather input for the strategy planning workshop or to share the outputs after the meeting to give employees a chance to ask questions..
4. Set ground rules for behavior
Before the meeting starts, make sure everyone knows the rules.
This is especially important when working with external stakeholders.
For example, you might say something like:
“The goal of this meeting is to develop the strategic plan for the next quarter. We want to minimize distractions, so please don’t check your phone during the meeting.”
Another good idea is to let participants know how they’ll be evaluated. For example, if you’re trying to make progress on a project, you might say something like:
“Let’s try and reach a consensus on the first three points. If we can do that, we’ll consider the meeting a success.”
If you’re dealing with a remote or hybrid team, you should take the time to define online behavior standards. For instance, you could say something like:
“If you have a question, please type it in the chat window. Using outside chat programs is not permitted during the meeting.”
This way, you’ll have everyone invested in the outcome.
5. Identify potential challenges
Before the meeting starts, it’s always good to identify potential areas of conflict that might derail the process.
For example, what would happen if someone had to leave halfway through? Will the meeting continue without them, or will you reconvene once they’re back?
You should also consider how to handle difficult participants. Can you remove a difficult participant from the meeting before they hijack all of your time?
What happens if a disagreement comes up and it’s not resolved?
You should prepare for all these things in advance and have a plan ready if they do happen. For example, consider using a countdown timer for specific agenda items or presentations, so that time is allocated fairly.
If you identify potential challenges early on, you can keep an eye out for them as the meeting proceeds.
6. Encourage full participation
Remember that you’re asking people to spend time — and sometimes travel — to participate in your meeting.
It’s essential that everyone feels like they have the opportunity to participate. The best way to do this is by mentioning at the beginning of the meeting that you’d like everyone’s input throughout.
Make sure to keep an eye out for people who aren’t speaking up. If it seems like they may have something to contribute, ask them for their thoughts on the topic.
Also, make sure everyone knows that participation is critical. If you need to take a vote on something, remind people what the vote is about and why it matters.
Finally, make sure you’re speaking in terms that everyone in the room can understand. If there are people who are new to the organization, spend a moment explaining any acronyms you use.
This will allow everyone to feel like they can give their input with ease, leading to a more successful meeting.
7. Use visuals and brainstorming tools to communicate ideas
Having everyone on the same page is critical, even if they can’t be in the same room.
Here’s where visuals and collaboration platforms come in handy.
Using collaborative tools, like our brainstorming templates helps you organize work and removes some of the stress of coming up with ideas on the spot.
It also encourages people to provide input and makes them feel like they have a stake in the outcome.
For instance, you can use Miro’s Reverse Brainstorming template to come up with innovative ideas and display them in real-time. You can save the meeting content on the board too, so you can send it to participants after the meeting.
This can be especially useful if you have multiple participants in different locations involved at the same time. They may not be able to physically attend the meeting, but they can still provide valuable input.
Also, we provide you with a fully customizable strategic plan template .
You can adapt this template to fit your exact business needs and standardize your meetings with ease.
You need to make sure your strategic planning meeting agenda is detailed and thorough enough to keep you on task.
Start with an overview of what you’ll be discussing, then move into individual department updates. This is where you highlight progress against targets.
Finally, spend some time outlining your organizational goals moving forward and, of course, always leave time for questions.
To help you better understand what a strategy planning session might look like in the real world, here’s a sample agenda:
- 10am–11am: Welcome and meeting goals
- 11am–12pm: Leadership team updates
- 12pm–1pm: Department updates
- 1pm–2pm: Lunch break
- 2pm–3pm: Analyze challenges and problems
- 3pm–4pm: Ideate solutions
- 4pm–5pm: Discuss and gain consensus on solutions and goals
- 5pm–6pm: Assign tasks and responsibilities for strategy execution
- 6pm–7pm: Q&A
The best way to ensure your meeting runs smoothly and effectively is to prepare it with anticipation. By creating a clear agenda, you’re able to get the most out of your session.
Also, the use of visuals and brainstorming tools helps you collaborate with your team and communicate your critical points more effectively.
You can hold your planning meetings in a more visual way by creating a board and sharing with your team.
Also, you can use the strategic planning meeting template to get started with fewer headaches.
Want an action-oriented framework to help your team continuously improve?
Try the strategic planning template.
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The 8-part guide to leading a successful strategy meeting, if you follow all the steps in this guide, you’ll end up with consistently effective strategy meetings..
'Hey, are you ready for our meeting?' This is the dreaded question we hear so many times a day, in a work culture filled with meetings. You want your meeting to be the one that people don't dread. The one that has an agenda, clear goals, and everyone is prepared for. Use our guide to make sure that your strategy meetings are the ones that people look forward to (and dare we say, the ones that are fun). After all, a key part of a successful strategy implementation process is getting everyone "rowing in the same direction." And if you’re a ClearPoint user—or considering using ClearPoint for strategy reporting—we’ve added some guidance around how to incorporate it seamlessly into your meetings, and use it to your best advantage.
Table Of Contents
- An Introduction To Strategy Review Meetings
- Defining The Process
- Meeting Preparation
- The Meeting
- Maintaining Momentum
- Mistakes To Avoid
1. An Introduction To Strategy Review Meetings
If you want to improve performance in your organization, it all starts with strategy. Strategic objectives are vital to the success of your organization’s future. But, unfortunately, many organizations (nine out of 10 by some estimates) hold strategy review meetings and then fail to execute.
If you want to ensure the success and productivity of these meetings, you need leadership buy-in, and you’ll need to practice some specific steps. This guide delves into the five stages of holding an effective strategy review meeting:
What Are Strategy Review Meetings?
A strategy review meeting is exactly what it sounds like: a meeting focused entirely on strategy. It doesn’t matter what you call it (a business performance review, a data-driven review, a strategic review, a stat session, quarterly reporting, or even just a meeting with your organization’s leadership), there are factors that all strategy review meetings have in common—they are regularly-scheduled meetings that focus on using data to assess and improve progress on a number of priorities within an organization. Oftentimes board meetings have an element of strategy review and reporting in them.
These meetings are all about strategic objectives (or goals). What is your organization trying to accomplish? Are you making progress toward these goals? What are you doing to improve your performance?
What Not To Do At A Strategy Review Meeting
A strategy meeting does not involve any discussion about operations. In strategy meetings, you should be asking questions like, “Are we showing results? Are we making an impact?” Save questions like, “What have you done this month? Are you on target to finish this project?” for an operations meeting.
In short, operations meetings measure, “Are we doing things right?” while strategy meetings measure, “Are we doing the right things?”
Why Should I Hold Strategy Review Meetings?
Did you know that leadership teams spend less than three hours a month on strategy, and nine out of 10 fail to execute? You need to beat the odds. It’ll require work, but it’s work that is well worth it.
Pre-scheduled, regular strategy review meetings (where all other topics of discussion are off-limits) can help your top management team avoid these common roadblocks. Do any of these sound like your organization?
- Top management teams spend relatively little time together.
- Agenda-setting is unfocused and undisciplined in upper management meetings.
- Top management meetings are not decision-oriented.
- Strategy and operations are usually combined into one meeting, but operations fire-fighting always crowds out strategy.
Both strategy review meetings and operations review meetings give you an opportunity to stop and look at data, but strategy review meetings take things a step further, allowing you to analyze what the data is telling you and make decisions about course-correction and adjustments. Because it’s so easy to get caught up in day-to-day operations, strategy review meetings serve to keep strategic objectives at the center of the management process.
With strategy “at the center,” your measures reflect your strategic priorities, not just the common measures of the industry you are in. It also ensures that you fully execute on projects rather than just concentrating on your budget (without concern about whether or not projects get completed).
Typically, leadership teams and strategy offices spend one to two days a year developing strategic goals, but then go back to their jobs, where daily operations squeeze out strategy. The binder with all the strategic thinking and planning just gathers dust on the shelf. At the end of the year, organizations look back on their strategy and try to guess what they did well and what they didn’t. They report on what they did, not what they said they would do. And by doing that, they’re missing something huge.
Let’s look at an example. An upper-management team of a New England convenience store chain came up with a new strategy—“surprise and delight the customer.” They thought the shopping experience of their typical store was boring and that they needed to “mix things up.” So, every few days, they would reorganize their stores, thinking they were surprising and delighting their customers.
However, by looking at mystery shopper information in strategy review meetings, they learned very quickly that people hated it. Feedback they’d received indicated that the typical convenience store shopper visited that store because it was convenient—it was small and they could get in and out quickly because they knew exactly where to go. Without regular strategy reviews, the management team would not have realized the negative impact of executing this particular strategy. It proves the old adage, “the only thing worse than bad news is bad news late.”
This story shows how important it is to check in on your strategic efforts. Of course, the realization that “our strategy isn’t the right strategy” isn’t the only reason you need to review your objectives. You may need to consider any of these possibilities: a changing environment, a new technology, budget cuts/increases, as well as a variety of other factors.
The ultimate goal is to implement your strategy. And the first step to making that happen is taking the time to review it. You know what they say, “what gets measured gets done.” But it’s not going to get measured unless it gets looked at. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary to schedule time to look at your strategy and review it. Only then can you start having an impact.
What Are The Benefits?
Your organization has so much to gain through carrying out strategy review meetings. Here are just a few of the benefits:
Facilitating the identification and subsequent adoption of opportunities for improvement. There are a lot of good ideas that come from discussing key issues more broadly across the organization. For example, an oil and gas corporation communicated their strategy to all of their employees, and part of that strategy identified a target customer segment (middle- to upper-class women who wanted a clean, well-lit filling station and to feel safe while making purchases). The IT department had already been innovating some near-field communication technology and developed a “speed purchase” tool to help this customer segment meet their needs by not having to pull out a wallet, which increased the speed of their purchase. It was wildly successful, and when it was implemented inside the convenience stores, it made for bigger purchases.
Providing a focused forum to identify winning and struggling areas or departments within your organization. When winning areas have been identified, best practices can be shared and implemented throughout the organization. Conversely, once struggling areas are brought to attention, you can decide if they need additional resources (either financial or human) to alter or invest in their strategy. You can also pair similar departments to share best practices and support struggling areas.
Helping departments work collaboratively. Strategy meetings force departments to talk about key issues/thematic areas that they need to collaborate on. For example, take a soda company who has decided that by altering the look of their soda cans, they can become more efficient and save money. Senior leadership thinks it’s a great idea and they move forward. However, the marketing department, who has no knowledge of this change, continues with their previous branding and marketing campaigns. When the error was recognized, the manufacturing changes cause the company to lose money. A strategy review meeting could’ve helped the company avoid this mess.
Improving transparency and accountability. Strategy review meetings keep leadership informed of what is going on within every level of the organization. They cut through the inevitable force fields so leadership can engage and help mitigate those problems. In addition, strategy review meetings help reinforce goals for the organization—they help departments feel accountable for progress toward those goals and encourage the work it takes to accomplish them.
Aligning resources and making informed budget decisions. Strategy review meetings highlight departments or programs that may need additional funding to be successful. They are also a good place to see if you are putting your money where your strategy is.
Are There Any Prerequisites For Strategy Review Meetings?
Absolutely. You can’t move forward with strategy review meetings unless these things are in place:
- Dedicated time on the calendar.
