The Retreat – Strategic Planning Part 2

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This is part 2 of our series on Strategic Planning. (Check out part 1 on the environmental scan here.) 

For an organization engaged in a strategic planning process, a well-planned, well-facilitated retreat can be an important step in generating ideas for moving the organization forward and developing an action plan to ensure that ideas are successfully implemented. 

Retreats are usually 1-2 day planning sessions with key leadership and staff. An external or internal facilitator is usually needed to ensure the gathering is productive. 

At ILE Consulting Group, we recommend preparing for the strategic planning retreat a few months in advance to ensure productive event with momentum to build on as you complete the strategic plan.  

Set intentions and expectations upfront, be clear about what you want to accomplish during the retreat, engage your facilitator and staff in setting the stage for success. 

  1. Conduct the environmental scan (more on this in part 1 of this series). 
  2. Produce a report on key issues, challenges and opportunities.  
  3. Create an agenda informed by the information gathered.  
  4. Select discussion questions (we provided a list of questions at the end of this post).
  5. Get buy-in – include all participants in planning – ask for their input on the agenda, activities. 
  6. Assign roles even small roles make it fun (i.e. time keeper, recorder, snack steward, organizer). 
  7. Build in time to create an implementation plan with written goals, tasks and a timeline to execute ideas discussed during the retreat. 

Areas of Focus 

Having meaningful discussion questions is helpful to focus the conversation and make sense of the information and data presented. 

After receiving data on internal and external factors that impact the organization’s work, the tendency is to jump right into generating lists of strategies and solutions. However to get the most out of the retreat and the strategic plan process overall we advise reaching consensus on 3-5 focus areas. 

Once the team is in agreement on the goals and areas of focus. We recommend conducting a workshop for each focus area to establish an operations or implementation plan.   

Strategic Planning in turbulent times 

In the age of COIVD, political unrest and natural disasters most organizations are baffled by increasing volatility in their sector, and the pace at which change happens. Planning for this “new normal” is key for sustaining impact and success. 

For nonprofit or mission-based businesses strategic planning may be needed to respond to emerging conditions at the organization including:  rapid growth due to surge in clients or additional donation,  new demands or new services needed to respond to the changing needs of clients, transition in leadership or board, changes needed in  – may all warrant a strategic planning process sooner than later. 

Though usually held in person, virtual retreats are now the norm. With a skilled facilitator on board, you can have a productive retreat in person or online. 

Discussion Questions 

Select 5 -7 discussion questions for small and large group sessions during the retreat. 

Questions on Strategy 

Does your organization have a clearly state list of strategic priorities?

When was the last time you reviewed or edited your strategic priorities? 

Are your current initiatives and projects aligned with your strategic priorities? 

Has your strategy been translated to specific actions? 

Do you have a well-defined strategy, a clear written statement of where the organization is headed? 

When was the last time you reviewed or edited your strategic priorities? 

Are your current initiatives and projects aligned with your strategic priorities? 

Are your strategic priorities complimentary or do they seem to conflict?

Questions on Capacity 

What competencies are needed to fulfill your strategic priorities? Tip: Benchmark the sector and rank your organization against each competency.

List each of your operations and where these competencies are reflected. Where in your operations is it missing? 

How might you build competency and capacity where it’s most needed? 

Is talent management/recruitment aligned with priorities?

How often do leaders discuss the organizations accomplishments as well as shortcomings and aspirations with staff? Are all staff privy to this information? 

Questions on Industry Leadership 

How might you share what you’re good at with other similar organizations? 

In what ways are you taking the lead in your sector, in the types of services you offer and how you deliver and execute? 

Questions on Impact 

Is your value proposition important to clients and stakeholders? 

Does every one in the organization agree on what the value proposition is? 

What unique services do you bring to your service population? 

Are you seeing the outcomes you desire for your organization and your constituents? 

Questions on Culture 

How often do leaders discuss the organizations accomplishments as well as shortcomings and aspirations with staff? Are all staff privy to this information? 

What transformation is needed and how do leaders and senior management engage the team in change? 

To what extent is the entire team enrolled in the vision and mission?

How do leaders keep the team excited and engaged in the work, build excitement about the future?

How are wins celebrated, even the small ones?

How are stakeholders and clients engaged – does this align with your core values?

How does this interaction serve your brand? 

Part 3 … Coming Soon.

In our 3rd and final post on strategic planning we will do a deep dive implementing the strategic plan and sustaining momentum long after the retreat. 

In the meantime be sure to check out our post on 6 Attributes of High Performing Teams.#

ILE Consulting Group, LLC
Anasa Laude, Managing Director
Franky Laude, Director of Policy and Media