joint business planning workshop

A Guide to Joint Business Planning Best Practices

  • March 21, 2024
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Joint business planning is a crucial aspect of fostering successful collaborations between companies. In today’s dynamic business environment, strategic partnerships have become increasingly prevalent, making it essential for organizations to adopt effective joint business planning best practices. This article will explore the key principles and strategies that contribute to successful joint business planning, providing insights into how businesses can optimize their collaborative efforts for mutual growth and success.

Table of Contents

The Importance of Joint Business Planning in Today’s Market

In an era defined by rapid change and increasing interconnectivity, the significance of joint business planning cannot be overstated. This section explores how businesses can gain a competitive edge, foster shared vision, and unlock mutual growth opportunities through effective collaborative strategies.

Competitive Advantage and Shared Vision

Joint business planning serves as a catalyst for companies seeking a competitive advantage in the market. When organizations come together to strategically plan and align their strengths, they create a synergy that surpasses individual capabilities. This subsection delves into how collaborative efforts can amplify competitiveness by leveraging the unique strengths of each partner.

A shared vision is the cornerstone of successful partnerships. This subsection emphasizes the importance of establishing a common understanding of long-term goals and objectives. By aligning visions, businesses can enhance cooperation, minimize conflicts, and work towards a unified purpose. Effective joint business planning ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page, promoting a cohesive approach to achieving shared goals.

Mutual Growth Opportunities and Win-Win Strategy

Joint business planning creates a framework for identifying and capitalizing on mutual growth opportunities. This involves exploring synergies between partners, uncovering complementary strengths, and strategically leveraging resources. This subsection explores how collaborative planning facilitates the identification of avenues for joint growth, leading to mutually beneficial outcomes.

The essence of successful joint business planning lies in adopting a win-win strategy. This involves creating scenarios where all parties involved stand to gain, fostering a collaborative environment based on trust and reciprocity. This subsection delves into the principles of a win-win approach, showcasing how it not only enhances the success of partnerships but also builds a foundation for long-term, sustainable relationships.

Core Elements of Effective Joint Business Planning

Joint Business Planning Best Practices

Collaboration is only as strong as the foundation it is built upon. This section delves into the essential elements that underpin successful joint business planning, emphasizing the importance of aligning business strategies, sharing shopper and marketplace insights, and cultivating collaborative working relationships.

Aligning Business Strategies for Success

Central to effective joint business planning is the alignment of business strategies. This involves harmonizing the goals, tactics, and overarching plans of collaborating entities. By ensuring strategic congruence, partners can maximize the impact of their combined efforts. This subsection explores the intricacies of strategic alignment and how it forms the bedrock for successful joint business planning.

Effective joint business planning goes beyond immediate gains; it incorporates a holistic approach that integrates both short-term wins and long-term objectives. This subsection discusses how businesses can synchronize their timelines and milestones to create a comprehensive strategy that facilitates sustainable success.

Shared Shopper and Marketplace Insights

An integral aspect of joint business planning is the sharing of shopper insights. By pooling data and understanding consumer behavior and preferences, partners can tailor their strategies to meet evolving market demands. 

This subsection delves into the importance of shared shopper insights and how they contribute to more informed decision-making in collaborative endeavors.

In a dynamic marketplace, staying ahead requires constant awareness. This subsection explores how joint business planning encourages the exchange of marketplace intelligence. Partners can adapt to changing trends, capitalize on emerging opportunities, and navigate challenges more effectively by combining their knowledge and resources.

Collaborative Working Relationships

At the heart of effective joint business planning is the cultivation of collaborative working relationships. Trust and open communication form the backbone of successful partnerships. This subsection explores strategies for building trust among partners and fostering an environment where transparent communication is prioritized.

Collaboration often involves navigating unforeseen challenges and capitalizing on unexpected opportunities. This subsection discusses the importance of flexibility and responsiveness in joint business planning, emphasizing the need for partners to adapt and evolve together in a dynamic business landscape.

How to Create an Effective Joint Business Plan

Joint Business Planning Best Practices

In the pursuit of successful collaborative ventures, crafting an effective joint business plan is paramount. 

This section outlines the key steps involved in creating a robust plan, covering aspects such as setting joint objectives, resource allocation, and addressing legal considerations.

1. Setting Joint Objectives and Account Management

The foundation of any joint business plan lies in establishing clear and achievable objectives. This subsection explores the importance of defining shared goals, aligning strategies, and ensuring that all stakeholders are committed to a common purpose. Clear objectives provide a roadmap for collaborative efforts, guiding partners toward mutual success.

Effective account management is crucial for the seamless execution of joint business plans. This involves assigning responsibilities, creating accountability structures, and establishing communication channels. 

Delving into the intricacies of strategic account management, this subsection highlights how a well-organized approach contributes to the overall success of collaborative initiatives.

2. Resource Allocation and Shared Resources

Resource allocation is a critical aspect of joint business planning, ensuring that both parties contribute and benefit equitably. 

This subsection explores strategies for optimizing the allocation of financial, human, and technological resources. By balancing contributions, businesses can enhance efficiency and maximize the impact of their collaborative efforts.

Collaborative ventures often involve the pooling of resources to achieve common goals. This subsection delves into the concept of shared resources, emphasizing how partners can leverage each other’s strengths to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities. 

Efficient utilization of shared resources enhances the overall effectiveness and sustainability of joint initiatives.

3. Formal Contracts and Legal Aspects

A crucial step in creating an effective joint business plan is the establishment of formal contracts. This subsection explores the importance of clearly defined agreements, covering aspects such as roles and responsibilities, dispute resolution mechanisms, and exit strategies. 

Robust contractual frameworks provide a solid foundation for trust and transparency between collaborating entities.

Navigating the legal landscape is essential for the success and longevity of joint business ventures. 

This subsection delves into the legal aspects involved in collaborative efforts, addressing issues such as intellectual property, confidentiality, and compliance. Understanding and addressing legal considerations from the outset safeguards the interests of all parties involved.

Best Practices for Joint Business Planning Execution

Effective execution is the linchpin of successful joint business planning. This section explores best practices that organizations can adopt to ensure the seamless implementation of collaborative strategies, including the use of performance metrics, monitoring, accountability, and value chain analysis.

1. Performance Metrics and KPIs

Setting and monitoring performance metrics are essential elements of joint business planning execution. This subsection delves into the process of defining key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with the shared objectives of the collaborative venture. 

By establishing measurable benchmarks, organizations can gauge the success of their efforts and make informed decisions to optimize performance.

Performance metrics should not be static; instead, they should be subject to continuous evaluation. This subsection emphasizes the importance of regularly assessing KPIs, analyzing performance data, and adapting strategies based on the evolving needs of the collaboration. 

A dynamic approach to performance measurement ensures that joint business plans remain responsive to changing market conditions.

2. Monitoring and Accountability

Effective monitoring is a cornerstone of successful joint business planning execution. This subsection explores proactive monitoring strategies, including the use of technology, regular communication channels, and real-time data analysis. 

By staying vigilant and responsive, organizations can identify potential issues early on and take corrective actions to maintain the trajectory toward shared goals.

Clear accountability structures are vital for the success of collaborative ventures. This subsection delves into the importance of defining roles, responsibilities, and expectations within the partnership. 

Establishing accountability structures fosters a sense of ownership among all stakeholders, ensuring that each party contributes actively to the joint business plan’s execution.

3. Value Chain Analysis and Multi-functional Execution

Conducting a value chain analysis is a best practice that can significantly enhance joint business planning execution. This subsection explores how organizations can identify value-creation opportunities at each stage of the collaboration. 

By optimizing the value chain, partners can streamline processes, reduce costs, and deliver enhanced value to customers.

Collaborative ventures often involve the integration of multiple functions within each organization. This subsection discusses the importance of multi-functional execution, emphasizing the need for seamless coordination across departments. 

By breaking down silos and promoting cross-functional collaboration, organizations can ensure the holistic implementation of joint business plans.

Creating Value Through Customer Focus

In today’s customer-centric business landscape, creating value for consumers is at the forefront of successful joint business planning. 

This section explores strategies for placing customers at the center of collaborative efforts, enhancing consumer sales, and elevating the overall customer experience.

How to Create Value for Customers Through Joint Business Planning

A fundamental step in creating value through joint business planning is gaining a deep understanding of customer needs and preferences. This subsection explores how organizations can leverage market insights, customer feedback, and data analytics to identify and prioritize customer-centric initiatives. 

By aligning collaborative strategies with customer expectations, businesses can create offerings that resonate with their target audience.

Effective joint business planning involves co-creating solutions that address specific customer pain points. This subsection emphasizes the importance of collaboration in ideation and product development, showcasing how partnerships can bring together diverse perspectives and expertise to deliver innovative solutions. 

Co-created offerings not only meet customer needs but also differentiate the collaborative venture in the market.

Consumer Sales and Customer Experience

Joint business planning can significantly impact consumer sales by optimizing distribution channels, expanding market reach, and aligning sales strategies. This subsection explores how organizations can leverage their collaborative efforts to boost consumer sales. Whether through joint marketing initiatives, bundled offerings, or cross-promotions, aligning sales strategies enhances the overall success of the partnership.

Customer experience is a critical differentiator in today’s competitive market. This subsection delves into how joint business planning can be structured to elevate the customer experience. 

From seamless transactions to personalized interactions, collaborative ventures can enhance every touchpoint in the customer journey. Focusing on customer satisfaction not only builds loyalty but also contributes to the long-term success of the collaborative partnership.

In conclusion, the journey through the intricacies of joint business planning best practices has highlighted the pivotal role that effective collaboration plays in today’s dynamic business environment. 

From aligning business strategies and setting joint objectives to executing plans with a customer-centric focus, the success of collaborative ventures hinges on a thoughtful and strategic approach.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the key metrics to measure the success of a joint business plan.

Measuring the success of a Joint Business Plan involves tracking key metrics such as revenue growth, market share expansion, customer satisfaction, cost savings, return on investment (ROI), and adherence to compliance and risk mitigation. 

These metrics provide a comprehensive evaluation of the collaborative venture’s impact on both financial and operational aspects, ensuring a holistic assessment of the plan’s effectiveness.

How do you resolve conflicts during the Joint Business Planning process?

Resolving conflicts during the Joint Business Planning process requires an open communication approach, identification of root causes, and, when needed, the involvement of a neutral third party for mediation. 

A clear definition of roles and responsibilities, the establishment of conflict resolution protocols within the joint business plan, and a focus on shared objectives contribute to addressing conflicts promptly and fostering a collaborative environment.

What role do executive sales leaders play in Joint Business Planning?

Executive sales leaders play a pivotal role in Joint Business Planning by strategically aligning sales efforts with overall business goals, contributing to resource allocation discussions, cultivating relationships with key stakeholders, providing market insights, and overseeing the performance of sales teams. 

Their involvement ensures that sales strategies complement the collaborative venture’s objectives, driving success in terms of revenue and market impact.

How often should a Joint Business Plan be reviewed and updated?

The frequency of reviewing and updating a Joint Business Plan varies but commonly involves quarterly reviews for timely adjustments based on market changes and annual updates for comprehensive reassessment of long-term goals. Additionally, trigger events such as major market shifts or significant internal changes may prompt unscheduled reviews. 

Adapting the frequency based on the dynamic nature of the business environment ensures the plan remains relevant and responsive to evolving conditions.

Are there any software tools that can facilitate Joint Business Planning?

Various software tools facilitate Joint Business Planning, offering features such as collaboration, data analysis, project management, and document sharing. Platforms like Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Asana enhance communication, while tools such as Tableau or Power BI aid in data analysis.   Project management software like Trello or Jira helps in planning and tracking progress, and CRM systems like Salesforce or HubSpot centralize customer interactions and sales activities. The selection of tools depends on the specific needs and preferences of the collaborating organizations.