- Willingness to learn a new process and approach.
- Resources. Strategy review meetings are not just another staff meeting. They take preparation and follow-up. You will need people and time to make them successful.
- Engaged leadership.
Engaged leadership is the most important prerequisite. We know of a 200-million-dollar operation that decided at the senior executive level that they wanted to develop a balanced scorecard and hold strategy review meetings. They hired consultants to come in and set up the process—everything was set up for success. However, during the first three meetings, the chief executive would kick-off the meeting, but then leave. In doing this, he signaled to the rest of the organization that there were more important things than their strategy review meetings.
As a result, the process failed within six months. Leadership in the organization sets the standards for what is acceptable and needs to lead by example. Those in leadership positions in your company need to understand “what’s in it for me” and “what’s in it for us,” and commit to spending time and engaging in the meetings.
2. Defining The Process
To ensure successful strategy review meetings, you’ll need to make sure you clearly define the process. This means determining the right meeting attendees and creating a good information-gathering process. Make sure your meetings are timely based on your organization’s goals. Get the team to buy in to the agenda and the outcomes of the meeting. Because these meetings take time and effort, reduce the burden of the leadership team as much as possible so they’re sustainable.
Who Should Attend Strategy Review Meetings?
Getting the right team in place is extremely important to the success of your strategy review meetings—you need people who understand the organization, can speak with authority, and get approvals. Continuity in attendance is also critical.
This team will more than likely include the CEO (Managing Director, Executive Director, City Manager, etc.), and her direct reports. If you are discussing a particular project, then the project manager should be in attendance. If you are looking at new data, the data collector should be there. If there is poor or exemplary performance in a particular department, then have the director of that department attend. Just make sure you have the appropriate people for the agenda being discussed.
In most cases, you should include staff-level participants. After all, they have the subject matter expertise, and staff are often the parties truly doing the work—they can provide more context for discussions. But think of the staff members as “special teams”—they’re not in the room all the time, but are there to cover specific items as necessary.
What happens if the right people aren’t in the room?
One school district was grappling with recruiting teachers. At their strategy review meeting, they were attempting to delve into the issues surrounding this challenge—in particular, how do they develop a more substantial pipeline of qualified teachers? The people who could have answered that question, however, weren’t there. The talent management chief and HR representative were both absent, so they couldn’t shed light on what they had tried that didn’t work or what particular challenges they needed help overcoming. Without these people in the room, the discussion around this challenge proved useless, frustrating for all involved, and no decisions could be made.
Who Should Not Attend Strategy Review Meetings?
There are a few reasons why someone shouldn’t be invited to these meetings. Here’s a list of criteria you should run through to make sure you aren’t choosing the wrong people:
- Don’t invite someone at the wrong level of your organization that might misconstrue the discussion, or that wouldn’t be a good representative.
- Don’t invite someone who wouldn’t know what to divulge to others and what to keep to themselves.
- Don’t invite someone who can’t see the big picture outside of their project, or one who wants to discuss the details of their project ad nauseam.
At a strategy review meeting, participants do not need to know strategy specifics (like the next topic of your marketing department’s ebook). They just need to know if a particular strategy is on track and on budget. If there are problems, then they should be discussed, but the meeting participants shouldn’t get entangled in the details.
When Should Strategy Review Meetings Be Held?
As a basic rule, you should always make sure your meetings are timely. When scheduling, ask yourself, “When is new data available?”
If the meeting focuses on your fall strategy, then it should be held quarterly. If your meeting is thematic or department-focused, then it should be held more frequently—monthly or every six weeks.
In general, quarterly meetings should be held within 30 days of the end of the quarter, and monthly meetings should be held within 10 days of the end of the month.
For example, a line manufacturing organization has their meetings on the tenth day after the end of each monthly close. Data is due on day seven, a review document is sent on day eight, and the information is discussed on day 10. The meeting isn’t focused on how many widgets have been produced—it’s more about adjusting to more profitable widgets and customers, improving the forecasting process, planning for raw material costs, and developing new partnerships in appropriate niches.
How Do I Get These Meetings Started?
Since these meetings take time and require team buy-in, here are some tips to help get things started:
- Check out the current executive meeting calendar. See what meetings can be modified or replaced. Try your best not to add to meeting time—instead, try to make better use of the meeting time you already have. If the leadership team already meets weekly, see if you can adjust one of the meetings each month to be more focused on strategy. If the team already meets monthly, see if you can adjust one meeting each quarter for strategy.
- Ensure that the top executive is engaged in and supports the process. They need to be able to take on a leadership role during the meeting. They may need to be engaged in the preparation depending on the subject being discussed.
- Create a set of common objectives and benefits for each of the team members invited.
- Include departments in meeting design. This will ensure that it is a collaborative process and will help with organizational buy-in. The success of these meetings hinges not only on leadership engagement, but also getting an organization to work together in providing timely data reporting. Departments should feel like willing participants and see these meetings as a useful tool to improve program performance.
- Be realistic when you start. At first, these meetings will seem like a lot of work. That’s because they are. They’re both a different way of reporting and a different way of managing. But, over time, with commitment, the meetings will get better and more effective. It’s not unusual for meetings to shrink as much as 75% in length as the participants get used to the format.
It’s not unusual for meetings to shrink as much as 75% in length as the participants get used to the format.
How Should The Meetings Be Structured?
How Can I Reduce The Burden?
These meetings are a lot of work. So, to the extent possible, put standardization processes in place. Determine a set calendar for meeting dates and reporting deadlines, and then stick to it. Standardize forms for collecting data or invest in online reporting tools that can greatly reduce staff burden and free up time for them to do a more substantial data analysis. This will generate better discussion at your meetings.
Standardized processes can include the following:
- Data-collecting forms .
- A timeline —from sending out the data call, to the meeting invitations, to sending a follow-up note and so forth.
- Invite lists —have consistent invite lists for each meeting.
- Key contact lists —know who to contact for what in each department. Is there a contact within the department who can coordinate data collection, notify you of staffing changes if someone else should now be attending the meeting, and answer any clarification questions you have around the data or program specifics?
- A process for capturing and monitoring action items —if this follows a set model every time, you are less likely to get pushback.
- A process for data collection and report generation —after you conduct two or more meetings, this will be easier to work on automating.
3. Meeting Preparation
Schedule a meeting time and collect the necessary data. Make sure you receive all the data in enough time to analyze it and write a report. Then, create an agenda and send it (along with the data analysis report) to meeting attendees in advance so they can prepare. It’s important to pave a path of success starting with the first meeting—teach meeting participants exactly what strategy review meetings are, establish a tone of trust and collaboration, and adopt a decision-making process.
Schedule A Meeting Time & Prepare Data
Once you put your meeting on the calendar, it’s time to begin collecting data. Here are some things to think through and action steps to take as you begin the preparation process.
- Make attendance mandatory. When necessary, draft emails for leadership to send to ensure that everyone who needs to be in the meeting is there. This is where leadership commitment comes into play. A strategy review meeting without the right people in the room is an expensive waste of time.
- Limit the number of participants. Conversely, too many people can detract from the conversation. Make sure the people in the room are people who might be called on to actively participate in the meeting.
- Request accurate data in a timely manner. Inevitably, some departments will be late providing this information, or out on vacation when you need it, so make sure the meeting is scheduled out far enough in advance so that there is ample time to gather the data. (Do not reward late behavior—if you don’t have the data necessary, just skip the review and force those with the missing data to lead the discussion the second time.)
- Review data. Go through the most recent data and write an analysis about trends or emerging issues. Keeping consistent charts for presenting data is really helpful and will speed up your meeting.
- Update status indicators. Update green/yellow/red status indicators for each measure and initiative.
Make a report. Include data, your data analysis, and status indicator updates. Remember to keep your report format consistent from one meeting to the next.
Create An Agenda
What To Cover
To ensure that you’ll be using your meeting time wisely, think through these questions as you begin to develop your agenda.
- The focus of the meeting should be on making decisions, not having discussions.
- Operations meetings should be separate from strategy meetings.
- Before you add an item to the agenda, measure it’s real value.
To help you as you’re choosing topics of discussion, ask yourself questions like:
- Why are we having this meeting?
- What do we need to have accomplished when we are done?
- What are the key issues we should cover?
Keep in mind that a strategy review meeting agenda may just look like a review of goals, measures, and initiatives, a validation of strategy, and a continuation of current strategic projects and direction. Every meeting does not have to include “bet the company” decisions.
An Example Agenda
Get People Ready
You’ll need to prep the leadership and attendees effectively if you want your strategy review meeting to be a success. Provide materials ahead of time so they can familiarize themselves with the content and formulate their own questions.
This means once you’ve finished writing the report of your data analysis and created an agenda, you should send them to both leadership and participants immediately. The data should be presented with recommended decisions in advance of the meeting. If everyone comes to the meeting prepared, it will allow for a more efficient use of time.
Sending recommendations before the meeting doesn’t mean a decision has taken place—it just allows the leadership team to prepare appropriately. To ensure that this is successful, consider pre-presenting and talking through the materials with leadership.
Feel free to be open about what will be discussed so that everyone is prepared and feels that the process is transparent. (This will also help to make sure that the right people are in the room.)
Make The First Meeting A Success
- Provide training on why you’re doing these meetings and how they should be run. (For example, share this post with the team.)
- Give an overview of the language and provide a tutorial session on performance measures because not everyone speaks that language.
Strategy : A strategy is a long-term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. Strategy is differentiated from tactics or immediate actions with resources at hand by its nature of being extensively premeditated, and often practically rehearsed. Strategies are used to make the problem or problems easier to understand and solve. Organization strategy typically describes a future state, as well as the process of getting to that place. Some people describe it as a destination, as well as a description of the road to take in order to get to the destination.
Operations : The daily and weekly job of ensuring that your standard procedures are operating as expected.
Ownership : In regard to strategy review meetings, this is the person that is responsible for knowing and understanding particular objectives or goals. They would be responsible for reporting about the progress being made to achieve the objectives and the actions being taken to close gaps.
Accountability : This term usually goes hand-in-hand with “ownership,” and implies that a person is not only responsible for knowing and understanding particular objectives or goals, but is also responsible for the achievement of key measures. This is not always the case in a strategy review meeting because many of the goals require multiple people and teams across the organization to work well together to achieve the goals.
- Consider scripting the first meeting, or having an outside facilitator sit in the first few meetings to ensure the process works (even if decisions aren’t made or the discussion is not high quality yet).
Setting the right tone is extremely important—it should be one of trust and collaboration. Establish principles to build that trust. For example, trust can be built by providing a framework for the review process and collaboratively agreeing on the principles by which the review would operate.
There are two extremes in a decision-making process. One is when those on a leadership team talk, come to a consensus on the issue, and then move forward. The other is when a CEO or director makes a decision—he or she might use input from the leadership team to inform the decision, but the final decision is made by an individual.
What is your decision making process? Would everyone in your organization agree or is the process unclear?
Whatever the case, make sure you adopt a common decision-making process. Below is an example of one that could be held in your organization. Be especially cognizant of how step four works (making a decision).
