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Running an Effective Strategy Review Meeting

Posted July 29, 2008 11:29 AM by Dylan Miyake

How many times have you attended a "strategy" meeting only to fall asleep halfway through? What is it about strategy that makes meetings so incredibly boring? Well, because most of the time, meetings about strategy are about anything but strategy.

Instead, "strategy" meetings are about dry and uninteresting market factiods, a review of last month / quarter / year's operations, inane "visioning" sessions that are disconnected with reality, or some other perversion that only serves to waste precious time.

But strategy -- and strategy meetings -- needn't be like this. Because strategy (done right and presented right) is the antithesis of boring. Strategy is about making the difficult choices about how you're going to run your organization and how you're going to make a difference.

As we've said countless times on this blog, just having a good strategy isn't enough. It's how you execute on that strategy that is the critical differentiator between successful organizations and organizations that just plod along from year to year (at best) or fail spectacularly.

And as Winston Churchill famously said, "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." And that's what an effective strategy review meeting is all about. Seeing how you're doing on the strategy and making the changes necessary to set things right.

So, without further ado, here's our suggestions on running an effective meeting:

  1. Agenda based on strategy A good strategy review meeting is just that: a meeting that's based on your strategy. So craft the agenda based on your strategy map and your set of strategic initiatives. Cover the issues that are critical and acknowledge those that are on track. Stay focused on strategy and don't let the meeting get derailed by operational concerns.
  2. Topics outlined in advance of meetings Good meetings don't just happen, they're planned. So get the information out before the meeting happens and make sure people have time to review it. And don't take excuses for why people haven't come prepared to the meeting. Don't tolerate the "question the number" game -- instead make fact-based decisions based on the data you have.
  3. Decisions documented Keep a running log of what was discussed and what decisions were made. Also note who was accountable for what and when the action item is supposed to be completed. If the meeting gets off track, use a "parking lot" flipchart to record the issue and schedule another meeting if necessary to discuss that issue.
  4. Follow-up monitored How many times have you covered the same ground meeting after meeting? The key is to monitor the decisions that you made in one meeting and to create a culture of followup in your organization where closing out on action items is expected before the next meeting.

Of course, this is not a change that can or will happen overnight. It is a cultural change for many organizations, and therefore requires time to set in. But if you start putting strategy -- and your strategy map -- at the center of your meeting agenda, you'll see an evolution of meetings from tiring to invigorating.