Five Mistakes to Avoid to Make Your Strategic Planning Session More Effective

There are many pitfalls to strategic planning, but many of them center around the planning session itself. These meetings have taken on a life of their own with almost everyone vying for a seat at the table.  Here’s a countdown of 5 mistakes to avoid:

5.         Using an In-House Facilitator

Many firms take a do-it-yourself approach to strategic planning and while the concept of “owning” your plan has its merits, facilitation of planning efforts is as much a skill as engineering, architecture or construction management.  It pays to find a professional who can be objective and keep the conversation on track.

4.         Having Too Many Attendees

Less is more when it comes to invitees to Strategic Planning.  As with most meetings, the more attendees you have, the harder it is to stay on point.  It’s best to keep the number below 10.  If additional input is needed, you should assign participants responsibility of gathering and summarizing the feedback in advance of the planning meeting and then acting as a proxy for the larger group.  You might hurt some feelings in the process but you will accomplish more.

3.         Holding the Session In House

It is too easy to slip away for just one phone call or to handle a quick issue when the meeting is on site.  It is difficult enough to keep your attendees undivided attention off site with wireless internet, email, texting and applications at their fingertip, trying to meet on site just adds other excuses for divided attention.  It also sets the tone as a more formal meeting than you might have on a daily basis.  On site or off site, you should consider declaring the meeting a no gadgets zone – no smart phones, no tablets, no laptops.

2.         Using the Wrong Outside Facilitator

While you should not use an in-house facilitator, you should also not use an outside facilitator who does not have extensive industry background, preferably one with real hands-on experience in managing a firm to similar to yours.   While your meeting may go more smoothly with a trained facilitator, the industry perspective will be invaluable for reigning in discussions and decision making.

  1. Leaving the Meeting without a Follow Up Plan

The work really starts after the planning meeting.  Too many good strategic plans never really get off the ground because once everyone gets back to the office where their real jobs get in the way of the promises they made in the meeting.  Share the plan with the whole company and make sure you have monthly progress meetings.