A few days ago I met with a long-standing client for a day of strategic planning. This is a powerhouse team of two partners who are very dialed in, super smart, and very passionate about their business. In the last three years they have added three additional business units to their core operation. They are actually a dream client, because they implement and act on their coaching insights very quickly.
Both of them expressed a concern about how long the Strategic Planning process would take. With their busy operations they both felt that taking an entire day away from the office would be too much. (Ask me later why it took 3 years for us to get there)
Not to give away their final observation but by the end of the day they wanted more.
To make the best use of your time reading this, I’ll outline how a day gets consumed in building a proper strategic planning session.
To set the context for you, we started at 8:30, broke only for lunch, and finished at 6. Cell phones were off, and we were offsite so that we wouldn’t be interrupted.
Here are the time blocks for our day
Our Values/ Our Purpose/ Our BHAG- 2.5 hours
S.W.O.T. Assessment – 1.5 hours
Lunch- 1 hour (actually 45 mins)
What is our Brand Promise, and how can we measure it? – 1 hour
Our 3 to 5 year Projections and Critical Numbers- 1.5 hour
One year Projections and Priorities including Critical Numbers – 1.5 hour
Summary, Agreement on Action Items - 30 minutes
Open Items still remaining- Quarterly Projections, Actions and Accountabilities (target- 1 hour)
This type of facilitated exercise is very engaging and it feels like it goes by very quickly. I was impressed at how aligned these two partners are, and that certainly kept things moving well. Let me quickly define each of the sections a bit more so that you understand the value.
Defining our Values, our Purpose, and our BHAG. (2.5 hours) The reason Strategic Planning starts here is because alignment on these three items leads to clearly defined goals as well as projections and actions.
I once led a session with a dental practice where the three partners had very different values. It seems like a small thing but it had been causing a rift in the organization. One valued business growth, while another valued life balance. (The 3rd partner was newer and was still in practice building mode). As you might imagine, a value of “growth” came with statements like “I’m happy to work weekends”, and “lets expand”.
The partner who valued life-balance was expressing things like “reasonable hours”, and a cautious approach to taking on new practice space. Those values caused un-deniable tension. We worked though it with coaching but left unchecked, not being aligned is a cancer.
The S.W.O.T. Assessment. This acronym stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. We invested 1.5 hours in this self-assessment, and it was worth it. Again, if I had to sum it up in one word it would be “alignment”. This is an excellent focusing exercise that becomes a reality gut-check on projections.
Lunch took us 1 hour. Before we left, I proposed a topic for lunch discussion around an industry trend that came up in the S.W.O.T. This particular industry has had an increasing number of lawsuits in their industry- how are we going to deal with that? An excellent side conversation!
What is our Brand Promise, and how can we measure it? This was a 1-hour piece of our planning session, and in this case it went by in a breeze.
Next was 1.5 hours on our 3 to 5 year Projections and Critical Numbers.
This was a really exciting exercise because we took last years numbers and had an Entrepreneur level conversation full of the “what ifs” that they had earned throughout the day. What I found interesting is that they both immediately agreed that one of their divisions had one more chance to make it, or it would be sold or shut down. As I said- these are impressive clients who really take action!
One year Projections and Priorities including Critical Numbers. We invested 1.5 hours peeling back the layers on the 3-5 year projection and getting it aligned with the 1-year expectations. This section usually spins off a lot of “must-do’s” and “why-haven’t- we-done-that-yet’s”.
Summary, Agreement on Action Items - 30 minutes.
As you might imagine this piece of the meeting goes quickly and has a lot of energy. A good coach will always summarize a coaching session with “who will do what, by when?
Remember, we started at 8:30 and by this point it was 6 PM. So- we were at 9.5 hours including lunch. Since we have regular, weekly coaching meetings, we decided to move our open items into our regular meetings.
The open Items still remaining are - Quarterly Projections along with the Actions and Accountabilities. Our target is 1 hour to complete that.
Sound exhausting or sound exhilarating? If you’re considering having a strategic planning session make sure your coach is experienced, well trained and follows a system you believe in. Then- jump in!