Great strategic meetings don’t happen by accident. They happen because someone is committed to THINKING through the purpose and outcome, PLANNING all of the details in advance, and DOING the hard work of running the meeting. This is the role of an excellent annual planning facilitator that can help you better define your strategy, create a winning annual plan and leave with an action plan to get your annual initiatives done. In order to facilitate a planning session, there is a lot of hard work that needs to be done. These same techniques should be used for in person sessions and virtual strategic planning sessions with your management team.
At Scale Up Growth Partners & Rhythm Systems, our advisors are trained strategic facilitators and play an important role in the strategic planning process. We 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 your longer term strategic priorities drive your shorter term goals, projects and actions.
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. It is nearly impossible for a CEO to effectively facilitate a session 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.
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 work should the meeting participants get done prior to the meeting? 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?
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.
An effective Objective Statement consists of three parts:
Sample Objective Statement for one company’s Quarterly Planning Session
QUARTERLY PLANNING OBJECTIVE STATEMENT
TO: Conduct our Q4 planning session
IN A WAY THAT:
SO THAT: We finish this year strong and set ourselves up for a strong start to next year.
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 properly prepared. The preparation checklist below will help you.
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 organisation. 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.
Three definitions of the role of the facilitator:
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.
Sources & Attribution
This blog post shares the top tips and tricks to facilitation from our partner Rhythm Systems, and their Facilitator guide written by Chris Cosper and Barry Pruitt and adapted to a blog post by Ted Skinner. If you’d like to download the guide, please click here. We really hope that you enjoy the facilitation techniques outlined in this article to keep group discussions both positive and productive. We hope this fully answered your question of 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.