4

I was facilitating a strategic planning session and letting the conversation among participants extend much longer than typical.

To my surprise, several participants in the strategy session repeatedly apologized throughout the day for “talking too much.” 

As I told them multiple times, I was allowing the conversation to take up more time than expected because the group needed to address certain issues and better understand each other’s perspectives. This was vital since we needed to reconcile their differing perspectives before creating the organization’s strategic plan.

I reassured them that the minute they drifted off into unproductive conversation (i.e., discussions that didn’t move us toward creating a stronger strategic plan), I would most certainly shut it down and take the group to the next strategic thinking exercise.

5 Reasons to Cut Off Conversations in Strategic Planning Sessions

StoplightAnd what would constitute unproductive conversation not moving the group forward toward a stronger strategic plan?

The answer is akin to the Justice Potter Stewart reply to the question about what is or isn’t obscene: I know it when I see it.

In the interests of being more definitive, however, here are five behaviors that stand in the way of productive conversations within strategic planning sessions:

  1. Needlessly restating obvious information or view points
  2. Over-sharing knowledge in a way that stops out others from contributing
  3. Heading into off-topic issues that don’t contribute to delivering expected planning outcomes
  4. Filibustering (on even a relevant topic) without adding anything new to anyone’s understanding
  5. A group or key individual who refuses much needed help to improve

So if we’re facilitating a strategic planning session for your organization and call “time” on a meandering conversation, you can come back to this list to figure out what just happened! – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4 Responses to “Strategic Planning Sessions – 5 Reasons to Cut Off Conversations”

  1. Bob King says:

    Excellent points Mike, all predicated upon the meeting having an agenda with clearly defined outcomes. Unfortunately, most of the meetings to which I’ve been invited in the past few years did not. With few exceptions, I now aim to say “No” to any meeting where the agenda is not provided at least 24-hours in advance. Doing so allows all the attendees an opportunity to review the objectives, contemplate their respective contributions and come in prepared for discussion & action. It also allows the team to refine the agenda if necessary. Otherwise the bulk of the meeting is wasted as people learn of the agenda for the first time.

    All of the above off the top of my head. I just did a quick search, knowing that Mike had most certainly written previously here about preparing for meetings. Check out his “16 Questions to Ask for Leading Productive Business Meetings” at http://brainzooming.com/productive-business-meetings-16-questions-for-meeting-leaders-to-ask/18521/

    • Mike Brown says:

      Good point on the agenda, Bob, although I’ll admit that when we do a strategy session, I resist giving the participants a timed-agenda for the vary reason that I want to be able to expand and contract the time to get the most from the group. I will provide a general flow so they have a sense of where we are headed.

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