What Does a Strategic Planning Facilitator Do?
Your organization is on a journey. Your strategic planning facilitator is your expedition guide.
A strategic planning facilitator acts as an expedition leader, helping your team explore, problem-solve, and push strategic thinking outside the box and sometimes into uncharted territory, to create strategic breakthroughs to support the vision and sustainability of the organization and its people.
Group facilitation is more than just running a meeting.
Facilitation is about creating a space that makes it easy for a group to come together and work together to develop real solutions to big problems.
In strategic planning, this is a critical process because the team involved is made up of intelligent, driven leaders, each possessing unique ideas and experience as well as communication, and analytical styles. Good facilitators ask hard questions to move teams out of their comfort zone, rooting out the information needed to build a robust yet agile strategy. Differences of opinion will come up (and should) but those differences need to be resolved - that’s hard to do unless you are working with someone with no dog in the fight.
With a neutral and experienced strategic facilitator, everyone involved is a participant on a journey that will challenge assumptions and rooted perceptions, with no one left out of the problem-solving and creative path-finding experience.
Good Facilitation will:
Creates “space” away from the day-to-day operations to think strategically
Challenge status quo mindset
Provide an opportunity for participants to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s talents
Encourages open communication by leveling the playing field in terms of position/status
Creates alignment on critical outcomes and actions that support strategy
What to Look for in a
Strategic Planning Facilitator
You hire an expert team to run your business, so with something as important as strategic planning, why wouldn’t you hire an expert in strategic planning facilitation? Not only should you bring in someone from outside your team to provide a fresh perspective and approach, but you should also seek someone who specializes in strategy design – not just group facilitation – who can point out risks, gaps, and blind spots that may not be so obvious to your team.
The two most critical mistakes organizations make are 1) facilitating their own planning sessions, or 2) hiring a facilitator from their own industry instead of someone who is actually an expert in the strategy design process.
A proven strategic planning facilitator will be knowledgeable, flexible, and able to leverage existing program data, enhancing its usability through an appropriate selection of tools and activities. They will be able to interact with a variety of strategy models and have the depth and breadth of experience to identify key challenges to the planning process upfront, building a facilitation plan that meets a team where they are and then supports them in taking the next step. They will not be afraid of unexpected turns during a session, and will not hesitate to adjust to the plan, approach, or solve other immediate challenges that arise.
Four Things to Look for in a Facilitator:
Broad expertise with particular emphasis on strategy design and enterprise risk
Ability to incorporate and utilize a variety of methodologies (no one-trick ponies)
Easy-going personality with exceptional listening and communication skills
Have the heart of a teacher who is willing to help a team learn – not just do
As an expedition guide, expect a good facilitator to dig in enough to understand who they will be working with and what will be needed to accomplish the key objectives of the project. Part of this process includes identifying challenges to the planning process itself, often involving internal team dynamics, significant shifts in the internal or external fields, and clarity of underlying directives on vision, mission, and purpose.
How to Get a Good Return on Strategic Planning Workshops
We have all been victims of workshops that should never have been.
Boring exercises that provide little insight, runaway tangents about problems with no solution, goals that are unrealistic or unactionable, and worst of all - no clear path and plan at the end. Badly planned and executed workshops are a waste of time, money, and precious resources not to mention a serious morale-killer. Choosing the right facilitator is just part of the equation in making sure your strategy session is productive and successful.
Five Keys for Workshop Planning:
Give yourself enough lead time. Preparation for a well-designed workshop takes at least 4 to 6 weeks to accomplish. The best facilitators will jump through hoops to accommodate your schedule, but they are also in high demand so start looking for your planner 3 to 4 months ahead of your desired date.
Be ready and willing to share key information like your current vision/mission, strategic plan, relevant performance reports, and business intelligence that needs to feed the process. Even if you are starting from scratch, any work previously done will help to create a productive event that builds on what you've already done.
Think about the strategic problems you are trying to solve. Engaging in a planning event just to check the box won't leave anyone feeling good about the experience, and is not recommended.
Let your team truly engage and participate. If you can, plan an in-person event scheduled away from the normal workplace and outside of any critical business cycle deliverables. Ban phones and computers during the session, and set expectations for respectful and engaged interactions as a team.
Finally, understand that things may shift on the fly. Really good facilitators will adjust and react to address obstacles or to improve engagement. They should be talking to you throughout (and you to them) to ensure that the progression is productive and positive.
Strategic Business Planning
with Erin Sedor
I love what I do and the challenge that every new engagement brings!
My approach is likely much different than what you have experienced with other consultants. Combining a deep understanding of strategy design and enterprise risk with solid coaching and facilitation skills, I will help you reveal the trends and drivers within your organization, industry, and market so we can design strategies and execution blueprints to get you where you want to go. I can simplify the planning process, quieting the noise to help you create greater alignment up, down, and across the organization.
Building a strategic plan based on a foundation of Purpose, Growth, and Evolution works and it works every time.