Like any investment in your business, there are costs to organizing a strategic planning session or hiring a strategic planning consultant to facilitate the process. We've put together guidelines to help you plan and budget your strategic planning session:
1. Cost of the venue
We recommend hosting your strategic planning session at on off-site location rather than your daily place of business. The purpose of the strategic planning session is to get people out of thinking about their day-to-day activities, and instead on the big picture vision and strategic direction of the organization.
While there are extra costs associated with booking a venue for your strategic planning session, the change in mindset and perspective is the first step in getting your management team to think about the big picture.
Depending on the structure of your organization and where your offices are located, you may need to fly your management team into a central location. Even if your management team is all located close by, you may decided to have the off-site at a hotel or a resort.
The benefit of hosting your team at a hotel is that it makes it easier to commute from the meeting itself to the temporary "home". It also allows opportunities to get to know one an other outside of work time. You can schedule dinner or fun team building activities after the first day(s) of work.
3. Team building games and activities
If you're going to host a strategic planning session with your leadership team, whether or not you do it off site, you've created an opportunity to build the cohesion of your team beyond simply being "work colleagues".
Your staff don't have to become best friends with each other, however, trust is built from relatedness and understanding. The more you know about the people you work with, the more you trust them, and the better work you can accomplish.
When costing out your strategic planning session, allocate some funds to create a fun activity that will help your team get to know each other better on a personal level.
Whether that's dinner, bowling, river rafting, or other, the benefits of the activity (both during the session and after) will out weigh the costs.
When estimating your costs for your strategic planning session, it's easy to forget that for your people to be at their best they need to be well fuelled. That doesn't mean simply bringing some Starbucks travel packs and some doughnuts to the session. It means having a well balanced lunch and, if possible, breakfast as well.
Strategic planning is really exhausting, and at the end of a 8-hour day of intense work, people can get grumpy, especially if they're hungry. Invest in having good food, coffee and snacks, and the benefits will show in the work of the participants
We also recommend that alcohol is not consumed until after the session.
It may seem like fun to have a couple drinks with lunch, but you'll lose focus and it will suck the energy and vibrancy that's been created.
5. Time spent organizing and coordinating ahead of time
The costs for a strategic planning session include the time it takes to coordinate the session, get everyone together, book a facilitator and the rest of the required logistics.These costs can be minimized if you have someone on your team who is really good at logistics, or if you've already planned an off site before.
If you're looking at hosting your off site at a hotel, ask the facilities manager to help you with all the logistics because they host these types of meetings everyday.
6 . Time spent analyzing data and previous strategic plan materials
The time and the costs of a strategic planning session go beyond the 2 or 3 days that people are meeting together. You have to take the time to evaluate the past performance of your strategic initiatives and doing the other pre-work required for an effective session.
Data drives decisions and the more comprehensive data your team can come to the session with the better your overall strategic planning session will be.
One thing we do at SME Strategy is run a staff survey that helps get in side the hearts and minds of your people.
Management has their views about how the business operates, but your board and your staff will have a different perspective. Running a survey takes time, and asking the right questions is critical. This takes time, but will also pay dividends in the session and beyond.
7. The cost of a facilitator
If you're looking to hire someone from outside the organization, strategic planning facilitator fees can vary depending on the organization, size, and location.
We've already outlined many of the costs of a strategic planning session whether you use a facilitator or not, and utilizing a pro (whether it's us or not) will help you get the most return from your investment.
A strategic planning facilitator is an expert in the process and can lead differently, bringing important skills into your organization. A facilitator works to engage your team, generate buy-in, and help you develop a comprehensive strategic plan with actionable priorities and goals.
Compare the training and the outcomes from a well lead session, with a few thousand dollars invested into your best people and the strategic direction of your organization..