Effective Strategic Planning

Strategic planningStrategic planning is more than just a long staff meeting.

The process of strategic planning is probably one of the most powerful tools available to an organisation, department or team. When a group work together to develop a plan they carry a strong commitment to implementing it away with them.

Yet too many people have had poor experiences with strategic planning sessions which fail to reach decisions, or where communication problems, dominant personalities and internal politics prevent constructive interaction.

There is a lot written about strategic planning, but much less on how to ensure your strategic planning session is effective.

What makes Strategic Planning Effective?

A successful and effective strategic planning session needs to:

  • build team commitment and establish a shared vision of your preferred future
  • forge agreement on the need for changes
  • provide direction, purpose and accountability
  • identify the resources required
  • renew your team’s energy and enthusiasm, and
  • ensure everyone is focused on the actions which count.

Achieving all these outcomes, as well as generating a sound strategic plan, is more likely with independent, professional facilitation. A good strategic planning facilitator brings structure, an impartial perspective and useful expertise, experience and feedback.

Experience shows that when your strategic planning session is run by a team member the most likely outcome is a long staff meeting, with all the inherent dangers of entrenched positions, ‘group think’ and resistance to change.

An experienced facilitator who is expert in the strategic planning process can guide your group to a successful outcome by introducing new approaches and helping participants think creatively about problems, issues and opportunities.

By keeping discussions focused, on track and on time, and ensuring all voices are heard, key decisions are taken in a positive way, making sure your strategic planning is most effective.

Special Offer

If you are uncertain whether to use an external facilitator for your meeting, or you need to convince someone else to use one, have a look at our Free Fact Sheet ‘Why Use a Facilitator?’

(More ideas on how you can facilitate effective strategic planning in the Quick Tips below.)

Strategic Planning Quote of Note

“A corporation without a strategy is like an airplane weaving through stormy skies, hurled up and down, slammed by the wind, lost in the thunderheads. If lightning or crushing winds don’t destroy it, it will simply run out of gas.”

Alvin Toffler

Strategic Planning Facilitation Quick Tips

Involve your facilitator in designing your planning session. Their experience with many other groups offers valuable insight and new perspectives into what will be most effective in achieving your goals for the planning process.

A competent and experienced facilitator will have the flexibility, skills and ability to guide your group to its ultimate objective via a range of different paths. Encourage and empower your facilitator to modify planned activities in response to the group dynamic on the day.

Consider using an external strategic planning facilitator for other important meetings such as project debriefs, incident reviews, evaluations sessions, change implementation programs, employee forums, community or customer consultations and leadership programs.

And Call us on 03-9859 3924 to discuss how we can help make your next strategic planning workshop your most effective yet!

Group Conflict

What to do When Group Dynamics or Group Conflict are a Problem

scream and shout

Once you are promoted to a group leadership role you will find yourself responsible for meeting or group facilitation as a regular part of your role. So it is important you develop the skills required to manage group dynamics and handle any group conflict effectively.

Aside from routine team meetings, there are many other groups you may be called upon to facilitate.  Strategic planning workshops, incident debriefs, departmental meetings, external events or conferences and more. So it makes sense to ensure you know enough about group facilitation to decide whether you should do it yourself or bring in external professional facilitators in a given situation.

Although group facilitating might sometimes look easy, for many people the workshop facilitation skills required to achieve a satisfactory outcome can be more of a challenge than anticipated.

As a workshop facilitator, you need to be particularly conscious of group dynamics, including any pre-existing or emerging group conflict, and manage the process and personalities, all while you remain focused on the specific outcomes and results you are trying to achieve. This can be very difficult to do, if you also want to contribute to the discussion.

A good professional facilitator will be acutely aware of the group dynamics, including any potential group conflict, when facilitating a workshop, debriefing session, strategic planning process or meeting.

Here are three critical aspects of group dynamics a meeting facilitator must manage:

Group Conflict

Work group conflict is one aspect of meetings that worries many people, but when it is managed properly by an experienced group facilitator, it can be quite positive.

In fact, groups that suppress differences of style, opinion or approach or never discuss any underlying group conflict, are rarely as successful over the long term as those that accept and even encourage discussion about areas of dissent or group conflict.

When you are exploring long term options in a strategic planning process, different perspectives and disagreements are a healthy part of work communication and should be both encouraged and respected.

If you are bringing in an external facilitator for your meeting or workshop and you expect conflict within the group, you should discuss your concerns with any potential group facilitators in advance. This way you can be confident the professional facilitators you select will incorporate group exercises that ensure all participants have the opportunity to express themselves appropriately.

When conflict persists a skilled meeting facilitator will still be able to build understanding and a level of consensus about the next actions to be taken, despite any group conflict.

Dominant Personalities

Another important aspect of group dynamics to consider is whether there are any dominant personalities in the group who may make it difficult for others to contribute fully to the workshop.

The professional facilitators role in this situation is to ensure everyone participates in all group exercises and discussions, not just dominant, extroverted or senior members of the group.

In some situations it may be necessary to address cultural expectations of who should speak or when someone should speak. Some individuals or cultural groups expect to be asked for their input before they will contribute to discussions and a good facilitator will ensure everyone is explicitly invited to contribute to each key discussion or group exercises during the meeting or workshop.