4. The Meeting
Encourage candid dialogue and critique in the meeting itself—people tend to want to focus on the positives, but discussing the negatives is critical. Take notes about everything discussed, including action items, so that the meeting is productive. It’s important to use your participants’ time wisely, so don’t be afraid to keep everyone task-oriented. (Use that agenda you created!) In order to stay on track, do a “pulse check” every so often—if your conversation has gotten off-topic or more in-depth than you thought it would, consider saving it for another meeting and moving on.
- Look at yourself critically. People want to put a positive spin on things. Don’t. If there is negative information, it should be included and even a focus of the meeting.
- Use participants’ time wisely. Keep meetings to an appropriate length. Use “bullet formatting” instead of narrative to elucidate important points.
- Use facilitation techniques. Don’t let the meeting agenda get derailed.
- Have a “parking lot” for issues that arise that may warrant further discussion but are not appropriate for this meeting.
- Stick to the agenda at all times if possible. Try to adjust for a future meeting, but not the current meeting. Remember, you are changing behavior and teaching people to use time effectively.
- Promote candid dialogue. Encourage people to speak up. Make sure they know that this is not meant to be punitive, but a collaborative process driving a continuous dialogue. This may need to be prompted in the first few meetings.
Someone should always be jotting things down. You need to be capturing action items, recommendations, and decisions during the meeting.
There are two types of action items—those that are already approved by the leadership, and those which are potential action items that will be identified for the future. The potential actions items need to go to leadership for approval, which takes time and planning. Those action items might be relevant for discussion and consideration at future review meetings.
Once the meeting is through, review action items as a whole to ensure consensus and assign responsibility and due dates. Make sure you have accountability for every action item before leaving.
Stay On Track
What do you do if your meeting derails? Try scheduling breaks and determine if the content you are working on is appropriate for this particular meeting.
Do a “pulse check” every so often. Are we going to make a decision now, or should we have a separate meeting? Is this something we should table or ask a smaller team to make more progress on before it comes back to this team of people? Some difficult decisions could be worth sending your agenda off track. However, if you think you have an additional half hour of discussion left and you don’t think you’re going to make progress, then it’s not worth it to keep discussing it.
If you know your leadership team gets distracted regularly, try starting the first meeting with two questions: “What typically derails these meetings? How can we prevent that during this meeting?” This will give the facilitator permission to keep the meeting on track.
The meeting can’t be a success without following up afterward to make sure action is taken on the decisions that were made. Distribute the notes you took during the meeting to both the meeting participants and anyone else in the organization who needs them. And set up a process for tracking action items and due dates so things don’t slip through the cracks. Throughout the process, think critically about your measures.
You Aren’t Done Yet
- In order for strategy review meetings to be a success, you can’t just walk away when the meeting is over. There are several follow-up steps you need to take.
- It’s important to distribute notes to meeting attendees within 24 hours of the meeting—this is when decisions are fresh and enthusiasm is high. Don’t miss this window of opportunity! Actions happen most often after meeting minutes are released.
- Make sure you’re communicating with everyone necessary. Depending on the meeting and the content, you may want to send a second set of meeting notes to the rest of the organization to ensure that key decisions have been communicated.
- Next, set up a process for tracking action items and due dates. Reach out to responsible parties to do a status-check on action items or send reminders a week or two before they’re due.
- Finally, at start of the subsequent review meeting, review and recap each of the action items.
Think Critically About Your Measures
- Remember to use your meeting to re-assess your performance measures. Which measures are working well and should be kept? Which performance measures should be dropped or replaced because they aren’t really telling us how the objective is doing?
- Manage any changing of measures to be proposed outside of the meeting and run future meetings with the current and the proposed to get consensus that the proposed is providing better information than the current, not just a rosier picture for the person accountable for the measure.
- Try to make sure targets are not constantly changing during the year, but do note underperformance or major shifts in the assumptions around the initial target setting process. (If targets are constantly changing, then the organization loses focus and any sense of urgency or realism to a strategic planning process.)
6. Maintaining Momentum
Sustainability is about culture change. You need to generate an understanding of the process and get buy-in—make sure everyone involved understands what the process is and why you’re doing it. (Especially leadership.) Work on continually improving and streamlining your processes in order to reduce the burden on everyone involved; make the procedure for each meeting repeatable.
Keeping Momentum Is About Establishing Good Habits
Your goal should be making the strategy review process a part of your company’s “business as usual.” Keep the meetings relevant and leadership engaged.
How do you ensure that senior leadership engagement? First and foremost, make sure decisions get made in your meetings. The meetings need to be focused solely on strategy with active and candid dialogue in order to get things accomplished. Other than the meeting itself, leadership involvement isn’t particularly time-intensive, so capitalize on the time that they are involved. Then, make sure results happen based on the decisions you make so leadership can see that it is making a difference.
Identify lessons learned and how to improve the process going forward. Again, make sure your meetings stay relevant. Rate the quality of each meeting after it’s finished—what would you change? How could you do it better? Listen and react quickly as a meeting facilitator. Work carefully with the top executive to ensure you are delivering value.
You also need to generate an understanding of the process and get buy-in—make sure everyone involved understands what the process is and why you’re doing it. Allow them the opportunity to give feedback/make recommendations. This process is meant to be helpful for everyone, so make sure to work with each department to ensure that the process will also meet their needs.
Make The Process Repeatable
In order to make strategy review meetings sustainable, they can’t be a burden. So make sure they aren’t! A great analyst and reporting staff can make this seamless. Giving access to information on mobile products, sending automated emails, and pre-reading of the highlights are critical.
Follow these steps to streamline your meeting process.
- Ensure a timeline.
- Automate data requests.
- Use technology to standardize the format of your data. A consistent set of charts means that time in meetings will be spent wisely.
- Allow visibility between meetings.
- Don’t allow leadership to miss meetings —make these strategy meetings the most important review meeting each month.
- Ensure you have a clean history of meeting actions and that there is follow-through.
- Constantly check on the value of the meetings. (You may even want to give a simple survey about the meetings after they’re through—have attendees rate the meeting on a scale of 1-5. Ask them what they would change.)
Use a Three year/Five Year Strategic Plan to keep your momentum when going for long term goals
7. Mistakes To Avoid
To ensure the success of your strategy review meetings, avoid having the wrong people in the room and unengaged leadership. Stay away from time-consuming prep, but make sure that everyone is prepared enough for the meeting to be effective. It’s easy to get wrapped up in “the big picture,” so remember that you also need action items and measures you can manage as takeaways from your meetings. And, of course, always follow up. Follow-through on action items is critical to these strategy meetings making a difference in your organization.
Common Roadblocks To Avoid
- Unengaged leadership : We can’t mention this one enough. If your leadership isn’t engaged, then your attendees won’t be either. The future success of your meetings depends on leadership buy-in.
- Poor data quality or poor response to data call : The data won’t be perfect at first—just make sure it evolves. You may have to push departments to provide data at first. It’s okay if participants feel that they don’t have sufficient data—use these meetings as a forcing mechanism for them to start collecting it.
- An improper balance between intermediate outcome measures and output measures : You need to be looking at outcomes and “the big picture,” but you also need action items and measures you can manage.
- Time-consuming prep : Streamlining every process and making things repeatable is crucial.
- The wrong people in the room : Remember, meeting attendees need to understand the organization, be able to speak with authority, and get approvals.
- No follow-up : If there isn’t any follow-up, you’ve just wasted everyone’s time! Follow-through on action items is critical to these strategy meetings making a difference in your organization.
- No valuable discussion : This meeting is not a “show and tell” for everything a department is doing. It is meant to have targeted discussions around key success or problem areas.
Behaviors That Will Derail Your Meeting
People can be as challenging as the process. Don’t allow these few behaviors to get in the way of meeting progress.
- Complexity —don’t allow presenters to get entangled in the details. Keep the conversation at the right level by limiting the agenda and having a facilitator manage what is presented.
- “Siloed” —only present information that is relevant to the strategy for the people in the room. There is no need for a business unit to present information that is not connected to the enterprise strategy.
- Doubting numbers —do not allow any fighting about the numbers. They are what they are. Make it a point to clean up the source for the next meeting, but do not waste time during your current meeting fighting the data. Your meeting isn’t about details—it’s about strategy.
- Forgetfulness —do not tolerate executives ignoring their prep work. Show it as blank and let the CEO or equivalent manage the non-performer. Heap praise on those that are doing great work and contributing. Do everything you can to reward good behavior.
If you want to improve performance in your organization, it all starts with strategy. Strategic objectives are vital to the success of your organization’s future. But, unfortunately, many organizations (nine out of 10 by some estimates) set bold strategic goals and fail to execute.
If you want to increase the odds of success, then you need to have effective and regular strategy review meetings. You’ll need leadership buy-in, and you’ll need to practice some specific steps. There are five stages of holding an effective strategy review meeting: defining the process, meeting preparation, the meeting itself, follow-up, and maintaining momentum.
1. Defining The Process
2. meeting preparation, 3. the meeting, 4. follow-up, 5. maintaining momentum.
It is possible to have regularly-scheduled, productive strategy review meetings within your organization. Follow the steps outlined in this guide, and you’ll see what a huge impact it can have on the success of your company!
Want to take this eight-part guide with you or send it to your team? Click below to download the full PDF version for free.
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Your Strategy Planning Meeting Agenda (with Template)
Have you been asked to pull together a strategy planning meeting agenda? And you’re wondering what other people do in their strategic planning sessions… I’ve been there!
In this article, I’ll explain what a strategic planning meeting can cover and share a sample agenda you can customize for your strategy sessions.
Strategy planning doesn’t just happen. You can’t put people in a room and expect there to be a 3-year plan at the end of it. The conversations need a structure to help keep the pace and ensure the meeting runs smoothly. And that’s where the agenda comes in, as part of your pre-meeting prep.
What should a strategic planning meeting include?
A strategic planning meeting should include:
- A review of organizational objectives
- An assessment of how you are doing against those objectives
- Decisions around what needs to be sped up, slowed down, started or stopped in order to better align activity with the objectives.
If you think about the point of having a strategy discussion, it’s really to either define the strategy or to decide if you are on track with delivering the strategy . What you need to include in the meeting has to tie back to those points.
In other words, what do you want to get out of your strategic planning process? Is it a new strategic plan? An update to the last one because something drastic has changed? A review with some ‘light editing’ to ensure decisions are being taken that keep you on track to meet your goals?
What goes into your meeting (and therefore, your agenda) will very much depend on where you are in the strategy planning cycle.
When do strategic meetings happen?
There’s no fixed cadence for strategy conversations. Some businesses use quarterly meetings. Some might do a lot of planning during the existing structure of board meetings. As long as sufficient time is put aside for strategic thinking, you can set whatever frequency of meeting you like.
I would recommend quarterly review sessions, with a longer goal-setting session once a year, but do whatever works for you. If you are putting together your first strategy or doing a complete overhaul, you’ll need to spend a lot more time on it to get the strategic process set up and the relevant data collected.
Sample strategy planning meeting agenda template
Strategy meetings tend to be quite long. You might put a full day or even two aside for your planning. For that reason, it’s often better to do them in-person instead of remote, but these days do what works best for you and the team.
If you have to hold the workshop remotely, with people dialling in, make sure you schedule enough screen breaks.
Every effective meeting needs an agenda, and the great thing about strategic sessions is that you can tailor the agenda to cover the topics that would be the most valuable to wherever you are in the planning cycle. The strategic planning agenda below assumes you are meeting in-person, and is suitable for a strategic review session.
