Facilitating Strategy Sessions

Best Practices for Facilitating Strategy Sessions

The Problem:

Oftentimes, facilitators or team leaders are asked to lead a “strategy session”.  This type of session can pose some unique challenges and the facilitator must come prepared!

Consider these suggestions….

  • Meeting with the senior executive sponsoring the effort is critical! Strategy work is typically guided by senior leadership and getting their input and support is key.  If you run into problems, you don’t want to turn around and realize you have no support.
  • When you meet with key leadership, ask the 5 Ws:
    • Why are we doing this? What is the impetus for redefining the strategy?
    • What do you hope to gain from the session? What specific deliverables should the session produce?  Please finish this sentence…”I will consider this session a success if….”  What is in scope for the session?  More importantly, what is out of scope?
    • Who should attend (roles or individuals)? Who should NOT attend?  Who is making the decisions (or how will decisions be made)?
  • Equipped with answers to the 5 Ws, now consider the big facilitation challenge – HOW will you facilitate the session for maximum effectiveness and efficiency?
  • Consider utilizing a framework to organize and guide the session. Potential frameworks include…
    • Mission/Vision Analysis – Consider the organization’s core values, purpose, and goals
    • SWOT analysis – Analyze Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in the industry
    • Porter’s Five Forces Analysis – Analyze Barriers to Entry, Buyer Power, Supplier Power, Threat of Substitutes, and Rivalry in the industry
    • Value Chain Analysis – Visually depict the high level flow of value creation throughout the enterprise
    • BCG Growth – Share Matrix – Uses a two by two matrix to analyze potential options resulting in four quadrants (Cash Cows, Stars, Dogs, and Question Marks)
    • See quickmba.com for more information
  • If typical frameworks don’t apply, consider using a very generic gap analysis logical approach
    • Where are we now?
    • Where do we want to be (in x years)?
    • How do we get there? What do we need to put in place to close that gap?
  • Try to conduct the session offsite. Participants tend to open up more outside their normal office location, and they also tend to be less distracted.
  • Make sure there is plenty of FOOD! Believe it or not, food makes a difference in terms of attendance and energy levels.  Make sure it’s there and mix it up – ask the venue for non-traditional options like an ice cream sundae bar in the afternoon or exotic coffees/teas in the morning.