Strategic Planning Season Is Upon Us

If You Need Different Business Results in 2017, 
Change How You Conduct Your Planning

October is when many organizations launch the strategic and financial planning process for the coming fiscal year. Regretfully too many organizations fall into Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If a business needs different results than it is achieving this current year, then a new approach to these planning meetings is necessary to deliver more actionable outcomes.

At Workspring, an offsite meeting center in Chicago’s Loop, we experience our highest bookings in October as businesses look for new surroundings to unencumber their thinking and meeting tools that stimulate new idea generation for the coming year. 
We work most closely with team leaders who shoulder the responsibility for conducting meetings that produce results. We recently surveyed our clients on the techniques they thought would best improve this year’s planning meetings. Their top choices were:

• to structure a more tightly defined agenda for the meeting to achieve a better outcome, and 
• hold participants more accountable for maintaining momentum after the meeting.

With the experience gained from hosting hundreds of meeting since we opened in 2007, we share the following advice to address these priorities and deliver game-changing meeting outcomes to fuel a game-changing year:

Design An Agenda for Outputs — The most successful meetings require deep engagement and active participation from all attendees, which is a good reminder to first have the right people in the room. These sessions are often grounded by meaningful facilitation and a thoughtfully designed experience incorporating three important steps:
 
1. Take time at the start of your session to share and align as a group on your goals of the session. Post these goals in a place where everyone can see them. This will help put everyone on the same page, keeping the meeting focused and forward-moving.
2. Movement keeps teams energized and creative juices flowing. Schedule brief breaks at least every two hours, and include small breakout sessions or even scheduled seat-switching throughout your meeting to keep perspective and energy fresh!
3. Build wrap-up time into your meeting agenda. Synthesis time is critically important and often overlooked. It will help you end the session with team alignment, appreciation for what was accomplished, and a clear picture of where to go moving forward.

Accountability of Participants — When your meeting is over, you need to know what was discussed, what was discovered, and what you must to do to move forward effectively — as individuals and as a team. During your meeting, color coding ideas to make post-meeting synthesis and planning even faster. For example, if all unassigned to-dos are written on yellow sticky notes, the project planner will have a much easier time pulling those items and quickly creating an actionable plan. Together, you can reclaim time spent on organizing your work and spend it on other, more pressing tasks.
We observed that developing an after-meeting deliverable helps groups meet expectations. It gives participants a summary of their work and helps other stakeholders understand what happened offsite. Workspring uses a Digital Data Capture service to transform analog notes, sketches, collages, and more — into a streamlined digital document or After-Action Report.

Maintain Momentum After The Meeting — We have found that purposeful staging of the meeting and a comprehensive After Action Reports generate greater optimism and energy for the project. People believe they can solve critical problems and gain alignment from others in the company. Better business results are visible due to focused work that generated more ideas and better solutions to a critical problem. And there is, overall, more satisfaction, and buy-in to the work.

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