Use this time for introductions. Do an ice breaker exercise if your attendees won’t think it is cheesy (mine would). Share the meeting objectives and make it clear this is a strategic meeting so people don’t get carried away with the detail. Discuss ways of working e.g. no using mobile phones.
In my experience, the people attending strategy meetings are switched-on leaders who will carry themselves in a professional manner, so I wouldn’t worry too much about setting ground rules, but if you think they would value having some guardrails for acceptable behavior during the conversations, then by all means add that in.
10am: Big picture strategy
Present the overall roadmap, for example, a timeline for the 5 year plan. Make sure everyone is clear on where the organization is going and what big chunks make that up. For example, perhaps you have a couple of different portfolios that support the strategy.
You can use this time to talk about the current situation, the company’s strategy and how your department fits into that. This section should answer the question: where are we now?
10.30am: Coffee break
Give people time for a bathroom break and to get something to drink.
10.45am: Progress review
Have each executive or leader in the room share their area’s progress against their area of the strategic plan. They can bring in team members to present specific topics if that would help, and if their expertise is needed as part of the debate.
These presentations don’t necessarily need to be formal, but they should cover what objectives the department is working to, how they link to the big picture strategy and whether they are on track. Talk about whether milestones are on track to be hit. Present the budget figures related to the area and the confidence levels around meeting those.
This section of the agenda might be long, depending on how many leaders you have to get round, so adjust the rest of the agenda to fit your timings. I’d suggest everyone gets 30 minutes but it depends on what you think they have to share and how much discussion there will be about each area. If possible, timebox the updates so you keep the meeting moving.
Alternative session: Where do we want to be?
If you haven’t got strategic progress to report, use this time to:
- Brainstorm where you want to be
- Agree where you are going
- Create a vision for the next 3 years
- Document the vision and mission.
12.45pm: Lunch break
Schedule in some time to eat and return calls.
1.30pm: Key issues
It’s worth parking the discussion of any major issues that affect multiple areas until after everyone has had a chance to present their updates, because then it’s easier to see the bigger picture and what might be affected.
Use this time to review anything that dropped out of the morning’s conversations. There might be new opportunities, challenges, resource constraints, market changes and more.
This section of your day should answer the question: what might stop us from getting where we want to go? Think about the values, skills, culture and risks that might block your progress.
2.30pm: Revise plans
After you’ve discussed the challenges or opportunities that present themselves, go back to the plans and see how that information affects what you are committing to do for the next period.
Agree changes as required. This part of your agenda answers the question: what do we need to do? If you do need to do anything differently in order to get back on track or head off in the right direction, this is where you should be discussing and agreeing.
3.30pm: Action planning
I like action planning! Strategy meetings should be all about decision-making, so you should ring-fence some time to talk about how to turn those decisions into action items . List out what needs to be done and allocate owners and timescales to each.
One thing that should definitely be on the action list is how you are going to communicate the decisions made today to everyone else in the team. Add them to the decision log . Make sure someone is responsible for creating and circulating meeting minutes.
This is an important part of the strategy meeting and it answers the question: how will we do it?
4.30pm: Any Other Business
Use this time for the ‘one last thing’ that people want to bring up.
5pm: Wrap up and close
Finally, wrap up the meeting, draw it to a close and if you are going to meet again, put the date in the diary. Then go down the pub!
Tailoring the strategy agenda
As you’ve probably realized, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy meeting agenda that will suit every need. If you are starting from scratch and are using the time to write your strategy, you’ll need to put time aside for brainstorming new ideas, a presentation of market research analysis or feedback from customer focus groups.
If you are reviewing the projects that make up the strategy, you might bring each project manager in to present their project, before discussing as a team what initiatives need to be brought into the portfolio to ensure the strategic goals can be met.
The important thing is to always go back to the why: why are you meeting and what do you want to get out of the time? You can’t go wrong if you start there.
5 Considerations for a strategy planning workshop
So you’re ready to draw up that meeting agenda. Here’s what to consider before you get going.
1. Set the objective
I like to write the objective for any meeting at the top of the agenda. It helps focus people’s minds and keeps the conversation on track. Think about what you are meeting for and what the leadership teams are expecting to get out of it. Here are some examples:
- To define the 5-year growth plan for the organization
- To establish the projects we want to focus on to meet our strategic goals for the next 12 months
- To review the new products we intend to bring to market in the next 3 years
- To set the IT agenda for the next 24 months
You can hold strategic planning workshops for departments, teams or for the business overall. You can plan for the long term or adopt a rolling wave planning approach to plan ongoing. So which is it for you?
2. Let people know what is going to happen
Set expectations for the meeting. Let people know what contributions are expected from them. What do they need to prep in advance? Ask them for their agenda items – you might not include them as ‘real’ agenda items but it would help to know what talking points they intend to bring up.
Share any papers, timelines, business cases, strategy documents etc that make useful background reading. The more ready people are to contribute, the more you will get done during the meeting.
3. Prepare for conflict
As the meeting facilitator, you’ll have a good idea of the topics that will come up. And the potential flashpoints. For example, there are always conversations about budget. Doing anything strategic seems to cost a lot, and investing in one area means another area doesn’t get the investment.
Try to spot any sources of potential disputes in advance so you have pre-meeting conversations to manage expectations and ensure everyone comes to the session with an open mind (and the data to support their case). Healthy debates are to be encouraged!
Think about how to resolve conflict as a team if you can’t get to consensus. There are several group decision-making techniques you could try. In my experience, it’s often the most senior person in the room who makes the final call – strategy is not always a team game. It might not feel fair, but there are often political, economic, commercial and environmental reasons for decisions that might not always be clear to everyone in the room.
Whatever you think the outcome might be, have a few phrases to help facilitate the debate if it seems attendees are getting stuck. For example:
“Ultimately, it’s Fiona’s decision. Fiona, what do you want us to do?” “Let’s continue this conversation for another 10 minutes and if we aren’t able to reach a decision at that point, I suggest that Henry and Priya book some time to review and come back to us with a recommendation next week.” “IT are the guardians of that process. Do you agree to that approach?”
4. Prepare to go off script
I’ve been in strat planning meetings where we started with an agenda and then went totally off script… and the output was all the better for it. It’s great to have an agenda, and the template above gives you a starting point, but if it feels like the right thing to do is to delve into a particular area, then do it.
Strategy is too important to shortcut. If it feels like the meeting is taking longer, just say: “This feels like an important topic. Is everyone OK with staying with it for a little longer?” or “That isn’t something we were going to cover today but it sounds like it’s important that we get into it. Does everyone agree?”
Talk about what needs to be talked about. Strategy work takes time. The agenda is there as a guide but sometimes you just need to get it all out on the table.
5. Define success
What would a successful meeting look like? Sometimes it’s going to be OK to just talk and debate until you get to the heart of your strategy. Other times you might want to go all in on a brainstorming session and success will look like 20 new ideas.
It might be that you want to gain agreement on three new projects or prepare an update to go to the next board meeting. Think about what would constitute a successful outcome and try to guide people towards that.
Your next steps
- Agree the goals of your strategy meeting
- Write the agenda
- Socialize some of the ideas
- Adequately prepare for the session so you feel ready to facilitate it
In this article you learned what to include in your strategy planning meeting agenda and what considerations go into planning a successful strategy workshop. Don’t forget to grab a free action log template to record all the good stuff that comes out of your meeting. I hope it goes really well for you!
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Project manager, author, mentor
Elizabeth Harrin is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management in the UK. She holds degrees from the University of York and Roehampton University, and several project management certifications including APM PMQ. She first took her PRINCE2 Practitioner exam in 2004 and has worked extensively in project delivery for over 20 years. Elizabeth is also the founder of the Project Management Rebels community, a mentoring group for professionals. She's written several books for project managers including Managing Multiple Projects .
What You Must Do (and NEVER do) During Strategic Meetings
In this bonus chapter to Scaling Up, we share key steps to for how to set properly run strategic planning meetings and when to hold them.
To successfully scale a business, you’ll need to do three things effectively: preparation, execution, and follow-through. This isn’t something that just happens by chance for the lucky few. In helping companies scale up over three decades, I’ve found that those who execute the 10 Rockefeller Habits to engage their team in proper strategic planning will almost always experience improved growth, revenue, and profits. So what is strategic planning, and how does one plan a strategic planning session? Who should be involved in these strategic meetings, and what would be the meeting agenda? How often should you be running these strategic planning meetings? I’ll cover these questions and more in this article by sharing with you the key lessons on strategic planning from my books, Scaling Up and Mastering the Rockefeller Habits.
What is Strategic Planning and What is its Purpose?
- Strategic thinking, and
- Execution planning
Each activity requires very different teams and processes. Strategic thinking requires a handful of senior leaders meeting weekly (it’s not sufficient to do strategy work once a quarter or once a year). Rather than getting mired in operational issues, the main purpose of the strategic thinking team is to focus on discussing a few big strategic issues. The purpose of execution planning, in turn, is to implement the broader strategy. This requires the engagement of a much larger team. Some of the goals of execution planning include setting specific annual and quarterly priorities, outcomes, and KPIs. Add in both disciplined action and active learning activities and you have a simple Think, Plan, Act, Learn cycle of strategic planning.
It has been said that the shortest distance between two points is clarity , and this strategic planning cycle brings about clarity. With clarity, your organization knows exactly what to do, and how to do it, in order to get the results to achieve your goals. The next question is, how do you create an environment that supports a consistent strategic planning cycle of Think, Plan, Act, Learn? The answer lies in communication rhythms.
Creating the Communication Rhythms that Support Strategic Planning
Communication rhythms are the third habit in the 10 Rockefeller Habits checklist.
By establishing a communication rhythm, you’ll ensure that information moves through your organization accurately and quickly. The key is an effective daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual Meeting Rhythm. When executed properly, this actually saves everyone a tremendous amount of time. It’s counterintuitive, I know. But communication will become much more open and smooth, and your team will gain clarity and feedback from these strategic meetings. Here’s a breakdown of the strategic meetings you should be having to support the strategic planning cycle in your company:
- Daily Huddle : All employees are in a daily huddle that lasts 5 - 15 minutes to track progress and bring out sticking points that are blocking your execution.
- Weekly Meeting : All teams have a weekly meeting that lasts 60 - 90 minutes to review progress on the quarterly priorities and address one or two main topics.
- Monthly Management Meeting : The executive managers meet for half a day or a full day of learning and resolving big issues.
For daily huddles, my advice is to have it at the same time, every day. It doesn’t have to be at the beginning of the day. Choose whatever time best fits the rhythm of your business, and make sure you always start the meeting on time, whether everyone is present or not. Weekly meetings should also be at the same time and place each week. Ideally, weekly meetings will end right before lunch or happy hour so executives can have a more informal setting in which to discuss issues that surface during the structured part of the meetings. Click on the following links if you’d like to know more about how to run daily huddles and weekly meetings . Below, I’ll be sharing the specific agendas to run in your strategic monthly and quarterly meetings which involve your executive team and middle managers.
How Do You Effectively Run A Strategic Planning Meeting?
