As a strategist, I am continually evaluating the options and alternatives to plot the best course ahead. The “do nothing” alternative is always a possibility, but if you or a team realizes the need to step back and think more strategically about how to grow, then maintaining the status quo is probably not the best strategy for your future success. However, maintaining the current direction is the typical outcome when teams facilitate their strategy discussions on their own.
It is great for a team to step back from the day-to-day regularly and take more time for deeper, free-flowing discussions of the current goals and performance or to take time to dive into your competitive set and discuss what they are doing and how you should respond. However, these are tactical discussions usually focused on perfecting the execution against current goals. This is critical for management of the current plan, but not true strategic planning efforts.
When teams do take the time to engage in more long-range planning, the agenda reflects the challenges faced in executing your current strategy leaving little time for stimulating new thinking. In our years working with leadership teams, we have seen many well-intended efforts to stimulate new thinking fail to hit the mark. Great approaches like:
- bring in a topic expert to speak, or
- assigning pre-reading material, or
- reporting out on the current customers focus group findings
all fall short of their ideal impact because they are not well integrated into the design of the session and end up as a tangent or barely touched area of dialogue.
It is very hard - no I will go farther – it is practically impossible for a group that regularly manages together to create great new thinking by just extending the time allowed to discuss topics they never have enough time to explore fully. The inertia and natural desire to protect their own thinking quickly moves promising discussions back to the same old same old thinking.
When organizations need to inject new thinking or gain consensus on a high stakes decision or highly visible milestone it is best to bring in an expert to make sure you don't just end up maintaining the status quo. Professional guidance will ensure that
- thought-provoking information and data - like a speaker, new book or customer insights - are fully explored and digested for planning,
- each team member's points of view are given unbiased weight in the discussion by the "no-agenda" external facilitator, and
- the meeting is conducted on task and on time, giving your team the clarity and momentum.
If your team needs an injection of new thinking or if you have a high stakes decision or milestone facing you. Please reach out to us for professional guidance on how to conduct your next strategic planning effort.