If strategic plans tend to put you on autopilot (schedule, create agenda, take notes, make a plan, etc.), it might be time to take a look at why you have regular planning meetings and revisit their purpose.

The Importance of the Annual Strategic Planning Session

A strategic planning meeting is a comprehensive process where a group determines what an organization should do in the following year. It outlines how everyone involved will reach his or her annual goals. While the approach may feel routine, the strategic planning process is not mundane, and you should not take it lightly.

A strategic planning meeting should be a rallying cry to everyone involved in the organization. The outcome of the planning process could result in your best year yet, but only if you prepare ways to ensure the meeting runs efficiently and drives toward the desired consensus. There are five main reasons to plan:

  1. To set direction and priorities:  A strategic planning session is an opportunity to define what your organization considers a success. This is the time to work together to outline the team’s shared priorities, and discuss how everyone can help reach those goals.
  2. To get everyone on the same page:  Your organization may be composed of many different teams or one small team. Either way, strategic planning will help you run like a well-oiled machine.
  3. To apply a strategy:  Your annual strategy will provide a guide for everyone to follow and help simplify decision-making throughout the fiscal year.
  4. To drive alignment:  On every level of your organization, people have specific goals and are working towards achieving them. Strategic planning can align those goals and gives everyone more opportunities to gain what they seek.
  5. To communicate a new direction:  Strategic planning is a time to get everyone in attendance involved in the goals of your organization. Through their participation, your message will be heard and taken to heart.

You might relate to one or all of the five reasons to plan, but understanding the reasons you prepare a strategic planning meeting is not enough. Plenty can go wrong. In fact, you might be looking back at your last planning meeting and wondering why you didn’t see any significant changes in 2016-17.

How a Professional Facilitator Creates Success

Many of the problems that are all too common in strategic planning meetings can be resolved with the support of a professional facilitator.

  • Problem: Too much focus on the past. Do the leaders in your organization get hung up on achievements or failures from the previous year?
  • Solution: A professional facilitator will keep the conversation on task, moving through the different touchpoints including your organization’s past initiatives.
  • Problem: Ideas are shared, but there is no consensus on where you want to be as an organization.
  • Solution: Facilitators are well versed in issue resolution and understand the tools necessary to build consensus. After analyzing past initiatives, they will move on to outlining your mission, vision, goals and objectives.
  • Problem: After outlining strategic goals, there is no plan in place to achieve them.
  • Solution: A professional facilitator will assign critical success factors to each goal. Those factors provide a simple guide to reach success.
  • Problem: You and your team have worked hard to create a strategic plan, but people neglect or forget it after a month or so.
  • Solution: Professional facilitators know how to monitor strategic plans. They will provide your team with the tools to set up checkpoints throughout the year to measure effectiveness.