A Step-By-Step Guide To Strategic Planning Meetings (3 Tools to Try)
4 August 2021
How often do you say the following: “Let’s have a meeting about this”, “Meeting in five minutes”, “Do you have time for a meeting?” but hear a negative reaction? Or maybe you dread going to a long day of meetings? In this article, we are going to discuss a particular meeting type, which is vital for any business, and how to get them productive, and no longer seen as a chore: the strategic planning meeting. We will discuss how to implement a strategic planning agenda, in a much more effective way.
Meetings are often seen as a waste of time, as they are unproductive and interrupt the flow of the working day. One study by the Harvard Business Review found that one company spends 300,000 hours preparing for meetings. That is a lot of time, and it can be wasted.
Yet, this does not have to be the case, meetings, when done right, are essential for any business. We will explain what the strategic planning meeting is, and provide steps for before, during, and after the meeting, as well as some useful tools you can use to get the most from your meetings.
What is strategic planning and what is its purpose?
A strategic planning meeting, or review, or strategy session, is a type of meeting that particularly focuses on how to improve certain prioritised areas within a business, using data. It’s in the name: strategy.
They are or should be, relatively regular and with a specific goal in mind.
Are you meeting your KPIs?
Are you getting the right amount of new clients?
What market trends have affected your company’s profits?
How will you adapt and improve?
These are the sort of topics you will be dealing with. They are longer usually than other meetings, but this is due to their importance.
The Goal of a Strategic Planning Meeting
The purpose of these meetings is to know what to do, based on the current evidence and data, in order to better improve key areas and targets. Without these meetings, companies will struggle to better achieve their goals, understand their strengths and weaknesses, and get stuck in a rut. The opposite of what you want, which is to grow, change, and adapt to better achieve your goals.
Why You Need Strategy Planning
If management in your company is struggling to set agendas, meet goals, spend little time interacting and coordinating, and more time is spent fixing problems, than arranging strategy, then you really need to improve your strategic planning and have some regular reviews. Effectively, it is preparing the whole company for the future, and looking at the bigger picture, in order to better synchronize the company.
Steps of organizing strategic planning meetings
Now you know what a strategic planning meeting is. What do you need to do to make them work well? Most of the success of your meetings come down to planning and preparation. No one wants a waste of a meeting, especially if it’s a long one, and having poor planning is one of the main causes of a bad meeting. Here are three key steps you should follow before the meeting.
Organize in advance
The date should be known in advance, and people should receive regular updates. Obviously no one wants to be spammed by messages, as they are likely to ignore them, but a clear date, and a few well-timed reminders, is essential. In addition, the agenda should be in advance, so people know what to discuss and what the point of the meeting is.
Get the data ready that you need to analyze, and make sure it is accessible to those who need to see it. No time should be wasted, and people should enter the meeting informed and with opinions and ideas of what needs to be improved, and what has been working. While of course, data will need to be explained in the meeting to a degree, it would be beneficial if less time was spent on this when it can be done beforehand, and more time can be spent on discussing what needs to be done going forward.
Have a clear strategic meeting agenda
An agenda is everything for a meeting, and you really need a clear strategy meeting agenda. People need to know what to expect, what the goal of the meeting is, and this will make them more likely to attend. Meeting burnout is a real problem.
The purpose of this meeting is not to discuss minor details, it is not about general business operations, nor is it to be a discussion, rather it is about making key decisions based on the current data about your organization’s goals. Spell this out beforehand and make sure people are equipped to do this.
Have the key players
Not everyone needs to be there, but choose the right people and make sure they come. If senior members do not attend, it sets a bad message that strategy isn’t important, but this is one of the most important meetings you can have.
Make attendance compulsory for who you need to be there, and communicate this well in advance, as this meeting really requires a certain range of people to be effective.
Choose the correct people who need to be present. Think who is informed enough to make the key decisions, who has the authority and knowledge to implement the changes, who can view the bigger picture.
Make sure all departments are represented, and the top executives are present, in order to synchronize and share the goals and knowledge of how to achieve them. If such people are in the dark, then these meetings are ineffective.
How to facilitate a strategic planning session
There are further tips to make these meetings even better when you’re in the meetings. These meetings require an effective strategy meeting facilitator, to organize the meeting and ensure the agenda is kept to, and that people warm up and get to know each other. Work is required to get these meetings off the ground and to make them productive, but facilitating the meeting and organizing it well, can better help them achieve their goals. Make sure you pay attention to the following tips:
Break the ice
Introduce each other, quickly, and use some ice breakers if necessary to get the team relaxed, focused, and in a collaborative spirit.
