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Strategy WorkshopThe more effort you invest in planning your strategy workshop, the more likely it is that your workshop will be successful. Here are some questions you may like to ask yourself (or your team) prior to briefing your strategy consultant.

WHAT BENEFITS DO WE WANT TO ACHIEVE?

WHAT END RESULT DO WE EXPECT FROM THE WORKSHOP?

  • A full strategic plan we can give to our board of directors?

  • A common vision to which everyone is committed?

  • A vision or set of goals?

  • Specific action plans to achieve our goals and vision?

  • A few creative ideas regarding new opportunities for our business?

WHAT CONTENT BENEFITS DO WE WANT TO ACHIEVE?

Content benefits result from doing comprehensive strategic analyses: of your stakeholders, the external environment, your industry, your competitors and your business and then creatively developing a focused and comprehensive vision. Content benefits could include:

  • A clear competitive advantage.

  • A clear common vision.

  • A clear focus on a few priorities (80/20 principle).

  • A framework within which future decisions can be made.

  • Clarification of the target markets within which we will and won’t operate.

  • Identification of new opportunities from changes in our external environment.

  • An identification of our core strengths. Knowing what makes us special.

  • Creation of new value added products and services we could be offering.

  • Creative, ‘out of the box’ thinking.

  • A change of mindset or paradigms.

WHAT PROCESS BENEFITS DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE?

Process benefits are the ‘people’ or ‘team’ benefits you can get by cleverly designing your workshop. For example the way you select delegates, mix smaller groups, encourage participation, work with group dynamics and design workshop activities could result in the following benefits:

  • Cross learning between people from different functions.

  • Synergies between different areas.

  • Break down ‘silo’s between different divisions or between your company
    and the parent company.

  • Building of teams. Reducing conflict.

  • Greater creative out of the box thinking? (The more diversity in your teams,
    and the more you mix teams, the greater the creativity.)

  • Positive energy. (This results from the energy of the participants, the style of the facilitator, and what is actually achieved during the workshop.)

  • Commitment. (The greater the participation during the workshop, the greater the ownership and commitment – and the easier the implementation!)

WHAT FACTORS COULD PREVENT US FROM ACHIEVING THESE BENEFITS?

There are often issues within the organisation that have the potential to sabotage your strategy workshop. Examples include:

  • Inappropriate timing.

  • An impending merger or takeover.

  • Impending structural changes.

  • Impending retrenchments.

  • Stress, or conflict within the top team.

  • A key player who is about to resign from the company.

It is important to identify and deal with issues like these before you hold your workshop. Otherwise you will find that delegates will insist on using the time together (at your workshop) to debate these issues! This will take valuable time away from working on the goals you wanted to achieve. Should you urgently need to develop your strategic plan before you are able to deal with these issues, talk to your facilitator about them up front. Then together agree on new goals for the workshop which include solving some of these issues.

TIMING

When is the best time to hold our workshop? Consider the following factors:

  • Deadlines – do you need to submit your strategic plan to the board by a certain date?

  • Choose a time when issues that could sabotage your workshop will have been dealt with.

  • Choose a time that helps strategic implementation. E.g. there should be no operational deadlines straight after the workshop, so you can begin implementing your strategy immediately. Similarly don’t do strategy just before a major holiday period.

  • The best consultants get booked up months in advance. So book ahead to ensure the availability of the consultant you want to work with.

SUCCESS CRITERIA.

If we were to have the most successful strategy workshop ever, what would make it so special? What are the success criteria for our workshop?

FACTORS TO AVOID.

Think of the worst strategy workshops we’ve ever attended. What made them so unsuccessful? What should we do to ensure that our workshop is successful?

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

Your choice of delegates can affect both the group dynamics of the workshop, as well as the level of commitment to your final strategy. So consider carefully whom you choose to invite as delegates. (See How to select delegates for a strategic planning workshop.) for more information.

TEAMS.

How should we group our delegates into teams to help us achieve the process benefits we want? (When in doubt go for diversity. But ensure this is something you discuss this with your facilitator.)


VENUE

  • What criteria are important in choosing a venue for this workshop?

  • How should the room be arranged?

  • The process benefits you want should guide your choice of venue. E.g. If you are looking for participation and creative thinking choose a venue that:

    • Promotes a feeling of informal relaxation. The ideal venue is away from the office and has space for groups to work both indoors and outdoors. Ideally it should be in a 'natural' environment.

    • Good lighting. Natural light.

    • Good air conditioning – especially in summer!

    • 3-5 round or square tables for small group work – arranged casually.

    • No distractions.

    • Good service.

    • Food that suits your delegates’ dietary requirements. (In a cross cultural environment, this is more important to group dynamics than you can imagine!)

FACILITATOR

  • What requirements must our facilitator meet?

  • Who can best help you to achieve the content and process benefits you want to achieve?

  • There is a shortage of good strategy facilitators. So book them well in advance.

BRIEFING OF THE FACILITATOR

  • What information will the facilitator need to know about our business, to design an effective workshop?

  • What documents contain that information?

  • Who will be responsible for briefing our chosen facilitator?

  • Typically an external facilitator will need information about your company/industry and about the participants of the workshop.

Company information.

Background information from annual reports, pamphlets, web sites, marketing material or research helps the consultant to customize the workshop to suit your organization. Anything that provides answers to the following questions would be useful:

  • What industry are you in?

  • What products and services do you sell?

  • How do your customers use these products/services?

  • Who are your customers or target markets?

  • Who are your competitors?

  • How has/is the industry changing? What issues is your company or your industry facing right now?

  • What technology are you using now? How is it helping you achieve a competitive advantage?

  • What challenges/issues are you currently facing?

Information about the participants

  • Who will attend the workshop?

  • How many delegates will be attending?

  • What are the delegates expecting from the workshop?

  • What could affect the group dynamics at the workshop? E.g. describe any conflict that occurs between individuals or between different groups.

Contact Ruth Tearle at +27 –21 712 2154 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to facilitate customised workshops to meet your specific goals and requirements. Original article posted at http://www.changedesigns.net/

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