How to make strategic planning days effective

How to make strategic planning days effective

theGrogroup was recently asked to attend a meeting with an ambitious Professional Services Firm that wanted to discuss how to make forthcoming strategic planning days more effective for their senior partner team. The team had been meeting at least twice yearly over the last few years to create direction and strategic goals, but felt that little progress had been made.


In our experience of strategic planning days, this is not uncommon. This isn’t to say that creative thinking sessions, flip charts, multi coloured post-it notes and motivational vision statement presentations don’t have their place in strategic planning days. They most certainly do. But the key is making sure that what is created is realistic, and more importantly, is executed. Otherwise strategic planning days are just a ‘nice’ break from the day job. And in such competitive markets, in such competitive times, can we afford to waste time and miss such great opportunities?


The problem is that the definition of strategy is very different to what people think it is. It is certainly not a periodic and mainly academic project (the offsite ‘creating’ a new way forward, often through gut-feel). It is instead an ever-shifting appraisal of how a firm should position itself to best meet the challenges it faces and take advantage of the opportunities.

Shaping strategy is part marketing, part money, part people, part culture, part innovation, part products and services, and mostly an appreciation of an ever-shifting and developing world. It needs a flexible process and a lot of hard thinking work!


3-2-1, back to this meeting. In order to build high performing teams, the first area we explored was how the team was actually working together, before talking through some options to achieve their desired outcomes of creating a vision, identifying the strategic goal steps to get there, addressing the ‘blockages’ and ensuring everyone is aligned behind it.


When we put our ‘Firm Principles’ book together one of the main drivers was helping firm’s to create absolute clarity of what we term ‘the core’. This is understanding (and ensuring everyone else understands) the ‘What’ you are, ‘How’ you do it and, most importantly, the ‘Why’?


Why is the firm doing what it is doing? What value does it create? Why does it deserve to be successful?


We believe that a vital start point for any firm wanting to improve the quality and clarity of their direction and future is to ensure they have defined…


Purpose: a clear statement of why the firm exists

Vision: the future focused picture of what you want to become

Mission: the critical milestones you need to ‘hit’ to demonstrate success

Values: the guiding principles for how the firm will conduct its business


These should remain constant, providing the meaning and focus for employees and clients.


Strategy: the most effective way to achieve the mission


As mentioned, strategy should change according to circumstances and climate.


Our ‘strategy’ board programme based on our book, focuses on the above but also delves deeply into the critical area of execution. This is really the crux of the issue. You may have a great vision for your firm but ultimately people must be clear on what they need to do to deliver. Execution is everything. Strategy is taught in every MBA on the planet but rarely do they discuss the importance of execution.


Many strategies fail because execution requires behavioural change in your people to achieve goals that you have never achieved before, you’ve got to start doing things you have never done before’ Stephen Covey Getting people to do things differently can be very painful, and maintaining behavioural change over a period of time (which creates habitual behaviour) is tremendously difficult.


This starts with clarifying the actions that everyone needs to take to drive the plan. Strategic goals are great but often meaningless. Defining how people can affect them is crucial. As is aligning all of the performance, reward and talent management systems with these actions creating the focus of people at all levels on execution. It sounds so simple, but it can be a tough process to get it right.


Why not take the opportunity to turn your strategic ‘away-time’ into something very valuable. A planned and focused process to create the ‘core’, define the actions and behaviours to execute and deliver success and engage your teams around it.


To find out more about how to create and execute strategy through a ‘theGrogroup Board programme’, how to create a high performing senior team, or the Firm Principles book, please complete the enquiry form or get in touch on 01892 610060.