Strategic Planning Facilitator

Do you need a strategic planning facilitator to run the strategic planning process?

In some organizations, top managers do strategic planning as a one off project. The CEO is the process leader and project manager.

In other enterprises, the CEO, while leading the process, may have some administrative support for the process.

Larger organizations may have planning departments with staff specialists to enable and support the process through all phases.

However, in many cases, it may be wise to use a strategic planning facilitator. The facilitator helps the chief executive and their colleagues to work through the planning process.

When should you hire a strategic planning facilitator?

Before hiring a strategic planning consultant, review these things -

  • Cost
  • Team readiness
  • Nature and stage of organizational development
  • Management style of the chief executive
  • Level of financial stress in the organization
  • Possible obstacles to planning

Cost of using facilitators

For many organizations, the cost of using consultants can be a big issue. This is especially true for smaller ones and many non-profits.

The costs to your organization for strategic planning include the following items.

  • The value of the time of the members of the planning team, and others they may ask to gather and analyze data
  • the cost of any facility rental, media and equipment, travel, catering, and accommodation for any offsite meetings
  • the cost of ineffective execution of decisions.

Strategic planning is a big commitment of time for managers. This commitment may yield value, or not. An independent professional facilitator will cost money. However, they can help you get better results for the time used in planning.

Not every single interaction in the planning process requires a planning facilitator. Their services can be especially useful for the major meetings. Having the facilitator conduct the workshop on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is especially helpful. 

Team readiness

Whether or not you use an external strategic planning facilitator, it is wise to check that the strategic planning team are ready for the task.

For team members to be prepared to make the process work, they need to be ready, willing, and able to -

  • meet their commitments to the tasks required of them in the process
  • make commitments to each other, and
  • share the organization’s values and culture.

Some members may be very new to the organization. They may need some coaching to work with the rest of the team. Other members may not be ready for major changes flowing from executing new strategies. They may need some individual counselling.

When selecting the team, the CEO needs to decide not only who should be in the team, but also how ready the team is for the strategic planning assignment.

Nature and stage of organizational development

A new organization, with all its members are all on the same page about what the organization is on about, may not need an external facilitator.

Management style of the chief executive

An organization with a very authoritarian CEO may waste time by bringing in an external facilitator. The team members are unlikely to speak their minds openly in the presence of the chief executive.

Level of financial stress in the organization

An organization in financial trouble should not spend their money on a planning facilitator. Better to postpone strategic planning. They should first work on solving the immediate crisis.

Other obstacles to commitment to planning

Other things may delay using an outside facilitator. For example, an obstacle could be misunderstanding about the respective roles of the board and the management in the planning process. The CEO and the Chair of the board need to get this straightened out.

Benefits of using a strategic planning facilitator

We have looked at some of the blocks to using a facilitator. Let us now look at the advantages of using a strategic planning facilitator.

A strategic plan contains the top decisions required to ensure the future of your organization. It is risky to base such important decisions on the personal and subjective views of a few members of your own management team. An impartial, objective, and trustworthy outsider could reduce the effects of genuinely held, but possibly misguided ideas that exist in all organizations.

If this outsider uses a systematic approach to strategic planning, they should be able guide the planning team efficiently and effectively through the process. This will produce a strategic plan that has the enthusiastic support and commitment of the managers of your organization.

A systematic planning process includes many details. A skilled strategic planning facilitator can ensure the thorough execution of every step. The planning team members can focus their efforts on using their deep knowledge of the enterprise to fill out the substance of the plan, without distraction from process details.

Understand that the benefits of using a strategic planning consultant come from separation of powers in the process. The planning team contribute the information and ideas that make up the content of the plan. Strategic planning consultants steer the team through the process. They keep the team on course, avoiding obstacles of ego created distractions, undue time on war stories, and so on.

Make sure everyone knows that the strategic planning facilitator has no part in deciding your strategies. They steer the process so that your team make these difficult decisions in an orderly, fashion. Your people know your organization better than anyone on the planet does.

Responsibilities of the strategic planning facilitator

  • Assist in explaining the planning process to your top teams
  • Advise the CEO on the selection and organisation of the planning team
  • Brief the strategic planning team on the strategic planning methods and tools
  • Steer the team through the planning process
  • Organize and lead the most important events such as planning team meetings and larger workshops with other layers of management
  • Encourage the team to achieve all tasks and to meet agreed project milestones.

The strategic planning consultant may also -

  • Complete the exercise with a written summary
  • Advise on the monitoring of the results of plan implementation
  • Constantly transfer their planning skills and knowledge to your staff.

Return from Strategic Planning Facilitator to Strategic Planning Process.

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