Most agencies annually convene a leadership meeting, strategic planning retreat, or brainstorming session dedicated to crafting an innovative course of business strategy. Rarely do these meetings deliver results.

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Perhaps now is the time to find a new direction?

Instead, they produce a pattern of incremental progress. And this does not translate into competitive advantage. Other factors affecting these meetings include planning, organization and leadership. Because responsibility for this meeting most often falls on the agency leader, the outcome is predictable.

The reasons for this are simple. Leaders “know” they know more than their team, so they develop a plan and agenda that determines the outcome – and everyone’s frustration. Experience shows most meetings of this type fall into one of two patterns. At the “Rubber Stamp Offsite,” the team nods along as their leader uses his agenda to present his assessment of the agency “As Is.” He then dictates the action plan and assigns responsibilities. This approach is easily identified by the neatly organized three-ring binder entitled, “Agency Strategic Planning 20XX.” Note – look for an accumulation of dust.

The other meeting type, the “March of the Hopeful, Guilty and Ambivalent,” is the product of an insightful leader who – tired of the “Rubber Stamp Offsite” – assigns every member of the team roles and responsibilities. The outcome – well – you have been at these meetings, there is no outcome, just a reporting of the past year, justification of the results and explanation of the incremental changes that will be implemented to fix what’s broken. Frustrated, the agency President usually sits down following this session; drafts an action plan and dictates responsibilities – see the results of the “Rubber Stamp Offsite.”

A New Approach To Planning.

If you want to break this cycle to create opportunities for innovation at your agency, then change your approach.

Don’t go off the deep end and schedule team building exercises through Outward Bound, or book a provoking motivational speaker. These activities make great copy – but rarely, if ever deliver business-changing insights. A growing number of successful organizations are utilizing professional facilitators to assist in the planning and management of these important meetings.

By assigning responsibility for the business of the meeting to an experienced outside party, the group is better able to focus on the business of the business. The role of the facilitator is part emcee, part mediator, and part referee. But more than that, this person frames the discussion, manages interaction and creates opportunities for discovery.

Because innovation is not achieved in-the-box, an agency is better served living the process, not running the process. And agency leaders must understand that insight is achieved through their support, not as a result of their management. Utilizing a resource experienced in facilitation and knowledgeable in the industry changes the meeting dynamics. The agency, as a whole, becomes the focus, not the innumerable piece and parts.

If your agency’s strategic planning process is not creating measurable results in growth, quality, productivity, or profitability year-over-year, then you might be a perfect candidate for this approach. Why not give us a call so we can discuss it? 412.897.9329 or email [email protected]


Photo by VolcanicMonsoon