3 Steps to the Best Strategy Session You’ve Ever Had

We’ve all been in that strategy session that seems to be going nowhere. Bursts of creative ideas get shot down by monetary realities, then descend into awkward silences, and after hours of brainstorming, you leave uncertain of what your next steps should be.

Fortunately, it’s surprisingly easy to get your team back on target. Here are three simple steps to help you avoid digressive meandering and run a productive, inspiring meeting every time.

1. Vision Generation – Keep the numbers guys silent.
I’m the first to admit that numbers are important; I’m proud of my accounting background. But the early part of a strategy session, when the team is thinking big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAGs), is not the time to pop everyone’s bubble with a comment like, “Where are we going to get the money to do that?”

Before the meeting, pull aside the person who typically plays the reality-check role; let them know you value their input and ask them to consider resource constraints carefully during these discussions – just insist they keep those constraints to themselves until later in the meeting. Then once the meeting starts, tell everyone that the number one rule is to not bring up resource constraints during the early part of the meeting.

2. Getting to Action – Time to take ownership.
Once the visionaries have laid out a nice set of BHAGs, the real work starts. Prioritize goals and set a timeline for next steps to ensure follow-up. Otherwise, the Strategic Plan might find its way to the bottom of everyone’s inbox. Assign these tasks to specific individuals to ensure accountability and move the goals to action.

3. Resource Constraint Evaluation – Let the numbers guys speak.
You’ve locked your best financial advisor in the corner for the last three hours. Time to free her. She’s got a dose of reality for everyone. But guess what: The cat’s already out of the bag, the ideas have been generated, and the momentum has built. The numbers person can talk about limited resources, but now the “How to Fix That” plans can be made. It’s much easier to break down those barriers and accomplish your mission if you have buy-in to the idea at the onset.

That’s it. Good going, folks. Mission accomplished – for now. A little preparation can turn an average strategy session into the best you’ve ever had. And as these small practices become habits, you’ll see greater and greater ideas coming out of every meeting.