GOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING! WELCOME TO THIS YEAR’S ANNUAL STRATEGIC PLANNING SESSION! GRAB SOME COFFEE—HURRY UP, WAKE UP, RISE AND SHINE, PEOPLE! GRAB A SEAT, NOTEBOOKS OUT, THINKING CAPS ON—WE ARE GOING TO GET STRATEGIC! MY NAME IS BOB, I AM WITH BOB CAMPBELL CONSULTING INCORPORATED, I AM YOUR LEAD STRATEGIC CONSULTANT, AND IT’S DAMN NICE TO MEET YOU! I AM AN ACCOMPLISHED STRATEGIC CONSULTANT! I AM ALSO A MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER! I HAVE WRITTEN TWO BOOKS, WHICH WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR YOU TO PURCHASE AFTER TODAY’S SESSION!
I want to extend a BIG HUG OF THANKS to your BRILLIANT founder and CEO for hiring ME, BOB, THE STRATEGIC CONSULTANT, to take you on this EXCITING JOURNEY today!
Now SIT DOWN! You’ll find in front of you, on this table, TOYS! So, grab a toy and start PLAYING WITH IT! We are going to have twenty minutes of PLAYTIME to get your creative juices flowing. Get those big ideas rolling through the cobwebs of your busy brains, and by the end of the day, we are going to have the MOST BRILLIANT STRATEGY YOU’VE EVER SEEN! Am I excited? HELL YES I’m excited!
PLAYTIME IS OVER! Now we are going to BONDING TIME! I want you to look to your left, and now to your right. Give one of the two people sitting next to you a HUGE HUG! Come on now—WITH FEELING! Now doesn’t that feel better? We are going, to be honest, vulnerable, real, and, dammit, you people are going to shine today! I can already spot the rock stars in the room. I have a sixth sense for strategy, I tell you—I know exactly who the real contributors are in this company. I can tell just by LOOKING AT YOU!
Now SIT DOWN and open your BOB CAMPBELL CONSULTING INCORPORATED notebooks, provided by ME, BOB CAMPBELL. Pens ready! OK! For the next thirty minutes, we are going to have THINKING TIME! I want each and every one of you to write down your TOP FIFTY GOALS for the year. You have thirty minutes, people. HOP TO IT! I am going to step out of the room, grab some coffee at the Starbucks in the lobby, and will be back in exactly twenty-eight minutes. EYES DOWN!
CONGRATULATIONS, team! You’ve accomplished step one of MY proprietary strategic consulting M-E-T-H-O-D-O-L-O-G-Y. That’s what I do—I have a method, and I’m practically a doctor in methodology! And I’m pretty funny too if I do say so myself. Now I want you to circle your three favorite goals, your top three, not the most important, but your favorite. One, two, three, GO! When you’re done, put the paper in the basket. PUT THE PAPER IN THE BASKET! And because I’ve been doing this for forty years, and because of my sixth strategic sense, I am going to draw five of your goals lists out of this basket. One, two, three, four, five. YOU! What’s your name? Get up here; let’s see what you’ve got when you’re in the hot seat, pal. Here, take these five pages, and I want you to choose ONE GOAL from each of these pages and write them on the whiteboard. One from each—that’s five total, sport.
And there you go! THERE THEY ARE! Your top five goals for the year. THE BOB CAMPBELL WAY! This is a democracy, people! And LOOK AT YOU! You did it! You’ve identified the top five things that your company is going to focus on this year whether you want to or not. I knew you had it in you! NOW LET’S HAVE LUNCH!
LET’S GET REAL
We have all suffered through at least one planning session facilitated by a “professional facilitator” that had some aspect of this nightmare scenario to it, whether it’s the overly enthusiastic stranger who claims to be “as passionate about your brand as you are” or the pile of sticky and well-used fidget toys to play with. We’ve all seen part of Bob’s big strategy charade. The “methodology” that they pitch as their own proprietary genius varies little from consultant to consultant, and the results are seldom better than what you might get out of a five-minute multiple-choice survey.
Many leaders dread the obligatory annual strategic-planning session because:
(a) it brings the otherwise productive management team to a screeching halt for an entire day
(b) they themselves have no idea how to facilitate a session to yield actionable results
(c) by the end of the first quarter—as is with many businesses—everything has changed and the planning you did during that wasted day-long session goes right out the window
And the crumpled sheets of paper from the big notepad easel generated on that dreary January day of being locked in a room—with a two-week holiday hangover—sit until about July; then you finally decide to toss them in the recycle bin along with the rest of your best-laid plans.
Strategic planning is not an exercise or a box to check every year. Real strategic planning is also not for the unengaged or faint of heart. It’s for the real contributors in your business, and it’s up to you to make sure it’s eye-opening, useful, and has real material impact on how you operate the business in the coming year. Great leaders know that planning for the planning session is as important as the planning session itself, and if done correctly—with or without a qualified and well-vetted consultant—a good planning session is not an event, it’s a progressive mind-shift that will be felt throughout the organization.
A few tips to get it right:
- Consider having at least four planning sessions throughout the year. Things change. You’re moving at the speed of
- Gather feedback and ideas from your participants before a planning meeting, not
- Spend as much time talking about what you are going to stop doing and what went wrong as you do about what you are going to start Good on top of bad is still bad.
- Operationalize your goals and strategies throughout the business, to every employee, every Make it matter.
- And most importantly: Let conversations evolve.
If you’re doing it right, you should hear some things that you haven’t or didn’t want to hear before.