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Maximus Business Management

Helping clients build strong partnerships

Two day guided workshop on practical planning

Maximus is excited to offer a workshop to guide you to drive incremental revenue from agreed focus market through joint partnerships..

““When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant trees. When planning for life, train and educate people.”” – Chinese Proverb

Joint Business Planning

Drives incremental revenue from agreed focus market, vertical and/or client by addressing key drivers with a joint proposition and solution stack. Builds strong Partner relationship build on mutual understanding and clear engagement plan. Improved status for Channel Account Manager from delivering tangible value to the Partner. Plan monitoring and expediting ensures plan is delivered, ensuring revenue, ROI and Partner satisfaction.


The Joint Business Planning program has been designed to support the building of joint Partner and Vendor/Manufacturer value propositions, and to create joint go-to-market engagement plans. This is a two day facilitated workshop to build a practical plan that both parties can, and will, execute upon. The workshop is supported by a planning toolbox to capture the output and provide a way of monitoring and measuring progress. Each workshop should be tuned to reflect the current maturity of planning and the focus required to drive business for both parties.

  • The Plan Phase –- planning your JBP
  • Effective Meeting Management
  • How Retailers Should measure themselves
  • The timeline and the template – what good looks like
  • Review of each KPI in detail to understand what impacts these KPI’s
  • How to ensure continuous improvement against these KPI’s
  • Understanding the Communication style of both Internal and External Customers and adapting yours to significantly improve the relationship
  • The A.D.E.P.T. Concept , The “Ultimate Success Formula”
  • Common Trade Issues and Resolutions and how to deal with them
  • Advanced Negotiation Skills
  • Video Role Plays around current major issues or opportunities within the JBP process

Establish a targeted increase in investment from Top 20 suppliers

In conjunction with buyers the Retail Foundation team will develop, and when required and appropriate, lead the introduction of JBP and the rationale for the cost of entry to suppliers

Post meetings Retail Foundation will in conjunction with buyers develop next key steps with suppliers leading to

  • Enhanced  L.T.A from Suppliers as Cost of entry to J.B.P process
  • Enhanced Promotional Investment from Suppliers  to drive growth in 2012
  • Enhanced Range & Margin via optimised ranging programme
  • Enhanced In-Store Activity in line with Retailers themes & mechanics
  • Joint Business Plans developed with all Major Suppliers  for 2012
  • Category Management, Driven by Category Captains & Retailer
  • Tools for Implementing New Processes and for Monitoring & Measuring Sales & Investment,
  • Strict Process for Supplier Engagement re Listings, Promotions, etc

Engagement & Preparation

Channel Manager engages with the Partner, and internally, to obtain buy-in and commitment of key stakeholders. Define maturity of engagement and agree focus for planning. Ensure the right people are committed to, and engaged in, the joint planning process.

Joint Business Planning Workshop [Day 1]

Building the joint value proposition by focusing on key market drivers, defining the solution stack and identifying competitive differentiation. Partner and Vendor have an agreed proposition which clearly meets client’s needs.

Joint Business Planning Workshop [Day 2]

Building a joint execution plan with a clear joint engagement approach, joint team planner and opportunities list. Sales teams have a clear plan of engagement and target list.

Plan Execution Monitoring

Complete the actions defined in the above two steps to finalise the plan. This is monitored and managed to ensure actions are completed to agreed timescales. Most initiatives fail due to lack of follow through, this keep the momentum to execute. Both days are supported by the planning toolbox

Executive Approval

Present a synopsis of the plan to Partner and Vendor for Executive approval. Commitment to investment and resource and provides visibility of the joint engagement.

Execution & Measurement

Frequent (period to be agreed) monitoring of action progress with action owners and reporting to plan owners. This ensures delivery of the overall plan, to both Vendor and the Partner, and the realisation of the incremental revenue from joint proposition and go to market

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8th & Walton

What Is a Joint Business Plan (JBP)? Benefits & Best Practices

By 8th & Walton | on October 2, 2022

From small businesses to large corporations, the most successful companies begin and stick with a clear business plan. When a company defines its goals, lays out a path to meet objectives, and agrees on financial spending and expectations, it creates a shared vision and accountability to succeed.

Many businesses experience greater growth when partnering with another business. In the supplier and retailer relationship, both parties working independently would be detrimental. To create a mutually beneficial partnership, they must begin by defining each company’s responsibilities, expectations, and needs in a joint business plan.

What Is a Joint Business Plan?

A joint business plan (JBP) is the collaborative process of planning between a retailer and a supplier in which both companies agree on short-term and long-term objectives, financial goals, growth, and shared business initiatives for profitability.

Joint business planning focuses on agreeing on common objectives and aligning on a single goal or set of goals. The companies in the joint business plan must work together to accomplish a shared vision.

What Is the Purpose of a Joint Business Plan?

For retailers and suppliers, having a joint business plan can create a win-win strategy in growing consumer sales. An effective JBP allows suppliers to build stronger relationships with their retailers so both parties can mutually support and benefit from each other.

When a retailer and supplier recognize each others’ needs and agree on common goals, they can share insights to support each other and improve sales, customer growth, and processes.

How Does a Joint Business Plan Work?

Two companies can come together with a joint business plan because they have one thing in common: a shared shopper . Whether it is a supplier partnering with a retailer or a children’s clothing company partnering with a toy manufacturer, having the same target audience is the first element that brings the companies together.

The companies considering a joint business venture should then share their individual business plans and discuss their mutual growth opportunities. This is where the general goals and areas of support can be defined. Specific tactics and category strategies can also be fleshed out in early discussions before moving to the formal process.

Once both companies are in agreement that the partnership will be mutually beneficial, the joint business plan can be created. Formal contracts are drawn up, approved, signed, and the plan is ready to be executed. Periodic reviews and necessary adjustments to the JBP are recommended as needed.

Benefits of Joint Business Planning

Why enter into a joint business plan with another company? The benefits can be not only financial but educational as well:

  • Aligning goals.  For a retailer/supplier joint business plan, being aligned on goals creates clarity on all other areas of the business. Defining expectations on all areas from marketing to supply chain to sales goals leaves minimal area for questions. Agreeing on goals, no matter how and when they are measured, keeps both parties accountable and benefits both to meet expectations.
  • Shared resources and exposure. Partnering with another company can bring a new audience and a new platform. In a simple retailer/supplier joint business plan, the retailer can introduce the supplier’s product to its core shoppers. At the same time, shoppers loyal to the supplier’s product or brand can be introduced to the retailer’s store and website for the first time.
  • Greater return on investment.  By partnering with another company with a shared vision, the benefits above will provide a better ROI when the plan is executed correctly.

Joint Business Planning Best Practices

How can companies ensure their joint business plan is a good fit for both parties? These are some best practices to include in preparation for entering into the partnership:

1. Align Internally First

Before entering into a joint business plan with another company, all members of the business must agree on the benefits of the partnership. Recognizing the advantages and seeing the bigger picture is key. When employees are in alignment within the company, it will be easier to align with the partnering company on the shared vision of the joint business plan.

2. Create the Plan Together

When two businesses enter into a partnership, the joint business plan should not be built by only one. A company sending another a complete plan or just a form to fill out is not collaborative. Both companies need to build the plan from the ground up. Collaborating in the development of the joint business plan is just as important as executing the plan itself.

3. Set Specific Goals

Expectations for success in the partnership need to be specific. “We need to grow sales” or “production costs will decrease” are good goals, but too general. Keep specifics in your plan that are as specific as they are realistic. If one company wants to grow sales by 40% in the next quarter, this should be spelled out in the joint business plan so get early support or push back from the other company.

4. Assign a Metric to Each Goal

Putting a metric with a goal keeps the company accountable to the mission of the joint business plan. For example, if the goal is to grow sales by 40% in the next quarter, it would be wise to assign a weekly growth metric. If the metric is too low over a few weeks, the plan shows that action needs to be taken immediately in order to meet the 40% sales growth goal for the quarter.

5. Communicate Responsibility and Accountability

The joint business plan is the place to eliminate all guesswork. If Company A is responsible for providing labels to Company B, be very specific about the responsible parties. Clarify that the packaging coordinator of Company A will mail the labels to the warehouse manager of Company B on the first of the month.

6. Include Risks and Solutions

Planning for setbacks is key to planning for success. The joint business plan should include any possible risks or obstacles foreseen by either company. Having solutions in place for multiple scenarios makes the plan easier to execute.

7. Constantly Evaluate the Relationship

Joint business plans work better with trust, mutual respect, and a great working relationship. Keeping the relationship healthy between the companies and individuals relying on each other brings more success to the overall plan. Monitor the relationship periodically and work to resolve conflicts as they arise.

Joint Business Plans at Walmart

Walmart works with its suppliers to create plans for sales and category growth. The company relies on suppliers to bring insights to the table to spot trends and get in front of potential gaps in the business.

Back in 2011, Walmart created a joint business plan with Proctor and Gamble to pick up lost sales in air fresheners. This category was down over 2% across the chain, but P&G brought insights to Walmart on how consumers were purchasing throughout the industry.

Consumers had no problem going to Walmart for aerosol sprays for under a dollar, but would then go to specialty stores to purchase expensive candles in the same scent. Through communicating through the joint business plan, Walmart was able to create excitement around higher price-point items and show the shared shopper they could purchase the extra items in one store.

Positive business collaborations can be extremely beneficial in growing retail sales. Two companies sharing a common vision can build on each other’s best practices and support each other to mutually win at the register.

Suppliers looking for support in their Walmart business have found great collaboration with 8th & Walton. Our team of experts supports suppliers to improve reporting, analytics, supply chain, accounting, and more. To begin a great collaboration with us, request a free 15-minute consultation this week.

About the Author

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8th & Walton consists of retail industry experts with a combined 200+ years of Walmart and Walmart supplier experience. Having helped hundreds of CPG companies in their efforts to be better supplier partners to the world's most influential retailer, the 8th & Walton editorial team prides itself on being a go-to resource for Walmart supplier news and insights.

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joint business planning workshop

Taking supplier collaboration to the next level

Companies with advanced procurement functions know that there are limits to the value they can generate by focusing purely on the price of the products and services they buy. These organizations understand that when buyers and suppliers are willing and able to cooperate, they can often find ways to unlock significant new sources of value that benefit them both.

Buyers and suppliers can work together to develop innovative new products, for example, boosting revenues and profits for both parties. They can take an integrated approach to supply-chain optimization, redesigning their processes together to reduce waste and redundant effort, or jointly purchasing raw materials. Or they can collaborate in forecasting, planning, and capacity management—thereby improving service levels, mitigating risks, and strengthening the combined supply chain.

Earlier work has shown that supplier collaboration really does move the needle for companies that do it well. In one McKinsey survey of more than 100 large organizations in multiple sectors, companies that regularly collaborated with suppliers demonstrated higher growth, lower operating costs, and greater profitability than their industry peers (Exhibit 1).

Despite the value at stake, however, the benefits of supplier collaboration have proved difficult to access. While many companies can point to individual examples of successful collaborations with suppliers, executives often tell us that they have struggled to integrate the approach into their overall procurement and supply-chain strategies.

Barriers to collaboration

Several factors make supplier collaboration challenging. Projects may require significant time and management effort before they generate value, leading companies to prioritize simpler, faster initiatives, even if they are worth less. Collaboration requires a change in mind-sets among buyers and suppliers, who may be used to more transactional or even adversarial relationships. And most collaborative efforts need intensive, cross-functional involvement from both sides, a marked change to the normal working methods at many companies. This change from a cost-based to a value-based way of thinking requires a paradigm shift that is often difficult to come by.

