Successful Strategy Meetings

Strategy meetings help a business succeed. Successful strategy meetings can lead to significantly greater growth and performance for several years. Mediocre strategy meetings waste time, yield no improvements, and hurt morale.

We design and facilitate effective strategy meetings for our clients. These meetings produce strong strategies to increase growth, operational performance, and profitability.

Example: In one weekend meeting that we designed and facilitated, the executives of a major oil company agreed for the first time on priorities for oil exploration and in the subsequent three years doubled the effectiveness of their exploration, adding over a billion dollars in present value to the company, in 2012 dollars.

Successful strategy meetings are the result of (1) a good strategic plan framework, (2) good meeting design, and (3) effective facilitation.

Strategic Plan Framework

After many years of research, we have refined the strategic plan framework we use to one that is simple, efficient, and effective. The framework is described in our Strategic Planning Process and Strategic Plan pages.

Good Strategy Meeting Design

The Key to Success: Design by Objectives
The key to a success for strategy meeting design: Set good objectives. Design the strategy meeting to achieve those objectives.

Disappointing meeting will be the result if you do not define good objectives.

How to identify the objectives? Visualize the meeting as if it were a great success that exceeded your highest expectations. Then, answer the question "How did the success happen?" What do you visualize occurring that equals success? List the outcomes that equal success. These are possible objectives to be achieved. Prioritize the list of possible objectives and pick the top 5-7 as the ones to focus on.

Effective Meeting Design
Designing great meetings is a learned skill with a great payoff. Successful strategy meetings require considerably greater design skill than every day business meetings.

Elements of effective strategy meeting design:

  • Define good meeting objectives.
  • Develop a realistic agenda – one that insures the objectives can be achieved in the time available.
  • Identify key information that will be needed. This information will include:
    • The current mission, vision, strategy, and business design
    • Financial and operational performance
    • The organization's value proposition
    • Assessment of growth potential
    • Current competitive situation
    • Identification and status of key technologies
    • Identification and status of key resources
  • Before the meeting, organize the key information you have and collect information that is missing.
  • Select the right people to participate in the meeting.
  • Set the meeting date far enough in advance so there is time to obtain all key information.
  • Select a meeting location conducive to good discussion with few distractions.

As one develops an agenda for the meeting, quite often, one will learn that the first list of objectives is too ambitious. There will not enough meeting time to accomplish all that is desired. In such cases, (1) focus the meeting on fewer top-priority objectives, (2) increase the meeting time, or (3) use two meetings.

It is a mistake to cram too much into a limited amount of time. Equally bad: Try to accomplish more by having a meeting go on too long each day.

Design the meeting to keep the focus on high-priority matters and to keep the discussion productive. The following design practices help insure that this happens:

  • Build in the following pattern throughout the meeting: generate ideas, prioritize them, focus on the top-priority ideas.
  • Separate the generation of ideas from their judgment.
  • Separate an idea from the person who suggests it.
  • Focus most of the time on the ideas the group feels are most important.
  • Plan on using ground rules to eliminate put-downs, domination of the meeting by one individual, and side conversations, including the urge to email, text, or tweet.
  • Include activities throughout the meeting to develop a plan of action based on meeting results.
  • Include an agenda item toward the end of the meeting to review and reconfirm the action plan.
  • Conclude the meeting by having all participants assess and critique the event.
  • Document meeting results. This important, often neglected, task should be done as soon after the meeting as possible.

Effective Facilitation

Effective facilitation is a learned skill essential for successful strategy meetings.

Effective facilitation involves the following activities:

  • Keep the focus on high-priority items.
  • Stimulate high involvement and good communication practices.
  • Maintain time discipline.
  • Keep the focus on ideas, not people.
  • Diplomatically make sure the ground rules are being followed.
  • Adjust the meeting design as the meeting is progressing to insure results being developed are what is needed.

14 Mistakes that Lead to Bad Meetings

  1. Hold a meeting when not needed.
  2. Have no clear objectives for the meeting.
  3. Have no agenda.
  4. Hold a meeting before the information needed is ready.
  5. Fail to have people come to the meeting prepared.
  6. Fail to budget enough time.
  7. Invite the wrong people.
  8. Invite too many people.
  9. Waste time on low-priority matters.
  10. Bog down in polarizing arguments.
  11. Allow one person to dominate discussions.
  12. Set unrealistic expectations.
  13. Fail to set a plan of action based on meeting results.
  14. Fail to document meeting results.

Avoid these trouble makers and the quality of your meetings will improve.

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