By Todd Ballowe Published on 07-23-09
Four Things To Avoid When Conducting Strategic Planning Training Meetings

Strategic planning is tough; that’s why so many organizations either find themselves struggling to figure it out, or try to get by without it. There’s data to collect, directions to decide on, and the all-important, yet widely feared meetings. Unless you’re a one-person outfit, meetings are vital to your strategic planning process.

But, how do you make them work? For most organizations, even finding the time can be daunting, but If you’ve been implementing strategic planning for any period of time you know just holding meetings isn’t enough; you have to be aware of the potential pitfalls.

Below, we’ve collected a handful of things that can ruin your strategic planning process, along with a link to a few more. So, what’s lying in wait to sabotage your planning meetings? Let’s count off four things you need to avoid right now:

1. Inviting everyone

The old cliché too many cooks spoil the broth couldn’t be closer to the truth. While it’s imperative that key employees have a voice in planning, not everyone has to literally be at the meeting table. Too many people in the room can lead to chaos and confusion, resulting in a strategic plan by committee instead of through educated decisions and leadership. Groups of between 10 to 15 are the ideal size for strategic planning meetings. If you have more people than that, you can always break up into small teams.

2. Neglecting to conduct any research before the meeting

If you neglect to conduct research before the meeting, you get into your session and realize you don’t have information you need in order to make sound strategic decisions. The only way to have a solid strategic plan is to incorporate information about your external environment and your internal operations. Some research is better than none. So if you find yourself in a pinch the day before or the day of the meeting, do what you can to get data about your customers needs, your competitors actions, and your employees opinions.

3. Holding an annual retreat

Huh? Isn’t this section about holding strategic planning meetings and therefore retreats? Yes, it is. But one common thought process in strategic planning is that you have to hold a retreat. Setting aside a couple of days in an off-site location where everyone gathers in their sweatshirt and jeans drinking cocoa is a typical vision of a strategic planning meeting. Oftentimes a retreat is an annual event and all strategic decision making is reserved for that occasion. Strategic planning should be a habit, not an event. Hold your strategy meetings regularly (more than once a year) to realize enhanced performance. With that said, annual retreats are okay, but make sure that they aren’t your only meetings of the year.

4. Getting through the agenda no matter what

Strategic planning is hard work. It takes a lot of mental energy to pull all the pieces of the puzzle together, see the future, make strategic decisions, and organize it usefully. At every strategic planning meeting I’ve facilitated, people are mentally exhausted by the end. Getting through the agenda is usually what it takes to have a completed plan. However, sometimes it’s just not possible to get it all done.Do have an agenda so everyone knows the structure of the day, but don’t be so rigid that you stick to it no matter what. Try some of these tips to help the mood stay light throughout the day: Loosen up a little bit. Have some fun. Interject some games and downtime. Take breaks and switch gears from time to time.

For 4 more things to avoid, visit our blog post listing all 8 ways to screw up strategy meetings.