The actual value generated by collaborating can also be difficult to quantify, especially when companies are also pursuing more conventional procurement and supply-chain improvement strategies with the same suppliers, or when they are simultaneously updating product designs and production processes. And even when companies have the will to pursue greater levels of supplier collaboration, leaders often admit that they don’t have the skill, lacking the structures they need to design great supplier-collaboration programs, and being short of staff with the capabilities to run them. After all, what great supplier collaboration necessitates is much more than the mere application of a process or framework—it requires the buy-in and long-term commitment of leaders and decision makers.

A shared perspective

To understand more about the factors that hamper or enable supplier-collaboration programs, we partnered with Michigan State University (MSU) to develop a new way of looking at companies’ use of supplier collaboration. The Supplier Collaboration Index (SCI) is a survey- and interview-based benchmarking tool that assesses supplier-collaboration programs over five major dimensions (Exhibit 2).

During 2019, researchers from McKinsey and MSU rolled out the Index in a pilot project involving a dozen leading consumer-goods companies in North America, along with ten to 15 of each company’s strategic suppliers. We collected more than 300 written responses from more than 130 organizations, and conducted in-depth interviews with around 60 buyer and supplier executives. The work provides some important insights on the state of supplier collaboration today, revealing the elements of collaboration that companies and suppliers believe are working well, and the areas that present the greatest challenges.

The results of our consumer-industry benchmark are summarized in Exhibit 3, with average buyer and supplier perceptions of their own collaboration programs rated from one (low) to ten (high) in each of the five dimensions.

Overall, the research reveals close alignment between buyers and suppliers on the relative strength of most dimensions. It also shows a clear drop in perceptions of strength as the discussion moves from theory (strategic alignment) to execution (value creation and sharing, organizational governance).

The in-depth interviews conducted with senior buyer and supplier personnel as part of the SCI data-collection process provide further insights into the challenges companies face in each of the five dimensions, while also revealing some examples of best practices that lower-performing companies can emulate.

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Achieving strategic alignment.

Benchmark participants understood who their strategic suppliers are, although they do not all use formal segmentation approaches to categorize their supply bases. Likewise, suppliers understood their strategic importance to their customers. Buyers and suppliers agreed that there was good alignment on the pursuit of sources of value beyond cost—but also agreed that their efforts to capture these value sources were not always successful.

The first step for an organization is to define what it wants to achieve from its collaboration efforts, and what it needs to do to realize those goals. Internal alignment and commitment by senior managers to ensure appropriate resources are available is also critical. For example, in a quest to develop more sustainable detergents, Unilever partnered with Novozyme—a major supplier of enzymes— to jointly develop new enzyme solutions. The collaboration leveraged each party’s strengths, merging Unilever’s understanding of which types of stains and materials were most relevant with Novozyme’s reagent-optimization capabilities. The partnership resulted in two enzyme innovations that improved product performance, increased market penetration, and allowed the company to target premium-branded competitors. Moreover, the new formulation performed well at lower temperatures, helping customers save energy and reduce CO2 emissions.

Joint business planning

Joint business planning is a collaborative planning process in which the company and its supplier align on short- and long-term business objectives, agree on mutual targets, and jointly develop plans to achieve set objectives (exhibit). It brings a formal approach to collaboration with suppliers and helps to engage stakeholders from different functions in the collaboration effort.

Joint business planning works best when companies have a clear understanding of the strategic suppliers with which they want to engage, and where they have strong core supplier management capabilities in place. The approach can be applied at several levels. At its simplest, joint planning can involve aligning on metrics and value sharing agreements. At its most advanced it can include joint investment to create new sources of value.

Other organizations participating in SCI have introduced formal methods to promote greater strategic alignment, such as by introducing a joint business-planning approach. The buyer and supplier align on short- and long-term business objectives, set out mutual targets, and jointly develop plans to achieve objectives. Areas of opportunity for collaboration include growth, innovation, productivity, quality, and margins (see sidebar, “Joint business planning”).

Communication and trust

Buyers and sellers both describe high levels of trust in relationships that they consider strategic. In most cases, that trust has been built up over time, based on longstanding business relationships. Companies involved in collaborations tend to appreciate each other’s capabilities, understand each other’s businesses, and believe that their partners will stick to the commitments they make.

Companies are less convinced, however, that their partners will be ready to put the interests of the collaboration above the interests of their own organization. Many interview participants noted that greater transparency over sensitive areas such as costs was key to attaining the highest level of collaboration, but said that this goal was often difficult to achieve.

Building trust takes time and effort. Often this means starting small, with simple collaboration efforts that deliver results quickly, building momentum. This way, companies can demonstrate a serious approach to collaboration and their willingness to share gains fairly. More importantly, companies should base their relationships on transparency and information sharing as a foundation, with the expectation that greater trust will follow.

Cosmetics company L’Oréal follows this approach to encourage collaborative innovation. Through open dialogs concerning company goals and long-term commitment, L’Oréal has been able to establish an effective codevelopment process. The company’s annual “Cherry Pack” exhibition, for example, offers suppliers a preview of the consumer trends that the company will be working on, and asks them to develop packaging solutions in harmony with these trends. During the exhibition, L’Oréal creates a trust-based forum for suppliers to present the ideas and products in development—including ideas that have yet to be patented. The forum thus gives suppliers access to practical short- and long-term ideas and projects that ultimately accelerate packaging innovation.

Cross-functional engagement

To generate value from changes in manufacturing methods, quality-assurance regimes, or supply-chain processes, representatives from the respective functions on both sides of the partnership will need to work together. Yet this type of cross-functional engagement is something most benchmark participants find extremely difficult. Executives reported that while traditional relationships—such as those between buyers and supplier sales teams, or suppliers and buyer R&D functions—were strong, wider cross-functional engagement was patchy and poorly managed at best.

Improving cross-functional engagement is a leadership issue. Organizations with the most successful collaboration programs use a formal approach to manage cross-functional teams, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities on both sides of the partnership, backed by changes to internal incentive systems to promote full participation in collaboration projects.

Some companies, such as P&G, have taken a step further in creating cross-functional teams solely focused on joint innovation with suppliers. By creating a practice of “open innovation,” P&G aimed to coordinate its efforts and leverage the skills and interests of people throughout the company to assess the competitive landscape, identify types of innovation that can help develop disruptive ideas, and identify appropriate external partners. For innovation to work, P&G has stressed the need to integrate cross-functional teams that, in turn, integrate business strategy with operations—which requires a broad network of interactions.

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Value creation and sharing.

The pursuit of shared value is the reason buyers and suppliers take part in collaboration projects, so unsurprisingly procurement executives consider it the most important dimension of their collaboration efforts. Yet few participants in our study track the impact of collaboration on sources of value beyond cost reductions. Where companies have tracked the impact of collaboration projects on revenues, margins, or other metrics, they have done so only for a handful of high-profile projects.

For buyers, additional volume remains the most common way that the extra value created by collaboration projects is shared. Some partnerships had made use of other types of value sharing, such as performance-based incentives for suppliers. Where these approaches were employed, both buyers and suppliers were happy with the results. That suggests significant opportunity for companies to expand their use of such approaches, provided they can reach agreement on cost baselines and incentive structures.

Cleansheet cost modeling

Many of the potential sources of value targeted by supplier-collaboration efforts depend upon a mutual understanding of the true costs of a product or service. Achieving that sort of transparency can, however, be difficult in buyer-supplier relationships. Suppliers may be reluctant to reveal too much about their own manufacturing processes and costs, fearing that this information will be used against them in negotiations, and buyers may not want to let suppliers know just how critical they are.

Cleansheet cost-modeling approaches have risen to prominence in recent years as a tool to allow an open, fact-based cost discussion between buyers and suppliers. A cleansheet calculates the cost of each step during the creation of a product, component, or service, using a database of information on the materials, labor, factory space, equipment, time, and energy required to complete each step—and the implications for the desired product volumes on the utilization of those resources.

Cleansheet cost transparency helps collaboration partners generate ideas for design and process improvements. The approach can also underpin value-sharing agreements, allowing organizations to establish clear cost baselines and measure improvements against them.

Cost transparency is a critical enabler here. Some companies have found cleansheet cost modeling to be a very effective way to conduct fact-based discussions on costs and improvement opportunities with their collaboration partners (see sidebar, “Cleansheet cost modeling”).

ASML, a lithography-equipment manufacturer for the semiconductor industry, operates a value-sharing mechanism for its suppliers. The company allows suppliers to maintain healthy margins (as a volatility buffer), provides financing for the infrastructure needed to make its products, and offers staggered purchase guarantees. In this way, ASML incentivizes and rewards its strategic suppliers for prioritizing its business, gains access to cutting-edge technology, and reduces costs and improves stability in an industry with short lifecycles affected by substantial swings in demand.

Throughout its long history of collaboration with suppliers, P&G has used a wide range of commercial models to partner with suppliers across the entire R&D chain. Its value-sharing models range from shared fund pools for codevelopment of products to licensing agreements for commercialization. The flexibility to employ different mechanisms has allowed P&G to tap into supplier innovation without the need to overinvest in the development of deep partnerships with every potential collaborator.

Organization and governance

Like cross-functional engagement, the organization and governance of supplier-collaboration programs suffers from a lack of formal structures and processes. Interviewees admitted that their companies, both buyers and suppliers, were relatively lax in tracking and valuing their supplier-collaboration efforts. Few organizations had done anything to align the incentives of project participants within their own organizations, and most relied on informal mechanisms to share feedback or review progress with partners.

Introducing a clearer governance structure for the overall supplier-collaboration program and for individual projects has the potential to significantly improve outcomes in most organizations. Two-way scorecards, for example, allow buyers and suppliers to let each other know if they are effectively supporting the goals of the program. Governance of collaboration projects should be cross-functional, with appropriate incentives introduced throughout the organization to encourage full participation and ensure both parties pursue long-term win-win opportunities, not just short-term savings.

Supplier advisory boards

A supplier advisory board (or council) serves as a neutral and collaborative forum for the exchange of ideas between the host company and a group of strategic suppliers. Such boards are widely used by companies with mature procurement organizations, and they do so for a variety of reasons. A board may advise on key industry trends, risks, and potentially disruptive threats in the supplier ecosystem. Or they may provide a place for companies to explore the potential impact of business decisions on sourcing strategy. Some boards act as a hub for projects to improve operational processes between the company and its suppliers. Others are assembled to support special projects, such as joint innovation programs or sustainability initiatives.

An advisory board is usually chaired by an executive business sponsor and sourcing lead. Buyer-side members include representatives of multiple functions, such as marketing, legal, and R&D. On the supplier side, companies usually nominate a lead strategic supplier, along with around a dozen supplier board members chosen from the strategic supplier base. Those suppliers are selected after evaluation against a matrix of criteria determined by the objectives of the board.

Several leading organizations have created supplier advisory boards to provide high-level support and guidance for their supplier-management and supplier-collaboration programs. These boards act as a forum for the supplier base to advise on key issues and collaborate with the organization to further its business agenda. Companies use their supplier advisory boards to help manage risks and disruptive threats to the supplier ecosystem, and such boards also serve as a neutral space for the exchange of ideas between the host company and a group of strategic suppliers (see sidebar, “Supplier advisory boards”).

Toyota has been a prominent example of supplier collaboration, whose success can be explained in part by the use of clearly defined targets and supplier-performance metrics. These are built into contracts that hold suppliers accountable for continued improvements in quality, cost, and delivery performance. The company governs supplier relationships using a steering committee, staffed with relevant senior stakeholders from both organizations, to define the scope and objectives of the collaboration, review progress, and take action to remove roadblocks and resolve issues as they arise.

The Supplier Collaboration Index has already revealed several major opportunities for companies seeking to expand and improve their supplier-collaboration efforts. Some of those opportunities are quite straightforward, such as more proactive management of cross-functional teams involved in collaboration projects, or the introduction of formal governance systems to manage those projects. Others, such as greater cost transparency between buyers and suppliers, or the use of performance-based supplier-incentive mechanisms, may require more time and effort to achieve.

