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How to Conduct a Strategic Planning
Facilitation on a Budget

by Erica Olsen

Fall is generally recognized as the season when organizations kick start their strategic planning efforts, and this year happens just as the world markets appear to be recovering from the recent upheavals. Even amid much remaining uncertainty, the time is ripe for strategic planning as many businesses and organizations around the globe are struggling over how to plan for the future and justify the added expense of a facilitated strategic planning session.

Erica Olsen, a veteran strategic planning facilitator and author of Strategic Planning for Dummies, offers the following ten tips for organizations to conduct their own sessions and get the most out of the strategic planning process.

  • Pull together a diverse, yet appropriate, group of people to make up your planning team. Diversity leads to better strategy.

  • Allow enough time for big picture, strategic thinking. Do whatever it takes to allow that time for big-picture thinking (including taking your team off-site).

  • Explain the process and expected outcome. Take the time to review the different terms used in strategic planning and each step of the process to avoid any confusion that could derail your meeting.

  • Get full commitment from key people in your organization. If your team doesn't buy into the planning process and the resulting strategic plan, you're dead in the water.

  • Allow for open and free discussion regardless of each person's position with the organization. Encourage active participation, but don't let any one person dominate the session.

  • Think about execution before you start. It won't matter how good the plan is if it doesn't get executed.

  • Make your plan actionable. To have any chance at implementation, the plan must clearly articulate goals, action steps, responsibilities, accountabilities, and specific deadlines.

  • Clearly articulate next steps. Everyone must fully understand what they're responsible for and when to meet deadlines.

  • Don't write your plan in stone. Good strategic plans are fluid, not rigid and unbending.

  • Make strategy a habit, not just a retreat. Review the strategic plan for performance achievement no less than quarterly and as often as monthly or weekly.

"Having a succinct strategy brings clarity and focus to your organization," says Olsen. "Strategic planning ensures that your time, resources, and actions aren't wasted. Even if forced to run the strategy session without a professional facilitator, no organization can afford to be without an actionable strategic plan in these uncertain times."

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About the Author:

Erica Olsen and her company, M3 Planning, have developed an award-winning online strategic planning system that alleviates the administrative burden of the strategy management process and includes both strategic plan development and implementation features. MyStrategicPlan is an easy-to-use software application that enables any organization, regardless of size and budget, to build a comprehensive plan, effectively and easily track goals, create professional reports for every stakeholder, and monitor implementation all year long.

Erica Olsen has developed and reviewed hundreds of strategic plans for organizations across the country through M3 Planning's online client base and on-site strategic planning facilitation work. She has also authored several strategic planning books and was named Entrepreneur of the Year by The Business Report of Northern Nevada in 2007. M3 Planning has established itself as a source for everything related to strategic planning. In addition to their online strategic planning system, the company is also a resource for other strategic planning tools, books, articles, workshops, and facilitations.

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