How to Conduct Effective Strategic Planning
For many companies, this is the time of the year when they conduct their annual strategic planning meeting to discuss the plan for the coming year and even perhaps the next few years. If you are not familiar with how to run a strategic planning meeting then here is a primer on how to get the most out of these sessions.
Why hold this meeting?
The Strategic Planning Meeting is where the top leadership decides on where the organization is going over the year and perhaps even into the following two years. Many organizations have adopted a three-year time horizon for their strategies.
The current thinking is that often it takes more than a year for the results of a plan to be felt and that the once popular five year time horizon is now too long given how fast innovations in technology are changing the face of business. Hence, the three-year plan.
The focus of a strategic plan is usually on the entire organization, while the focus of a business plan is usually on a particular product, service or program. This is the time where you can create alignment with your management team as reach a consensus on vision, values, mission, goals, strategies, and objectives.
But why plan at all?
Maybe I can paraphrase the words of Lewis Carol. “If you do not know where you are going, then any path will get you there.” If also we keep in mind that the primary objective of the company, to put it bluntly, is to make money, then we should make sure that how we conduct the business results in creating the greatest profit possible. We all know that we need this profit to keep a roof over our heads, send our kids to schools and so on.
So, if we know the end point, then surely we can discover the other great truth, “that the shortest distance between two points in described by a straight line”. Planning will help us make sure that we do not waste time and resources on activities that are not aligned with our corporate goals.
Who should be involved?
The strategic planning team should be led by the company president and include the senior managers and department heads. The ideal number of participants should be kept at around 7 to 12. If you have more than 12 then you will likely have more spectators and kibitzers instead of active participants.
Who should run the meeting?
The strategic planning meeting is best run by an experienced outside consultant or facilitator. He will free you from worrying about the running the meeting and you will be able to focus on content and adding value instead. The job of the facilitator is to encourage discussions while at the same time keeping track of time and making sure that the time table is followed.
Should the meeting be held in the conference room?
I believe that it is best to hold the meeting at a hotel function room far away from interruptions and other emergencies. If the meeting is held at your office, then the participants can easily find an excuse to rush out to their office to attend to some imagined life threatening situation. Phone calls, emails, and other meetings must be given a lower priority so that your team members can concentrate and focus on the matters at hand.
What about budget discussions?
Detailed budget discussions are best avoided at the annual strategic planning meeting. It is very easy for the meeting to get bogged down over the budget figures and for the budget issues to completely take over the meeting. Innovative thinking and ideation will be drowned out by budget concerns. The strategic planning meeting is for discussing strategy and the budget issues are best dealt with at a separate budget meeting.
How do we communicate and execute the plan?
Once the strategy has been decided, the next step is to communicate the strategic plan to the rest of the organization. The other managers and supervisors can now formulate their own plans and strategies to execute the strategic plan.
The value of Strategic Planning
The value of strategic planning lies in the process. By participating in the planning process, your leaders and eventually your whole team will have ownership of the plan. This ownership will inspire them to give their best effort to execute the plan. Different viewpoints on directions, goals, and strategies will have emerged and have been discussed. Creative solutions should have been found. Alignment should have emerged as a consensus is reached on vision, values, mission, goals, strategies, and objectives.
I hope that the above primer will help you organize an effective strategic planning meeting. If you need help, please do email email@example.com or call Chili at Tel (632) 697 0767 Tel (632) 579-0233 Mobile (Globe) 0917-882-5578 Mobile (Smart) 0920-918-7358 for more information.
Look out for the primers on SWOT Analysis and the Balanced Scorecard. These are very useful tools that you need for your strategic planning session.
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