Excelling at supplier collaboration requires a more active and engaged working relationship with suppliers. It also calls for a change in mindset, encouraging both buyers and suppliers to commit to the long-term pursuit of value from their collaborative relationships. We end with eight steps that any organization can take to put its collaboration efforts on the right track.

  • Start by identifying those suppliers that offer unique joint opportunities to create and retain significant value.
  • Align strategically with these partners to define joint objectives and develop a compelling business case for both parties.
  • Adopt a methodical and structured approach to define the scope, pace and targets for joint projects, including a clear methodology on how to measure value creation.
  • Define simple, clear value-sharing mechanisms, and align incentives of the cross-functional team accordingly.
  • Invest in allocating the appropriate resources and building the required infrastructure to support the program.
  • Create a governance model focused on performance, implementation tracking, and hardwiring supplier collaboration into core operational processes.
  • Foster a culture founded in proactive communication, transparency, consistency, and knowledge sharing, to strengthen long-term partnerships.
  • Invest in building world-class organizational capabilities to ensure sustainability over time.

For any organization seeking to improve the performance of its procurement practices, supplier collaboration can no longer be considered a nice-to-have. As companies reach the limits of conventional purchasing practices, further progress will require a new approach based on close relationships, cross-functional engagement, and the shared pursuit of new value.

Agustin Gutierrez is a partner in McKinsey’s Mexico City office; Ashish Kothari is a partner in the Denver office, Carolina Mazuera is a consultant in the Miami office, and Tobias Schoenherr is the Hoagland-Metzler Endowed Professor of Purchasing and Supply Management at Michigan State University.

The authors wish to thank Juby Cherian, Pat Mitchell, and Valeria Saborio for their contributions to this article.

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Improve Collaboration and Joint Business Planning Results in 3 Steps

joint business planning workshop

Collaboration is on many organization’s strategic plans, with effective Joint Business Planning (JBP) being the outcome. Retailers’ and Vendors’ have the opportunity to determine mutual areas of interest and build their businesses in a collaborative way — namely by taking steps to improve Shopper satisfaction with a better experience.

However, effective Collaboration and JBP require more than a desire or written strategic plan. Both require that your organization undertake 3 consecutive steps:

  • Prepare your organization internally for collaboration;
  • Align your internal approach across your multifunctional teams through common training; and
  • Implement external Collaboration and Joint Business Planning.

Collaboration and Joint Business Planning can help both Retailers and Vendors manage the change that continues to dominate, including:

  • Changing partner needs and expectations between Retailers and Vendors
  • Changing market and Shopper,
  • Less resources available internally due to downsizing / consolidation, and
  • Increased requirements due to more and bigger data and a more complex Shopper.

Here are some resources to help you get started:

  • Complimentary Download: Collaborative Relationship Continuum Model
  • Course Video Preview: Collaborative Business Planning
  • Course Overview:   Collaborative Business Planning

3 Steps: Improved Collaboration and Joint Business Planning 

Step 1: be prepared internally.

It’s important for teams and organizations to first understand what collaboration is: 

Collaboration is highly diversified multifunctional teams   working together inside and outside a Retailer / Vendor with the purpose to create value   by improving innovation, Shopper relationships   and efficiency while leveraging technology for effective interactions in the virtual and physical space. (Carlos Dominguez, Cisco) (modified by Sue Nicholls, CMKG)

Are you ready to collaborate?  Start by defining your assets, prioritizing your opportunities and seeking out the right business partners. The questions below can help determine if your organization is ready to collaborate ( taken from the Category Management Association’s whitepaper on “Strategic Collaboration for Shopper Satisfaction” ):

  • What do you want to gain by collaborating?
  • Is your company set up to foster and support collaboration?
  • What multifunctional resources / data / technology / intellectual property can be shared with your collaborative business partners?

Step 2: Create Internal Alignment

Moving to a collaborative approach requires your multifunctional teams to be able to see the “bigger picture”, turn data into insights, think beyond brand into total category, and better understand the consumer AND Shopper. These responsibilities must be expanded to marketing, sales, private label and retail teams in an aligned approach. 

Alignment of all functions in your organization occurs through engagement and training in category management . In fact, training approaches need to change for most organizations, as traditional “point and click” linear approaches based on a new data source or tactic no longer suffice. In a collaborative approach, teams need to start thinking more strategically about how the decisions and recommendations they make align to the overall strategies for the organization and for their external collaborative business partners. This can be accomplished by equipping multifunctional teams with a common set of knowledge and skills acquired through training courses. 

Role-based training in combination with strategic training will help individuals and teams feel more confident they are making choices and recommendations that match with your overall collaborative efforts and Shopper.

Step 3: Move to External Collaboration and Joint Business Planning

Now that you’ve established where you are currently at with your Retailer or Vendor partners, you can undertake Joint Business Planning (JBP) — the “next level” in a collaborative relationship. JBP should build from foundations established in collaborative relationships.

In theory, Joint Business Planning is a collaborative effort between the Vendor and Retailer which involves open sharing of information. Shared information allows for the creation of a common, mutually-agreed-to business plan. But let me insert a bit of reality into this idyllic definition. From a basic level, it is a business plan that is developed between Vendors and Retailers, through sharing of select information. The plan should include expected trends, initiatives and the forecasted market environment, so that there is a greater chance for the goals and objectives within the plan to be attained. 

The higher the level of collaboration between the organizations, the closer you will move toward the theoretical definition of Joint Business Planning.

A successful Joint Business Plan requires each party to clearly understand the others’ goals, business and customer requirements. This shared understanding becomes the foundation of the JBP, with both businesses pooling their resources and expertise to achieve specific goals. The risks and rewards of the plan are also shared.

While specific approaches vary by Retailer, the following framework from CMKG category management training provides the key steps associated with most joint business planning processes:

jbp framework by Category Management Knowledge Group

Let’s look at the first step for the Retailer – identifying corporate strategies and goals . The Retailer, usually led by the senior management team, creates the sales, cost of goods and operating targets for the upcoming year. When you look at a Retailer’s income statement , there are 3 ways that a Retailer can influence net income:

  • increased sales;
  • decreased cost of goods sold; and
  • decreased operating expenses.

Retailers’ targets will most likely include initiatives behind all three of these components of the income statement to increase their net margin and income. Examples of initiatives may include new store openings, the current market, and private label opportunities for the Retailer. Other initiatives may be based on supply chain upgrades, information technology upgrades, or any other types of business process improvements that will impact the bottom line for the Retailer.

In summary, if you have properly defined collaboration internally and strategically selected your business partners upfront, you are less likely to run into problems. Problems are likely to arise in a Joint Business Plan if:

  • There are unclear objectives, one of the parties was not transparent in their sharing of information, or the plan was not properly communicated to everyone involved.
  • The partners have different objectives or hidden agendas in the joint venture.
  • One party is investing much more in terms of expertise, financial, and/or assets than the other party, creating an imbalance.
  • Different cultures and management styles with partners may result in poor integration and cooperation.
  • The partners don’t provide sufficient leadership and support in the early stages of the program.

Download the "Collaborative Relationship Continuum Model" PDF Document from Category Management Knowledge Group

The Opportunity?  For Retailers and Vendors to define mutual areas of interest, build business in a collaborative way, and improve the Shopper experience. 

Want to learn more about Collaborative and Joint Business Planning? Category Management Knowledge Group can help you, your team or your organization through a single online, live or webinar course or a customized program. We have some great category management training options available to meet your needs. You can preview our brand new, accredited  Collaborative Business Planning   course below:


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Topics: Category Management , Strategic Collaboration / Joint Business Planning

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Joint Business Planning

joint business planning workshop

Course Description

This approach to Joint Business Planning (JBP) is rooted in an alignment process between the customer and seller (Manufacturer, Broker, Suppler, etc) that produces breakthrough business plans. The objective of JBP is to drive alignment of goals, strategies and action plans between the two collaborative partners.

Learning Objectives

  • Customer Profile Development
  • Situation Assessment & Opportunity Identification
  • Alignment Process focused on Priorities
  • Joint Business Plan Session including Scorecards and Strategies
  • Joint Action Plan Development and Work Teams
  • Instructor led
  • Experiential

Target Audience

Any person from a Manufacturer, Retailer, Distributor or Agency, within the Consumer Product Goods industry, who seeks a more advanced understanding of Joint Business Planning. Typical participants include roles such as Category Managers, Buyers, Merchandisers, Customer Team leaders, Account Executives, Marketing Managers, Pricing & Promotion Managers, Finance Managers, Business Managers, Operations Managers, Retail or Sales Strategy Managers, Trade Marketers, Supply Chain Managers, Category Analysts, etc.

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Ten Best Practices for Better Joint Business Planning

joint business planning workshop

We recently led an alliance team through an alliance business planning session.  Through that process we captured a number of best practices that lead to better business planning and ultimately better performing alliances.  Here is what we learned:

  •  Develop the business plan with your partner.  Successful alliances are win/win/win . Your partners’ strategic objectives, resources, commitment and creative insight are critical to the process and to a successful outcome for you, your partner, and your joint customers.
  • Use the templates and checklists as stimuli for thought not a rigid formula.  Your alliance is unique. The value creation thought process and business plan should reflect that.
  • Build from the specific to the general.   You may find that over several initiatives you have 80% commonality, but it is that 20% differential that makes for a successful joint offer.  Specifics make an impact – generalizations put you to sleep.
  • Articulate the differentiation in the solution clearly, unambiguously. Contrast with the competition…50% more scalable than .
  • Individual value propositions should include specific descriptions of how value is created, so that a reader not in the alliance understands it. You will be describing the value of this alliance to executive management and other stakeholders.
  • Include customer value and metrics .Hard metrics on customer value ie. “reduces deployment costs by 7%”, gives you a compelling reason to get in the door with customer decision makers and energizes the sales teams to engage collaboratively.  Value props that impact customer business model are especially compelling i.e. increased competitive advantage for your customer. Focusing on your customer maintains common vision between partners.
  • Keep focus on specifics: – “saving millions per drill head” is a more powerful vision than ‘saving costs’; “ saving up to $5M per well” even better! Same for alliance objectives, again, the best have very clear, numerically stated objectives for both partners and customer.
  • For each metric establish a baseline “where you are today” and a goal “where you want to be in 6 mo, 1 yr”
  • Identify risks and obstacles to success and include risk mitigation and contingency plans
  • Evaluate your sales and marketing value props from the sales perspective.  Are they strong enough to compel you sales teams to want to sell with a partner?
  • Bonus Best Practice: Relationship strength is critical in an alliance.  Measure it regularly via partner health checks and proactively manage the relationship.

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Joint Business Plan (JBP): Benefits, Best Practices & Objectives

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Imagine two retail brands, each with their own unique strengths and market presence. Now picture the joint business venture, with two partnering business partners, joining forces to conquer a new market together through joint ventures. This is the power of partnering with other teams in a company – a joint business plan , where executive summaries are created to outline shared goals and maximize potential.

Collaboration is vital in today’s competitive industry landscape. By forming joint ventures, companies can pool their resources, expertise, and networks to unlock new opportunities, expand their reach, and drive growth like never before.

Joint ventures allow companies to collaborate and create stronger teams , leading to increased success. A joint business plan serves as the blueprint for this collaborative venture, outlining key objectives, strategies, and tactics that both parties will execute together.

A well-crafted joint business plan typically includes an executive summary that outlines the purpose and scope of the collaboration. It also details specific marketing initiatives such as promotions or product launches aimed at capturing the target market’s attention. It covers aspects like distribution channels, branding efforts, and sales projections to ensure alignment between both parties.

In this blog post series on joint business plans, we will explore the importance of collaboration in driving success for retailers and companies in today’s fast-paced retail industry. Collaboration is crucial for the success of ventures in the retail industry.

