What is Strategic Planning Facilitation? (& How it Will Help You Have a Great Strategy Meeting)
Are you getting ready for an upcoming strategy meeting? If so, you might want to consider the advantages of strategic planning facilitation. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know, whether you're planning a virtual or in-person meeting and whether you prefer a DIY approach or professional assistance. We'll help you discover how to have an effective strategy meeting, no matter the circumstances.
Table Of Contents:
- Exploring Strategic Planning Facilitation and Its Role in a Successful Strategy Meeting
- How to Run Productive Strategy Meetings for Small Organizations
- Facilitating Successful Strategy Meetings for Large and Medium Sized Organizations
- 15 Questions to Ask Your Team Before Your Next Strategy Meeting
- Frequently Asked Questions about Strategic Planning Facilitation:
b. How Much Does a Strategic Planning Facilitator Cost?
Exploring Strategic Planning Facilitation and Its Role in a Successful Strategy Meeting
Effective strategic planning facilitation can be a game-changer for any organization, no matter its size or industry. As strategic planning consultants, we understand that successful strategy meetings rest on three crucial pillars: Strategic Thinking, Leadership, and People & Operations.
Before your strategic planning meeting, it's essential to take all three pillars into account, so you can gain a comprehensive understanding of your organization's present state, as well as the condition of your people and systems. This way, you can create action plans and measurable metrics that can truly drive results from your strategy meeting.
Utilizing a strategic planning facilitation approach is crucial to ensure your strategy meetings achieve the desired outcomes and do not waste valuable time and resources. Unfortunately, we have observed organizations waste tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on strategic planning meetings that end up with plans that are never implemented due to insufficient facilitation and support.
But what exactly is strategic planning facilitation, and how can it help you have a great strategy meeting?
Strategic planning facilitation is when an outside facilitator is hired to work with an organization during its strategic planning meeting (and to possibly assist with implementation coaching and management development training).
It's important to clarify that strategic planning facilitation is not the same as other related terms like process consulting, business strategy consulting, advisors, mediation, or group work. Our focus here is on strategic planning facilitation, which specifically involves guiding your leadership team through a successful strategic planning process.
For many organizations, especially those with over 100 employees, it can be challenging to get optimal results from your strategy meetings. With a large organization, there are numerous moving parts, teams, strategic projects, communication interdependencies, and data to consider in order to have successful strategic planning meetings that translate into effective action plans. Without proper facilitation, your organization may fall into the multiple destination trap leading to wasted time and effort.
That's why it's crucial to make the most of the 2 or 3 days you've set aside for your strategy meeting. Time is a valuable resource, and with so many variables to consider, it's essential to optimize your strategy meetings to ensure they are effective and result in actionable plans that move your organization's strategy and business forward.
As you gear up for your upcoming strategic planning meeting, it's crucial to have a skilled facilitator in place to lead the session. However, if you find yourself without a designated facilitator, You Are the Facilitator."
Leading a meeting may seem like a simple task, but when it comes to strategic planning meetings, where you're charting the course for the next 3-5 years and shaping the future of your business, the stakes are high. These meetings require deep discussions, attention to detail, and the courage to challenge the status quo, allowing your team to bring forth critical ideas and shape the direction of your business for years to come.
There may be various reasons why you might not be able to hire a facilitator for your business, such as running a smaller organization, facing budgetary constraints, or having an in-house specialist like a Chief Strategy Officer. However, with proper planning, you can still successfully lead your own strategy sessions and achieve desired outcomes.
Organizing an offsite meeting can be a powerful tool for your team's success, but without careful planning, it can quickly become frustrating and ineffective. Have you allowed enough time to gather all the necessary information? Have you ensured that your team is fully prepared? Have you planned the session details, logistics, and set ground rules? Failing to do so can result in misalignment and lack of focus. Establishing clear expectations and guidelines before the meeting is crucial to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Having a well-defined strategic planning agenda is a good starting point, but it's equally important to establish a set of ground rules that support effective team building, decision making, and strategic thinking. These rules can cover logistics and behavior, but paying attention to the latter will create a meeting culture that promotes follow-through and implementation of ideas. If you're struggling to come up with ground rules for your strategic planning meetings, we have 12 meeting ground rules that we use when facilitating such sessions.
It's also important to provide everyone with ample time to come prepared for the session. Avoid springing the meeting on your team randomly or giving them only a few days to prepare. As the facilitator, your role is to draw out inputs and expertise from everyone in the room, especially when dealing with diverse personalities. Being skilled at having difficult conversations is crucial to creating a positive impact and fostering constructive discussions.
Remember, as the facilitator, you are responsible for creating a conducive space for meaningful conversations.
So, if you find yourself leading a strategic planning meeting without a designated facilitator, don't fret. With proper planning, clear expectations, and effective ground rules, you can still steer the meeting towards success and achieve the desired outcomes.
Facilitating Successful Strategy Meetings for Large and Medium Sized Organizations
When it comes to holding a strategy meeting, the ultimate goal is to create a well-defined plan that outlines how your organization will achieve its objectives and goals. In larger organizations with multiple departments, gaining alignment and making breakthroughs can be critical to moving the business forward. However, obstacles such as leadership or performance barriers can impede your progress. This is where a strategy facilitator can be immensely helpful.
Here are some scenarios where a strategic planning facilitator can provide you with much more value than leading the strategic planning process internally:
You're new to the process and may benefit from a seasoned expert guiding you and your team.
You want to participate in the planning process alongside your team members.
Your leadership team lacks the expertise or experience to effectively manage a large conversation with many sub-conversations and themes.
Your team isn't trained on how to recognize body language and non-verbal clues.
