How to run a strategic planning workshop

Strategic Planning Workshops: Where A Better Future Begins To Take Shape

Strategy workshops have the potential to unlock the potential of your business. They also have the power to hold it back, which can not be allowed to happen. This means you require careful preparation, knowledge and mastery of the strategic planning process and concepts you are going to use, and the right people need to be involved at the right time.

It’s also worth emphasising that these strategy workshops are more than just meetings; they’re transformative experiences that invigorate your company with purpose and direction.  They will give you clarity on what you are trying to win, a clear strategy for winning, and a roadmap that takes you from where you are today to that better place.

Written by | Co-Founder of ZOKRI
The Process That Focuses & Aligns Resources

Strategic Planning Workshops Need Real Purpose

The need and desire for change is usually the purpose of strategic planning workshops. When your workshops are communicated, structured and managed well, they are the first steps towards a brighter, better future for leadership teams, employees and investors.

An important step in the planning journey is to accept that the very system, the very plan, and perhaps even the very culture that got you where you are today, probably won’t take you where you want to go.

Positive change usually demands evolution, it demands innovation, it demands a break from the past and a leap into the future. It requires you to re-evaluate, to re-imagine, and to re-energize.

Your strategic planning workshops need to make it easy to lean on and learn from those within your team, as well as the experts you get to help you.


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The people helping you are not just your colleagues, or consultants, they’re your allies. Together you will create a plan that starts by pinpointing and reaching consensus on your vision and winning aspiration.

The together you need to unpick how you propose to win win via a clear and easy to follow strategy. You are then in a position to unlock the power of the Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) framework. Your OKRs will give you a clear and achievable roadmap to success. Focusing resources, improving teamwork and distributing accountability.

Finally you focus on execution week-on-week. Moving yourself towards achieving your vision.

Your workshops are where you design a new business operating system, a new strategic plan, and a culture that can propel you forwards.

Strategic Workshop Planning – Common
Issues You Plan To Avoid

Here are some of the common issues that often arise during strategic planning workshops and advice on how to prepare, communicate, and ensure the importance of the process is well-understood:

Lack of Clarity on Objectives

Make sure the objective of the workshop is clear to everyone. Why are we here? What is the purpose of this exercise? What do we hope to achieve at the end of the workshop? These are questions that need to be answered and communicated to the attendees. You might say something like:

We’re committing to re-visiting where we are going to play and how we are going to win – this will form our strategy. 

To do this we will start by asking the right questions, actively listening to the each other and our teams, and absorbing everyone’s perspective. 

The business concepts we channel our conversations through include: setting a Winning Aspiration, Trends, Customer Pain Points, Value Propositions, Opportunities, Issues, and Capabilities. Don’t worry, we’ve got lots of examples and tutorials to help us.

To gather the information to come up with a winning strategy I need to you to bring your experience, energy, positive attitude and where you have them data and insights to help guide us.

Once we’ve an agreed strategy we’re going to be setting OKRs (Objective and Key Results) that will help us align our effort and track progress. We’re going to also receive help on how to use this goal setting framework really well.

As part of the process it is likely we will be evolving our ways of working to help us improve performance. 

You will be required to make these days available to attend workshops at [location]. We’d also like you to ring-fence two half-days with your teams to discuss topics and do exercises that come up. Their input will be important.

If we get to the end of the process with a strategy we believe in, goals that roadmap our execution, focused and engaged teams, and we’re solving problems, learning and adapting faster than we have in the past, we’ve succeeded.

Plan To Plan To The Best Of Your Ability

Before, During & After Your Strategic Planning Workshops 

Before You Start

  • Be transparent and candid about the purpose and goals of the workshop. Make sure to communicate why their input is crucial and how it will impact the company’s strategic direction.
  • Communicate the importance of active participation and respectful listening. Encourage everyone to share their ideas and be open to different perspectives.
  • Reinforce that the workshop is a safe space for sharing ideas. There are no wrong answers in brainstorming, and every input is valuable.
  • Make sure to send reminders about the upcoming workshop, and provide an agenda beforehand so attendees know what to expect.

During The Workshop

  • Lead by example by being actively engaged, participating in exercises, and demonstrating an open and enthusiastic attitude.
  • Ensure a balanced discussion by giving everyone the opportunity to contribute. If a few voices are dominating, encourage quieter attendees to share their thoughts.
  • Keep the energy high with breaks, energizing activities, and by maintaining a positive and encouraging atmosphere.

Post Workshop

  • Reiterate the importance of the workshop and the next steps that will be taken based on its outcomes.
  • Have a plan for follow-up activities, and communicate this to the participants. This can include action items, sub-committees to further investigate specific topics, or a timeline for implementing strategies discussed during the workshop.

Potential Issues To Watch Out For

Inadequate Preparation

Ensure that attendees have all the necessary materials and information needed to participate effectively. This could include pre-reading materials, data, or a detailed agenda.

Dominance of a Few Voices

In any group setting, there’s a risk that a few voices will dominate the conversation. It’s important to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas.

If certain voices are dominant, or if some participants are proving more destructive than constructive, it can significantly inhibit the effectiveness of a strategic planning workshop. Here’s some advice to manage such situations:

  • Set Clear Expectations and Ground Rules: At the start of the workshop, establish ground rules. These might include equal airtime, listening without interrupting, respecting others’ perspectives, etc. Highlight the importance of diverse perspectives to reach a comprehensive strategy.
  • Active Facilitation: As a facilitator, monitor discussions closely. If you notice someone dominating, step in diplomatically. Say something like, “We’ve heard some great points from X, now let’s hear some other perspectives.” If someone is being disruptive, it might be necessary to address the situation privately during a break.
  • Encourage Others to Speak: If a few voices are dominating the conversation, make a point to encourage quieter participants to share their thoughts. Ask them directly what they think about a particular issue or idea.
  • Rotate Roles: To encourage participation, you might rotate roles within the workshop, for instance, have a different person lead each session or discussion. This can also help to provide a variety of perspectives.
  • Use Structured Activities: Design activities that ensure everyone’s voice is heard. For example, a round-robin approach where each person shares an idea or perspective can be useful. Similarly, group work in smaller, mixed teams can also ensure that all voices are included.
  • Anonymous Contribution: Use anonymous polling or suggestion methods for gathering ideas. This can empower people who might otherwise be reticent to contribute.
  • Feedback and Reflection: If some voices are being disruptive or overly critical, ensure this feedback is provided in a constructive and respectful manner, ideally in a private setting. Remember, the goal is to create an environment conducive to cooperation, creativity, and free exchange of ideas.

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