We will delve into the key components of an effective joint business plan and provide real-life examples to illustrate its impact. So buckle up as we embark on this exciting journey towards collaborative success!

Benefits of implementing a joint business plan

Implementing a joint business plan can bring numerous benefits to retailers and companies involved in the venture. Let’s explore some of these advantages in detail:

1. Increased Alignment and Synergy between Partners

One of the key benefits of implementing a joint business plan is the increased alignment and synergy between partners. When all parties in a joint venture are working towards a shared goal, it becomes easier to align joint venture strategies , joint venture objectives, and joint venture activities.

Why teamwork is vital for joint business?

This alignment fosters collaboration and teamwork in the venture, allowing partners to leverage each other’s strengths and expertise.

  • Better coordination between teams.
  • Shared vision leads to improved decision-making.
  • Enhanced trust and mutual understanding.

Example: Imagine two companies collaborating on a marketing campaign. With a joint venture business plan in place, both companies can align their messaging, target audience, and promotional activities for maximum impact.

2. Enhanced Communication and Coordination

Another significant benefit of a joint business plan is the improvement in communication and coordination among partners.

Clear channels of communication are established, ensuring that information flows seamlessly between all parties involved. This enhanced communication enables faster problem-solving, timely decision-making, and efficient resource allocation.

  • Regular meetings facilitate open dialogue.
  • Improved sharing of information and knowledge.
  • Quick resolution of conflicts or issues.

Example: In a joint business plan between a manufacturer and distributor, regular communication helps them stay updated on market trends, customer feedback, and inventory levels. This enables them to make informed decisions regarding production volumes, delivery schedules, and product promotions.

3. Improved Resource Allocation and Cost Optimization

Implementing a joint business plan allows partners to optimize resource allocation effectively. By pooling resources together strategically, partners can reduce duplication of efforts while maximizing efficiency.

Resource Allocation and Cost Optimization for joint business

This collaborative approach also helps in identifying cost-saving opportunities by streamlining processes or leveraging economies of scale.

  • Shared resources lead to reduced costs.
  • Elimination of redundant activities.
  • Efficient use of available assets.

Example: Two companies in the logistics industry can collaborate on a joint business plan to optimize their transportation routes, thereby reducing fuel costs, minimizing delivery times, and maximizing the utilization of their fleets.

Recommended Reading: Esthetician Business Plan [Free Downloadable Template]

Best practices for successful joint business planning

1. establishing clear goals and objectives.

To ensure a successful joint business plan, it is crucial to establish clear goals and objectives . This means clearly defining what you want to achieve together with your partner or stakeholders. By setting specific targets, you can align your efforts towards a common purpose.

One way to do this is by using category management principles. This involves analyzing market trends, consumer behavior, and competitive landscape to identify opportunities for growth. By understanding the category dynamics, you can develop strategies that capitalize on market trends and consumer preferences.

2. Regular Communication and Feedback Among Stakeholders

Effective communication is key in any collaborative effort, including joint business planning. Regularly communicating with your partners and stakeholders helps maintain alignment and fosters a sense of shared responsibility.

By providing feedback throughout the planning process, you can address any issues or concerns promptly. This allows for adjustments to be made in real-time, ensuring that everyone remains on track towards achieving their goals.

3. Creating a Structured Timeline with Defined Milestones

A structured timeline with defined milestones is essential for keeping joint business planning on track. Breaking down the plan into smaller, manageable tasks helps ensure progress is made consistently.

Structured Timeline with Defined Milestones is essential for any business success

Consider creating a Gantt chart or project timeline that outlines key activities, deadlines, and responsible parties. This visual representation provides clarity on the sequence of tasks and allows for better coordination among team members.

Establishing milestones helps measure progress along the way. Celebrating these achievements boosts morale and keeps everyone motivated throughout the planning process.

4. Developing a Win Strategy

A win strategy focuses on identifying how both parties involved can benefit from the joint business plan. It aims to create mutually beneficial outcomes that drive growth for all stakeholders.

When developing a win strategy, consider factors such as market share gains, revenue growth opportunities, cost savings through economies of scale, or access to new markets or distribution channels.

Recommended Reading: Dump Truck Business Plan [Free Downloadable Template]

Evaluating the progress of a joint business plan

To ensure the success of a joint business plan, it is crucial to regularly evaluate its progress. This evaluation allows you to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), conduct reviews and assessments, and make necessary adjustments to stay on track.

Monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Monitoring KPIs is an essential step in evaluating the progress of a joint business plan. These performance metrics provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your plan and help you gauge its success. By tracking KPIs, such as sales growth, revenue generated, or customer satisfaction levels, you can assess whether your joint business plan is delivering the desired results.

Some key performance indicators that are commonly monitored include:

  • Sales performance: Keep an eye on how well your products or services are selling. Track factors like sales volume, average transaction value, and conversion rates.
  • Promotional effectiveness: Evaluate the impact of marketing campaigns and promotions on driving sales. Measure metrics like click-through rates, website traffic generated from promotions, or coupon redemption rates.
  • Product performance: Assess how well specific products are performing in terms of sales numbers, customer feedback, or market share gained.
  • Customer satisfaction: Monitor customer feedback and ratings to determine if your joint business plan is meeting their expectations.

Conducting Regular Reviews and Assessments

Regular reviews and assessments are vital for evaluating the progress of a joint business plan. Schedule periodic meetings with all stakeholders involved in the partnership to discuss achievements, challenges faced, and areas that require improvement.

These reviews provide an opportunity to analyze data collected from KPI monitoring and gather insights from each party’s perspective.

During these sessions:

  • Share research findings: Present any relevant market research or consumer insights that can inform decision-making processes.
  • Discuss results achieved: Review the outcomes achieved so far based on set goals and objectives outlined in the joint business plan.
  • Identify bottlenecks and risks: Identify any obstacles or risks that may be hindering progress and brainstorm potential solutions.
  • Collaborate on adjustments: Work together to determine necessary adjustments or modifications to the joint business plan, ensuring it remains aligned with changing market dynamics.

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Making Necessary Adjustments to Stay on Track

Flexibility is key when evaluating the progress of a joint business plan. As you monitor KPIs and conduct reviews, you may identify areas where adjustments are required to maximize success. Making these necessary adjustments allows you to adapt your strategies, overcome challenges, and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Consider the following steps for making adjustments:

  • Analyze data: Examine the data collected from KPI monitoring and reviews to identify trends or patterns that require attention.
  • Identify areas for improvement: Pinpoint specific areas within the joint business plan that need adjustment based on performance gaps or changing market conditions.
  • Collaborate with partners: Engage in open discussions with your partners to gather their input and insights regarding potential adjustments.
  • Develop action plans: Create detailed action plans outlining the necessary steps to implement changes effectively.
  • Monitor results: Continuously monitor the impact of these adjustments on performance metrics and assess their effectiveness.

By regularly evaluating the progress of your joint business plan, monitoring KPIs, conducting reviews, and making necessary adjustments, you can enhance its chances of success. This iterative process ensures that your joint business plan remains aligned with evolving market dynamics and increases your likelihood of achieving mutually beneficial outcomes.

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Finding the right partner for joint business planning

Identifying the ideal partner for joint business planning is crucial to the success of any collaborative endeavor .

It requires careful consideration of various factors, including complementary strengths and expertise, compatibility in terms of values and culture, as well as conducting due diligence before entering into an agreement.

Identifying Complementary Strengths and Expertise

When seeking a business partner for joint business planning, it’s essential to identify individuals or organizations with complementary strengths and expertise. This means looking for partners who possess skills and resources that complement your own.

For example, if you’re a manufacturer looking to expand your distribution channels, partnering with a retailer or distributor who has established relationships with consumers can be highly advantageous.

Consider the following when assessing complementary strengths:

  • Look for partners who excel in areas where you may have limitations or gaps.
  • Seek out individuals or organizations that bring unique perspectives and capabilities to the table.
  • Evaluate potential partners based on their track record of success in relevant areas.

Assessing Compatibility in Terms of Values and Culture

In addition to complementary strengths, compatibility in terms of values and culture is vital for a successful partnership. When embarking on joint business planning, you’ll be working closely together towards shared goals.

Therefore, aligning values and having a similar organizational culture can foster effective collaboration.

Here are some considerations when assessing compatibility:

  • Evaluate whether your partner shares similar core values such as integrity, transparency, and customer-centricity.
  • Assess whether there is alignment in terms of long-term objectives and vision.
  • Consider how well your respective cultures will blend together to create a harmonious working relationship.

Conducting Due Diligence Before Entering into an Agreement

Before finalizing any partnership agreement, it’s crucial to conduct thorough due diligence. This involves gathering information about potential partners to ensure they are reliable, trustworthy, financially stable, and have a good reputation within their industry.

Here are some steps to consider during the due diligence process:

  • Research: Conduct extensive research on potential partners, including their history, financials, and reputation.
  • References: Reach out to their existing or past business partners to gather insights into their reliability and performance.
  • Legal Assistance: Engage legal professionals to review contracts and agreements to ensure they protect your interests.
  • Pilot Projects: Consider starting with small-scale pilot projects to test compatibility before committing to a long-term partnership.

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Maintaining a common vision and strategic objectives

To ensure the success of a joint business plan, it is crucial to maintain a common vision and strategic objectives with your partner. This involves aligning long-term goals and ensuring a shared understanding of strategic priorities. By continuously reinforcing the importance of collaboration, you can foster a strong partnership that drives mutual growth.

Aligning Long-Term Goals with the Partner’s Vision

When embarking on a joint business plan, it is essential to align your objectives with your partner’s vision.

This alignment ensures that both parties are working towards a common goal and have a clear understanding of each other’s expectations. By taking the time to understand your partner’s vision, you can identify areas where your goals intersect and collaborate effectively.

Ensuring Shared Understanding of Strategic Priorities

In order to execute a successful joint business plan, it is vital to establish shared understanding of strategic priorities.

This involves open communication and regular discussions about the strategies and tactics that will be employed to achieve desired outcomes. By aligning your strategies with those of your partner, you can create synergy and maximize the impact of your joint efforts.

Continuously Reinforcing the Importance of Collaboration

Collaboration is key in any joint business plan, as it allows for the pooling of resources, expertise, and networks. To maintain effective collaboration throughout the partnership, it is important to continuously reinforce its importance.

This can be done through regular check-ins, open communication channels, and providing support where needed. By fostering an environment that encourages collaboration, you can build trust and strengthen the relationship with your partner.

Maintaining a common vision and strategic objectives in a joint business plan requires strong leadership and effective strategy execution. It involves aligning long-term goals with your partner’s vision, ensuring shared understanding of strategic priorities, and continuously reinforcing the importance of collaboration.

You raise the chance of reaching win-win results if you keep this alignment throughout the collaboration. Recall that effective collaborative company planning needs constant communication and a dedication to collaborating to achieve shared objectives.

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Resources to help you get started with joint business planning

Creating a joint business plan can seem like a daunting task, but fear not! There are plenty of resources available to assist you in this process.

Let’s explore some of these resources that can help you get started with joint business planning.

Online Templates for Creating Joint Business Plans

One helpful resource is the availability of online templates specifically designed for creating joint business plans. These templates provide a structured framework that allows you to outline your goals, strategies, and actions in a clear and organized manner.

With pre-defined sections and prompts, these templates make it easier for you to navigate through the planning process.

  • Saves time and effort by providing a ready-made structure.
  • Ensures consistency and completeness in your joint business plan.
  • Provides guidance on what information to include in each section.
  • May lack customization options for unique business needs.
  • Requires careful adaptation to fit your specific partnership dynamics.

Industry-Specific Case Studies Showcasing Successful Collaborations

Another valuable resource is industry-specific case studies that showcase successful collaborations between businesses. These case studies offer real-life examples of how joint business planning has been implemented effectively across various industries.

By examining these success stories, you can gain insights into best practices, challenges faced, and strategies employed by others in similar partnerships.

