Why Use a Strategic Planning Facilitator?
Whether you’re just starting out or trying to determine the next journey for your organization to embark upon, you need a strategic plan and you need a guide.
A strategic planning facilitator acts as an expedition leader, helping your team explore, problem-solve, and push outside the box into uncharted territory to make critical strategic decisions for the journey ahead.
With a neutral and experienced facilitator, you get to act as a participant in the journey, and your leadership team can speak more freely than they might if someone internal was leading the strategic planning process. Good facilitators ask hard questions that get your team out of their comfort zone, rooting out the information your organization needs to build a robust strategy.
You run meetings. In fact, you probably run multiple meetings every day of the week in your office, workplace, and home.
So, is group facilitation really anything more than just running a meeting?
In fact, it is.
Facilitation is about creating a space that makes it easy for a group of people to come together and work together to develop solutions to a problem.
In strategic planning, it is an even more critical process because the team involved is made up of smart, driven people who invariably represent a broad spectrum of leadership, communication, and analytical styles.
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 who has no dog in the fight. Good facilitation accomplishes several things:
Creates “space” away from the day-to-day operations to think strategically
Gets your team to step out of their status quo mindset
Allows your team to connect and gain a deeper understanding of each other’s talents
Encourages open communication by leveling the playing field in terms of position/status
You hire an expert team to run your business – 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, or taken for granted by, your team.
The most critical mistake organizations often make is hiring a facilitator from their own industry vs someone who is actually an expert in strategy design process.
Strategic planning facilitators should be knowledgeable, flexible, and able to build a facilitation plan that leverages your existing program data and then enhances its usability through an appropriate selection of tools and activities.
There are several things to look for when shopping for a facilitator:
Broad expertise with particular emphasis on strategy design process
Ability to incorporate and utilize a variety of methodologies (no one-trick ponies)
Easy-going personality with exceptional listening skills
Have the heart of a teacher who is willing to help you learn – not just do
Again, your facilitator is your expedition guide, so you should expect them to dig in enough to understand who they will be working with, what you need to accomplish, and what expectations you have for the end result so they can focus their energy on getting you through the trek.
We’ve all been victims of workshops that should never have been. No direction, lack of leadership, runaway tangents, and disengaged participants. These are the hallmarks of a bad workshop; they 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. Here are some additional things you will want to do:
Give yourself and your facilitator enough lead time – if you want a well-designed workshop plan at least 4 to 6 weeks ahead to have someone engaged. The best facilitators will jump through hoops to accommodate your schedule, but they are also in high demand.
Have key information ready to build on so you aren’t starting with a completely blank slate (unless that is your intention – then understand it will take longer to get through the process).
Be clear about what you are trying to accomplish or the issue you are trying to tackle within your strategic planning workshop, so you don’t end up with a check-the-box event.
Define clear deliverables and expectations with your facilitator. You should ask to see some sort of facilitation plan, so you are clear on the approach and expected outcomes.
Be honest with your facilitator about the problems you are trying to cope with and the challenges you expect –you should have the utmost confidence that they have the skills to help you deal with these issues.
Let your team truly engage and participate – ban phones, computers and if possible, schedule away from the office.
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.
We love what we do and the challenge that every new engagement brings!
We expect that you will find us much different than what you’ve experienced with other consultants. We combine our facilitation skills with a deep understanding of strategy design and risk identification, enabling us to see trends and drivers within your organization's designs and executes strategy; our unique perspective helps to identify blind spots that are slowing you down.
Using our Essential Strategy approach, we simplify the planning process, quieting the noise to help you create greater alignment up, down, and across the organization – we know it works because our clients tell us so!
Are you interested in breaking up the status quo – taking your organization to the next level?
Contact Erin to see if you might be a good match for your next planning event.