When it comes to the monthly and quarterly meetings, it’s best if a specific rhythm is established (i.e., the second Friday and Saturday before the end of the quarter). The annual planning session is normally two to three days, while the quarterly sessions are one to two days. The first third of each planning session (day one of the annual planning session; three hours of a quarterly session) is spent reviewing the SWOT (optional), and the first three columns of the One Page Strategic Plan (OPSP) . This includes reviewing your Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG) and also updating the Functional Accountability Chart (FACe) tool and focus on the one functional position that needs support. The next third (day two of the annual planning session; afternoon of the quarterly session) is spent on the 1-year column of the OPSP, including a review of the company’s financials and using the CASh and Power of One worksheets to focus on ways to improve cash flow. The final third (day three of the annual session; day two of the quarterly) is focused on completing the entire right-hand page of the OPSP. Review the Process Accountability Chart (PACe) tool and choose one process to design or redesign that supports achieving the Critical Number (#1 Priority). Last, review the Rockefeller Habits Checklist and choose one or two of the 10 habits to execute (or execute better) the next quarter.
Sample of A Strategic Meeting Agenda
Day 1 : 17:30 - 18:00 — Reception/arrival 18:00 - 20:00 — Dinner (Snacks in Europe) 20:00 - 22:00 — Opening Session — Review core values and purpose stories, SWT, and host open discussion about the future (continue into the night!). 22:00 - ? — Dinner in Europe Day 2 : 8:30 - 10:00 — Opening Remarks by CEO, Good News Stories/OPPPs, and Top 3 Issues (what will make this a successful meeting for everyone) 10:30 - 12:00 — SWOT, FACe, and review first three columns of OPSP 13:30 - 15:00 — Review Annual column of OPSP 15:30 - 17:00 — CASh and Power of One 18:00 - ? — Dinner, finish up what didn’t get completed earlier (further work on 7 Strata) Day 3 : (invite middle management) 8:30 - 10:00 — Review previous day, and complete Quarterly column OPSP 10:30 - Noon — PACe (review key process supporting Quarterly Critical Number), 13:30 - 15:00 — Establish column 6 Quarterly Theme (leave for middle management to design/ drive) and review the Rockefeller Habits Checklist. Choose one or two areas for improvement. 15:30 - 17:00 — Everyone updates their own column 7 — individual KPIs, Critical Number, and Priorities. Then go around the room and have everyone share their Critical Number (top 1 priority for the quarter).
Important Ground Rules for Strategic Planning
“ When I go slow, I go fast ” notes the Chinese proverb. There is a tendency in planning sessions to rush through or ignore the Strengths, Weaknesses, and Trends along the bottom of the OPSP and the first two or three columns of the OPSP (Core Values, Purpose, BHAG, Sandbox, and Brand Promises), especially after team members feel like they’ve nailed down the decisions in previous sessions. However, spending sufficient time reviewing and updating the SWT and first three columns almost always makes the decisions in the Annual and Quarterly columns come more quickly and effortlessly . Trust me on this! You should also resist jumping in and reviewing the past quarter or year (columns 4 and 5 of the OPSP) in detail at the beginning of the meeting. Once you open that Pandora’s Box, it’s hard to get it shut. Teams tend to get sucked right into the minutia, getting caught up in the details and making it difficult to step back from the trees and talk more strategic about the direction of the firm.
I also advise you to plan in advance the key topics and issues to discuss during your strategic planning meetings .
A few weeks prior to the planning offsite, conduct an employee survey. Employees’ insights are helpful in determining quarterly or annual priorities since they are closer to the customers and are immersed in the daily processes of the business. Many firms use an online survey tool such as SurveyMonkey to make it easier to administer. I suggest three simple questions:
- What should (enter company name) start doing?
- What should (enter company name) stop doing?
- What should (enter company name) keep doing?
Along with employee feedback, formally gather customer input. At a minimum, ask them the same three “start, stop, and keep” questions. Finally, send out an email to those attending the planning session to ask them to send back the top three issues they feel MUST be addressed, explored or answered at the upcoming strategy meetings for them to feel it was a success.” Compile these for review at the beginning of the strategy meeting or just prior.
Strategic Planning in Action
Here’s a case study of how strategic planning helped one organization scale up.
From Running a Small Company to a $750 Million Division
“Everyone is building trust and relationships,” he says. “It’s tremendous because you’re not just getting together to discuss operations. You’re discussing strategy and debating the market, and that really brings out incredible insight and power.”
For a practical way to learn how to apply these concepts into your current business while getting mentorship, peer-to-peer feedback, and customized support as you implement, check out my Scaling Up Master Business Course here .
Ready to Implement Effective Strategic Planning?
To inspire you, here’s a sample completed One-Page Strategic Plan that can result from effective strategic planning. This sample is for a fictitious company called TestCo. All the best for your strategic planning process!
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO's premiere CEO program, the "Birthing of Giants" and WEO's "Advanced Business" executive program both held at MIT.
Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up.
The "Growth Guy" syndicated columnist, he's also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored "The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times", for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword.
Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine's annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity.
Nombrado por la revista FORTUNE Small Business como uno de los “Top 10 Minds in Small Business”, empresario, autor y columnista de la revista FORTUNE, Verne Harnish, es un consultor de gestión muy buscado, especializada en liderazgo, planificación estratégica y el crecimiento del negocio. Su libro, “Dominando los Hábitos de Rockefeller: qué debe hacer para acrecentar el valor de su empresa en rápido crecimiento” ha sido traducido al español, chino, japonés y coreano. Verne es también el fundador de EO, la Organización de Empresarios (http://www.eonetwork.org), y el CEO de Gazelles Inc.
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How to Facilitate a Strategic Planning Session for 2023 [Strategic Planning Workshop]
By Ted Skinner
At Rhythm Systems, our consultants are trained strategic facilitators and play a key role in the strategic planning process. They are planning experts that help you get the most ROI out of your meeting with their expert facilitation skills. We have facilitated hundreds of successful Strategic Planning , Annual Planning and Quarterly Planning sessions for our clients. In this blog post, we will share expert insights from these sessions so that you can scale up your company. Strategy planning (and expert facilitation) is key as the longer-term strategic priorities drive the shorter-term goals, projects, and actions with complete organizational alignment .
Note to strategic CEOs: Along with our ability to educate, coach and facilitate specific content and methodology during on-site sessions, one of the main reasons CEOs choose to bring us in to run their sessions is so that the CEO can fully participate and implement their 5 year plan template . It is impossible for a CEO to effectively facilitate a session with all of the stakeholders and fully participate at the same time. And the CEO’s contribution and participation is extremely important to reach the desired outcome. Session facilitation is an extra burden that is better placed on another team member or an expert facilitator. You should learn how to be a good facilitator with tips and tricks or consult with us to see if hiring an expert makes sense for you .
Free Guide: How to Facilitate a Strategic Planning Session
Strategic Planning Facilitation Step 1: THINK Through the Purpose and Outcome of the Meeting
Stephen Covey advises us to “begin with the end in mind.” What is the purpose of this meeting? What do we hope to accomplish? Who should attend? What are our strategic objectives for this workshop? What work should the meeting participants get done prior to the meeting (research and homework)? What are the specific outcomes or outputs we are looking for from this strategic planning session? What is the role of a facilitator in a strategic planning session? Do we need a plan B for a potential 2023 recession ?
Creating an Objective Statement that you can share with the rest of the team in advance is a great way to ensure everyone who attends the meeting comes with shared goals and expectations for your time together. It will also give you clarity as you move into step 2 and begin planning for the session. Make sure that this aligns with your mission statement. This is different than your team meetings and setting expectations up front is critical for your strategic objectives.
An effective Objective Statement consists of three parts:
1. TO : (What is the action? What are you going to do? Start with a verb.)
2. IN A WAY THAT : (How will you go about doing it? List criteria, scope, involvement, success measures, specific tactics, side benefits, or any other relevant information. Use bullet points.)
3. SO THAT : (Why are you doing this? Why is it important? What is the one main benefit?)
Sample Objective Statement for one company’s Quarterly Planning Session
QUARTERLY PLANNING OBJECTIVE STATEMENT
TO : Conduct an effective strategic planning session
IN A WAY THAT:
- Brings the Senior Leadership Team together for two full days to develop an effective strategy
- Highlights the previous quarter’s accomplishments
- Updates and advances our Annual Plan and long-term goal attainment
- Allows us to discuss-debate-agree critical topics as a team
- Prepares us to overcome any potential obstacles to hitting our year-end goals
- Identifies 3-5 Company Priorities, complete with owners and clear success criteria
- Identifies clear Individual Priorities for each member of the leadership team
- Prepares us to begin thinking about next year’s Annual Plan
- Allows us to identify strengths and weaknesses
- Answers the key questions facing our company and industry
- Helps us clearly define and communicate our business strategy to the entire organization
- Fun ideas for strategic planning are always considered and change up the energy in the room
SO THAT : We finish this year strong and set ourselves up for a strong start to next year.
Virtual Strategic Planning Facilitation Step 2: Plan all the Details in Advance
Anytime you bring your team together for a meeting, whether it’s for a few hours or for a few days, you are making a big investment in time, energy and money. The way to make sure you get the most out of your investment is to make sure you are adequately prepared. The preparation checklist below will help you.
Strategic Planning Meeting Preparation Checklist
- Set the date – You will want to determine and set the date as soon as possible so that everyone on your team can attend. The longer you wait, the harder it is to find a time that works. If this is an ongoing, standing meeting, ensure everyone has it on their calendar every time it occurs and actively works to protect the scheduled time with the team.
- Select the Facilitator – It is essential to pick the right person to facilitate your session . The facilitator is in charge of creating the agenda, preparing content material (slides/visuals), arriving early to ensure setup is correct and materials are in place, testing technology, and facilitating the session. If you must choose someone on your team that will be in attendance, remember to occasionally stop during the meeting and ask their opinion if not previously shared. If you choose someone that would not usually be in attendance, make sure they understand that their job is to facilitate, not offer opinions on discussions they would not typically be involved in. Role clarity is essential.
- Select a location – Having a meeting or planning session in your own conference room can be very ineffective. The opportunity to lose focus and be interrupted by operational issues increases exponentially. This is fine for short, weekly, routine meetings, but for 1-2 day planning sessions, we recommend taking your team off-site if you can.
- Choose a Meeting Coordinator – This person is in charge of handling all of the logistics for the meeting, making sure participants have made travel arrangements, the conference room (on-site or off-site) is booked and set up for the session, and that all participants are aware of any homework/preparation that is needed for the session. Use someone on your team who is meticulous with details and have them build a strategic planning checklist for future meetings.
- Prepare the meeting material – You and the facilitator should refer to your Objective Statement when creating the agenda. Be careful not to overload your agenda. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in the time you have available. Create a basic time plan to accompany your agenda. This will help you know whether or not you are on track during the meeting. Less is more when it comes to slides. The old rule was no more than 6x6 (six words long by six bullets). In today’s Twitter and drive-through world, you’re better served to stick to 4x4, or better yet, 3x3. Consider revealing information one bullet point at a time, especially if you must have more than 6x6 on a slide and always make sure that it is written for your target audience.
- Email the meeting agenda and pre-work to the attendees - Communicate with all attendees at least 2 weeks before the session, sharing the objective statement, agenda and any pre-work you want them to do. Realize that some people - even with proper instruction - may be in the habit of attending meetings unprepared. If you consider the pre-work essential, let the team know that it’s mandatory, and require them to return it in advance, or instruct them to bring copies to the meeting and build time to share the output into your agenda. This will allow people to think about the strategic goals for themselves and the company ahead of the meeting.
