Fourth quarter rituals for many organizations include holding a strategic planning retreat. For some it’s a holiday treat, for others it’s as welcomed as a hard block of fruitcake. Retreats have a bad reputation because it’s so easy to stumble over the details. Anyone who knows what good meetings look like, also knows that they don’t happen by circumstance. Avoiding the following five pitfalls might keep you in the clear when planning your next retreat.
1. Ignoring the Elephant in the Room
Strategy is worthless if your house isn’t in order. The best-prepped strategic retreats will not go anywhere without people. And if any key staff member is upset or has an outstanding problem, your strategic planning meeting will likely be disrupted. Give your employee the opportunity to voice issues or concerns privately. Make sure you clarify your intent is to clear up any problems that may inhibit his or her full participation during strategy session.
2. Refusing to Use a Facilitator
If you were having a party for 100 of your closest friends, would you improve your efficiency by hiring a caterer, or would you cook for all of them? Why take on the extra stress? A strategic planning meeting is no different. Hire a facilitator and you can be fully engaged in the strategy and planning, and leave meeting process and structure to someone else. The return on your investment will be worth the time and money.
3. Inviting Everyone
The old cliché of “too many cooks spoil the broth” couldn’t be closer to the truth. While it is imperative that key employees have a voice in planning, not everyone has to literally be at the table. Groups between 10 to 15 people are the ideal size for strategic planning meetings. The key thing to remember is be inclusive, but don’t invite everyone to everything.
4. Forgetting to Explain the Process
A good facilitator will make sure to explain the strategic planning process and outcome of the meeting from the get-go. Use shared strategic planning language, understand the elements of a strategic plan, and be clear on the desired outcome for the meeting. By making sure that everyone starts on the same page, you eliminate any confusion that might derail your meeting.
5. Ending on a Low Note
The best way to get people jazzed about the plan is to have them visualize success. Do that by asking your team to draw a picture of what the company will look like if you achieve your strategic plan. Have them really explain it. How many employees? What is the office like? Who are your customers? What is the media saying? Etc. That way everyone leaves the planning session seeing a connection between the work of the day to a future state of success.
How will you make your next strategic retreat a success?