Now that your team has a clear understanding of what a strategic plan is and why it’s important for your organization, how do you bring them together to actually hash out a plan?
In-person, out of the office: Planning requires deep discussion and strategy. You want to do it face to face. That dynamic also encourages key questions, doubts or challenges to rise to the surface so your team can address them prior the finalizing the plan. By meeting outside of the office, you shake up people’s environment and perspectives, allowing them to focus on new ideas and approaches. It automatically sets the tone this is not just a standard day at the office.
Set the goal deliverable up front: Are you hoping to have a full three-year plan on paper by session’s end? Do you want to focus simply on defining your True North goals and metrics? Whatever your desired deliverable, tell your team up front and keep it realistic. If you only have a two-hour planning session, cranking out that three-year plan is going to be tough. It also helps to have a framework or template of what the plan (on paper) will look like.
Interactive: Nothing derails a plan faster than brain fatigue, the slightly glazed over look of people who are feeling slightly overwhelmed by the immensity of the task and aren’t sure how to move forward. A good way to beat it is by keeping your team active and engaged. We like to bring toys like Play-Doh, Yo-yos and stress balls when we facilitate strategic planning sessions. You also should utilize all-team and break-out sessions wisely. Alternate between large team discussions and smaller focused brainstorms. It allows your team to switch up who they interact with throughout the day, and often includes moving about the room to various locations as well.
Plan on multiple sessions: Remember that two-hour session we mentioned above? That’s not a realistic timeframe for the level of work you’ll be tackling. For a good strategic planning session, you want to anticipate at least two or three four-hour sessions, or a full day and half day back-to-back to keep momentum going.
Rely on a trusted partner to help keep perspective and ask probing questions: Whether it’s a PR or market strategy agency, a business consultant, or a trusted colleague outside of the organization, it helps to have someone in the room with a fresh set of eyes. He or she can ask the tough questions, play devil’s advocate and, perhaps, help the team see things in a different light.
Focus on the right things: Part 1 of the series explained that strategic planning is focused at the highest levels, the big picture. So, for your planning session, you’ll want to focus on elements like: the macro industry, the micro industry, competitive forces, a SWOT analysis, and strategic frameworks like Michael Porter’s 5 Forces. Avoid the temptation to get stuck in the weeds of specific departments or tactical woes. Those can be addressed in detail once the overall plan is in place.
Gauge “belief in the plan:” Congratulations! Two days later, you have the draft of a shiny new plan. Before you go any further, pause and ask you team to rank how confident they are that your organization can pull off the plan. If you receive low numbers, the plan might be over-reaching, which means you could be setting yourself up for failure on the implementation side. If that’s the case, have a deeper conversation with your team about specific points of concern and go back to address them.