Explain the strategy planning meeting purpose
At the start of the strategic planning meeting, especially if this is the first, explain why you are having this meeting. This will better motivate people to return and leave it with a better feeling. The purpose of the meeting is to make decisions, and to examine the data, so ensure this is known.
You may need in the first meeting to explain some key terms, some other areas of the meeting topic, and how to understand the data, and this will get easier in future meetings. Nonetheless, focus on the decision-making aspect and the need for collaboration. The strategic meeting agenda should be run through briefly so people know what to expect.
Take Pauses to stay on track
Meetings going off topic was said to be the number one cause of a bad meeting in one set of statistics. If a conversation seems to have gone on too long, or of topic, try to focus on the meeting again. Ask if something requires addressing elsewhere instead, to keep the meeting on track so people don’t get bored.
On the topic of pauses, with such a lengthy meeting ensure plenty of breaks. People’s attention spans are pretty short, with one study by Microsoft saying people can focus on one task for 12 minutes, then 8 seconds. People will be watching the clock to get out of the meeting if it’s hours upon hours of presentations and speeches. Have sufficient pauses, and you will have a much more engaged range of participants, and in the future, they won’t see it as a waste of time or a boring session they’d rather avoid.
It is absolutely vital that the key information of the meeting, the agenda, the action items, and what was achieved are taken down. If nothing is logged, if nothing is remembered, then the meeting was a waste of time. Someone, with the help of useful software, needs to take notes for the meeting, so nothing is lost. Read more about meeting note-taking here.
Automate transcription, detail, and share actionable items
After the meeting, the meeting notes along with action items should be sent out to the relevant parties. It is very much recommended to record meetings, and then to get this recording transcribed. Again, software can help with this, so that the key information is transcribed and extracted, to not overwhelm attendants with a whole script, but they see what needs to be done next.
Making sure that the action items are clearly understood and sent out, will mean that the team will know exactly what is to be done next, and why the meeting was held, leading to further productive meetings.
So to summarise, there are three stages, the proper organization before the meeting, the facilitation within the meeting, and then sending out key action items and transcriptions after the meeting. If you can follow these steps, then you will be having much much more effective strategy meetings in the future.
Strategy meeting agenda template
We’ve mentioned the agenda a few times, so it would be fair of us to give you an example of a good strategic meeting review agenda template. This strategy meeting agenda is in mind of having a full day review, but of course it can be modified. Usually, as this isn’t a meeting you would hold every week, it requires a lot of time to make the most of it. Ideally, the more effective you are, the quicker they can be, or the less frequent they will need to be.
Welcome- Overview of the meeting
09.15-09.30 The purpose of these meetings/this meeting
Explanation of key terms (first meeting)
09.30-10.15 Reviewing data: What has been achieved so far
10.15-10.45 What’s not on track
10.45-11.00 Coffee Break
11.00-12.00 What is to be improved
13.00-13.30 Market Trends
13.30-14.00 KPIs- are they fit for purpose?
14.00-14.15 Coffee Break
14.15-15.00 Moving Forward
15.00-15.15 Any other matters to discuss
15.15-15.30 Review of meeting and Action Items
Note this agenda has everything we discussed. Introduction and icebreaker, regular breaks, and time to explain key terms in the first session. Ideally, they could be streamlined as you host more of them, and you can modify them to suit your own business strategy goals.
3 Tools for running effective strategic planning session
You know what a strategy meeting is, you know some tips to make them run well, and have an idea of the sort of agenda you should follow. Now it is worth considering some key tools for meetings to make your meetings much more productive. Most of these will be particularly useful if you are having virtual strategy meetings, as they integrate with meeting software and help work with online meetings.
This software is a hub that can synchronize with all other calendars and other work applications such as slack, zoom, and others. It allows you to arrange meetings with people, and by pulling all software together, it can make sure everyone is available and all can attend. Getting people to attend is a vital step to having an effective strategy meeting, so you can ensure this with this type of software.
This application is useful to create meeting agendas, setting goals, and generally organizing the meeting. It can integrate with many various meeting software and work applications, and it even has a free version, to see if it’s useful for you. An effective tool to save a lot of time and clearly communicate the meeting agenda.
Notiv allows you to record and transcribe meetings, but not only this, it extracts the key information that you can then communicate to the rest of the team immediately after the meeting. This way action items are known and understood and any meeting is made more productive and useful.
We hope this guide has given you some useful advice to have more productive strategic planning meetings. These meetings are very important for you to achieve better results, and knowing how to run them will help you with the next one. Remember to create, and stick to, a clear and actionable strategic meeting agenda, communicate before and after, and get the right people in the meeting. Consider the useful tools that can help you get the most out of the meetings. To learn more about recording meetings, go to this article.
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