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Planning Resources

Making the Most of Your Strategic Planning

There's a lot to think about when you set out to build a new strategic plan. These elements will ensure your next planning session is engaging and successful.

1. Use the Right Mix of Pre-session Activities

A great strategic planning effort begins before your team enters the room. By determining and executing the right mix of pre-planning activities, you're making sure that you make the most of your time together, get everyone thinking about the future, and ensure your team understands the planning model you'll use.

Your time together is valuable. Maximize it by taking care of things like traditional SWOT assessments in advance of the planning session. Share SWOT summary info in 15-20 minutes instead of spending 60-90 minutes building these lists in real-time. This puts time back into your day for what matters most, which is building great goals.

Completing SWOT surveys and other activities in advance means your team begins thinking about discussion topics well before the planning meeting. Participants come into the session having already considered the organization's biggest opportunities, and are ready to focus on the future.

Whatever model you're using to build your plan, you want to be sure your team understands the terminology and key principles. Take time to share reading material, videos, and other helpful resources prior to the planning session to ensure everyone understands the framework and is capable of using the model.

2. Have a Dedicated Driver for the Planning Session

With pre-session activities taken care of, the next thing you'll need is a dedicated driver for the conversation. An appointed host means your team can fully engage in the conversation, everyone's voice is heard, and ensures you leave with a real plan.
When your planning session has a dedicated host, it means:

It's a lot to ask team members to thoughtfully engage in conversation, ask great questions, take comprehensive notes, and be mindful of time. Having a dedicated facilitator frees your team up to fully participate while someone else watches the clock, moves the discussion forward, and captures the conversation.

We've all been in meetings that were dominated by one or two personalities. A responsible facilitator uses techniques to ensure everyone's perspective is included in the planning session. A neutral, third-party facilitator can say "Let's hear what everyone else thinks about that" in a way that team members typically won't.

Time is valuable. And there's a big difference between spending a few hours together vaguely talking about the future and building a clear, measurable plan. A dedicated facilitator understands the meeting's purpose, keeps an eye on the clock, and makes sure you leave with what you need to keep moving forward.

3. Assign Ownership for Everything

These first two pieces are important, but they aren't enough to set you and your team up for success. Strategic planning is just as much about what happens in the room as it is about what happens after the goals are created.

As you wrap up, be sure to establish ownership for everything. You'll likely leave your planning session with several great goals identified. But who's really responsible for them? Assign ownership for each objective, and don't dump everything on one person. Owners aren't expected to do all the work for their individual area, but they are expected to work with team members to move things forward.

4. Ongoing Accountability

Strategic planning isn't like a trip to Vegas. What happens in the room should be well-documented and revisited frequently. Prepare your team to have structured conversations about progress by building a scorecard to monitor activity and maintaining a steady cadence (biweekly, monthly) for these reviews.

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