In at least a third of the strategic sessions I have had this summer, staff members have come to with skeptical smiles. Over coffee breaks, they confidentially told me that their sessions were regular, but there were no changes. So why do sessions turn out to be ineffective?
First, you need to be clear about the purpose of the session. It is believed that a session can solve one of three problems, and that’s it. The first task is a meeting of the minds as the group develops a common concept and agrees on a common vision of the situation. The second task is to develop ideas as the group tries to think outside the box in order to come up with something that was not figured out in the rooms. And the third task is to make decisions.
Besides putting one task per session (and only one task), you need to clearly understand the state of the group. If your team does not agree, it is naive to hope for the development of interesting ideas, or even more so to make decisions. In a fragmented group, the energy of the participants will go into a hidden struggle. People will close down and even if they have an idea, they will not say it out loud, so that it is not appropriated by others. They would rather whisper it in the ear of the chief and stand out from the competition for the highest attention. If anything helps such a group, it’s only a stratospheric rapprochement strategic session.
Ideas and decision-making sessions should not be mixed up either. It is interesting and tempting to face a challenge in a creative way, and fix it in road maps and other documents at once, but, by experience, one can’t do both things properly.
A good session should be preceded by a good preparation. Given the fact that employees who are long way from the customer and the market, taken away for two days away from home and office, their creativity will not boost much. In order to “expand the consciousness” of the participants of the session, it is necessary to familiarize them with what is happening around them as much as possible: take them to customers, suppliers and to the exhibition. Making a marketing certificate and send it to everyone in advance for familiarization is a minimum acceptable requirement.
Well, the session facilitator should not only be a coach. He or she should understand what the participants are arguing about and regulate the dispute right on time. Not only must he or she have business experience for this. He or she should, as far as possible, get acquainted with the specifics of a particular business in advance. That is also an important part of the preparation. The preparation of the session significantly increases its efficiency.
At the end of the session, it is necessary to agree on who, when and what will do with the materials that were created during the sessions. Otherwise, everything that was said during the session can be forgotten in a couple of days.
I wish you efficient strategic sessions!