How To Run Your Half-Day Strategic Planning Session

Last time we talked about reasons to do strategic planning – now we will tell you how to do it! Possibly you have been thinking you need to do strategic planning for your business, but you just don’t seem to be able to find the time. If this is you, here is an easy way to get started with a half-day strategic planning meeting with you and your key employees.

Ideally a session would be longer than this, but this is a great way to start small and shortcut the process and still come out with a beneficial plan that will be productive.

The basics you need to cover in a half day session will look something like this:

Things to do in advance of the meeting to get a headstart and maximize your meeting time. Poll the leadership team in advance and ask them some or all of the following questions about the future. Because you have a short time you need to get these answers in advance instead of at the beginning of the meeting.What are the most important things that you can accomplish? What does our SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis look like? You have to understand where you are in the marketplace. What is something that you can accomplish or that you should accomplish in the next year? If you think three years down the road, what, where do we want to be? What target do you want to reach? You will get a wide variety of answers to this type of polling, but then you harmonize and distill it, bring it together so as a team in a half a day, you can focus on the two or three most important things that will move the needle for your organization or business. If you walk in the door knowing that you’ve already got two or three things, then you can very quickly hone in on those things and start mapping out strategies and plans.

A strategic planning session encompasses every part of your business or organization so that you have buy-in from all of the departments. It is critical to include a good facet of the organization from multiple disciplines within the business. You will want to include key leaders of your revenue centers, the key leaders of your operations centers. For example if you are a software company, you want people there from your product development, your help desk, support, leaders in sales and marketing, you certainly need executive leadership, the chief financial officer, the CEO – and don’t leave out HR because HR is an important piece of planning. We see a number of companies leave HR out of the leadership circle. It’s really important to include HR because that encompasses the whole company. You have to have the entire team behind it.

This gives an opportunity to get everybody rowing the boat in the same direction. One of the common analogies that I use with our clients is if you haven’t set the direction and set forth the mapping – everybody can be rowing as fast as they can, but they may all be rowing in different directions. Sometimes we see a CEO and one or two very close advisors set the strategy, and then sometimes it fails miserably because it was really developed in a vacuum and no one has bought into the plan. Including the right people creates buy-in which leads to success. You get buy-in when every department has had a chance to participate in what the direction is. After the initial session where you have created buy-in, you can carry that down further into the various departments and each department could have a short half day session if you believe this would create benefit.
You want to keep the group small enough to be manageable, but it also has to touch the entire company. There’s genuine power of minds coming together and differing opinions and thoughts which can cause people to move and come up with new and great ideas. Everyone needs to come in with an open mind. Every idea has to be valid in a session like this. For example, someone will come up an idea that may seem outlandish – something that is never going to happen, but it spurs an idea across the room with somebody that suddenly an idea starts taking shape and 20 minutes later through discussion, you take what seemed to be a crazy idea and turned it into something that is executable, manageable and measurable. Remember that creativity can get completely derailed if people just shut each other down. It needs to be a no judgment zone to talk openly and freely and then you will figure out where to go. It is important to have a facilitator in charge of keeping the group focused in discussion.

In the most recent episode of my podcast HR Problem Solver, I go in depth on the topic of Strategic Planning with my guest Tom Bronson of Mastery Partners. You can listen/watch here to learn more about how to conduct a productive strategic planning session for your company.

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Small and medium-sized businesses may not have the time or expertise to implement the necessary people strategies for business success. The ideas above can be easily implemented by you to help improve the performance of your employees which leads to increased employee engagement and increasing the bottom line.

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