  • Offers practical examples that demonstrate the benefits of joint business planning.
  • Provides inspiration and ideas for implementing collaborative strategies.
  • Helps identify potential pitfalls and ways to overcome them.
  • May not directly align with your unique partnership situation.
  • Limited availability of industry-specific case studies may restrict options for certain sectors.

Expert Guides on Effective Partnership Management

To further support your joint business planning efforts, expert guides on effective partnership management are available as well. These guides provide comprehensive advice on building strong partnerships, fostering collaboration, managing conflicts, and maximizing mutual benefits.

They offer valuable insights from experienced professionals who have navigated the complexities of joint business planning.

  • Offers expert advice and proven strategies for successful partnership management.
  • Provides step-by-step guidance on various aspects of joint business planning.
  • Helps you avoid common pitfalls and challenges associated with partnerships.
  • Requires careful adaptation to your specific partnership dynamics.
  • May not address industry-specific nuances or challenges.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can any type of business benefit from joint business planning.

Absolutely! Joint business planning is applicable across industries and sectors. Whether you’re a small startup or an established corporation, collaborating with another company through joint business planning can bring numerous benefits such as increased market share, cost savings through shared resources, access to new customer segments, enhanced product offerings, and improved overall competitiveness.

How do I find the right partner for joint business planning?

Finding the right partner for joint business planning starts with identifying companies that complement your strengths and fill gaps in your capabilities. Look for organizations with similar values and strategic objectives but different areas of expertise that can add value to your offerings.

Networking events, industry conferences, trade associations, online platforms are great places to connect with potential partners. Take the time to build relationships, assess compatibility, and ensure alignment before diving into joint business planning.

What are some common challenges in joint business planning?

While joint business planning offers numerous benefits, it can also come with its fair share of challenges. Common obstacles include differences in organizational culture and decision-making processes, conflicting priorities and objectives, resource allocation issues, and communication breakdowns.

The key to overcoming these challenges is open and transparent communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to compromise when necessary.

How do you evaluate the progress of a joint business plan?

Evaluating the progress of a joint business plan requires establishing clear metrics and milestones at the outset. Regularly review these indicators to gauge performance against targets.

Maintain open lines of communication with your partner to address any concerns or roadblocks that may arise along the way. By regularly assessing progress and making necessary adjustments, you can ensure that your joint business plan remains on track towards achieving its objectives.

Are there any resources available to help me get started with joint business planning?

Yes! There are several resources available to assist you in getting started with joint business planning. Industry publications, online forums, webinars, and workshops often provide valuable insights and best practices for successful collaboration.

Consulting firms specializing in strategic partnerships can offer guidance tailored to your specific needs. Don’t hesitate to tap into these resources as you embark on your joint business planning journey.

In today’s competitive business landscape, collaboration is key to success. That’s where joint business planning comes in. By partnering with another company and aligning your goals and strategies, you can unlock a whole new level of growth and profitability. Joint business planning allows you to pool resources, share expertise, and leverage each other’s networks to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

But it’s not just about the immediate gains. Joint business planning sets the foundation for long-term partnerships built on trust and shared vision. It enables you to navigate challenges together, adapt to market changes swiftly, and seize opportunities that may have been out of reach individually. By working hand in hand with a like-minded partner, you can amplify your impact and create a powerful synergy that propels both businesses forward.

Ready to tap into the power of joint business planning? Start by evaluating potential partners who align with your values and objectives. Establish open lines of communication, set clear expectations, and define measurable goals together. Remember, successful joint business planning requires ongoing collaboration and commitment from both parties. With the right partner by your side, there’s no limit to what you can achieve together.

How to facilitate a Quarterly Planning Process (Detailed Guide)

joint business planning workshop

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Setting a coherent strategy for your company is important.

And getting everyone on your team to row in the same direction is essential to achieve your goals.

However, creating strategy alignment across a company, and within teams is not trivial.

At SessionLab, we had our round of struggles with quarterly planning and goal setting as our company was scaling from a founder-driven, few people operations to a more structured and process-driven organization.

In this article I will share the insights we learned from designing and facilitating our quarterly goals setting and alignment process. After a couple of quarters of iterations, we’re happy with a format that seems to work and scale well, starting from 5 to 50 team members.

Quarterly planning and goal setting – What & Why

Each year we organize and facilitate an annual goal setting an alignment process to set our focus areas for the upcoming year. This clarifies the big goals to orient our team.

But next to that, we execute in a quarterly basis, so there is an alignment process in the beginning of each quarter to define our company’s focus (where annual goals give a strong direction) and more specifically set priorities for each of our teams

Why quarterly? – It is a natural phenomenon that individuals and teams gradually get off track and lose focus roughly every 90 days. At the beginning of a quarter, we’re all clear on what is important, and what to de-prioritise. But as weeks go on, new information comes, exciting new opportunities appear and alignment decays. Every 90 days, it’s good to bring the team together and make sure we are all focused to work on the things that matter to us.

So in each quarter our company aligns, first on company level priorities, and then each team (Product, Marketing, Customer Growth, Operations) on their own priorities. And since we are an entirely remote team spread across Europe, these alignment sessions are a huge part in making sure that our teams work in sync with each other.

EOS, OKRs – a brief overview of planning frameworks

Since the beginning of 2022, we’re following the guidelines of the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) as a framework to run our company. 

The reason we chose this framework was that – other than being recommended by several other bootstrapped SaaS founders – is it is a comprehensive enough toolkit to run and scale a company. It not only gives a process on how to set goals, but also gives specific recipes on how to design and manage our organization and how to run specific meetings.

Speaking of the goal setting process itself, there are several other frameworks that are very similar. Probably the most widely known is the system of Objectives & Key Results (OKRs) .

OKRs also give a method on how to set Objectives and Key Results for teams and individuals. And EOS has a very similar concept: the priorities that a team or individual sets are called Rocks (similar to Objectives), and each Rock should be phrased clearly (just as Key Results), so that at the end of the quarter, there is no ambiguity whether it was done or not.

Why are the main priorities called Rocks? This is based on the following metaphor:

“Imagine an empty cylinder, in which you can add four types of materials: rocks, gravel, sand and water. The cylinder represents the time (capacity) your team has. Rocks represent your big priorities, gravel represents your day-to-day responsibilities, sand represents interruptions, and water is everything else that comes up and you have to deal with.

If you start filling in the cylinder first with water, and then sand, and then gravel, then you will have limited space left for rocks. But if you first put the rocks in, and then fill the rest with the gravel, sand and water, then you managed to make space for your big priorities.

The takeaway is to first work on the biggest priorities. And the rest falls in place. (This is true not just for quarterly planning, but a useful tactics for making progress every day, too)

In my personal opinion, it doesn’t matter much whether you call your main priorities Rocks, Objectives, Goals or simply Priorities . As long as everyone on your team understands what you want to achieve, and there is a clear way to measure whether you achieve it or not by the end of your planned period.

For the sake of consistency, I will keep referring to these big priorities as Rocks in this article.

Rocks & Metrics

Although the book recommends setting Rocks that are clearly measurable, so far we found it more practical to phrase the Rocks in a way that they clearly communicate the direction of action to take. And for each Rock, we define a Target Metric, which is the specific target we want to achieve.

joint business planning workshop

Preconditions: What is needed before kicking off a quarterly planning workshop?

The specific workshop process you will see below is ideally preceded by a couple of steps:

1) Clarity on annual goals  

Company level annual goals were set by the leadership team and are clearly communicated across the organization.

The Entrepreneurial Operating System contains a practical guide on how to run the annual goal setting for the company by its leadership team. 

2) Set company-level Rocks for the quarter

The process for setting priorities on a company level (i.e. the overarching big goals that are the most important for the company) is very similar to the team/department specific goal setting process outlined below.

It is an activity we do with the leadership team as the first step in our quarterly planning process, and its output is usually 5 to 7 main priorities (Company-level Rocks) that are the most important for our team to focus on during the upcoming quarter.

These company level Rocks are then presented to the full team, together with a Recap of the previous quarter, a couple of days before starting the following workshop. 

3) Bring the team on the same page 

A precondition for effective goal setting for any team is that members have a shared understanding of how the business overall and also their respective unit is performing.

Therefore, before we kick off our series of team-specific quarterly goal setting workshops, we present the following pieces to the whole team:

  • Everybody shares the final results of the Rocks they were responsible for
  • An overview of the main business KPIs
  • A coherent narrative on how we are doing and what are the main challenges for the business.
  • Recap of our annual goals
  • The company-level Rocks set for the quarter

Overall, this is quite some information to present to the team, combined with giving space for questions and discussions.

So far we have done this during an extended all-hands meeting (with several interactive elements sprinkled throughout – energisers, a quiz on business KPIs, breaks). 

However, in the spirit of embracing asynchronous communication for our fully remote team, we’re planning to do it more asynchronously next time: All the presentations can be simply recorded and then shared with the team, so everyone can watch it at a convenient time. In this case, we would just schedule time for discussions at one of our all-hands meetings, and/or run the Q&A on our internal communication tool – Slack in our case.

The outcomes we want to achieve are that all members of the company are:

  • Have access to most important facts & figures about the past quarter’s performance
  • Understand what we achieved, see a narrative around it, so it’s a cohesive story pointing to your main business needs
  • Be aware of what are the company-level main goals for the next quarter, so people can already think about what team-level and individual goals and actions would help to move things forward.

After all these preparations, we are at the right place to kick-off a planning workshop for each department / team of the company.

Quarterly goal setting workshop agenda

The goal of this workshop is to align team members on what should be the priorities they collectively focus on in the coming period. There are a few important considerations here:

  • Each team should set no more than seven Rocks . Go beyond that, and there is an exponentially increasing likelihood of the team’s attention getting scattered, and several Rocks not getting achieved. Less is more when it comes to focus.
  • Company Rocks should be supported by Department Rocks. The reason Company Rocks are set first is that they are the most important goals for the whole organization in the quarter. They should take absolute priority over other initiatives. Usually it results in several Department Rocks being in direct connection with these Company Rocks. And usually there is space for a few other initiatives, too.
  • Get everyone involved and heard. The goal setting workshop detailed below is by design a participatory process, where every team member gets the opportunity to share their opinion on what matters and what to work on. The best way to get a team working together in the same direction is if everyone feels an ownership of the decision about the Department Rocks.
  • Align about what to work on, and what not to work on. The result of the decision making process is that everyone on the team understands why to prioritize certain initiatives in the upcoming quarter, and just as importantly, see why some other – potentially reasonable – initiatives would not be prioritized in order to stay focused. Related discussions will also help the team to understand what may get on the agenda in the further future, and what are the bottlenecks to resolve before being able to dedicate focus for a specific initiative.

This can be achieved with a 1.5 – 3 hours long process, depending on the size of your team. (Get the detailed workshop agenda here or by clicking on the image below)

joint business planning workshop

Credits for Gino Wickman and his team for the core process of this workshop laid out in their book: Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business , which we adjusted into a more generic quarterly alignment process that works across our company in different teams.

1. Workshop Introduction & Kick-off

As a facilitator, you welcome people joining the call (or live meeting), and explain the purpose of the session.

It is a good idea to run a check-in round, so everyone is getting the chance to speak at the beginning. To combine social check-in with already getting into the subject, I tend to ask people two briefly share about two things:

  • How are you feeling today?
  • Expectations: What do you expect from today’s workshop? -> this allows anyone to air potential questions or observations

A transparent process usually helps people to understand how to contribute at the different stages of the session, so I briefly walk them through the agenda: First we collect ideas -> present and discuss those -> cluster and narrow down -> indicative voting -> Dept. head picks Rocks -> detailing them -> polling appetite to contribute.

joint business planning workshop

Speaking of the agenda, it’s also useful to add a note about breaks : Since this is a quite involved activity for the whole team, plan at least a short break in the middle, and encourage everyone to speak up they need it sooner, need more break, or if they feel their energy level is getting lower.

