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Strategy Planning: It’s Not About the Offsite Meeting

Beginning your annual planning process with an offsite meeting is like taking a final exam without having studied. The outcome may not be what you had hoped for. 

Decisions on strategic choices need to be based on data, not opinions. Don’t let your strategy be driven by the loudest voice in the room. Prepare for the planning meeting with a SWOT analysis, competitive landscape and customer insights. Opinions will be elevated when supported by relevant data.

Think of strategy planning in three phases – data collection, analysis and decisions. Leaping immediately to decisions will very likely lead to disappointing results. Leaders have a tendency to apply gut instinct to planning. After all, experienced executives who understand their business should have a pretty good sense of what next year needs to look like. Except there is a fundamental risk in mapping the future based on past experience – nothing is static in business. Last year will never repeat itself. Your people have changed, the marketplace has shifted, and your competition has pivoted. Next year must be looked at through the lens of current realities not historical knowledge.

Assemble the data and make sure everyone who will be attending the planning session internalizes the material. That’s the analysis step. I did some work with a CEO who would not allow participants to join the planning session if the material had not been read and absorbed. It only took one time for this to happen before team members complied. The avoidance of embarrassment is a powerful motivator.


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