In this short article series, we’ll examine the art of organising successful strategy workshops as part of your organisational strategy development. We’ll begin by identifying the necessary preparation, review the event success factors and lastly, define the necessary follow-up.

How to run a strategy workshop – Preparation

Many of us have experienced the frustration of being invited to ‘discuss strategy’, only to find that the resulting conversation is unplanned, unmoderated and unfocused. Your internal strategists are invariably in demand across the business so it’s imperative that you use their time wisely and to a clear purpose. Strategy needs to be part of the regular and normalised business process rather than an ad-hoc activity, but to achieve buy-in, the right planning, communication and organisation is essential. A planned workshop will allow you to develop your strategy in a way that moves expertly from the conceptual planning stage through to organisational-wide communication and implementation. How? We’re here to share several decades of experience and insight as strategy consultants and workshop facilitators!

1. Choose your strategic process

There are various well-known strategic processes with their own merits, including the Strategy Diamond and the Blue Ocean Methodology. However, the approach that we prefer at Intrafocus is the Balanced Scorecard Methodology, which is a holistic and integrated end-to-end strategic approach that cycles through a systematic, 9-step process. It looks at every organisational ‘perspective’: customers, financial, organisational capacity and internal processes, and it is used by over half of all major companies across the UK, Europe and the USA.

2. Choose your strategic workshop facilitator

Make sure your chosen individual is experienced and knowledgeable in the art of business strategy, has the gravitas to effectively steer a room filled with diverse talent, and is a superb communicator. There is value in using an external expert facilitator with specific knowledge of your chosen strategic process and the necessary objectivity to challenge thinking, ensure adherence to the agenda and to obtain the maximum contribution from all attendees (not simply the loudest and most extroverted individuals in the room; remember, your quiet introverts are typically your ‘big thinkers’ and a vital source of input).

3. Consider your attendees carefully

Your workshop attendees will naturally include your senior executives for their experience, knowledge and functional skill sets. But think more broadly to identify c. 6-24 diverse attendees who can really add value. Pick subject matter experts, functional leads, front-line workers and other key individuals who are known for being natural thinkers, particularly customer-focused or generally creative. Often, there is a wealth of insight, knowledge and talent at your service delivery frontline, and a skilled external facilitator can help more junior attendees to feel confident and supported in contributing to the group.

4. Plan the agenda

Be clear about the purpose, format and desired outcomes of the workshop. Time the session carefully, planning in a variety of tools and techniques designed to stimulate different learning and communication styles. For example, many people work better bouncing ideas in pairs or small groups rather than speaking individually around a large and daunting table! Again, a professional facilitator can do this for you, drawing on their expertise for the ideal format blend.

5. Organise the post-administration

Using the Balanced Scorecard approach, an Intrafocus strategic planning workshop typically lasts for three mornings spread across three days – with the afternoons reserved for reflection and communication of progress. Book the session well in advance to respect diary time and to maximise attendance. Go off-site to benefit from the creativity of a fresh environment, away from daily concerns and contact. Communicate clearly and carefully to ensure that your attendees are bought-in to the event, understand its value and are ready to prioritise the activity accordingly.

Now your event is booked in and your attendees informed – it’s time to turn our attention to the event itself and discuss some of the main ways to ensure it runs successfully! Watch this space for article two – and in the meantime, find out more about an Intrafocus Strategy Workshop.