Finally, before we kick off with the first activity, quickly recap and make sure that everyone’s role is clear. It is a good opportunity to show the Accountability (Org) chart of the organization to put into perspective, what is the scope we are dealing with in this workshop:

  • Outline the organizational responsibilities of the team
  • Clarify who is here wearing what hat. For most team members this will be clear: they are contributors in their respective departments. But this is especially important if anyone is acting in multiple roles, for instance if the Facilitator is also a Team member/contributor.

2. List everything that must get done in the quarter

We start by giving the opportunity for everyone to list all the things they think we should do in the upcoming quarter. One idea per one post-it note.

These items can include high-level objectives, and also specific tasks – and anywhere in between. Don’t worry too much about the granularity of the input here, this will be clustered later on. If anyone gives very specific ideas on what to do, it’s a useful point to help everyone understand what concrete actions might happen under the Rocks that will be set later..

Around 15 minutes is usually enough for everyone to list the things they find important. In a live workshop setting, start by giving 12 minutes to the team to silently brainstorm individually. And at the end, ask if anyone needs a couple of minutes more to finish, and extend if needed.

Tip: This can be done as a preparation task before the workshop starts. It saves 15 minutes from your live agenda, and allows people to work at their own pace at a time when they feel most productive to think about strategy and goals.

Depending on the size of your team, it usually results in having 15-70 items listed on your whiteboard.

joint business planning workshop

3. Present the ideas

Everyone gets the opportunity here to present the items they noted down to do in this quarter. Depending on the number of items you see on the whiteboard, you may want to timebox this exercise. But roughly 5 minutes per person should be enough.

Tip: Start from the least experienced team member towards the more experienced team members, finishing with the leader of the team. 

This allows more space and attention for fresher team members to express their thoughts without any pressure to conform with ideas mentioned by more experienced team members.

Finally the leader of the department comes last, so she is able to refer back to items suggested by other team members and connect them together – effectively starting the clustering of the next phase.

When people present their items, encourage them to start clustering by putting their own notes next to already posted similar ones.

As a facilitator, you can help this by asking participants to simply read and explain their own notes, while it is you as the facilitator who moves them to the right area of the whiteboard where already presented ideas are stored – and gradually getting clustered.

After the round of presentation is done, consider if it is time for a break. If you have more than five participants, and you’ve done the brainstorming in live, then you’re likely beyond the one-hour mark at this point, with generally low attention level after ~30 mins of presenting idea

4. Cluster ideas

Usually a rudimentary level of grouping starts to emerge as team members present their own ideas. But most likely, there is still work to be done in order to weed out duplications.

The goal is to get to a state on the whiteboard that allows every team member to vote on initiatives, without splitting their votes between overlapping items.

A simple way to do this is to group related items together, and leave the most descriptive post-it note on the top of the list.

joint business planning workshop

Tip: arrange the distinct items including titles for groups/clusters in one row, so then everyone will only vote on the items in the top row.

After clustering initiatives, the cluster titles are arranged in the top line and color coded, to make voting easier

Alternatively, you can also indicate with a different color, which are the ‘heading’ items for each cluster. Either way, what you want to achieve here is that there is a clear and distinct list of initiatives that people can vote on in the next step.

This clustering is most often led by the head of the department, while anyone else is encouraged to help and make suggestions on how to merge related items.

The accompanying discussions give a good opportunity to explain and clarify the potential connections between different initiatives.

5. Indicative voting

It is time to allow everyone to weigh on what they think the most important priorities are and prepare the floor for decision making. The simplest way to do this is with an indicative dot-voting .

Each team member gets a certain number of votes to cast on the initiatives they find most important, usually between 4 to 7 votes per person, depending on the number of vote-eligible initiatives on the board.

Some virtual whiteboard tools have built-in voting functionality, and in an in-person setup just give sticky voting dots to participants. 

Importantly, remind participants about which items can be voted upon – this should be visually clear by this point on the board.

Tip: You can decide whether to allow people to cast multiple votes on the same item. (If something is an absolutely essential thing to do, this is a way to express it.)

joint business planning workshop

This is an indicative voting, because the voting result itself does not automatically determine which items will be elevated into a Rock status, i.e. a priority for the quarter, but it gives an indication of the overall preferences of the team.

This responsibility is set aside for the leader of the team to decide on the final rocks, considering the voting results, and the potential dependencies and synergies between different projects, as well as resources available.

6. Define Rocks and Target Metrics

Sensible EOS recommendation: max 7 Rocks for a team.

After seeing the indicative priorities for the full team, the team leader proceeds with picking up those initiatives that will become a Rock (priority) for the team.

If needed, you may give a few minutes of thinking time to the team leader, but often this will be clear by the time you start with this segment of the workshop.

Despite the rule of maximum 7 Rocks, I advise to only take the 3-4 most important items at first. By the time these get clarified, the team will have a much better idea of how much bandwidth they have left for less important initiatives.

So the mission here is for each of these Rock to:

Align what they really mean – i.e. what is the likely scope. Some initiatives may have up to dozen ideas listed under them in the previous phases, and getting clarify of what you actually want to achieve is important.

Therefore, we want to define two things:

  • The Title of the Rock, which should be a short and clear description to show the focus of the work.
  • Metrics -> what is the state you want to achieve. This is typically a measurable thing, or the completion of a checklist

joint business planning workshop

By trying to clarify the metric, there is often a good discussion that uncovers what are the things we want, and what we do not want to achieve here.

Importantly, aligning on all executional details is not the purpose here. If you pick the right metrics, that will help the team – and in particular, the owner of the Rock – to devise the plan how to achieve it.

After the team has clarified the first 3-4 Rocks, it’s time to take a breath. As a facilitator, recap the current priorities (Rocks) the team agreed on, and let this sink in a bit.

Tip: As a facilitator, at this point it is useful to take a conservative and resource-aware perspective. The team will usually be enthusiastic about adding a lot of ambitious goals, but too many focus areas often leads to nothing getting enough attention.

After recapping the so-far-agreed Rocks, call again for the team lead to identify what further initiatives should make it into a Rock. As the team progresses through the obvious items, increase the level of scrutiny applied to wanting to take on new items.

From here on, it can get to be quite an iterative process. The team may reveal that there are synergies between certain initiatives and therefore it makes sense to do them together. Or they may understand that there are dependencies or resource constraints, and they have to remove something they already picked.

It is also okay if the specific targets for the key metrics are set as a follow-up after the session, in case it requires looking up certain data. The main thing is that the team is clear on what they want to achieve.

Celebrate after the list of Rocks is ready!

7. Poll interest to contribute

One of the important outcomes of this workshop is to get the team aligned on the priorities, while the other is to allow effectively kick off the work for the upcoming quarter.

This implies that we have clarity on who owns which initiative and how to sequence the work over the next period. For this, it’s important to see which team members would contribute to which Rock.

Team members can simply express what is their level of interest to contribute, or to potentially own a Rock.

There is a simple way to do this: Everybody is assigned a colorful voting dot (a simple round shaped post-it note on the board). Ask people to write their name on it, and create as many copies of that as they will need. Then everybody looks at the Rocks set for the quarter, and places the dots under those ones that they are interested in contributing to.

The more interested they are in working on that Rock, the higher they should put their dot. This way team members can easily express if they want to be very involved in doing something, or just want to take a smaller part, or not be part of that initiative at all.

joint business planning workshop

Wrap this up by a round of verbal recap: everybody gets a half a minute to recap their choice. 

The end result is that everyone can see, who wants to contribute to a specific initiative, and it also makes it easier for the team leader to decide on how to distribute the ownership of Rocks within the team.

Usually, we prefer not to hand out / assign the ownership of the Rocks right away, but give the opportunity of review for the team leader to think through what would be the ideal distribution, and check questionable items with each team member, before publicly assigning responsibilities to them.

(There are several considerations here, such as individual skills, other ongoing work responsibilities, personal development goals)

So this tends to get clarified within a day or two, so by the time we share about our quarterly Rocks on the next company all-hands meetings, everyone is able to present their own Rock.

8. Closing and Feedback

After the Rocks are set and everyone has picked their interests, it is time to close the session. 

joint business planning workshop

It is a great practice to ask feedback after each workshop, and it’s especially important to do it for such an important one that sets a teams direction for an entire quarter.

There are different ways to do it, starting from low-effort and instant methods such as the One-Breath-Feedback or a simple meeting closing round , ranging to setting up a dedicated reflection board where people answer multiple questions about what they liked and what they missed in the process.

Lastly, this is a workshop that is meant to align the team to reach for the save goals in the next three months, so it’s important to get people leaving the room energized.

Consider adding a simple energiser or ritual at the end. In our case, we closed the session with audio-sharing We Will Rock You from Queen – as we have just set a group of Rocks for the upcoming quarter!

Would you like to run this session with your own team?

Get the ready-to-use agenda below:

joint business planning workshop

Do you have any feedback on this process? Have you tried it with your team?

Let us know in the comments below!

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joint business planning workshop

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11 top tips for facilitating strategic planning sessions

An image of a group of four people in a lively discussion around a desk in an office setting

Strategy can no longer be an analytical decision-making process that takes place behind closed doors, involving just a few individuals. Today, it demands creativity and broad participation.

The way forward involves innovative approaches and inclusive participation. That’s why we’re taking a deep dive into these issues with a few of our own expert voices:

  • Jim Kalbach , Chief Evangelist at Mural
  • Katie Scheuer , Sr. Consultant at Mural
  • Farrah Buhaza , Sr. Professional Services Consultant at Mural

Each brings a unique perspective — from using creativity and participatory approaches to employing advanced digital tools and fostering engaging environments.

The discussion helps reveal the nuances of facilitating successful strategic planning sessions in this fast-paced, interconnected world. You’ll discover how to shift strategy from an analytic process to a creative, inclusive journey, adapting to the complexities of remote and distributed work environments.

1. Use creative methods to structure the strategic session

"In today's hyper-competitive and global world, strategy has become more of a creative exercise."‌ - Jim

Creative methods level the playing field, enabling all participants to contribute equally and more freely.

“Here's the thing: Particularly with strategy sessions, there might be many loud voices — people who dominate the conversation,” Jim says. “If you just go in with a blank piece of paper and say, hey, we're going to discuss this, what tends to happen is the discussion tends to center on just a few people in the group. If you have exercises, everybody can participate.”

Jim advocates for structuring strategic sessions using creative methods, emphasizing the shift from traditional analysis to a more dynamic, participatory approach. "It doesn't just have to be bullet points and reading of data," he says, proposing brainstorming, dot voting, and clustering as techniques to enliven the process. 

Plus, the State of Meetings report from Mentimeter reveals that 46% of Gen Z leaders are introverts, often distracted by texting (42.7%) or checking social media (44.6%) during meetings. To encourage engagement, 62% of respondents suggested integrating non-verbal (47%) or anonymous (45%) participation methods. This data underscores the need for creative, inclusive methods in strategic planning sessions, catering to the diverse communication styles of participants, especially among younger generations.

Use icebreakers and participatory methods: Kicking off a meeting with an icebreaker , or building brainstorming sessions and clustering exercises into your meetings encourages participation from the get-go.

Related: 5 actionable tips to improve meeting engagement

2. Ensure clarity and alignment to maximize productivity

A clear and focused agenda sets a definitive course for the session, minimizing confusion and maximizing productivity. It makes sure that every participant understands what'll be discussed and the purpose behind each topic.

"Make sure that you're very clear on the agenda for the session. . . and also that all your participants are included in the know and are very aware of it," Farrah advises. 

Implementing a structured agenda with clear objectives can transform a potentially meandering meeting into a focused strategy session. This approach is especially critical in complex projects or when diverse teams are involved.

