How to bring flair to your strategic planning facilitation
August 09, 2016 by Renee Wilson
I want you to think about the best strategic planning facilitation you have ever been a part of. What about it made it so great? It may have been the food or the venue, but I’d place my bets that the facilitator had something to do with it. Let’s be honest, facilitation is an art, and we’re not all artists. So how can you bring some flair to your strategic planning facilitation?
A Flair for Facilitation
A brilliant facilitator can challenge participants and guide them through to tapping into the creative part of their brain. The best facilitators retain a degree of fluidity and can adapt their delivery depending on the nature and importance of the conversations that are unfolding. Facilitation is an expertise in its own right. It requires a focus on aspects such as participant contributions, conversation flow, managing the agenda, managing time, managing difficult conversations and delivering outcomes. A great facilitator can overcome potential issues such as entrenched views, equality of contribution, and bringing people together who aren’t necessarily familiar with working with each other. Expecting an internal person to 1. Have all these skills on top of the expertise required in their actual job and 2. Have time to participate effectively and facilitate at the same time, is unlikely and a tad unfair!
A skilled facilitator will make the prep-work easy for you, ensuring equivalent contribution from your participants and engaging with them early so they are on board before the strategy session begins. An efficient facilitator will ensure input from participants is obtained prior to the strategy session, meaning that on the day, time can be spent on brainstorming potential solutions and actions for the identified issues and opportunities.
Often, potential clients tell us that they have one of their leadership team, or even the CEO, ‘run the day’. This person cannot act as both an independent facilitator and contribute as a true participant at the same time. Having a split in focus can prevent an internal facilitator from adequately being able to express their own views as part of the conversation.
There are times when an internal facilitator’s own views may alter the objectiveness of a session. An effective leader would be preparing for a strategic planning session by contemplating all aspects that will impact the creation of strategic objectives. By preparing in this way, your opinion and perspectives are already beginning to form, making it incredibly difficult to see past these and facilitate objectively. An external facilitator won’t have this preconceived bias.
The best outcome you can hope for from a strategic planning session is a framework for decision making. A strategic plan should steer direction and guide behaviours across the entire organisation. Can your internal facilitator enable this outcome?
If we’ve at least sparked your interest to consider an external facilitator for your next strategic planning session, feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.