Yellow Brick Road: How to Run an Effective Strategic Planning Meeting
Eight essential steps
By Joseph Newcomb and Rebecca Blacklidge
Whether or not your goal is to make it to the Emerald City to meet the wizard or just make it back to Kansas, you need a plan. You need a strategy. Why do we need to do strategic planning? Strategic planning aims to take a step back from the day-to-day and determine the development and direction you want your organization to go. Strategic planning is an important business practice for several reasons:
- It helps company leaders identify goals and objectives that will lead their teams in the right direction.
- It allows an avenue to receive feedback and other important information from your staff, including executives, and team members.
- It encourages team members to work together to think strategically, resolve problems, and develop new ideas on how to improve the organization.
Strategic planning is taking calculated steps to define your organization’s vision and its future while developing an action plan to accomplish that goal. Planning helps to set priorities, direct resources and energy while ensuring that everyone works towards a common goal.
The success of a strategic planning session relies on more than gathering a team and facilitator in one place. A strategic planning meeting requires clear action items to carve the path forward.
A strategic plan outlines and communicates an organization’s goals and actions to achieve them. Typically, a strategic plan includes short-term objectives, long-term goals, vision, measurements of success, and a timeline.
Here are eight essential steps to take if you’re holding a strategic planning meeting.
DEFINE A GOAL FOR THE MEETING
It’s important to have a primary goal for the meeting. No leader should walk into the meeting not knowing the goals and objectives of the session. They should know what they can expect during the meeting and help to facilitate the direction toward the goal(s). Maybe your goal is to develop a new product or service line that will help to separate you from other outpatient physical therapy clinics and help to better align your company’s overall vision. It can also be useful to establish specific strategy planning themes to help to direct the team toward the goals.
ENGAGE WITH ALL PARTICIPANTS
Engaging participants as a group can sometimes be difficult, especially if they do not work together regularly. Start by breaking the ice with some conversation starters, or an icebreaker activity. You could also ask participants to complete an activity that requires them to interact with one another and learn more about the role they play in the company. Make sure that you also set up an easy way for everyone to contribute and do not let anyone sit in the back without contributing to the meeting. Establish a safe environment where hierarchy does not play a role. Have people check their titles at the door and provide equal say from all of your staff. Some easy questions that you can ask your attendees are “What is working well?” and “What can we do better?” It is easier to use this to facilitate conversation and clean up the dirt than to sweep things under the rug and allow things to undermine your company’s vision and strategy for progress.
SET A CLEAR AGENDA AND EXPECTATIONS
Set clear expectations for the meeting to ensure that all participants can prepare in advance. For this to happen, the agenda should include the expectations and provide attendees with the information they need to have a productive meeting. It is imperative to provide the agenda with enough time to allow your staff to prepare. It is recommended to provide a week lead time for the best preparation, but don’t provide it too far in advance because it can get pushed off and then the amount of preparation will not be ideal. Clearly assign roles so everyone knows their responsibilities during the meeting and use timelines to ensure that goals are met in a specified timeframe. Once your responsibilities and tasks have been assigned, schedule regular intervals for appropriate check-in based on the tasks. This will ensure that employees are accountable, and the management can provide any guidance or assistance for a successful completion.
CELEBRATE YOUR PROGRESS
A great meeting should be celebrated! Take time during the session to praise the work that has been done. Be sure to take breaks throughout to allow your staff to stay focused. Providing food and access to coffee, water, and a variety of snacks will help to fuel your team and allow additional interaction with your team members during break times. These breaks will also allow you to recap and repeat the information for better retention and to enable everyone to see how the meeting is progressing and how we are accomplishing what we intended to.
GET INPUT FROM EVERYONE INVOLVED
Everyone should have a voice during the strategic planning meeting. Allow each attendee the chance to discuss their thoughts and ideas for the company while still adhering to the agenda. Assign one person to take minutes and a second person to jot down ideas on the whiteboard during the meeting so that they can be reviewed later. A great leader will ensure that everyone gives input while staying on track. They will also provide a review of the meeting to their employees so there is a good record of what occurred during the meeting as well as the action items that were created and who was responsible for them. This recap needs to be in writing and provided in email or hard copy as well as placed in a common area for all to see regularly as a reminder.
USE VISUALS AND BRAINSTORMING TOOLS
Access to the right visuals and brainstorming tools can help to better communicate ideas in a way that everyone can understand. Visuals and collaborative tools also help you organize your work and relieve the stress of coming up with ideas on the spot. Leaders can also use these visuals to encourage team members to give their input and get involved in the brainstorming process. Some visuals that can be effective are whiteboards or flip charts. You can also project an electronic version of the whiteboard like Stormboard or Microsoft Digital Whiteboard, which can help you develop reports and keep track of ideas in real-time. This can be especially effective if you have some of your staff working remotely.
DEVELOP A STRATEGIC PLAN
There are several steps involved in developing a strategic plan for an upcoming session. Start by determining your strategic position. Having a strategic priority sets the foundation for all work going forward. Next, prioritize your objectives and develop a series of steps for meeting these goals. You’ll then need to create a plan for executing and managing the plan, followed by a final review and revising. It is imperative to be clear about the tasks, the person(s) responsible for the task, goals for the tasks, and timelines to ensure that your strategies are carried out. Tracking progress and communicating progress to the team will also allow buy-in and show the staff the fruits of their labor.
DETERMINE HOW YOU WILL ACCOMPLISH THE OBJECTIVES IN YOUR PLAN
Creating a list of goals and objectives to meet is just the start. Teams must also determine strategic solutions for accomplishing these objectives. This typically consists of creating smaller milestones that must be met within certain limitations, such as budget and timeframe constraints. Everyone involved should know their roles and responsibilities for accomplishing these objectives. Following up with attendees after the meeting is key to keeping goals on track.
An effective strategic planning meeting can boost business performance, align team members, and strengthen the company’s position in the community as well as in the industry. The timing of a strategic planning meeting is important but does not have to be the same time each year. Updating your strategy throughout the year can be important as factors change and you need to adapt to those changes. This is where tracking your objectives will come into play. Your statistics will help you to determine if your strategy is being followed, if it is successful, or if you need to pivot a little or a lot in response to how your strategy is being received by your patients and market.
Joseph Newcomb is the president of Medicount Management, Inc., an emergency medical services billing agent for ambulance transports in Evendale, OH.