Here's the next installment in my series that I hope is adding some new clarity and understanding to your strategic planning process. As a recap, Part 1 described the overall process of preparing for a strategic plan and the other key outputs of a strategic planning session. Part 2 covered the tools and techniques commonly utilized in the process. This time, I'll talk about why you might want to use an outside facilitator for your next planning session and what qualities you should look for if you do decide to bring in such a person.
Even many organizations that have strong internal planning capabilities find that bringing in an objective outside person to facilitate the strategic planning process can lead to better, faster results. There are several reasons third-party consultants can be at an advantage. First, an outside consultant can bring a fresh perspective that can help the group think about possibilities that they might not otherwise consider because of pre-conceived notions and biases. Second, an outside voice can often nudge senior leaders toward consensus in a way that may not be politically viable for an employee. Third, experienced consultants benefit from having worked with many, many different senior teams, which greatly improves their odds of success when dealing with leaders that have strong personalities.
If you're thinking about bringing such a person into your organization, here are some things to keep in mind as you interview them and check references. This is really important because just as the right consultant can drive success, the wrong one can completely derail your efforts and even sour the entire executive team on strategic planning.
To be a good strategic planning facilitator, an outside consultant MUST:
- Have a style that fits your organizational culture and meshes with the personalities of those attending the planning session.
- Have a wealth of strategic planning experience from many types of industries and companies.
- Be a good coordinator to help ensure, among other things, that the necessary pre-work is done and communicated in a timely fashion.
- Be able to facilitate senior executives effectively in order to move the group ahead while extracting the key information from all of the discussions.
- Be able to help the group feel positive about the overall strategic planning process and its outputs.
Many of these things might seem obvious, but they can be particularly difficult to judge from an initial conversation or interview, so be sure to ask about these things when you're speaking with previous clients of your potential facilitator. And, as always, please comment below with your thoughts and any additional questions you might have about strategic planning facilitation.
In my next and final post in this series, I'll dig a little deeper into the strategic planning outputs that will put you on the path toward successful strategy execution.