As Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, “Strategy is the great work of an organization. In situations of life and death, it is the Tao of survival or extinction. Its study cannot be neglected.”
Most would agree with this sentiment. And those who are able to make the time to think strategically about their business tend to be the most successful over the long term. However, time is one of the largest constraints for business owners and executive teams because operational issues and other non-strategic activities often get in the way.
One such activity is meetings. It can sometimes feel like we spend most of our days in meetings. And while they can be very effective, they can also quickly get off track and devolve into a time suck. If you are guiding your business or a customer on their strategic agenda, it’s your job to isolate the right quantity and quality of strategic thinking time.
Here are 10 tips for making the most of your strategic planning meetings:
- Clearly define and communicate the difference between strategic and operational matters. There can be a tendency to focus on the operational issues of the day versus the strategic roadmap for the future.
- Establish rules for meetings. Attendees should check egos at the door, listen without interrupting, and allow everyone a turn to speak.
- Make your strategic planning process interactive and evolve the strategy as you go along; do not wait for the annual meeting.
- Schedule critical meeting dates for the entire year ahead and never cancel the meetings.
- Provide agendas that focus on strategic initiatives in advance of meetings. If you find yourself discussing something that isn’t on the agenda, either the plan is wrong, or you aren’t being strategic enough.
- Get the administrative protocols right. In addition to providing an agenda prior to the meeting, circulate papers a week in advance, start and finish on time, record any action items discussed during the meeting, and follow up on progress afterwards.
- Ensure someone is responsible for keeping the meeting strategic. Assign a chair or facilitator who is responsible for keeping the conversation on point.
- If there are short-term burning issues, don’t get bogged down. Decide how they should be tackled outside the meeting (e.g. form a project team) and move on.
- Be conscious that you’re not spending too much time managing exceptions (such as actions that have not been completed or excuses). This is a total waste of everyone’s time.
- Always be respectful of time commitments and never extend beyond the agreed upon stopping point.
Do these things well and everyone will get value from strategic planning meetings and be able to reduce the time they spend fighting fires.
You may also like: