How To Do Strategic Planning — Remotely

Have you ever flown everyone in for an offsite conference, only to spend boatloads of money and time achieving none of your goals?

Many firms can maintain company culture and vision with a single, poorly planned annual offsite event. Still, a primarily remote organization — with its workers scattered around the globe rather than a single office — cannot risk the disconnect.

How do you plan and engage the organization to make sure that teams hit their targets while sales leaders maximize revenue?

This article outlines the critical steps to hosting an effective, productive offsite gathering — even when many participants dial in remotely.

Start with The Retrospective

It all begins with a good plan and reason to gather. Particularly for a remote organization, the annual offsite gathering is undoubtedly necessary, even essential. And the first step to crafting a solid plan for the meeting is gathering insights on your customers, competition, costs, and capabilities. All this data and information should then be used to run each department through what we call a retrospective.

A retrospective is a facilitated, collaborative meeting during which a core group reviews and rehashes the most recent work period, which could be anywhere from a quarter to a calendar or fiscal year. The group also documents lessons learned so as to apply them in the weeks and months to come. This allows people to express their views and ideas, which are then filtered to management.

Retrospectives are an invaluable tool for collecting and sharing feedback and should be conducted before annual planning to guide the leadership team on areas for improvement and for department heads on departmental goals. We generally use a cloud-based interactive platform like Miro to manage and organize our retrospectives.

We’ve found that department retrospectives are a powerful way to give team members opportunities to contribute to the annual strategic planning process and the direction of their department. Retrospective done; now you can move on to getting ready for strategic planning at the offsite gathering. For more on how to run one, see the links below.

Why A Strategic Plan Matters

If the purpose statement guides the overall direction of a company, the annual strategic plan provides employees with a roadmap to achieving purpose-aligned goals. Once created, the annual plan drives the show for that year, building momentum with clear demarcations of progress.

By April, the team should deliver this product; for instance — by June, we should hit that benchmark. This helps motivate employees who see a path to fulfilling a purpose they believe is worthwhile and commit all the more keenly. They’re able to monitor their own progress and will, as a result, experience a deeper connection to teammates, colleagues, and leadership.

A good annual strategic plan reflects the current state of the business and the marketplace and communicates priorities that align your team for the year ahead. It’s more than a list of major projects. It’s a set of directions that guide the day-to-day decisions of everyone in the organization.

A strategic priority to increase productivity might encourage a team member to automate a workflow without being asked to do so. A strategic priority to gain more business in a new region could spur business developers to go after opportunities in their contact lists without the oversight of a sales director.

Key Steps For Organizing The Session

How do you get there? We have nailed down the key steps to ensuring a powerful strategic planning session. It starts with planning ahead, of course. This includes reviewing and assessing all of the notes and feedback from your retrospectives, generating suggestions and ideas and sharing them with all attendees so they have time to digest them. This means invitations to the gathering should be sent weeks in advance.

The second key is taking your time. As noted previously, many of the attendees will be calling in from a distance, which likely means they will have other, potentially urgent work on their plate. The more time you allot for these meetings, the more likely you are to get everyone to engage and end up on the same page. The goal is to narrow your ideas down to five strategic priorities for the coming year.

Because the event may run over several days, it’s important to maintain a detailed calendar or agenda and send out regular updates. You don’t want key people missing the most important calls and discussions and feeling left out. To help with these reminders, it’s wise to embrace online tools and public dashboards. We prefer Miro as a whiteboard and Google Docs for real-time collaboration, but your organization should embrace and leverage whichever tools you find most helpful.

Strong strategic planning requires robust oversight, which means these meetings will need a capable facilitator, particularly considering their length. Be sure to choose a meeting leader who can maintain a balance in talk time, encourage contributions and take excellent meeting minutes, or assign someone to do so.

Finally, a key part of these meeting notes will be assigning owners for each strategic priority and highlighting assignments, targets and deadlines. When the post-meeting recaps are sent out to your entire organization, there should be no doubt about the overall strategic plan and goals, nor about who is responsible for completing this or that task by this or that date. Goals will not be met if the plan is not documented, underscored and executed.

To make the results stick, give employees ownership of their work through personal goals, clear targets, and metrics to measure productivity – and engage them by building and improving processes together. Failing to regularly examine the status and direction of the firm and individual staffers can leave an organization rudderless and adrift.



The Power of Remote

With increased demand for hybrid and fully remote work styles, most firms understand that some form of distance work is here to stay – and have put some remote protocols in place. But are they the right ones?

It’s time to take advantage of the many opportunities remote work presents. Stop saying “we’re not there yet,” and start saying “we’ve arrived!”

This book will show you how.



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