Assumptions

The final aspect of group dynamics I want to address is that of assumptions. When people work together, or spend a lot of time together, it becomes easy to assume that everyone shares the same point of view or perspective on a whole range of matters, including how people will interact with each other as well as the topic under discussion.

A skilled meeting facilitator will be focused on detecting and questioning assumptions. Common assumptions that may need to be made explicit and addressed revolve around the program agenda and expected outcomes, and about exactly how the workshop will be run.

To facilitate a positive group dynamic and productive group exercises, group agreement should be sought about how things that might otherwise be assumed will be handled. Agreement should be sought about things such as interruptions and phone calls, breaks and punctuality, confidentiality and respect, listening to other participants and even speaking one at a time, for example.

If you decide that the group facilitating role is one you can (or need to) handle yourself, focusing on these three key areas of group dynamics – including group conflict, personalities and assumptions – will help you to gain most from your group leadership role.

Kerrie Mullins-Gunst (MBA, BSc, DipEd, FAICD, FRACI) is an experienced and professional business facilitator. Call our office on 03-9859 3924 today to discuss your group facilitation needs.

Should you decide that you will be more likely to overcome any group conflict issues and achieve your desired outcomes by using an external group facilitator, please call us on 03-9859 3924 to discuss how we can help you with professional meeting facilitation.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful. What do you think?

Facilitator quick tips

facilitator tipWhen you are using a professional facilitator, involve your facilitator in designing your strategic planning session. Their experience with many other groups offers valuable insight and new perspectives into what will be most effective in achieving your goals for the planning process.

A competent and experienced meeting facilitator will have the flexibility, skills and ability to guide your group to its ultimate objective via a range of different paths. Encourage and empower your facilitator to modify planned activities in response to the group dynamic on the day.

Using a Facilitator

Consider using an independent external facilitator for a range of important meetings, including:

  • project debriefs
  • incident reviews
  • evaluations sessions
  • change implementation programs
  • employee forums
  • community or customer consultations
  • teambuilding workshops, and
  • leadership programs.

 

Quote of Note

“A corporation without a strategy is like an airplane weaving through stormy skies, hurled up and down, slammed by the wind, lost in the thunderheads. If lightning or crushing winds don’t destroy it, it will simply run out of gas.”

Alvin Toffler

 

(Download more ideas for using a facilitator in the Facilitation Fact Sheet)

Where to use the strategic planning process

The strategic planning process has value in many different contexts, not just at the top of an organisation.

Consider how you can apply it to different parts of your business, to specific projects or challenges, and to your personal as well as your professional life.

 

Strategic Planning Process Quote of Note:

“One person’s strategy is another person’s tactics – what is strategic depends on where you sit.”

Richard Rumelt

 

The strategic planning process is frequently even more important that the ultimate plan that is produced because it builds team commitment to your vision and understanding of the underlying purpose of your actions.

Group Facilitation

Me Fish!Once you are promoted to a group leadership role you will find yourself responsible for meeting or group facilitation as a regular part of your role.

Aside from routine team meetings, there are many other groups you may be called upon to facilitate. Group facilitation may be required for strategic planning workshops, incident debriefs, departmental meetings, external events or conferences and more. So it makes sense to ensure you know enough about group facilitation to decide whether you should facilitate the group yourself or bring in an external professional facilitator in a given situation.

Although it might sometimes look easy to facilitate a group, for many people the workshop facilitation skills required can be more of a challenge than they anticipated to achive a satisfactory outcome. If this is the case for you, professional group facilitation may be your answer.

As a workshop facilitator, you need to be conscious of group dynamics, including any pre-existing or emerging group conflict, and managing the process, along with the specific outcomes and results you are trying to achieve.

Preparing for Group Facilitation

Other things you may need to consider or prepare for include:

  • Group conflict and specifically what to do when group dynamics are a problem
  • Facilitator training and what the essential group facilitation skills are that you personally need to develop in order to facilitate your group most effectively
  • Meeting facilitation requirements and how they vary depending on the type of meeting involved for best results, and
  • How Professional facilitators (sometimes known as Business facilitators) can add value and when it is better to undertake your own group facilitation.

Group Facilitation Services

KMG Consulting provides professional group facilitation services for your strategic planning and review meetings, conferences and workshops or consultations programs.

Workshop facilitationResourceful, persistent in achieving results, experienced and well qualified academically, Kerrie Mullins-Gunst works with you personally to ensure you achieve the results you require.

Click here for more details about Kerrie’s background.

Group facilitation services

We offer effective and professional group facilitation services for various types of situations including board meetings, department planning or crisis team reviews, strategic planning retreats, and advisory or stakeholder consultations as well as conference facilitation, meeting facilitation, workshop facilitation and general group facilitation services. We employ a range of different facilitation tools, including Open Space Technologies, selecting the most appropriate for your particular purpose, to ensure our facilitations services meet all your requirements.

Group Facilitation Services Enquiry Form

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Why use an external facilitator?

Download our Free Fact Sheet Why use a facilitator? It details all the reasons why independent external facilitation services will add value to your strategic planning, business planning, incident review and other critical meetings and lists 35 different types of events for which you should consider using expert group facilitation services such as ours.