A very real concern we often hear from clients is creating a plan their organization resonates with. This is doubly true when an organization’s planning team is fearful the greater organization won’t engage to provide the genuine, honest feedback crucial to create a plan your team connects with.
In any strategic planning process, your plan and outcomes are only as good as the inputs you use to create your plan. But, the key to good planning inputs is having a clear, unfiltered understanding of where your organization stands today.
We recently facilitated a process with the Washoe County Community Services Department that created a powerful set of insights from their staff as to what is working within their department, what they need to do better, and what the direction of the organization needs to be to achieve their vision of success. The catch? These insights were created entirely without the presence of their leadership team.
So, What’s a Buzz Session?
A buzz session is just that – a session to help your organization articulate the issues and topics that create the buzz around your organization’s office. But, the pivotal thing about Buzz Sessions is they occur almost entirely without the presence of your executive leadership team to create a space where your team can paint a clear picture of what’s going on in your organization absent of fear of speaking the truth in front of their bosses.
We recommend leveraging these sessions and process to help inform the direction of your strategic planning sessions. So, these are really pre-planning activities to help your team have a more defined focus before you enter the actual plan creation process.
We also recommend hosting these sessions with diverse viewpoints and job duties throughout your organization. Having representation at different levels of your organization together allows everyone to understand each other’s unique viewpoints.
So, here’s how to structure a Buzz Session:
- Provide an overview to your team.
Dedicate the first part of the session to having your leadership team articulate the mission of your organization and your vision. This part of the session should be no longer than 15 minutes and its core purpose is to give your team a starting point for discussion.
- Have your leadership team leave the room.
This is pivotal in the success of these sessions. It gives your team the breathing room to provide unbridled, unfiltered feedback that will make your planning process smarter and help create a plan that resonates with the true issues your organization faces day-to-day.
- Using an appointed facilitator, have your organization react to your mission and vision.
Appoint a facilitator to guide your team through the process. It’s also important to have a team member (or a few team members) take detailed notes of what is articulated during the meeting. Have your facilitator ask your team what their reaction to the articulated mission and vision are. Are these truly what the focus should be? Is there something that’s missing? Is where you are going relevant and meaningful to your organization? Now is a good time to have your team provide input on these questions.
- After, have your organization answer the questions, “What’s going well? What isn’t going well?”
Asking these questions helps you create a clear picture of what is currently working in your organization that you should keep and what areas you should consider changing and tackling during the next planning cycle to help drive your organization toward your desired future state. Honest feedback from your team on the ground identifies any gaps between your leadership team and your individual contributors about what your focus should be.
- Using that information, ask the question “What should the areas of focus be to accomplish our vision of success?”
Your leadership team probably has a good idea what they think are the areas of focus. But to create a plan that resonates with your team, it also needs to reflect what they think the areas of focus should be to achieve your vision of success. Everyone has a unique viewpoint and great ideas you may not have considered because you haven’t tuned into the voice of your whole organization. This exercise gives the team a voice and gives you a holistic view into what the areas of focus might be for your next planning cycle.
That’s it! These meetings may take a few hours to complete, and it’s important to take extremely detailed notes. But, this input is invaluable in helping to create a strategic plan that impacts the organization in a meaningful way.
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Using the Feedback You Gathered
The document that you walk away from these Buzz Sessions with is certainly not intended to be the end-all-be-all guide to creating your plan. In fact, creating a plan that meets all the ideas and needs articulated from these sessions would be unactionable.
Instead, we recommend your leadership team take the session notes and reorganize the content into major theme areas and focus points for discussion during the planning process. It’s not meant to tell you exactly what you should do in your next plan, but rather to give your entire organization a voice into what the priorities might be to achieve your vision.
Using Buzz Sessions before you start your planning process is a surefire way to make your organization heard and helps create a plan that resonates with your team–that’s a huge step in ensuring the successful implementation and adoption of your plan.