Leaders must lead. Whether it’s a large corporation, a non-profit, a government agency, a department, a project or a team, the leader is responsible for ensuring that the organization has a clear strategic direction and a plan for making that direction a reality. At Leadership Strategies we believe every leader should have a strategic plan.

Unfortunately, it happens sometimes that a leader is ready for strategic planning, but his/her team is not. But what if your team is not ready? What do you do? And perhaps more importantly, how do you know whether your team is really ready to take on strategic planning?

How do you know?

Below is a list of questions that can help you determine if your team is ready to develop a strategic plan and the steps you can take if your team is not ready.

  1. Is there a widely-held belief that there is a need for a shared direction and agreed upon priorities?
  2. Are the key issues to be addressed by the plan identified?
  3. Is the outcome and benefit of planning clearly delineated?
  4. Is an approach and timeline for strategic planning been agreed to?
  5. Has the group agreed how this planning process needs to be different from past processes?
  6. Has the team determined who should be in the room when developing the plan and how you will gain the buy-in from those not in the room?
  7. Are the people who need to be in the room willing to commit the time and resources required?
  8. Has the information that needs to be compiled in advance of planning been identified, including results from past planning efforts?

If your team isn’t ready for planning, or if you’re not sure whether they are ready, the first step we recommend is a strategic planning briefing. We have found that the management briefing is a tremendous tool for preparing your team for planning. Specifically, design the management briefing to achieve the following objectives.

  • Commitment from senior management to take the time needed to develop and execute the plan.
  • Identification of the critical issues to address in the plan.
  • A clearly defined and agreed to planning process tied to addressing the issues.
  • A plan for gathering information about the current situation, including past plans, current initiatives, customer perceptions, employee opinions, industry trends and the competitive landscape.

How does a Management Briefing Work?

Below is a high-level agenda for the management briefing.

PurposeTo gain buy-in from the management team to execute the strategic planning process.
ProductsKey issues facing the organization Strategy approach Information needed for the briefing book Names for the planning team and situation assessment team Next steps
Timing90-120 minutes
AgendaGetting Started Review the purpose and outcomes for the briefing. Key Issues Use brainstorming and grouping techniques to get the participants to identify the most important issues facing the organization. A Standard Strategic Planning Approach Describe your approach for strategic planning; be sure to use an example that makes clear the definitions of the different components. Modifying the Approach Have the participants link the issues to the approach. Ask participants to identify strengths and concerns about the approach. Agree upon adjustments to ensure the approach addresses the key issues as needed. Discuss who should be involved at what level in the planning effort. Situation Assessment Determine the information that should be gathered and distributed in advanced to ensure all members of the planning team start with a common foundation of information about the organization’s performance, customers, employees, industry, and competitors. Logistics Define key information about the planning process, including the when, where, who, and how of the planning retreat. Next Steps Identify the immediate next steps following the meeting.  

Why do a Management Briefing?

There are several benefits to the management briefing.

  • Your planning team walks away with a common view of the issues to address.
  • They have determined what modifications might be needed to the standard planning approach to ensure that their issues are fully addressed.
  • Your planning team has agreed on a set of strategy definitions.
  • They have begun identifying the information they need to gather to make the planning session highly productive.
  • Your planning team has assigned responsibilities for ensuring gathering key information and that they are taking necessary steps to prepare for the retreat.
  • Executive teams typically walk away with increased buy-in and commitment to participate in the planning effort and follow through on actions.

If successful, the management briefing will provide a strong foundation for launching your strategic planning activities.