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Facilitating Tips: Kick Off 2013 with a Strategy Meeting

Posted December 31, 2012 10:26 AM by Angie Mareino

Ah, the New Year. A time of good intentions, resolutions, revisiting your lifestyle and habits...but how can you harness that same enthusiasm come February? We might not be able to help keep off those pesky 10 lbs. (we'll leave that to Dr. Oz!), but we can offer some words of advice to faciliate a kickoff meeting to discuss launching a better strategy management system in 2013. And why should you care? We have watched organizations with great missions learn the hard way that floundering without a comprehensive yet easy-to-follow and approachable strategy management system is a sure-fire way to chase your proverbial tail when it comes to measuring impact in a mission-driven organization. So hear us out, then chime in with your own tips and best strategies. Here's to a measurablely good 2013!

Let's say you've got the ear of your leadership. (Measuring impact? We're in!) Here are a few guidelines to facilitate a productive, purposeful workshop without losing steam. What's your main objectives? Start your meeting with a structured agenda and clear objectives that all attendees agree to from the outset. As facilitator, your jobs is to indicate the direction the meeting will take and revisit this periodically so the team is aware of the progress that they are making. Are you getting off topic? (Not that the brand of coffee filters used in the breakroom isn't important, but . . .) When the meeting threatens to jump the rails, refer to your objectives and redirect.

Establish ground rules with the person in charge, whether it's the CEO, CFO, CIO, etc.. If you're running the meeting, you need to know who is the boss in the room, what outcomes are most important, and to be confident the boss is on your side (trust us, she is). That's why you should have a " pre-present" with the boss before the big meeting to review the agenda, objectives, decisions you'd like to make, how to resolve conflicts or end discussions that are not fruitful. Will the boss pronounce the final decision? Is it okay to set aside certain issues to revisit later? Are there any topics you should avoid?

Patience might last only as long as that first cup of coffee during the meeting itself. That's why it's imperative that you take the time to understand and educate the group as individuals BEFORE you join together in the conference room. If you're trying to establish a Balanced Scorecard or another strategymanagement system, don't expect your team to be full of boundless enthusiasm. Your meeting is not the time to discuss theory or overview. It may seem like a burden, but we promise you'll feel like a rockstar if you take the time to meet with individuals beforehand to discuss their views and understanding, as well as their priorities and concerns. The fewer mid-meeting surprises, the better.

Sure, it may seem fairly obvious, but how many pointless meetings can you recall sitting in, unsure of why you're there or what decisions are to be made? Don't fall into the trap! As you faciliate your meeting, focus on the decision(s) to be made. Your goal is to guide the conversation and direct the meeting toward meaningful engagement. If you aren't sure what decision(s) you'd like to reach during the meeting, how can you expect anyone else to know? Conversations may naturally migrate to related and even unrelated topics (ah, those coffee filters again!). Your participants will thank you for redirecting the conversation back to the topic at hand. You're in control!

As you discuss objectives, think of yourself as a Little League coach: is everyone getting a fair chance to play? Remember that not everyone in a meeting wishes to speak up or dominate the conversation. That doesn't mean the person sitting quietly doesn't have an opinion or valuable input! There are many different learning styles and personalitites within a group. (Introverts and non-visual learners will especially thank you if you solicit their opinion, concerns, etc. before the meeting, so remember that prep work isn't for naught.) If you have an extended meeting time, try out different formats to leverage these learning styles and personalities – you can try breakout groups, table exercises, formal presentations, stickies on wall charts, etc...

If you are facilitating a strategy map workshop or a measurement meeting, you are asking your team to make some difficult decisions. Decisions to establish priorities, trade-offs, investments, and indicators are difficult for an individual--let alone a group!--to make. As your meeting progresses, make sure to note decisions: only then can you know what to later revisit to reivew! On the same hand, understand how to recognize if a conversation has gone as far as it can in the meeting. Don't rush every decision. Instead, allow inconclusive decisions to be tabled for later or when particular experts can be involved.

If you're facilitating a meeting, that's your only role. The number one TRAP is to join the conversation. Resist the natural inclination. Now, get ready to show 2013 how it's done!