When to Seek Help with Strategic Planning Facilitation

Strategic Planning Help

Getting lost in the age of smartphones is difficult—but it still happens. Search-and-rescue statistics show that 4,661 people got lost in our U.S. parks last year and needed specially trained experts to rescue them.

That outcome describes a lot of business leaders, too. It’s tempting to set off without an expert strategic planner, but the results can be like a confused camper wandering deeper and deeper into the woods.

Going ’Round in Circles

When a hiker gets lost, a behavior called “circling” occurs. Without landmarks, they’re unable to move in a straight line. Same for business leaders. Without fixed reference points (a strategic plan) or a trusted guide (a strategic planning consultant), even top leaders tend to drift.

This drifting effect causes lost people to literally walk in circles or to loop back on themselves. Businesses, too. Without a strategic plan of action prepared by an outside consultant, leaders can unknowingly veer off course or get stuck in a negative cycle of poor decisions.

What Is a Strategic Plan Facilitator?

A good strategic planning facilitator will start by identifying your goals, then guide your team all the way to implementing clear action steps for achieving objectives and key results.

The strategic plan will be a catalytic mechanism for goal-setting and a leadership tool for communicating what your group wants to accomplish. In the discovery process, the facilitator should foster consensus around identifying and prioritizing your group’s best moves for maximized results.

The Role of a Facilitator in Strategic Planning

Maybe you’re asking, “Great, we need a strategic plan. Can’t my group just do this on our own?” For most companies that don’t have a strategic plan, this is bad idea. It’s kind of like tackling a kitchen remodel when you’ve never swung a hammer. It’s likely to fail.

In 30-plus years of coaching and consulting, I’ve seen too many DIY strategic meetings produce grandiose plans that are never implemented due to over-ambitious goals, insufficient support, and lack of accountability. A qualified strategic planning consultant or facilitator will serve in many roles to ensure that your strategy sessions achieve the desired outcomes—and won’t waste the valuable time of your executive team and key players.

Objective Observer

The expression, “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” describes a lack of perspective. Due to the demands of running an organization, leaders can’t always step back and see the big picture.

A strategic planning facilitator serves as a neutral, objective guide with an outside perspective that’s not clouded by emotion, tradition, or blind spots. Having “fresh eyes” on your group ensures the planning process is productive, effective, and inclusive.

Experienced Mentor

This can only come with experience. For example, three decades of experience have provided me with knowledge that I now share with my clients as a strategic planning facilitator. Before becoming a coach and consultant, I developed a broad business background. That expertise allows me to learn and absorb the culture of each company I consult with—to successfully create realistic business strategies that will enable their organization to reach the next level.

Effective Mediator

A good facilitator doesn’t avoid or repress conflict; they see it as an opportunity for growth. That’s their role—to resolve and leverage conflicts in your team for the greater good. They are not there to solve every problem or control the conversation, but to let participants feel heard and valued.

As a neutral outside consultant, a facilitator will use communication, collaboration, and compromise among the parties involved to help mediate and resolve conflict. By addressing and resolving disagreements among leaders and teams, they help produce a more positive and productive environment.

Inclusive Advocate

“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone.” That’s from Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. Making sure every voice is included in strategy discussions amplifies overall engagement and diversifies perspectives. A strategic planning facilitator can guide the discussion toward resolution while ensuring all parties have equal opportunity to express their concerns.

Motivating each team member to contribute is not always easy, but it is always beneficial. The facilitator also helps to make sure the goals or actionable steps that come up are also passed on to team members not present at the actual meeting.

Accountability Partner

A strategic planning facilitator is responsible for helping the team set clear goals, develop actionable plans, and help the client execute them effectively. This requires holding teams accountable over time—by monitoring progress, evaluating results, and making adjustments along the way.

Emphasizing accountability actually helps team members feel increased ownership and engagement. It all starts with setting clear expectations and obtaining a commitment from leadership. A good facilitator will schedule return visits and follow-up meetings to assess performance.

