How To Make The Most Of Strategic Planning Meetings

Carly O'Brien

“Begin with the end in mind.” — Stephen Covey

Business is busy, but despite this, it’s important that teams step out of their day-to-day grind and spend some time thinking strategically. If teams don’t find the time to think strategically, they might spend all their time and resources getting things done, but could be at risk of missing opportunities or getting the wrong things done.  Strategic planning meetings, when done well, help to ensure that your team knows where they are going, why they are going there, and how they are going to get there.

Start with why

the word 'why?' written on a chalboard

A well-run strategic planning meeting starts with answering these two key questions:

  1. Why would we hold this meeting?
  2. What do we want at the end of the meeting?

The answers could be that the group needs a new report to show an accreditation body or Board, or you might need a set of conceptual statements (e.g. Purpose statement, Mission, Vision, Values) to help frame the organizational efforts. Or it could be that the group needs to have the time and space to talk about big, important organizational issues without the daily whirlwind of work getting in the way. You might even have a side objective — to get the individuals to work as a team.

Facilitator or not?

young woman facilitating a meeting in an office

Once you know what you want to achieve at the meeting, you can begin planning. A key decision is whether your group would benefit from having a facilitator run your meeting.

A facilitator would be someone who could effectively run your meeting, without being invested in the outcomes of the meeting. The facilitator could be someone from your organization, or from the outside — but they may be exposed to confidential information, so keep this in mind when making your decision.

The facilitator needs to be able to earn and retain the respect of the group, keep the meeting flow going, respond and mitigate as required, and react to the group dynamics to keep decisions and actions supported, not thwarted.

Strategic planning meetings and note-taking

young man writing on a flip chart at a meeting

A strategic planning meeting can include many different segments, some of which result in actions and others that result in discussion. A well-run meeting often involves many important conversations which would benefit from being captured.

Be sure to use a system where everyone can see the notes as they are being created. This will give people a chance to see their contributions recorded, and it can encourage more discussion.

The pre-meeting communication

It’s recommended to send out a pre-meeting communication* to all invited attendees.

Sending out a message in advance will help to set the tone of the meeting, let people know what to expect, and suggest a bit (but not too much) of work to do in preparation for the meeting.

*Not everyone will read it, but those who do will help to move the meeting along.

Be clear about the definition of success

word bubble of the word 'success'

If you are looking for consensus on a document, a public facing statement, or a set of clear action plans from everyone in the room, be sure that you plan your meeting so that you can achieve those outcomes.  

Here is a framework that I typically use for a full-day event with 10+ people:

  1. Review how far we have come, the wins, and the accomplishments.
  2. Review and renew the Mission, Vision, and Values of the organization.
  3. Identify the strategic directions or priorities for the next 3-5 years.
  4. Strengths, opportunities, restraints, operational plans, formal goal-setting, and discussion on relevant issues that arise during the meeting.
  5. Document any actions evident from the day.

Remember to inject some fun so you can have a few laughs along the way and make your meeting enjoyable!

If you’re looking for some assistance in planning your next meeting, or for someone to facilitate, contact Intrigue — we have an in-house, expert, facilitator on our team who would be happy to help you achieve your goals.

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