Perhaps you’ve heard the popular saying, “you need to spend more time on the business, rather than in the business?” This saying lends itself to strategic planning because an offsite strategic planning session is one of the most valuable ways to spend your time on your business. Dedicating a one or two day session to discuss the future, revaluating your vision and strategy, will only put you in a better position in the long run.
However, if you’ve ever participated in a strategic planning session, it’s not uncommon that following the retreat new ideas or conversations are quickly forgotten, (even with the best of intentions). So, if you’re planning to facilitate a strategic planning session, here are five tips to make sure it counts.
#1: Determine Your Game Plan
Before creating an agenda, or deciding who to invite, think about where you are right now as a business. Is your strategy currently working? What do you need this planning meeting to achieve? What’s your timeframe? Are there any limitations to consider that helps guide the discussion?
Once the objectives are in place, you can determine who from your team or board needs to be involved and help take ownership of the outcomes. It’s also a great idea to ask your leaders to share any ideas or feedback they’ve been considering before the retreat so they have time to prepare.
Finally, in order to maximize time, compile the data everyone needs to know and provide it the day before the retreat. This will help in both generating ideas and problem solving at the planning session.
#2: As A Leader Know Your Role
Rather than having all the answers, your role as the leader is to inform the facilitator so they can ask the right questions. Not only will this help inspire creative responses from your team, but it will also encourage a more open dialogue. We recommend having others on your team run specific parts of the agenda so you can contribute, but also not be in a position to command every conversation.
#3: Perform A SWOT Analysis
A strategy framework is a great tool to utilize to share where you currently stand as a business, and where you want to go. Using the SWOT analysis (Strengths and Weaknesses, which relate to internal factors, in addition to Opportunities and Threats, which relate to external factors) should be performed. This analysis will depict your internal strengths and weaknesses, and your external opportunities and threats. Through the SWOT analysis, goals and objectives are established.
#4: Determine Your Direction
Two things should emerge during your strategic planning session. First, a consensus on the direction you’re going to take for the year ahead. You can summarize this in just a couple of words, and it may have to do with your employees, policies and efficiencies, scalable growth and/or changes because of the marketplace. Once you have determined this, you can identify your priorities and make sure it supports the goals you have established. This process should lead you to achieve item number two: your initiatives, and if you have time determine who is responsible, how outcomes will be measured and a realistic timeframe. If you do not have time during the planning session, then this is a priority at your next leadership meeting.
#5: Conclude With Clarity and Purpose
At the conclusion of your strategic planning session, your board or leaders should be inspired by the direction you’ve set together. To ensure everyone is on the same page you can ask, “What has become more clear as a result from our time today?”
Keep your strategy to a single page and set a time to review. Ideally, we’d recommend you do this once a quarter. Think of your strategy document as a living, breathing thing. It’s important to utilize this tool and make changes when applicable.
There are many moving parts to both preparing and executing a successful strategic planning session. Many companies, and several of our clients, have hired us as an external facilitator to execute strategic planning sessions on their behalf. This is one of our specialties, and we love what we do. Have a question for us, or perhaps you’re interested in our services? Contact us today!