By Heyden Enochson
Keeping Your Head Out of the Weeds

As you walk through the strategic planning process, it can be difficult keeping your team on a leash and out of the weeds. Productivity stops when teams are mired by off-topic details, dirty laundry, and minutia. Keeping the team focused, on-task and flying at the right altitude is a challenge.

We tip our hats to Nevada Industry Excellence, an economic services provider, for their ability to stay on-course during a recent strategic planning facilitation. We commonly find ourselves pulling planning teams out of the weeds and refocusing them, but this wasn’t the case with them. The 14-person planning team was focused, determined, and dedicated. Better yet, they self-managed themselves; alerting participants when strategic dialogue dissolved into watery details.

How did they do it?

Following these simple tips can clear the clouds and give your team some blue sky action to allow for an effective planning session:

  • Eliminate Distractions – Wipe out the available distractions. Clean up the physical space or make sure there won’t be interruptions. The little screen in your pocket? Yeah, that’s one of the worst violators. That text can wait, even if it means the spouse gets hot because you didn’t reply right away.
  • Set the Ground Rules – Having ground rules keeps your team from wandering off on tangents. Make it clear the direction you are going with the understanding that meaningless conversations won’t fly. Agree on the rules. Post them on a wall. Refer to them when needed.
  • Use a Parking Lot – Often, off-topic discussions are important. They’re just not relevant in the context of strategic planning. Post a blank poster board simply titled “parking lot” at the beginning of a strategic planning session. Use it to capture off-topic considerations requiring follow-up. At the end of the session, review the parking lot items and assign an owner of each item if it’s a priority.

Finding the hours to complete a planning session is difficult enough, so make the most of the time you’ve set aside. Using these three easy tips will help drive engagement, participation and alignment supporting your strategic planning process.