3 Ways A Facilitator Can Improve Strategic Planning

Mike Harden | | Operating with Vision, Thinking Strategically

How many inefficient meetings have you attended in the past year? How many have you attended where everyone’s voice was heard? How many were too long, wandered too far off topic, and accomplished too little?

Your fall meeting to talk about strategic planning is incredibly important. Don’t let it go the way that so many meetings do. Bringing a facilitator in to your strategic planning process helps you avoid the common meeting traps and focus instead on creating a viable plan for your organization.

The benefits of bringing an outside facilitator include:

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1. Better All-Round Participation

When strategic planning is guided by the CEO or leader of an organization, participants defer to him or her. They may feel uncomfortable speaking up or offering ideas that are counter to those the CEO suggests. They may feel pressured to agree. This is not how you develop good strategy. The way that strategy bubbles up is that everyone is able to exchange ideas, discuss them and let the CEO know if they’re wrong. If you’re running the meeting as a leader, you tend to put your own imprint on the strategy, perhaps quite unintentionally.

A facilitator, as an outsider, doesn’t feel pressure to conform to the CEO’s ideas. The leader comes down to the level of the other participants, because they don’t have to worry about being the authority in the room. His/her ideas are as good as everyone else’s; they are not weighted more heavily. That’s important in the implementation phase because it is the organization’s strategy; “our strategy” vs. “our boss’s strategy.”

2. Staying On Track

We’ve all sat in meetings that were sidetracked or hijacked, and they are tremendous time and energy wasters. A facilitator can step back and say, “We haven’t heard from you yet; do you have anything you want to add?” At the same time, he can diplomatically tell the long-winded meeting hogs to let others have a turn.

3. Efficiency

The problem with onsite strategic planning, especially when run by an internal leader, is that people disappear. You have a five-minute break, eight people leave the room, four come back. They get sucked into checking their email or messages. They run into someone they need to speak to. Getting offsite, shutting the phones off, and working together is key, and the outside facilitator is able to set and enforce these rules more easily.

A facilitator can help the strategic planning process become more efficient and effective. Not only is the process better, the end result will be better too. That’s a real benefit.

Mike Harden

Mike Harden has developed exceptional depth and breadth of knowledge over his 40+ year career as an entrepreneur, executive, teacher, mentor, and coach. Today, as one of DC’s premier Executive Coaches, Mike helps good executives become great leaders. Find Mike on Google+

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