One Day Strategy Workshop – Is It A Good Use Of Your Time?

by Paul Simister on June 6, 2011

Is it a good idea to have a one day strategy workshop or strategic planning workshop?

Why You Might Want A Strategy Workshop

Let’s imagine that your business performance has dipped or you fear that it might because of recent changes in environment conditions, customer needs or competitors.

And you get approached by a firm of strategy consultants, marketing consultants or even your accountants and you get offered the opportunity to have a one day strategic planning workshop, either at your offices or at a nearby hotel.

Is A One Day Strategy Workshop A Good Use Of Your Time?

Should you commit to a one day strategy workshop? Is it a good idea?Well that depends.

It’s certainly a good idea to think about your business and how it can face up to the new challenges.

It’s a good idea to get your management team together and to shift their focus from the urgent:

  • Can we get this order out tonight; what can we do now that Bloggs has told us they can’t deliver for two weeks;
  • Can we still make our payroll payment if Jones doesn’t pay us…

to the important – how can we compete more effectively in the foreseeable future.

But whether a strategic planning workshop is a good idea depends on how big your issues are, how much things have changed since your last detailed review of strategy, how many options you have for the future and the differences of opinion in your management team.

The Problem Of A One Day Strategy Workshop

The problem is that a one day strategic planning workshop is by definition, done in a day.

I suppose you could see that as 24 hours but since you’re talking about the big, important issues for the future of your business, you need peoples’ brains to be in tip-top condition.

And one day strategy workshops can be frantic and frenzied.

To cover the subjects needed, they can gloss over the surface and give little comfort that you’ve really got to the bottom of the big dilemmas that you face.

A Typical One Day Strategic Planning Workshop Agenda

In a one day strategy workshop I’d expect you to have an agenda that looks something like the following:

  1. Your current business and the issues you face
    .
  2. Your objectives for the business, family (it is a family business) and personally
    .
  3. What’s happening in the wider environment
    .
  4. Your customers, what they want and how their needs will change in the future
    .
  5. Your competitors, how they’ve changed since your last strategic planning workshop and how they are likely to change over the next year or two
    .
  6. A performance review of your sales, margins and other important financials
    .
  7. Your current strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats
    .
  8. Your strategic options
    .
  9. Selecting your preferred strategies
    .
  10. A financial forecast of how the actions are likely to impact on your business to make sure that your business objectives will be met
    .
  11. A gap analysis and further actions that need to be taken to close any gap between what you expect and what you want
    .
  12. An action plan that identified what needs to be done, by whom and by when
    .
  13. A communication plan for how you can share your intentions with the staff who will be involved in implementing the new strategy but haven’t been involved in the planning process.

I don’t know about you but I think that’s a scary amount of work to get done in one day.

Especially when we are talking about business strategy – the most important responsibility for a senior management team.

It may even be tough to cover the strategic planning workshop agenda in three consecutive days if you want proper debate rather than going through the motions and rubber stamping the current popular ideas on how the business should be developed.

I have issues with a three day strategic planning workshop.

The Strategy Process In The Real World

Strategy isn’t a nice, linear process where you do step 1, then step 2 and then 3.

Strategy is about learning, reflecting and gaining insights.

It’s about building up a shared vision of the future and what it will take to win.

It’s about change and that could mean moving in favour of one competitor rather than another.

You may not be able to agree on current customer needs because it is surprising how different people see different things as important, even if the customer segments and niches are tightly defined.

And if you can’t agree on what’s most important to customers now, you have little chance to agree what will be the critical issues in one or two years time.

You need time to check with customers and understand their issues and problems.

But you can’t do that if you’re in a frenzied one day or three day strategy workshop.

But it’s not just customers you need to think about.

A strategy workshop can highlight just how little agreed consensus there is about all the important issues in a business.

I was talking to a friend who held a planning day and he asked each of them to think about what they wanted for the business and themselves in five years time. Two came back and said that wanted to retire well before then but it had never been discussed before. Inevitably the meeting went off topic but it surfaced issues that had to be resolved before the business could refocus.

The Advantages Of A One Day Strategy Workshop

I’m not against one day strategic planning workshops because they can be exciting, dynamic, invigorating sessions that move you away from the urgent to the important.

A strategy workshop can your management team involved in thinking about the overall business and away from narrow functional positions.

I just don’t want you to have unrealistic expectations.

A one day strategic planning event is about tweaking your current strategy or getting the team reconnected with it.

If you face more fundamental challenges, then you’d be doing your business a grave disservice if you think you can plan its future in one day.

What is The Future Of Your Business Worth To You?

I read somewhere that you should spend 5% of your time thinking about the future of your business and working on your plans.

I think that’s about right.

It works out at one day a month and not one day a year.

A plan and strategy should be a living thing that adapts as conditions change.

Helmuth van Molke, a German field marshall in the first world war said

No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

That’s certainly true and explains why Dwight Eisenhower said

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything”.

Have You Held A One Day Strategy Workshop?

Have you done a one day strategy workshop in your business and if so, did you find it helpful?

Did it help you to put together a strategic plan which you then followed through and implemented.

Please leave a comment and let me know about your experience of a strategic planning workshop.

Paul Simister is the business coach who helps small business owners to profit from differentiating their businesses, by being distinctive in the eyes of their customers and standing out in a crowded marketplaceā€¦. in other words, by building a business to be proud of.

You too can move past your profit tipping point (free report) by answering the seven big questions of business success (mp3).

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