Part 2: Strategic Planning – The Strategic Planning Meeting Preparation
By: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services
The following is part nine of a nine-part series on strategic planning. This blog series includes identifying the need for strategic planning, setting a level playing field, defining the organization and its purpose, and selecting the initiatives, goals, and actions that will make the organization successful.
We reviewed why Strategic Planning is necessary in the last installment. In this installment, we take it one step further in discussing who needs to be at the meeting and what everyone should expect.
Are you looking to develop cohesion but have some angst about who the right audience might be?
GETTING TO THE MEETING AND WHAT TO EXPECT
The hardest part of preparation is planning for the meeting. You may ask, ‘Who are the key players, and how many of those players should be there?’ Great question(s)!
Let’s tackle size first: We have worked with a wide-range of management teams numbering from three to 30+ individuals for a strategic planning session. We have found the most successful meetings include an audience of no less than four and no more than ten individuals. Less than four leads to someone dominating the conversation and more than ten can often lead to social loafing and again one person dominating the conversation. I’ve included another article from the Harvard Business Review on why less is more in teams.
IDENTIFYING THE RIGHT PLAYERS FROM EACH DEPARTMENT
Next, let’s evaluate which key players should be there: To identify the right players, it is critical that each department is represented. For instance, if sales, marketing, and business development teams agree on the next best step but no one from operations agrees to the initiative, get ready for a major problem. I would not expect much carry through from operations since they were not involved in the session. You also want to identify your ‘A’ players and give them a seat at the table along with a voice at that table. Here’s another great article from the Harvard Business Review on how to manage your team of all-stars.
We have answered your size and key player question but what about those left out of the strategic planning session? There are ways to involve, engage, and encourage those employees who feel left out. Employee buy-in is crucial for all steps of this process, and to get this from those employees not at the meeting is very important. Those key players representing them should solicit feedback and information to help voice their input at the session. Here is how to get bonus points with those left out; that leader representing them should circle back to let the employees know how the meeting went and what the group thought about a point they raised when solicited for feedback.
PREPARING FOR A SUCCESSFUL STRATEGIC PLANNING MEETING
For most internal ongoing meetings, it is not necessary to bring in an outside consultant to run your strategic planning meetings. However, it is highly critical that outside persons run the first meeting along with a semi-annual or annual workshop on an ongoing basis. This outside consultant needs to know your organization well enough to be impactful in these meetings but not so well that they are also swayed by the systemic biases that are weighing on the organization currently.
As to location, these workshops must be set up offsite to avoid distractions and the environment that inherently carries bias (also known as your office), and no email should be checked or sent. In the past, we typically have not asked the CEO or highest-ranking official at these sessions to collect all communication devices at the beginning of the day and to return them at the end of the session, but we are considering doing so going forward. Note to all our millennial readers out there: Calm down!; the profit is in the process and not on your iPhone. For the room, have light refreshments and windows; it may seem weird, but trust me, it makes a world of difference. Also remember to plan for breaks, people will be hydrating and will need to take stretch breaks to keep their focus.
At KHA Management Consultants, we have experience working with organizations on Strategic Planning. We facilitate the process with the organization’s key constituents to ensure buy-in, ownership, and a new way of thinking about the organization and its stakeholders among all levels of employees. From a resource perspective, we primarily use our experience but also tap into the top-level resources such as those provided by Harvard Business Review and MentorPlus. Some of those materials, frameworks, and lessons have been used in writing this blog.
KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the strategic planning experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.