The event

Welcome to the second in our article series about running a successful strategy workshop. In the first article we looked at the preparation stage and now we move on to the event itself.

The agenda

We recommended that the strategic development process chosen is the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) for rigour and results. This means that the event itself will follow this defined and ordered process of identification and analysis:

– Defining a) the vision and then b) the mission, to win hearts and minds and to set direction
– Identifying strategic priorities and strategic objectives – in that order, to focus efforts
– Setting accompanying KPIs to measure progress and attainment
– Agreeing on targets and initiatives – to ensure timely, full delivery that is measurable and communicable.

As the agenda works through these areas, the BSC will ensure that necessary balance is retained by framing the discussion within the key areas of Finance, Customer, Internal Processes and Organisational Capacity. The key point is that the process is entirely objective and priority driven, rather than project or initiative-driven. This ensures that focus remains at a strategic, rather than tactical level.

The welcome

The specifics of the agenda and the purpose of the event will have been communicated in advance, but the event should open with introductions and a summary of both.

Setting ground rules

Respectfully ask attendees to switch off distracting digital devices wherever possible. Explain the desire to obtain a full and balanced input from all attendees, with support and encouragement from the group – especially useful if you have a mixed hierarchy of levels involved. Explain hygiene factors such as breaks and answer any questions before beginning. Make sure your attendees feel comfortable and ready to go!

A word on breaks

At Intrafocus we have been running strategy workshops for corporate clients for many years, and one thing we notice is the importance of good food and fresh air! Some studies suggest that sustained periods of concentration tend to work in cycles of around 45 minutes. A good agenda with a balance of activities will optimise energy levels and set time for breaks and reflection accordingly. Encourage attendees to stand up and move around as they brainstorm – setting up an active room where possible. When it comes to snacks, don’t overload attendees with croissants, Danish pastries and biscuits, or they’ll be dropping off after lunch! Instead, choose a healthy and balanced menu which maximises sustained energy – and yes, tea or coffee is a useful addition.

The facilitator’s role

The use of a skilled external facilitator brings rigour and results to your workshop, expertly guiding the conversation and agenda to keep attendees on track with their discussion, encouraging creative participation, supporting those who are less sure at speaking out and generally providing the right atmosphere for valuable discussion and idea generation to occur whilst remaining on topic. During the afternoon ‘homework’ portion of the day – which should take around an hour to complete – the facilitator will also write up outputs and a critique of the morning session to present to the group on the following day.

The format

The facilitator will use a range of guided exercises to encourage maximum participation and idea generation. Again, the skill of the facilitator is key in this regard and the host may adjust the approach during the session to meet the unique needs of group dynamics, different learning styles and even different personality types. The aim is to keep energy and focus high and to encourage discussion and innovation without meandering away from the agenda. Without this expert steer, it is all too easy for a strategic workshop to simply run out of time (typically 4-6 hours per morning session) before all objectives have been fulfilled. We recommend you use a facilitation company that can bring a set of tools and processes, be sure to ask them to demonstrate what they have before the event. One of the tools we like is provided by Strategyzer.

The Integrated Strategy Map

Over the course of the three sessions, the attendees will create an integrated strategy map using a set BSC template. The facilitator will capture all generated thoughts, ideas and supporting material in a strategy document for reference and further consideration. Input from all attendees will need to be shared to ensure buy-in and balance. This map can then be transformed into the delivery plan – which we will investigate in our third and final article. In the meantime, why not find out more about the Intrafocus Strategy Workshop