"Make sure that the topics you're covering are relevant and that people understand the why of each section," she says. This is crucial to making sure that participants see the value in each discussion point and how it ties into the larger objectives of the organization.

“Having that alignment up front is really important." - Farrah

Share the agenda with all participants well in advance of the strategy meeting. Encourage team members to review the agenda, prepare their inputs, and come with a clear understanding of their role in the meeting. This preparation provides that strategic planning sessions lead to desired outcomes. 

Lean on your tools : Katie recommends embracing technology, like AI, to pre-populate ideas and streamline the strategic planning process.

3. Use visual tools for simultaneous and inclusive participation

Visual tools like digital whiteboards allow simultaneous contributions, breaking the bottleneck of one-by-one conversations.

" Visualization isn't just about color, pictures, and frameworks — it's also about ensuring that everybody can express themselves in different ways." - Jim

Jim champions using visual tools in strategic planning sessions, advocating a shift from traditional verbal discussions to more inclusive, engaging formats.

"If you throw in a visual platform like Mural, everybody can talk at the same time," he explains. 

This method transcends the limitations of traditional verbal-only sessions by offering multiple means of expression. And data from Mentimeter backs this up. Approximately 62% of participants believe that various engagement options in meetings, such as the ability to like, comment, react, and participate in polls, would significantly enhance their productivity. ‍

P.S . As an online platform with digital whiteboarding capabilities, Mural offers a range of features that cater to various needs, from brainstorming and strategizing to planning and problem-solving. With its Facilitation Superpowers® , a collection of tools designed specifically for guiding and managing sessions, Mural stands out as an excellent choice for facilitators looking to enhance engagement and productivity.

Using Mural's free planning templates, teams can engage in activities ranging from daily stand-ups to complex quarterly business reviews , making every aspect of collaboration visually accessible and interactive.

4. Time your sessions but leave room for organic discussions

The art of a successful strategic planning session lies in its delicate balance: meticulously structuring time while nurturing human connections . 

As Farrah says, "It's about having a structure, having it time-bound but also allowing for a bit of flexibility." This approach is akin to a thoughtful conversation — planned yet open to the natural dynamics of discussion and interaction.

Echoing this sentiment, Katie emphasizes the importance of personal connections: "Before diving into the meeting agenda, prioritize building relationships." This initial investment in warm-up activities or open-ended questions can transform the atmosphere, paving the way for more meaningful and productive strategic discussions.

"Set aside time to connect. Allow time (5-20 minutes) in a warm-up activity or open-ended question." - Katie

Start with a short, engaging activity to build rapport among participants, then transition into the structured, time-bound agenda. This method provides for a focused yet flexible approach to strategic planning.

5. Choose the right mix of people for effective collaboration

"Consider the audience. Who needs to be included?"

Katie's advice highlights a crucial aspect of strategic planning sessions: Carefully considering who needs to be in the room. 

"More people can increase complexity. Fewer people might mean the discussion is less inclusive/diverse." -Katie

The challenge lies in striking a balance. The right mix of participants provides a comprehensive representation of perspectives, fostering a richer, more holistic discussion. However, it's equally important to avoid overcrowding the session, which can lead to logistical challenges and dilute the focus of the conversation.

In a scenario where a new product is being discussed, including representatives from development, marketing, and customer service can provide a well-rounded view. However, keeping the group size manageable makes sure that each voice can be heard and contribute effectively.

According to a study by Mizen, Taneja, and Bloom (2022), online meetings were found to be more efficient for smaller gatherings of 2 to 4 people, while in-person meetings were preferred for gatherings of 10 or more. This finding can help you decide whether to meet online or in person based on the number of participants. Make meetings manageable: If you are a remote-first company, you can use breakout rooms to break up the strategic planning meeting into smaller groups and ensure everyone has the chance to contribute to the discussion.

Related: How to create a stakeholder map [templates & examples]

6. Involve remote participants actively to give them a voice

In modern strategic planning sessions, the hybrid meeting poses a problem. When some participants are physically present while others join remotely, how do you ensure remote participants don’t feel sidelined?

Jim sheds light on this conundrum, pinpointing the risk of remote participants feeling left out in a conversation dominated by those in the room. "It's really just a conversation in the room, and people are listening," he notes, underscoring the need to intentionally include remote participants.

"Facilitation needs to adjust to the setting. You can't think that your old in-person ways will work in a modern setting anymore." - Jim

To overcome this, Jim suggests adapting facilitation methods to suit ‌hybrid environments. For instance, he proposes starting discussions with remote participants to ensure their active involvement and prevent the conversation from being overly influenced by those in the room. 

"You have to change the way you facilitate the meeting," Jim advises, advocating for techniques like “popcorning” in remote settings where the last person speaking chooses the next speaker.

Building on Jim’s recommendations, Farrah offers a best practice for managing larger groups in hybrid settings: dual facilitation . This approach involves having separate facilitators for in-person and remote participants, ensuring focused attention and engagement for both groups.

Farrah also suggests thoughtful gestures like sending lunch vouchers to remote participants during an offsite meeting, replicating the in-person experience, and fostering a sense of inclusion. "So it's trying to be really intentional and mindful about how you mitigate those gaps and make people feel included," she says.

7. Pre-engage participants for focused sessions

Start participant engagement well before the scheduled strategic planning session. This proactive approach not only saves time during the actual meeting but also ensures that all attendees come well-prepared, significantly boosting the session's productivity.

“Engage them before you start the live session. Gather as much information as you can, even if it's passively." - Jim

Jim’s mantra, "Get started before you get started," serves as a guiding principle for facilitators to gather vital information and stimulate participant involvement ahead of time.

Sending out a brief survey or questionnaire in advance can help warm up participants to the session's topics and encourage them to think about their contributions. This practice can be particularly effective for executive participants who may be hesitant to do extensive pre-work.

Related: Pre-work: Your guide to pre-meeting action items

8. Take a digital-first approach to avoid workshop amnesia

One of the greatest challenges in the aftermath of strategic sessions is what Jim calls " workshop amnesia " — a phenomenon where the energy and decisions of a meeting dissipate once everyone returns to their daily routines. This issue often leads to a loss of momentum and a lack of clarity about decisions and actions post-meeting. 

Jim's solution lies in leveraging digital tools not just as a medium but also as a strategy to sustain momentum and keep ‌decisions and discussions top of mind.

"Workshop amnesia is real. You have this big event, people are engaged, but come Monday, it's like, 'What did we decide? Who's doing what?' That's the challenge." - Jim

By incorporating visual work platforms like Mural, especially towards the end of the session, strategic planning facilitators can effectively pivot into the digital realm for follow-up. 

"Think digital as an output. It's the way to keep the momentum going," Jim advises. This approach makes sure that the energy, ideas, and decisions from the session are immediately captured and accessible for future reference and action.

“You don't often think of documentation when you think of facilitating results. But any of these sessions we do, it's because we're trying to get to an outcome, and at the end of that outcome, you always need to document those results, those takeaways, then share them back with relevant stakeholders.” - Farrah

Wrap up digitally: Implement a digital-first method in your session's conclusion and subsequent follow-ups. For instance, use digital tools for the final prioritization exercise, making it a part of the session's digital footprint. This method not only ensures efficient follow-up but also helps combat the typical post-workshop drop in momentum and engagement.

Related: 7 tips to take more effective meeting notes

9. Incorporate multiple tools for distributed teams

Strategic planning sessions demand tools that foster engagement, collaboration, and efficiency. Integrating innovative tools can transform these sessions from standard meetings into dynamic, interactive experiences.

"If the only channels used are audio/visual and screen sharing, it gets monotonous." - Jim
  • Visual collaboration platforms : " Visual whiteboards for collection of thoughts and ideas throughout the session, as well as before and after, can change the game," points out Jim. Tools like Mural offer a digital space for teams to brainstorm and strategize, enabling visual thinking and collaboration beyond traditional boundaries.
  • Real-time polling tools : Jim also emphasizes the value of polling tools like Menti or Polleverywhere. "Polls are great in general, but leaders particularly appreciate them for the data and real-time feedback they provide," he notes. These tools inject an interactive element into the session, allowing for immediate participant input and engagement.
  • Mobile devices : Leveraging smartphones for quick polls and instant feedback is another tactic Jim recommends. This approach harnesses the ubiquity of mobile devices, making participation more accessible and spontaneous.
  • Large touch screens in physical meetings : For in-person elements of a session, Jim suggests incorporating large touch screens. These tools enhance presentation dynamics and facilitate a more interactive form of feedback, enriching the overall experience.

10. Master the right techniques for impactful strategic sessions

‍ Strategic planning success isn't just about the tools — it's equally about the techniques. Farrah, Katie, and Jim offer valuable insights into the methods that elevate these sessions from routine discussions to impactful strategic exercises.

  • Intentional turn-taking and time management : Farrah recommends using liberating structures like the “One Two for All” approach. "This allows everyone to contribute individually and then in groups, ensuring diverse voices are heard," she explains. Additionally, using timers can keep discussions on track and prevent any single topic or individual from taking over the session.
  • Blended meeting formats and design thinking : Katie advocates for blended meetings and adopting design thinking methods . These approaches infuse strategic sessions with creativity and flexibility, accommodating various participant needs and working environments. 
  • Structured methods for collaboration : Jim's emphasis on structured methods provides a roadmap for productive sessions. "Utilize techniques like lightning decision jams, clustering, and dot voting to guide the session," he advises. These methods ensure that every participant's voice is heard and that the session remains focused on its objectives.

11. Adopt the rules of hybrid engagement 

‍ Hybrid meetings , which blend in-person and remote participation, present unique challenges that require a nuanced approach to building effective and inclusive engagement.Jim, Katie, and Farrah offer insightful strategies to navigate these complexities, providing a framework that facilitates dynamic interaction and equal participation across both physical and digital spaces. Their combined approaches address the challenges of hybrid settings, ensuring that every participant, whether dialing in remotely or sitting in the meeting room, can contribute effectively and meaningfully. Jim's approach: Rely on structured individual and group activities

  • Encourage independent brainstorming in “heads down activities” for unbiased contributions.
  • Use smaller breakout groups for focused discussions, enabling deeper exploration of ideas.
  • Consolidate thoughts in larger sessions, which helps to foster collective decision-making and idea integration.
  • Ensure remote participants are equally engaged with in-person attendees through digital tools.

‍ Farrah's strategy: Balance confidence and participation

  • Allocate time for individual reflection, using digital platforms like Mural for anonymous input.
  • Employ affinity clustering to organize ideas, highlighting common themes and diverse opinions.
  • Actively facilitate discussions to encourage quieter participants, ensuring a balanced dialogue.

‍ Katie's insights: Factor in the practical aspects of meeting management

  • Allocate buffer time in the agenda to accommodate technical issues and side discussions.
  • Consider the number of voices included in the meeting, allowing some to participate asynchronously for efficiency.
  • Make sure you’re including diverse perspectives, using assessments of diversity and inclusion to guide participant selection.
  • Adapt facilitation techniques for diverse teams and industries, allowing extra time for processing and alternate participation methods.

Flexibility: The key to successful facilitation Effective facilitation in strategic planning sessions is a balancing act. It requires a readiness to adapt and evolve with the changing dynamics of teams and technology. Embracing digital-first approaches — while keeping the human touch — is crucial.

“A good facilitator will recognize that something isn’t working and shift accordingly. So just because you’ve planned everything out in detail doesn’t mean you can stick to that plan or even have to stick to that plan.” - Jim 

As facilitators, your role isn't just to guide discussions but to inspire collaborative action and meaningful outcomes. The true success of a session lies in its ability to adapt to unforeseen challenges and turn them into opportunities for growth and innovation. ‍

Make sure your strategic planning sessions are as successful as possible by employing the best tools. Mural offers a free plan to help you run better meetings, collaborate more effectively, and elevate every voice.

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

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