The words “strategic planning” invoke an emotional reaction in many leaders. For entrepreneurs, the prospect of spending a day or two in a room, free of structure and creativity is exciting and exhilarating. But for managers and executive leaders, the words can be a bit frightening. How am I going to to get all my “regular” work done and take time for these meetings? Will we really execute the ideas we generate? Who will plan the meeting? You can create excitement, reduce stress and most importantly, engage your broader team in growing your business with an effective strategic planning process. And right now, even with several vaccines in deployment, Coronavirus is still an impediment to meeting.
Here are 5 easy tips to improve the process – and do so safely with COVID:
- Plan ahead. Most stress comes from juggling calendars and “fitting in” the meetings. If you have a regular strategic planning meeting cycle (we recommend quarterly meetings), plan the meeting dates a full year in advance so that the attendees know when these are and can plan accordingly. Yes, there is still some uncertainty as to when it will be safe to meet in person, but get these meetings scheduled and booked on calendars. This includes the venue, which is our second tip
- Meet offsite in a creative setting. Do not meet in your conference room or office. These meetings need to be in a creative place, offsite so that your managers and leaders are not “sucked in” to the day to day. You want your team to be at its creative peak during these meetings and we believe strongly in the power of a creative space to generate great ideas. We believe in this so much at align5 that we have three amazing creative outlets that we offer for strategic planning: Space in downtown West Chester, PA, The Retreat in Marathon, FL, and the Nashville Music Loft Obviously, travel and meeting in person may be challenging or even impossible for at least the first half of the year. If you have to meet remotely, using technology, consider finding Safe locations for your team members besides their homes, such as an empty office or conference room for each participant. This way participants can be completely focused and free of the distractions that we have come to expect in this era of working from home.
- Set an agenda and expectations ahead of the meeting. The agenda can be somewhat loose if you are looking for more brainstorming, but you should distribute an outline ahead of time of what you want to discuss, when you want to discuss these topics, and the desired outcomes for each topic. This way attendees can adequately prepare (not everyone is just spontaneously creative) and more importantly, they will feel a sense of satisfaction and pride of completion when the meeting ends since the expectations of the outcomes were set prior to the meeting.
- Assign a notetaker and timekeeper. “Down the rabbit hole”, “offline”. These are buzzwords that will kill any meeting as there is nothing worse than when the meeting devolves into a discussion into that one customer or that one employee that one time…. have someone be your referee and have a “safe word” that everyone knows means it is time to get back on track. Additionally, when there is a viable takeaway from a slight detour from a discussion, have your notetaker discern who is responsible, what they will follow up on and when they will do it. In our process, we call this a WWW (or Who What When) – which is a tactical follow up task that allows for execution of an idea without the “rabbit hole” of conversation. If the meeting is remote and using technology, we recommend never going more than two hours without a break of at least 20 minutes as well
- Have a defined process for execution and follow up. Nothing demotivates a team more than 1-2 days they spend out of the office generating great ideas for nothing to happen (not to mention the hours of “catch up” needed to address the work not done during the meeting). Ensure you have an effective system to capture the key steps to executing the ideas you generate, measure your progress, and most importantly, celebrate the successes you achieve! At align5, we believe strongly in the Scaling Up process.
If 2020 taught us anything, it is the importance of a plan but being flexible to adapt so make sure you have a check-in process of effective Meeting Rhythms so you can measure and assess your strategy and ensure that the ideas that you identified in your strategic planning are applicable and effective in what is sure to be a fast-changing 2021!
The parent company of align.Space, align5™ is an executive coaching and consulting company focused on strategic coaching and execution planning for entrepreneurs. We also provide valuable human resources consulting services and recruiting services. Learn more about align5 and our coaching offerings at http://align5.com/.