You don't know the right questions to ask to get to the information you want.
Your team may hold back information because they are worried about what might happen after.
You know what you want from your strategy and want to open it up to other people in the team in the most effective way possible (but you don't know how).
You want to get everyone on the same page and don't know how to do it.
Here are some of the quotes we've gotten after working with clients on their strategic planning sessions:
"I can't believe that we tried to do this ourselves"
"I'm happy you did this and not me"
"This has been our best meeting so far"
"I can't believe we did so much in such a condensed amount of time"
We facilitated the strategy meeting so that the team could focus on getting what they wanted out of their planning session.
Creating a strategic plan that is achievable and actionable requires input from all members and functions of your business, because each function plays a crucial role. Unfortunately, in many businesses, systems fail, communication silos form, and group dynamics suffer. This can result in some teams feeling marginalized or left out, departments becoming overwhelmed, and people quitting, ultimately leading to unmet goals. That's where strategic planning facilitators come in.
Facilitators go beyond just focusing on processes and systems or creating a strategic plan. They also address the behavioral and psychological aspects of your team dynamics, which are essential for propelling your organization forward. They can help your team challenge assumptions, think creatively, and explore new possibilities, making them invaluable for organizations seeking to innovate or find growth opportunities.
Using a facilitator might sound like an unnecessary cost burden, but the costs of not accomplishing your strategic plan can be much higher. A facilitator serves as an objective guide, subject matter expert, process manager, and catalyst for change, ensuring that the planning process is inclusive, productive, and effective.
One of the most significant advantages of using a facilitator in strategic planning is their ability to provide an outside perspective. This is particularly valuable for larger organizations with diverse activities or those dealing with complex issues like digital transformation, DEI strategies, or employee productivity. A facilitator can help identify key issues from past strategic plans, conduct stakeholder engagement, scenario planning and provide guidance on how to achieve your organization's goals.
After your strategy meeting and the creation of your strategic plan, it will dictate all the actions of your employees. Your strategic plan needs to create focus, team alignment, and buy-in, so that your entire team can work together to implement it successfully.
Having someone to work with you and your team on your strategic plan will allow for:
Everyone to participate in the meeting. (If you're leading, you can't participate)
More focus, because there is a structured agenda, and a person who's main job is to keep you on time, and keep the conversations on track.
Better execution, because your plan has been built on a business strategy framework that is proven to be effective.
NOTE: Whether you work with us or someone else, a strategic planning facilitator has a process, and it's their only job: to lead strategic planning.
You COULD do it, but if it's not something you're used to doing, then you have to spend a bunch of time learning how to do it, and practice doing it well.
The facilitator will provide notes and an implementation plan. If you do this, then you have to take time out from your normal day to day activities to connect your strategy to your operations.
Accountability to do something instead of having a plan that doesn't move forward
Further reading: The Cost of Developing a Strategic Plan (3 Tiers)
We've already covered the costs of a strategic planning session in a past video, but if you're just looking at the cost versus the benefit of using a strategy facilitator,One of the most significant costs can be the facilitator's fees. So, how much does a strategic planning facilitator cost, and is it worth the investment?
A good facilitator can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars a day, to upwards of ten thousand per day.
First, let's look at pure labor costs of your strategy meeting.
1) How much is the average daily salary of all the attendees of the meeting? (You can use this handy calculator)
Multiply the cost of one day salary for each of those people:
If your team makes an average of $150,000 per year, multiply the number of attendees by $576.00
If your team makes an average of $200,000 per year, multiply the number of attendees by $769.00
What's your total cost? ______________
Does it make sense for you to invest in a facilitator to make sure you don't waste their time with an ineffective meeting?
Now let's look at the revenue and costs of your whole organization on a yearly basis.
How much revenue does your organization generate now?
What are the costs for all your labor organization-wide?
How much money do you think is being wasted because your organization is not aligned and is moving in different directions?
How much money would you create (Additional revenue, or decreased costs) if your team was 10-20% more effective?
What about the long term cumulative benefits of getting better strategy and execution now, and then next year, and the year after?
What about the costs of lower turnover, hiring, and training because you've been able to create a more aligned culture?
What about the happiness that you can't even measure because everyone on your team is happy and engaged while at work?
What would that look like for you and your team?
Ultimately, the decision to hire a strategic planning facilitator should be based on a careful consideration of the costs versus the benefits. While the upfront cost may seem high, the long-term benefits could be significant in terms of increased revenue, decreased costs, and a more aligned and engaged team.
Read more: What are the Costs for a Strategic Planning Session?
Leading a strategy meeting soon? Managing diverse perspectives, navigating complex dynamics, and ensuring team alignment and buy-in can be challenging, even for seasoned leaders. But with the right skills and strategic planning tools, you can successfully facilitate any meeting in your organization, and even enhance your leadership capabilities.
One effective approach is to learn a tried-and-true process. There are plenty of resources available online, such as our strategic planning course, which follows our approach to leading strategy for over 13 years. This comprehensive course offers 8 hours of video instruction, along with strategic planning templates, guides, and worksheets to support you through the entire process.
With this course, you'll learn how to align your team around a common vision and mission, develop achievable strategic goals, and create a specific action plan to drive results. You'll also gain valuable skills in effective communication, facilitation, diplomacy, and adaptability, which can be applied to any meeting or situation in your organization.
Buy it here: How to Create a Strategic Plan.
We believe that facilitating a successful strategy meeting should be a painless and valuable experience. Imagine a workplace where everyone is aligned and working together towards a shared goal. Our proven 5-step process can help your organization achieve that vision. Learn more and let's have a conversation.