- Last minute details - Work with the meeting coordinator to make sure all of the meeting details have been addressed: supplies ordered, lunch planned, technology arrangements made, attendance confirmed, etc.
Remember to be realistic about what you can accomplish in the time you have available and set the agenda appropriately. The strategic planning facilitator also must keep the team focused on having the right discussions needed for your organization. Understanding and working with the group dynamics is essential, especially in a large group. You can read more details about a virtual strategic planning session in this related article.
Virtual Strategic Planning Facilitation Step 3: Do the Hard Work of Running the Strategy Session
Three definitions of the role of the facilitator:
- “An individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy. He or she is a ‘content neutral’ party who by not taking sides or expressing or advocating a point of view during the meeting, can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group’s work.”
- “One who contributes structure and process to interactions so groups are able to function effectively and make high-quality decisions. A helper and enabler whose goal is to support others as they achieve exceptional performance.”
- “The facilitator’s job is to support everyone to do their best thinking and practice. To do this, the facilitator encourages full participation, promotes mutual understanding and cultivates shared responsibility. By supporting everyone to do their best thinking, a facilitator enables group members to search for inclusive solutions and build sustainable agreements.”
The word facilitation means to make easy. Too bad actually facilitating a group of people isn’t. It takes a tremendous amount of energy, focus, quick thinking and patience to facilitate a meeting. If you have followed the first two steps in this blog post: (Step 1: THINK and Step 2: PLAN), then you are set up for a successful session. But, there is still a lot of work to do.
Here are 15 Tips you can use to keep the strategy session moving in a positive direction.
15 Expert Tips for Facilitating a Great Zoom Strategy Meeting
1. Set ground rules at the beginning of the meeting. Let the team discuss their expectations for full participation, candor, side bars, interruptions, tangents, and cell phone and computer use. Having this conversation upfront creates an environment of accountability and a high level of commitment to the meeting. Ground rules will help reduce the stress of group interaction and make it easier to resolve problems when they arise. Capture your ground rules on a flip chart while discussing and post for reference throughout the meeting. To start with some energy, I suggest using one of our Zoom icebreakers to get things started.
2. Trust the process. Remember that you have put a great deal of time into steps 1 & 2, so you are going into the day with a good game plan. There may be times when things seem disjointed or the team doesn’t understand where you’re going. Let them know that there is a method to the madness and ask them to trust the process with you. When utilizing a slide deck and agenda provided by Rhythm Systems, know that the process and content has been tested and proven to work many times. It may not all come together until the very end, but if you are going in with a clear objective and well thought out agenda, the results you’re looking for will follow and the problem solving will occur.
3. Give yourself permission to deviate from the time plan if a topic requires more time than you thought it would. As long as the additional time is used for good, healthy debates on important topics, and not the beating of dead horses, it will be a good use of time. If you do deviate from the time plan, involve the team in deciding how you will make it up. You may choose to stay late or start early one day, or you may choose to cut or shorten the time allowed for another topic. Involving the team in this discussion and decision increases engagement, energy and commitment (see #11).
4. Celebrate your progress as you move through the session. Reflect on lessons learned and breakthroughs. Acknowledge someone when they’re brave enough to bring up a tough subject. Check-in with each other along the way to make sure you’re all staying engaged. After breaks, consider restating what’s been accomplished and where you are in the agenda.
5. Use icebreakers with purpose. Ice breakers are quick, interactive exercises designed to get the team’s brain working and mouth moving. They are usually used at the beginning of a session, after breaks, and after lunch. They can also be great for raising the energy level late in the afternoon. A quick Google search will provide hundreds of ideas for icebreakers. One of our favorites is a quick round of victories or good news. This actually serves several purposes. It gives team members a chance to share information with each other, it allows team members an opportunity to get to know each other better, and it starts the meeting off on a positive note. We recommend that you start every meeting with some version of good news.
6. Encourage full and equal participation. A team is made up of many different individuals, each with their own personality and preferred work style. Some are naturally more dominant and expressive, while others may be more thoughtful and reserved. One style is not better than another, and the fact that they’re on your team means that you value their input. It’s the facilitator’s job to recognize these different styles and run the meeting in a way that gives each person a chance to contribute. This is a good discussion to have at the beginning of the session as you are setting the ground rules.
Set the expectation of full and equal participation clear and give the team a chance to discuss how they will do this. The facilitator may have to step in throughout the meeting, specifically calling on individuals that have not spoken up. The facilitator may also choose to design the meeting to include specific opportunities to hear from everyone. Examples of this would be small group breakout sessions or employing different brainstorming methods (see #8.)
7. Use visual aids effectively. Any combination of flip charts, whiteboards, sticky notes, posters, PowerPoint/Keynote, and handouts will do. We’ve all seen the person that used every animation tool within PowerPoint - wiggly jiggly icons, annoying animations, slides swiping in from 20 directions in 5 different ways. Don’t overdo it and allow your visuals to distract from the meeting. People have different styles of learning, Some are visual learners, some auditory, some kinesthetic and some experiential, so mix it up and use all aids in moderation. Keep in mind that your body language is one of the most important visual aids that you have, make sure that you make people feel like they are being heard.
8. Use different methods for brainstorming. Round robin, freewheeling, group pass and silent reflection are all proven methods you may try. The point of brainstorming is to produce a comprehensive list of potential ideas, solutions or plans. When done well, brainstorming should increase participation, reduce inhibition, stimulate ideas, increase creativity and be a group process.
The general rules for all brainstorming methods are:
- Focus on quantity first capture as many ideas as possible.
- Encourage and welcome all ideas - ask the team to dig deep and think beyond the obvious - every idea submitted should be captured.
- Hold off on judgment, criticism, or reality checks - this should be a “safe time.” Ideas will be discussed and debated later.
- Use short phrases and bullet points, not paragraphs and lengthy explanations.
- "Piggyback” on others' ideas. Outlandish ideas can be stepping stones to good, workable ideas.
- Although it can be helpful to give a brief overview of brainstorming rules, there's no need to go into an elaborate explanation. "Let’s brainstorm annual priorities that will move us toward our 3-5 year strategic plan . Remember, let’s not judge the ideas but just capture and understand them first." Then, begin your chosen method of brainstorming. As you move through the process, anticipate that someone will break the rules - that's when the facilitator steps in and makes the correction.
Ask for a volunteer to start the brainstorming process with one idea. The facilitator captures the idea on a flip chart for all to see. Ask the volunteer to choose whether to go to the right or the left, allowing the person sitting next to them to offer one idea. The facilitator continues to chart the answers, going around the room until everyone has had a chance to contribute at least one idea. You can then try to take a second pass around the room if the ideas are flowing freely, or you may open it up to anyone who has another idea not previously mentioned.
Suppose you’re working with a group where equal participation is not an issue. In that case, you may be able to open the brainstorming session up by asking for ideas and allowing people to offer suggestions in any order at all. Be sure to use the participants' words to chart all ideas with short bullet points. This method can go fast, so you may want to ask for a volunteer to help chart answers using a second flip chart.
Each person in the group starts with a piece of paper, writes down one idea, and then passes the piece of paper to the next person. The following person then builds on the original idea, adding a few thoughts. Continue around the room until the owner returns their original piece of paper. You can then ask each person to take a minute to review their original idea and share it with the team.
Some people need a little time to think and formulate their ideas. Instruct the team that you are giving them a certain amount of time (5-15 minutes, depending on the topic) to think and write down their ideas. You can ask them to write their thoughts on sticky notes, one idea per note, or list them on a sheet of paper. If you use sticky notes, you can then ask them to read one idea at a time and place them on the wall, grouping all similar ideas together. If they are written on notebook paper, you can use the Round Robin method to share and chart the ideas.
9. Use a Parking Lot. Stay on track by creating a place to capture ideas that are inappropriate to the discussion at hand but that you don't want to lose. Make it visible to all using a whiteboard, tear sheet, etc. This helps you keep the meeting focused without chasing too many "rabbit trails." It is important to honor all ideas, questions, and concerns during a session, and by placing the item in your parking lot, you send the subtle message that all contributions are essential. Refer to the parking lot items while facilitating when appropriate and review any unresolved items at the end of your session, moving them to an action item list. In a strategy meeting, you need to keep the team on task; using a parking lot can help you accomplish that.
10. Deal with difficult people ahead of time. Before your meeting, think about participants who tend to be outspoken, dominate, or argue in meetings. Think also about participants who may have felt bullied or intimidated in the past or who may have a history of not participating openly. Have a conversation with these people before the session, explaining your concern and asking for their help in creating a healthy and productive environment. Helpful language when talking to the dominant person might include, "Jim, I’m trying to increase participation in this meeting. I really appreciate your outspokenness and value your input. If it’s ok with you, I’d like you to go last so I may first hear the rest of the team’s thinking before you share yours." Be sure to reevaluate and give that participant a chance to share.
This is also an excellent topic to discuss while setting ground rules at the beginning of the session. Discuss in advance the expectations for politeness and tone during the meeting, and ask the team for permission to point it out if things get off track. If a conflict arises during a meeting, the facilitator must be prepared to step in and take control of the meeting. Anytime the discussion becomes accusatory or personal, the facilitator can ask the participant to reword statements so that they are focused on solutions, facts, and business issues, not people and blame. An excellent technique for redirecting a heated discussion is to ask the team to discuss their learnings rather than their frustrations. Be sure to do this every time the language becomes personal; before you know it, your team will police this behavior themselves. Conflict resolution is a central role for the facilitator.
11. Keep the energy high. Enthusiasm is contagious - so is negativity. Some people need to doodle while they think, some need toys like a Koosh ball or rubber Gumby, others need talk time with other participants, and others need to stand up or walk around the room from time to time. Think through your meeting day and plan ways to keep the energy high for the entire time to keep the group paying attention.
Have participants work in pairs, write something down, work together on puzzles, make mini-presentations on topics assigned before and after breaks, schedule group breakout sessions, etc. Remember that the room's energy is often a notch or two below that of the facilitator, so it is vital to keep your personal energy high as well. Try to get plenty of sleep the night before, eat well, have plenty of water on hand, and take breaks as needed, as group facilitation is hard!
12. Get to a consensus. Many discussion topics require moving the group from several individuals, independent ideas to one agreed-upon group decision. Consensus can be defined professionally as an acceptable resolution that everyone on the team can support. It does not mean that everyone on the team has to agree that this is their number one favorite resolution, just that they will support the decision going forward. Supporting a decision means that you will speak positively about the decision to others, you will do everything in your power to make sure the decision results in a positive outcome. You will not say,"“they decided."
Explaining the definition of consensus and support to the team at the beginning of the discussion can help reach a resolution. An essential step in reaching a consensus is ensuring that all ideas are evaluated, and everyone’s perspective is heard. This is important in getting buy-in for the final conclusion and generating the best ideas and solutions. Structuring a process for team decision-making is a critical facilitation skill.
Here are some tips to help team decision-making:
- Use the brainstorming tips above to identify all viable solutions (see #8)
- Combine and link similar ideas
- Use structured methods, like The Six Thinking Hats, to help take the emotion out of the discussion.
