Strategic Planning
Workshop Facilitation

Workshop facilitation can help ensure the effectiveness of your strategic planning process. An effective process results in well-executed plans.

The secret ingredient of workshop facilitation

What is it that avoids the sad result of strategic plans gathering dust on the shelves?

Successful strategic plans are those created and committed to by those accountable for implementing them, and for working with the people affected by them.

Before I explain how I think you can do this, let me explain some terms, and how we will use them in this context.

What is strategic planning workshop facilitation?

By workshop, I mean a meeting at which people engage in intensive discussion and activity on a particular subject.

I assume there is a planning team. This consists of managers, with requisite roles and responsibilities. In strategic planning, a workshop is a meeting at which a planning team engages in intensive discussion and activity on the big issues facing the organization. They workshop how these strategic issues should be addressed. Their aim is to ensure the organization will improve its long run performance. They further aim to do this within manageable levels of risk and resource use.

During strategic planning, there will be a series of meetings, rather than a single meeting.

Facilitation includes the practices needed for preparing and running meetings that yield an agreed strategic plan. The process outputs that form the corporate strategic plan include -

  • Targets
  • Forecasts
  • Analyses of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  • Strategic decisions

A vital output of the whole process will be the signatures of the planning team. These should represent their commitment to implement the strategies decided.

Facilitation is not leading the managers in the planning process. The chief executive officer still is the leader of the planning process. Of course, they may have delegated some facilitation and other support tasks to others.

Facilitators should be independent of the discussion. They will curb their own opinions, unless asked for them.

Strategic planning workshop facilitation
is like riding a scooter

Skilled facilitation can help a management team gain the commitment to develop and implement strategic plans. Using a systematic approach to workshop facilitation is like riding a SCOOTER!

What do I mean by this? Workshop facilitation enables -
Structured Conversations Offering Opportunities To Exercise Responsibility - S.C.O.O.T.E.R.

A scooter rider needs to make efforts most of the time to keep the scooter moving forward, sometimes the rider can ease off when it is moving under its own momentum, or has reached a downward slope. However, it still needs steering towards the intended destination. Moreover, it requires the rider or facilitator to maintain balance, so as not to push too far, or lean too far to one side, of the discussion, or the other!

OK maybe I am pushing the scooter too far!

So let us look in turn at the Structured Conversations Offering Opportunities To Exercise Responsibility. First, S.C.O.O.T.E.R.

Structured Conversations

A strategic planning workshop should not just be a 'talkfest'. It is not just a chat about the possible future, or some blue sky brainstorming with no real purpose, agenda, or consequences hanging on the outcomes of the discussions.

A facilitated strategic planning meeting or series of meetings is a bit like a seminar. A seminar is a structured conversation usually thought of as a small group of advanced students in a university or graduate school engaged in original research or intensive study under the guidance of a professor who meets regularly with them to discuss their reports and findings. Sometimes it is also simply a meeting for exchanging ideas like a small conference. A strategic planning seminar or facilitated workshop is a structured conversation that has all these connotations, and more.

To ensure that strategic planning workshop facilitation enables the kind of conversations required, certain preparations are needed, as well a certain skills and capabilities on the part of the strategic planning facilitator.

Next we go to the middle part of S.C.O.O.T.E.R.

Offering Opportunities To . . .

The CEO and the planning facilitator need to be planning a meeting or more usually a series of meetings. They need to be clear on who needs to be involved.

The kind of opportunities available depends on various things, including -

  • Stage of the strategic planning process
  • Form of meetings and workshops employed for the process
  • Practices or techniques employed in workshop facilitation
  • Skills of the strategic planning facilitator
  • Motivations of the participants
  • Readiness of the teams involved for this sort of activity.

Some of these may call for some team building prior to starting the planning.

Exercise Responsibility

The term workshop is also a verb.

Lights, camera, action!

In the world of theatre and movie making to workshop is to present a performance of a dramatic work. Actors use intensive group discussion and improvisation in to explore aspects of the production prior to formal staging.

Workshop facilitation can be like rehearsing the execution of agreed strategies.

This is another benefit of ensuring that the right people are engaged in the process. I mean the people who held accountable for the results of implementing the specific strategies or strategic projects. These people also are also responsible for linking them to the ongoing operational reality of the organization.

The planning team and workshops need to include as many of these people as possible. Give them a chance to relate to one another in the strategy making process. This can simulate some of the process of strategic management that follows agreement of the strategic plan.

The aim is to facilitate strategic planning sessions to ensure that the planning team and others in the process realize they are in a sense rehearsing for the real thing. The issues raised, and the judgements made, and decisions taken, all have consequences in and for the real organization.
In order to improve practice in this area I recommend doing seminar evaluation at each stage of the process.

Strategic planning workshop facilitation involves Structured Conversations Offering Opportunities To Exercise Responsibility for the future of the organization.

Return from Workshop Facilitation to Simply Strategic Planning Home Page.

If you are interested in becoming a facilitator, or finfing one, you might look at the International Institute for Facilitation.

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Loaded with practical recipes for creative group activities to facilitate strategic planning in all kinds of organizations. Useful for  consultants, facilitators, strategic planners, and management team leaders. Provides clear procedures for getting participant buy in to the planning process. Ready-to-use reproducible materials and handouts are also included.