5 Signs You Need Strategic Planning Facilitation Services

1. Your Team Likes to “Set It and Forget It”

Ever notice that most goals we set in life (spend less, exercise more, etc.) never get accomplished? We don’t lack good intentions—we lack follow-through.

The dictionary defines follow-through as “the continuing of an action or task to its conclusion.” Sticking with a project until it’s fully accomplished is very important to the success of any strategic plan.

In business, plans are often made with enthusiasm, but distractions and demands can derail them. By staying involved with the client long-term, a facilitator will watch for any roadblocks, vision leaks, or abdications from the strategic plan. They are in a position to remind them that following through means continuous action and sticking to our original written plan.

2. Different Personalities Dominate the Conversation

Diversity in personalities is an asset for strategic planning. Each type offers different strengths, weaknesses—and potential conflict. A strategic planning facilitator can mediate conflict and make sure everyone involved feels seen, heard, and respected.

Here is a list of five key role-players likely to be represented in your planning sessions, along with traits associated with each:

  • The Visionary is always looking toward the best possible future. They are typically optimistic about what can be accomplished and encourage the team to dream big and then go for it.
  • The Analyzer ensures the plan is strategic and precise. You can rely on Analyzers to evaluate the evidence, then provide detailed assessments of past performance, current opportunities, and future projections.
  • The Enthusiast brings the team together and inspires people toward action. They are loyal team players who believe in the vision and in their co-workers. Enthusiasts are encouraging and unafraid of a little risk.
  • The Caretaker may be quiet, but they are well-liked, dependable members of the team. Not eager to give their opinion, they’re given more weight when they do. Caretakers are great at rallying support for a plan.
  • The Implementor is strongly biased toward action. They want to come away from the meeting with specific tasks to complete and objectives to work toward. Implementors are great at solving problems as they arise.

3. You’re Going from Your Gut

“You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life,” said Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple.

In the digital age, businesses have vast data available to help make informed decisions. Yet despite that, many leaders still rely on instinct and intuition rather than facts to make essential business decisions.

So which is best? Gut instinct or cold, hard facts? I say both— with an emphasis on facts.

I value intuition, but I value research more. An outsider’s perspective can help leaders balance the emotional appeal of subjective hunches against the intellectual appeal of objective information.

4. This Is Your First Strategic Plan

If you’ve never utilized a strategic planner before, find a consultant who is committed to a long-term relationship with your organization—someone with the experience and expertise to turn your goals into success stories with results-oriented strategic planning tailored to your needs.

Find a facilitator you’re comfortable with, a high-integrity consultant you trust enough to be totally transparent around. Before signing on, feel free to ask a prospective mentor what they bring to the table, such as:

  • What is your approach and process for strategic planning?
  • What obstacles have you helped groups like ours overcome?
  • What kind of problems have you solved on behalf of your clients?
  • What knowledge, skills, and resources will you bring to help us formulate and achieve our strategic objectives?

5. You’re Unsure What’s Possible

A strategic planning facilitator should begin by asking questions that help the clients (and him/herself) gain critical perspective. This discovery phase focuses on “Where are we now?”, and it’s essential for knowing how to set bold but reasonable goals.

Getting the answers about your current status allows for the follow-up question: “Where are we headed?” This process allows the team to develop short-term goals and long-term objectives to reach the next level based on informed decisions.

Strategic Planning Facilitation Near You

As a certified StratOp facilitator, I can help facilitate strategic planning both in person and virtually. Reach out today to learn more.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Does a SWOT Analysis Help in Strategic Planning?

As you probably know, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This four-part exploratory session is one of the most foundational situational assessment tools. In strategic planning, it works to help gain perspective, set the right goals, determine feasibility, and establish an effective business strategy.

What Should I Look for When Hiring a Strategic Planning Facilitator?

In short, look for a facilitator with both business and facilitation experience, the best training, and a proven track record. Some would say that every team needs a strategic planner to help them stay on track and move toward the most successful future. If the right one is chosen, collaborating with a qualified expert will unify your leadership and workforce around a shared vision.