- Set a time limit for discussion on each potential solution
- Make sure everyone is participating in the debate and, make sure everyone is actively listening and applying their listening skills
- Work to narrow the options down to as few as possible
- Don't be afraid to call for a vote to see how close the group is too full agreement
- If there are just one or two holdouts, seek to understand what and how firm their objections are
- Engage the group in troubleshooting to minimize the potential negative impact identified by any complaints or concerns raised
- Restate the most popular resolution, adding one or two points addressing the concerns raised, and ask the holdouts if they can support that decision
- Sometimes people will get caught up in the moment and continue the debate just to argue. Ask the holdout if they will lose sleep if the group moves forward with the proposed resolution. Refer to the definition of support and ask if they will support the decision.
- With consensus, there is often compromise. Not everyone gets everything they want out of the final decision. However, because you created an environment where everyone has had an opportunity for input, the conclusions reached are often ones that will be very successful and highly supported.
- If you are running a virtual strategic planning session, visit the link to learn some additional tips to help you get the most out of your planning session.
13. Document and publish the Who-What-Whens. Who-What-When action items are leading indicators of successful meeting outcomes. How often do teams meet, discuss and debate critical topics, then set the next meeting date only to discover that no progress has been made at the next meeting? As the facilitator, it is very important that you make sure that every critical discussion ends in a documented action captured in an action list of Who is accountable (one person only), What they will do, and When it will be completed. Create a habit of ending meetings with a review of the Who-What-Whens and beginning meetings with confirmation on completing the actions assigned.
14. Finish strong. People won't always remember what you do or say, but they will never forget how you made them feel. And what they will remember most is how they felt at the end of the meeting. Whether you completed every objective you laid out or worked through the agenda, it's important to recognize the team's accomplishments and celebrate their focus, contribution, time invested, and hard work. Finish the meeting by recapping the decisions, reviewing the actions committed, and confirming the next steps. We also recommend that you give everyone a chance to share how they feel as they leave. You can go around the room and ask each person to share a one-word/one-phrase closing statement or share one takeaway or breakthrough they gained during the meeting.
15. Ask for feedback. Great facilitators are not born overnight. They develop and improve over years of experience. And the most experienced facilitators know that the best way to get better is to ask for feedback. You can ask the team before they leave to write down one bright spot from the meeting and one area to work on or do differently next time. You can email everyone after the session asking for feedback. Or, you ask for a quick one-on-one conversation with a few trusted advisors in the room.
You would like to encourage feedback on the agenda, pre-session communication, design of the day, homework, and how you performed and handled difficult situations during the session. No matter how you choose to receive feedback, take it seriously. Don't take it personally or complain to others about it. All feedback, even negative feedback, is a gift. Thank the person who shared with you, and make every effort to incorporate all helpful suggestions into your next session. Stay encouraged and stick with it. You will get better every time you facilitate, so volunteer and look for opportunities to practice. Over time, the tips in this blog post will become second nature. Good luck!
This blog post shares tips and tricks to facilitation from the Facilitator guide written by Chris Cosper and Barry Pruit and adapted to a blog post by Ted Skinner. If you'd like to download the guide, please click here . We hope that you enjoy the facilitation techniques outlined in this article to keep group discussions both positive and productive. We hope this thoroughly answered your question about how to lead a strategic planning session; if you want to get the best ROI on your investment of time and energy, drop us a line and we'll see if it makes sense for you.
Read our other strategic planning and facilitation articles below:
Annual Planning: 9 Tips to Focus & Align Your Team with a Great Plan
Annual Planning Playbook: 5 Steps to Create a Winning Annual Plan
How CEOs Can Avoid High-Cost Mistakes in Annual Planning
Best Practices for Annual Planning
16 Strategic Planning Tips to Keep Your Strategic Plan Alive
The CEOs Strategy-Execution Gap...And How To Fix It
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Ten Tips on How to Lead a Strategic Planning Session
Nov 8, 2022
Whether you’re just beginning your strategic planning or in the middle of a process, these tips can help you create the best possible plan for your organization:
2. Start meeting after you get ready. If I could change one thing about the traditional planning process, it would be when the planning committee starts the meeting. In my experience, the most effective use of a planning committee is to have an initial meeting where the timeline and planning process is reviewed and agreed upon. After you are ready (see the above paragraph), hold the planning retreat, where you get the collective input and ideas that inform the committee’s work. Then the committee meets, usually two to four times to bring the plan together.
3. Allow time for big-picture thinking together. Many times board and staff try to squeeze the big, strategic discussions into a half-day retreat. I get it; we’re all busy and there are plenty of tempting reasons why there is never enough time.
Effective leadership requires time management to ensure your team gets the most out of your meetings. It’s worth it to make the time. To create a strategic plan, you need time to digest information, bring everyone up to speed, and think big with your planning group.
Whenever possible, carve out a day and a half for your kick-off planning session. If that truly isn’t possible, another option is to use regularly scheduled team and/or board meetings to prepare everyone for a full or half-day session. Add on an extra hour onto your regularly scheduled board meeting, or re-structure several of your board agendas for presentations on stakeholder feedback, financial and service trends.
4. Ask the hard questions. This is easy to say, more difficult to do. Usually one of the toughest moments of a planning process is when I ask groups to not only think about what they need to stop doing but to actually commit to stop doing it. Here are some questions to think about: What are our Sacred Cows? If we were only going to do one or two things really well, what would they be? Does this organization need to exist the way it’s structured? What assumptions are we making that prevent us from seeing a different approach to better achieve our mission?
5. Concentrate on what moves the dial. Not every organization needs big, hairy audacious goals (BHAG). They sound good on paper but can be unrealistic to achieve. Instead, identify the handful of strategies that – if you courageously commit and allocate resources to – will move your organization significantly forward.
7. Don’t write your plan in stone. Good strategic plans are fluid, not rigid and unbending. They allow you to adapt to changes in the marketplace. Don’t be afraid to change your plan as necessary.
8. Keep it simple and clear. I favor plans that don’t get too granular. Every plan needs goals, key action steps, and accountabilities – but avoid getting in the weeds with multi-year operational activities, deadlines, and assignments. I suggest no more than a one-year operational plan, prepared by staff, to accompany the initial strategic plan.
9. Make strategy a habit, not just a retreat. Embed a practice to work the plan and maintain a rigor around implementation. Otherwise, none of it is worth doing and is a waste of everyone’s time. One way to do this is to develop a strategic agenda for your leadership meetings. This agenda leverages the strategic plan to inform your meeting agendas and plan time for a review of performance achievements (I suggest quarterly and at least bi-annually). Focus on accountability for results, lessons learned, and changes to be made.
10. Have Fun! Strategic planning is a time to build cohesion among board and staff. Leverage your planning time so that it’s also relationship time. Plan your icebreakers and team activities around your planning goals. For example, create a Did You Know quiz based on key facts about your organization. It’s a great way to reinforce important information with board members and can help educate newer board members.
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Executive Strategy Session
Host a powerful strategy workshop with your executive team using this meeting agenda
Using templates in Fellow.app enables you to collaboratively prepare and edit notes, create tasks and integrate with 20+ apps.
Welcome/Overview of the Day
Measuring success/kpis, setting the stage.
- Where are we right now as an organization?
- What do we do well?
- ---Where have we found success in the past?
- ---What are our competitive advantages?
- What can we improve?
- What would we like to see?
Review Vision, Mission, and purpose
- Where are we going? Is this still our vision?
- Is this still our mission? What does winning look like?
- Is this still our purpose?
Where are we going?
- Why do we exist?
- Who is the customer we serve?
- Where are we going?
- How are we going to get there?
- Strategy Priorities
- Why change?
What do we need to focus on to achieve our vision?
Action planning for the strategic priorities.
- What is the most important priority moving forward?
- Risk identification - What is going to stand in our way
Next Steps/Action Steps
- @name Task by DUE-DATE
How to use this template for your next
At least once a year, every executive team should take a chunk of time to dig deep into their company’s strategy and re-align on mission, purpose, and priorities. This session follows a proven structure for such a meeting.
Usually, executive strategy meetings like these are either a half-day or full-day. When you have such a long session, always open with a welcome and make sure everyone knows what to expect from the day.
From there, move on to reviewing your key metrics, taking a long view to look at trends over time, from at least as far back as the last time you had a strategy session. After having this quantitative look at the company, move to a qualitative discussion that focuses on where the organization is, what is going well, and what isn’t.
Now that everyone understands the current situation and where the company would like to go, it’s a good habit to return to the company’s vision, mission, and purpose. This is both a sanity check and calibration exercise. If the company’s purpose doesn’t match the planning, either the company’s vision should be updated, or the plan is getting off track.
The rest of this executive strategy meeting agenda template will help you figure out your strategic priorities and how to act on them. You will find a path forward, and then have to choose one priority as your main focus—a useful exercise in figuring out what is truly important.
For any tasks or action items that come up in the meeting, note them in the section for next steps at the bottom of the agenda sample.
Best Practices For Executive Strategy Sessions
Here are ten best practices for executive strategy sessions:
1. Be Prepared – As with any organizational meeting or personal discussion, it’s important to be prepared. Sourcing the latest information is critical. Are you ready to have the meeting? If not, make sure you have your notes and research from the last few months or years in order to fully answer any questions.
2. Practice Transparency – This is a common mistake with most internal meetings. As soon as something happens within an organization, people try to cover it up or understand it themselves. However, this only leads people to cover things up or not understand them at all. So make sure you are open and honest with your team and provide strong feedback to them.
3. You are Part of Your Team – It sounds self-evident, but it’s important to think of yourself in the room just as you think about your own team. We tend to play favorites or have blind spots when it comes to reviewing ourselves. Make sure see where you are going wrong, and make corrections so that you can continue being a strong leader for the organization.
4. Be a Good Listener – To be a good leader, you need to be able to mediate effectively. You need to listen to yourself and others. It’s important that everyone feels heard and that decisions are made based on what is best for the organization as a whole as opposed to individual agendas.
5. Keep Your Eye on the Exit, Not the Entrance – It’s important that you have a clear view of company goals and what they look like. The best way to spend your time is to make sure everything you do is aligned with achieving those goals, not rehashing the past.
6. Read People – When you attend meetings with executives, be sure you know how to read people. If someone is getting more upset than you think they should be for a particular situation, then there is probably something deeper going on. You need to be able to read people and organize your notes based on what you are seeing and feeling in the meeting.
7. Define Your Success with Positive Action – This is an important part of being prepared for an executive strategy session. When it comes time to make decisions, it’s not enough just to see improvement. Be clear in terms of numbers, actions, and results. Be specific!
8. Raise Concerns – We’ve already talked about it, but it’s essential that you make sure that your team knows about the concerns you have with the policies that are being considered and with decisions being made. If you don’t raise any concerns or questions, then they will not be addressed and may be ignored.
9. Ask the Right Questions – This is an important part of being prepared for any meeting. It’s also vital that you ask the right questions based on what you want to get out of the meeting. If you have a preconceived idea about something, then that will affect what you end up asking when it’s your turn to speak. Make sure you are focusing on asking questions instead of telling.
