6 Steps to Running a Planning Meeting

An effective planning session takes advantage of the strengths and expertise of people from your entire organization and gives your staff a stake in the future direction of your company.

Facilitating this kind of session requires you to set clear ground rules and motivate all participants to contribute.

Use the steps here to involve staff in your next planning session.

1.Provide a snapshot of the current situation

An overview of your business’ current situation regarding customers, competition, products and other elements of your business will create a foundation for focused thinking in the meeting. Prepare a short presentation for this ground-laying presentation – no more than 15 minutes – to ensure that the session stays true to its purpose.

2.Acknowledge contributions

Thanking staff for their previous contributions is a good way to motivate them to apply energy to your current strategic challenges. Make these acknowledgements specific for maximum impact. For example, rather than thanking everyone for their hard work to date, you can single out creative problem solving, a focus on customer needs, or other strides. Also take advantage of this opportunity to toot your own horn. Emphasize the positive impact of previous company initiatives to build your credibility as a leader and emphasizing the energy applied to supporting your ideas is time well spent.

3.Emphasize payoff

Participation will be highest if you clearly communicate the tangible benefits of strategy building to the company and its employees. For example, if you want to devise a new customer support strategy, point out that happier customers will result in the need for less time spent by staff on talking to unhappy customers. The development of a new product idea can result in growth that will support the hiring of more staff and integration of more resources company-wide, which makes everyone’s job easier.

4.Encourage participation

An effective planning session requires every participant to play an active role. Clearly and directly remind the people in a planning session that their voices are valid and needed and that “sitting on the side-lines” is not acceptable. Make sure they understand what their respective roles are and what is expected of them in each session.

5.Demand honesty

Participants in planning sessions need to be assured that honest opinions are essential to crafting an effective strategic vision. You can reinforce this message by reminding people that if they are not honest, then the strategy that comes out of the meeting will be difficult to achieve. Similarly, participants should feel free to confront each other on any issues, to challenge conventional thinking, and to express opinions without fear of retribution. This helps lead to a result that can work for your company.

6.Take a company-wide perspective

Your planning sessions will likely include people from different departments of your company. Yet it is important that each person consider what is best for the company, not their individual groups. Be sure to explain this when setting up meeting ground rules, so each participant feels ready to take a more global perspective.

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