Let me guess: you’ve been commissioned to organise this year’s annual team strategy day? Maybe you’re going to facilitate?
While last year’s day was OK, it wasn’t brilliant – so now you’re looking for something different, something more meaningful. You want a strategy day that generates great ideas, and for those ideas to stand a better chance of being implemented and making a difference.
To get this kind of outcome you need a process that’s collaborative, that engages with your leadership, staff and even your clients. You also need to start your strategy day process at least four weeks before the big day.
We use what we call our 5-Step Collaborative Strategy ‘Iceberg Process’ as a guide for preparation, planning, running and delivering a successful team strategy day.
Why the ‘Iceberg’ Process? Because most of the team strategy work happens before the team strategy workshop – the workshop is the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
1. Team Strategy Day Kickoff & Brief
3-4 weeks before the team strategy day.
The kick off meeting is where it all begins, and it is crucial. It is where you work with your MD or CEO to nut out the purpose of the day and what a successful day should look like.
I’d suggest you meet with the leadership team together. Use this time to search for common ground and differences of opinion on what the day’s about, and identify who’s going to make up the strategy day team.
At the end of the kick off meeting, you should know what the leadership’s expectations are and have the logistics sorted out. Before you leave the kick off session make sure you agree who will be attending the strategy day, when and where it will be held and and how long it’ll go for. (N.B. If it’s any shorter than a day you’re probably wasting your time.)
2. Desk Research
2 weeks before the team strategy day.
Remember, strategy is about winning! So you need to do your research on the company, including customers and competitors.
Review what already exists to help develop ideas and form a path to where you might be heading. Scour past strategy documents, brand strategy and other past activity and look for both wins and misfires – learn from what’s gone before.
Look at your current client list, your current service offering and check what your competitors are doing – scanning competitor websites is a valuable but often forgotten task that can deliver valuable insight.
Essentially, you are interested in getting some preliminary answers to key questions:
- Where is the company now?
- How did we get here?
- What strategies did we adopt over the past few years?
- What worked? What didn’t work?
- Where do we want to go? What’s stopping us?
- How has the world in which we work changed?
- Who do we compete against?
3. Primary Research Conversations
1 week before the team strategy day.
Talk with workshop participants a week before the day via one-on-one conversations. These sessions should be short, sharp and no more that 30-40 minutes long.
What do you talk about? Break it down into three questions:
- If you were in charge what strategies would you adopt for the next 2-3 years?
- What are the opportunities for [company] as you see them?
- What are the roadblocks to success for [company]?
These conversation starters help you generate insight before the day and allow you to connect with participants and gauge where the common ground is and where there are tangents.
4. Team Strategy Workshop
The big week.
Your team strategy day workshop agenda will be guided by the insight you’ve gained from the leadership during the kickoff meeting and one-on-one conversations.
By this stage you should have already generated some hypothesis around what the strategy might look like and you now need to guide the team towards generating a shared understanding of where your organisation needs to go.
Our preferred approach to the day is to focus on visioning exercises and ‘blue sky thinking’ in the morning and use the midday and afternoon sessions to develop concrete objectives, create a roadmap to get there and to identify what we call the ‘critical issues for success’ which can then ultimately become your strategic initiatives.
Remember: while the business of team strategy is serious, strategy workshops are a team exercise and should be designed to be fun, collaborative and built around discovery and respect.
5. Team Strategy Day Summary Report
The week following the strategy day.
Getting the team’s strategy implemented relies on its clarity and simplicity.
No matter what team strategy day process or reporting format you adopt make sure it’s short, sharp and to the point. It needs to be easy to digest and understand (so easy, for example, that your nanna could get a grasp of it in the time it takes to finish a cup of tea).
Our prefered output format is for a single page team strategy summary and, if necessary, a 10-12 page supporting summary document in PowerPoint format. The days of thick comprehensive reports are gone – the world is moving too fast for that.
A team strategy day is about increasing the odds of winning in the future. It’s as much an art as it is a science, and often more about ‘people’ than anything else. So make sure your facilitation process helps people to understand and engage with the strategy, they’re the ones that are going to implement it after all.