10. Stay Focused – It sounds obvious, but many executive strategy sessions lose focus very quickly. It’s easy to get caught up in your team-mate’s stories and forget why you’re there. Be sure to stay focused on the goal of the meeting: help your team move forward. The executive strategy meeting agenda template here will help with that.
5 Worst Practices for Executive Strategy Sessions
Let’s talk about some practices that you may want to avoid when working with executives. As mentioned, it’s good to have these in mind before you start a meeting so that you have a solid foundation and can avoid making mistakes:
1. Being Too Prescriptive – We mentioned that it’s important to be specific and clear in terms of the goals you want to achieve. Sometimes people will do this by trying to make decisions based solely on their own experience. This can be disastrous if they are making decisions without looking at the whole topic and listening to others. The wrong decision can lead to negative results or failure.
2. Promise Things You Can’t Deliver – This is a common problem that plagues executives in any organization. Make sure you don’t promise things you can’t deliver. Don’t only think about yourself – promise things you know you can get done. This will make it easier to provide the necessary results and will help when stakeholders ask you for more than you initially think is possible (which they likely will).
3. Not Getting to the Point – You have a lot to cover in a meeting like this, so take time to collect and organize your thoughts before speaking. Remember that you have just as much of a story to tell as they do, and it’s important that you deliver your message in an organized manner.
4. Not Understanding the Goal – Remember the goals you chose with this meeting in mind. Be clear on what those goals are, and make sure your team knows them as well. This is an important part of making good decisions. If you get sidetracked onto a conversation that's not related to your main goals, steer back on topic.
5. Not Measuring Results – Sometimes, people will consider a strategy session a success simply because you listened and made decisions. A good strategy session should have some sort of measurable results to follow up on. Be sure that you set up results to track in the future to determine success and failure of your decisions.
Similar meeting templates
How to hold effective strategic planning meetings
Holding a strategic planning meeting is a critical step in setting the goals and direction of a team, company, or organization. It is important to plan ahead and make sure that all stakeholders are included in this process.
In this post, we’ll go over the basics of how to facilitate a successful strategic planning meeting, including resources to help you brainstorm, collect and organize feedback and get alignment on action items:
What is strategic planning?
How to facilitate a strategic planning meeting.
- Strategic planning session checklist
Templates for your next strategic planning workshop
Once the agenda, participants, ideas, and outcomes have been established and documented, it is important to review and follow up on the established goals. This can be done through regular meetings, as well as through tracking progress and to ensure that you're achieving your desired outcomes.
Strategic planning is a process that helps an organization or company to set goals, develop strategies, and allocate resources to achieve those goals. It involves setting objectives, determining actions, and evaluating the progress of those actions. Often, these categories can be broken down into 5 concrete steps:
- Define your vision
- Assess where you are
- Determine your priorities and objectives
- Define responsibilities
- Measure and evaluate results
Learn more about each of the above steps in our post on the 5 steps of the strategic planning process .
Strategic planning allows an organization to develop a shared vision for the future and create a roadmap for how to get there. In short, it’s a vital tool for all organizations, whether large or small.
When running a strategic planning meeting, it is important to set an agenda , identify the participants, and ensure that everyone is on the same page about the goals and objectives of the meeting.
Next, run an icebreaker or warmup to get everyone engaged and your ideas flowing — this also helps to ensure that everyone in attendance has a chance to contribute their ideas and perspectives.
Related: Psychological safety: a critical element for imagination work
Once your participants are warmed up and ready to go, it’s time to get into the heart of the meeting. Here again, the goals and objectives determine the best path when facilitating your meeting:
- Brainstorming : Is it a brainstorming session to help determine project goals and OKRs ? If so, what kind of brainstorming approach best fits your topic? For example, it can be useful to start from a template like a vision board when at the outset of a new project.
- Understanding : If you’re looking to drive better cross-functional understanding , use a template like a stakeholder map to see where roles and priorities may overlap, and what working relationships need to be established.
- Evaluating : If you’re in the middle of a project, using a built to help you evaluate your workflows and find ways to improve can ensure that you’re well positioned to deliver on your objectives.
- Empathizing : Are you trying to better empathize with a customer, or look for weak points in a user journey? Using a template for empathy and discovery can be the best way to frame your discussion.
Finally, it is essential to ensure that the outcomes of the meeting are documented and followed up on. With careful planning and preparation, a strategic planning meeting can be a valuable tool for setting the direction of any organization.
Strategic planning meeting checklist:
1. Set an agenda for the strategic planning meeting
It is important to set an agenda for the strategic planning meeting to ensure that there is a shared understanding of the goals and objectives of the meeting.
2. Make sure participants are on the same page about the goals and objectives of the meeting
Plan to take a few minutes to get alignment with meeting participants at the outset of a meeting to ensure that everyone is aligned and understands the goals and objectives of the meeting.
3. Begin by going over the agenda and including an icebreaker or warmup exercise
Beginning a meeting with an icebreaker helps to ensure that everyone is engaged and ready to contribute their ideas and perspectives.
4. Set expectations and ground rules
It is important to establish meeting ground rules in order to create an environment of respect and psychological safety, where everyone feels comfortable to contribute their ideas and perspectives.
5. Ensure everyone in attendance has a chance to contribute their ideas and perspectives
Make sure to have a diverse set of ideas and voices participating in your meeting in order to ensure that all perspectives and solutions are taken into consideration.
6. Document the outcomes of the meeting and follow up on them
Having a process for documenting meeting outcomes and following up on any action items is essential for ensuring that your strategic planning meeting is impactful.
When conducting pre-work for your next strategic planning meeting, templates can greatly speed the process of building out your frameworks (as well as helpful in ensuring that you’ve got all the bases covered).
Create a strategy blueprint
The Mural strategy blueprint template is an invaluable tool, crafted to help you brainstorm and analyze six core elements of your strategy. By using this template, you can effectively address your challenges and develop ideas to reach your desired outcome, while exploring your options and trying different alternatives.
It provides a perfect platform to explore multiple solutions, enabling you to pick the one that best suits your needs, while still enabling you to be creative in finding viable solutions. The template offers you an opportunity to think outside the box and develop innovative ideas to tackle your strategy’s most pressing issues. Ultimately, this template allows you to take control of your strategy and create a blueprint for success.
Conduct a SWOT analysis
When assessing where you stand, a SWOT analysis is a great format to brainstorm with your team.
A SWOT analysis is an important exercise where you can evaluate your current situation and better understand the potential opportunities and threats that may arise. It requires you to carefully analyze the internal and external environment in which your initiative or product exists.
- When engaging in a SWOT analysis, you must identify your strengths — what are your unique strengths for this particular initiative or product? In what ways are you a leader? Additionally, you must identify any weaknesses — what weaknesses can you identify in your offering? How does your product compare to others in the marketplace?
- It is also important to identify any opportunities — are there areas for improvement that would help differentiate your business? Finally, you must consider any potential threats — beyond weaknesses, are there existing or potential threats to your initiative that could limit or prevent its success? How can those be anticipated?
By engaging in a thorough and thoughtful SWOT analysis, you can gain valuable insight into the potential success of your initiative or product and be better prepared to respond to any obstacles that may arise.
It’s time for kickoff!
To realize your vision, prioritize and outline specific objectives to achieve your goals. Once you have defined your vision and assessed your current situation, you can begin outlining and ranking your priorities and the objectives associated with them.
Use the Mural project kickoff template to capture everything up front, and give you an easy, shared reference point to return to as you analyze outcomes.
Strategic planning is a process that helps an organization or company to set goals, develop strategies, and allocate resources to achieve those goals. It involves setting objectives, determining actions, and evaluating the progress of those actions.
This post outlines the basics of how to facilitate a successful strategic planning meeting, including resources to help you brainstorm, collect and organize feedback, and get alignment on action items. But
Get started today with a Mural Free Forever account , and use any of our hundreds of (free and editable) templates to make your next strategic planning meeting more engaging and impactful.
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5 Ways to Strategically Plan Your Strategic Planning Meeting
Many organizations desperately need a strategic planning session. They may want better vision, team cohesion, or new products. Most companies hold meetings, hoping that some strategic planning will magically emerge. This is unrealistic.
Strategic planning is envisioning the future of the company or organization, translating that vision into measurable and achievable goals, and then implementing long range planning to accomplish those goals. Strategic planning works with the ultimate goal in mind. This differs from long term planning. Long term planning is defining the series of steps along the path to achieve the vision. Strategic planning considers overarching plans far into the future, and transcends all aspects of the organization.
Strategic planning is hard because 1) it asks people to think and work beyond the scope of their defined roles; 2) it requires that departments work with other departments in new and cooperative ways; 3) it means people who previously did not consider consequences beyond their scope of responsibilities do so; and 4) it forces thinking of possibilities far into the future.
For many people, just getting through the workday and managing their daily responsibilities is taxing enough. Thinking about where the future of the organization will be 5 and 10 and 20 years in the future, maybe long after they are collecting a pension, seems unnecessary and irrelevant.
Creating a strategic planning session is not the same as the weekly planning meeting. It takes times, energy, patience and commitment. It also takes open-minded vision and foresight.
How can you create a strategic summit?
- Start with a common ideology. I start with about 30 minutes on leadership and management. For some, this is a review, but it gets everyone thinking about their role in and value to the organization. A shared experience, even for 30 minutes, can help accomplish this. It gets everyone thinking creatively about their relationship with their supervisor and employees.
- Identify the reason you are in business. Define what makes your company, product, or organization unique. This means revisiting values, goals, and commitments. Ask the group questions such as:“Why did you first want to work with us?” “What attracts you to the mission of this organization?” “What is it we do here that makes you want to be part of this team?” In Simon Sinek’s The Power of Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action , he articulates why some companies such as Apple and Harley Davidson manage to create such a definitive brand and a loyal customer base by defining first and foremost why they are in business.
- Identify the challenges. Many companies don’t want to hear about problems. They hide or gloss over issues, mistakenly hoping that the problems will disappear on their own. Many organizations discourage problem solving because they punish the people who identify the areas of needed improvement and potential growth. Companies tend to be resistant to changes because mistakes can be costly, or, more likely, “it is the way we’ve always done it.” If managers and leaders don’t identify problems, they cannot solve them. Brainstorming about areas to change is a key part of finding efficiency, expansion and creating a shared vision of the future.
- Create the vision. Brainstorm on where the company should/could be in 5, 10 or 20 years. See or develop the new products. Formulate a plan for the matriculation of the next generation of leaders. One of my common questions is “Who is going to lead this organization in 20 years, and what are you doing to help those leaders now?” Think of new products and how will be used in the future. When things seem impossible, then you have probably crafted a vision. Establish common goals and prioritize them based on the company’s needs.
- Develop the long-term plan to achieve the strategic goals. Strategic planning is about vision. Long term planning is the systematic series of processes or steps you take to achieve those specific goals. If the goals are not set or if the bar is too low, then there is no real long term planning. That is just daily tasks. People sometimes confuse the long term planning process with strategic vision. If you are mapping out the “how-to” then it is probably long term planning.
Good companies and organizations embrace change because it means they are moving forward, staying current, and constantly striving to exceed their customers’ expectations.
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As my good friend Julie Andews would sing: “Let’s start at the very beginning…it’s a very good place to start.” I am starting “over” with my current organization. Despite being a government entity, they are all really good people and excellent workers, but I believe they could be so much more. Ready, GO!
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