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Strategic planning: Think beyond the obvious 

Strategic planning: Think beyond the obvious 

Q. What do I need to consider for an effective strategic planning session?   

A. Once you decide it’s time to conduct strategic planning, there are three questions to ask yourself:   

  • Am I updating an existing plan or starting with a blank slate? 
  • Who are the key stakeholders to include in the planning? 
  • Should I have an external facilitator lead the planning? 

If you have a strategic plan that is still relevant, then focus on updates and tweaks. Perhaps the pandemic took you off course and now is the time to get back to goals that are focused on growth or efficiency. If the previous strategic plan is outdated or you’ve met the goals, then start fresh.   

When you think about who should be at the table for a strategy conversation, there are obvious people based on their title. Think beyond the obvious. Who can provide fresh perspective?  Who has strengths in areas of your blind spots? Who is not afraid to ask the hard question?  Surrounding yourself with “yes” people may give you a plan that you like, but it may not give you the plan you need.   

As the leader of your organization, you are not the best person to lead a planning session. Most people will assume you know where you want to go; therefore, they may not be willing to challenge your assumptions and ideas. Having an external facilitator, who is neutral to the outcome, creates an environment where all voices can be heard. Facilitators know how to keep the process moving.  

Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Choosing to do strategic planning is a positive first step. Thinking through the what (update or new plan), the who (stakeholders) and the how (external facilitator) are the steps that prepare you for a successful planning session.   

Mary Sand, PhD, is owner/president of Sand Consulting. Reach her at 605.212.9374 or [email protected]

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