Facilitating Strategic Planning

I’m often invited to help groups develop a Strategic Plan, and over the years I’ve learned that Strategic Planning means different things to different people. What makes it more confusing, is that many people don’t realise there’s different definitions or expectations when it comes to developing their plan.

“We just want a Strategic Plan. You know, the usual kind.”

No matter what workshop you are facilitating, scoping is important. However, when it comes to Strategic Planning, it seems to be doubly-so. Contrary to what your client might tell you, there is no one recipe for a Strategic Plan.

So, if you’re about to facilitate some Strategic Planning for an organisation, make sure you ask these two golden questions first:

What are you hoping to achieve through Strategic Planning?
Once the plan is complete, how will it be used?

These two questions will help you understand the level of detail the group is hoping to achieve and will point you towards the kind of things you might need to focus on. Other questions you might like to ask include:

1. What does your current Strategic Plan look like?
What language do you use to articulate key parts of your plan?
e.g. Vision, Mission, Purpose, Values, Key Focus, Priorities, Goals…

What do those words mean to you?
What is important to you about format and level of detail?
What did you enjoy/not enjoy about how that was shaped up?

2. What parts of your Strategic Plan do you want to revisit?
When was the last time you re-visited your Vision, Mission, Purpose or Values?
How comfortable are you that these still accurately reflect the organisation?
Does the organisation have a shared understanding of what each of these things mean?

3. For what period will this plan be for?
How far into the future are you planning?
Will there be more detailed plans which focus on shorter periods of time?

4. Who will be involved in the Strategic Planning process?
What do you hope each person will bring to the table?
Who gets to make the final decisions?
What do you expect from me as a facilitator?

5. What do you imagine you will cover in the workshop itself?
What work might need to be done before and after the workshop?
What do you expect to happen once the workshop is complete?

Strategic Planning is not a one-size-fits-all kind of process. If you want to facilitate it well, you need to make sure you’re on the same page about what to expect. From there, facilitating a Strategic Planning process is no different to anything else. Create a safe space for people to engage, hold the space and be the guide—not the hero.

Kerri Price
Kerri is a professional facilitator with over 20 years experience in facilitation roles. She is the founder of The Facilitators Network and regularly facilitates workshops on Facilitation and Building a Facilitation Business.
Email: kerri@thefacilitatorsnetwork.co.nz

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