The CEO’s Guide to Strategic Planning Retreats That Get Results: PART 3

This post is the third in a three-part series on how to hold a successful strategic planning retreat. It outlines how to follow up after your retreat to ensure your organization’s ongoing success.

The other posts in this series discuss the key steps you must take before your strategic planning retreat and how to get the most value from your time during your retreat.    

10 Ways to Maintain Momentum After Your Strategic Planning RetreatPart III: 10 Ways to Maintain Momentum AFTER Your Strategic Retreat

Here’s a familiar scenario …

You invest a lot of time, energy and resources into a strategic planning retreat.

You struggle to get all of your executives together at the same time. You hash out a plan for the coming year. By the end of the retreat, your team is in alignment and excited about achieving your goals.

Then, you return to the office and nothing happens.

You get back into your day-to-day routines while the momentum dies and your strategic plan collects dust.

As a leader, it’s your job to get your team to adopt new behaviours and achieve your plan.

Here are ten things you must do after your annual strategic planning retreat to build on your momentum and ensure your organization’s long-term success:

1. Thank everyone for participating.

When to do this: Immediately

Send an email to your team thanking them for participating in your annual retreat. This email should be the first thing they see when they return to work. Your email should also reconfirm your new direction in high-level terms to get attendees excited about the future of your organization.

If you need help crafting this email, your retreat’s facilitator can assist with the wording.

2. Share your plan’s highlights with your entire organization.

When to do this: Immediately after the retreat

Everyone in your organization will be curious about what the executive team did during your time out of the office. Share a high-level overview of your plan with the rest of your organization shortly after your retreat. You don’t need to go into the nitty gritty details at this point. However, they will appreciate getting a sense of where the organization is headed.

3. Book next year’s retreat.

When to do this: Within a week after the retreat

You may not be ready to think about next year, but it’s wise to book your annual retreat far in advance. This will give your team enough notice, so they will commit to your retreat and won’t book vacations or other organizational events.

4. Debrief your facilitator.

When to do this: Within a week after the retreat

If you hired a facilitator for your strategic planning retreat, they will have lots of valuable insights to share with you. For example, they can counsel you about your strategy and offer advice on how to optimize your organization. They’ll give you a neutral, third-party opinion of your strengths, weaknesses and where you should focus your energy going forward.

Since a facilitator is a neutral third-party, your team will likely feel more comfortable opening up to them than to you during your retreat. After all, no one wants to disagree with the boss. Your facilitator can share what they experienced or sensed when they interacted with your team members.

5. Debrief your team members.

When to do this: Within a week after the retreat – after the debrief with your facilitator

Meet one-on-one with attendees to get their feedback on the strategic plan. Are they satisfied with your new direction? Do they have any concerns that they didn’t state in front of the group during your retreat? Did they share any concerns or insights with your facilitator that you want to address? If they have concerns, you can discuss them privately to try to get them onboard with your new plan.

6. Review your plan.

When to do this: Two to seven days after the retreat

It’s a good idea to let your plan “sit” for a few days and then go back and look at it with fresh eyes. Just don’t wait too long to review your plan, as you don’t want to loose the momentum that you worked to build during the retreat.

When you review your plan, confirm that it aligns with where you want your organization to go. Also double-check that it’s achievable. You can tweak your plan a little, but it’s important to lock it in.

7. Recommit to your plan.

When to do this: No longer than two weeks after the retreat

Hold a half-day recommitment session with your facilitator and your team. During this half-day session, you can reconfirm everyone’s commitment to the plan and make sure that they will execute it.

Have your team read the plan aloud. Reading their own words aloud will engage their emotions. They’ll get excited and be more likely to take action.

8. Share the details with your organization.

When to do this: Immediately after your recommitment session.

Once you recommit to your plan, give everyone in your company a detailed overview of your strategy. You can break down departmental goals and activities. This will help the plan become part of your organization’s DNA.

9. Make your plan real.

When to do this: Every day!

Your strategy should be a living plan that impacts every person and decision in your organization. Make your plan stick by making it public. For example, you can create a video about your new direction or print your mantra on T-shirts. You can fill your meeting spaces with positive words and images that depict where you want the organization to go. Over time, your employees and stakeholders will come to live and breathe your plan.

10. Conduct regular follow ups

When to do this: Monthly or quarterly

The biggest strategic planning mistake is putting your plan on a shelf and failing to execute it.

If you’re too busy to manage your plan, your facilitator can help. Your facilitator can stay on top of the strategic plan and keep it updated. They can also create an accountability process to ensure your team is acting on the plan and meeting their goals.

Your facilitator can schedule monthly meetings, where your team reports on their progress and holds each other accountable. Having your facilitator put together a disciplined process with regular check-ins builds momentum while reducing your need to be the “accountability cop”.

However, as a leader, you must be the first person to take action and achieve your goals. Your example will motivate others in your organization to do the same.

Creating a strategic plan and following up with it is the most forward-looking activity that your organization can do. Many leaders spend too much time looking out their rearview mirrors and analyzing things that happened in the past. However, it’s vital to look at the road ahead if you want to gain speed and race past your competitors.

Don’t miss the other blog posts in The CEO’s Guide to Strategic Planning Retreats That Actually Gets Results! Be sure to check out the posts on the essential steps you must take before your strategic planning retreat and how to get the most value from your time during your retreat.

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