LSA Global Insights Newsletter: Should You Facilitate Your Own Strategy Retreat? 3 Guidelines to Help You to Decide


Should You Facilitate Your Own Strategy Retreat? 3 Guidelines to Help You to Decide

Two stick figures at a flip chart drawing up a game (or strategic) plan

Strategic Planning...It is that time of year again.

Most successful companies and teams conduct strategic planning sessions to ensure that key stakeholders agree upon where to play and what actions to take over the next twelve to thirty-six months.

Done right, a successful strategy retreat sets clear priorities and boundaries, galvanizes and inspires the workforce, and creates synergies that allow the organization to perform beyond just the sum of its parts.  Done wrong, an unsuccessful strategic plan builds silos, dilutes performance and potential, and decreases your ability to attract, engage and retain top talent.

When conducting a strategy retreat, you have three main options:

1.   Facilitate it yourself
2.   Use an internal facilitator
3.   Hire an outside professional. 

Before even addressing the issue of who facilitates your strategy retreat, the first step should be to set clear and measurable business objectives. Without meaningful and realistic goals, it is too easy to waste time and money. Unclear objectives also make it difficult to select the most effective design options in terms of pre-work, design, timing, participation, location and post-retreat communication and cascading.  

All too often companies select dates and locations before they have a clear and agreed-upon picture of what success would look like from a strategy, culture and talent perspective. They then call companies like ours to help before they are able to answer the most basic questions of what would constitute a success and how that success would align with current business priorities. This is a mistake.  

When it comes to strategy retreats, form (the design) should follow function (the purpose). 

After you have agreed upon the desired outcomes for your unique situation, it is time to determine whether an internal or external facilitator would be more effective at getting you from where you are to where you want to go. While many of our clients have very capable and knowledgeable internal facilitators, there are three situations that call for an outside facilitator for your strategy retreat:  

  • The Stakes are High
    At some point, every leadership team faces an important fork in the road where they must decide between critical and complex strategic bets regarding the future direction of the company. Sometimes this is prompted by external changes in the environment such as new competition, disruptive technologies or shifting markets. Other times the inflection point is triggered by internal factors such as when key influencers leave or when there are questions regarding strategic or cultural beliefs. In general, the higher the stakes, the more an experienced facilitator can help. They know how to guide a senior leadership team toward a common goal with a renewed sense of purpose, alignment and commitment. Look for an executive-level strategic facilitator who has the expertise to deftly navigate and resolve controversial politics, positions and topics while moving the team forward in a way that makes sense.
  • The Group is "Stuck"
    Even high performing teams get stuck. Corporate stalemates play out in many different ways--over turf, status, power, relationships, structures, roles, knowledge and personalities to name just a few. Whatever the root cause, the more stuck the group, the more critical it is to have an unbiased and neutral external facilitator with deep experience with group dynamics and processes so they can help move the team forward. Unlike an internal facilitator, good external strategy facilitators have the ability to ask the "tough" and "unspoken" questions without fear of reprisal. They push just enough to uncover and remove the key obstacles that are blocking the team from reaching their potential.

About LSA Global
Founded in 1995, LSA Global is a leading performance consulting and training firm that helps high growth technology, services, and life-science companies create a competitive advantage by powerfully aligning their culture and talent with their strategy. Learn more about getting aligned