objectives of a strategic planning session

How to Conduct a Productive Strategic Planning Meeting

Jimmy Hovey, MBA

Jun 16, 2020

Do you have your strategy for 2022?  

A strategic planning meeting is one of the most critical meetings a company can have. It’s where you identify your goals, project them into the future and then develop an action plan to meet those goals. If you haven’t started your plan for 2022, its time to get that meeting scheduled. 

Conducting a productive strategic planning meeting requires careful preparation and planning in advance with all team members involved. With just a little bit of effort, you’ll be able to get it right the first time and avoid wasting valuable time on unproductive meetings in the future!

objectives of a strategic planning session

This post will walk you through each step of conducting an effective meeting from start to finish, including how to prepare for it, what should be included in each section, who should attend, how long it should take place over.

Our goal is simple – we want everyone involved in this process (including yourself) to feel confident about their role, leading until after completing everything! By following these steps, there’s no reason any company shouldn’t see success when planning for the future of their business!

Are you looking for a way to plan your business strategy?

A strategic planning meeting is a great way to get your entire team on the same page and ensure that everyone stays focused as you move forward. The planning process can be tedious, but it’s important not to let this step fall by the wayside – especially if you want results from your planning session.

A well-run planning event will help increase productivity and success rates for all organization members (virtual or otherwise) and ensure ongoing alignment throughout an initiative’s lifespan. If you need some guidance about how to conduct a productive planning meeting, here are five best practices:

  • Conducting effective virtual meetings with Zoom has many benefits, such as flexible scheduling options, video conferencing tools (e.g., breakout rooms, chat), and easy recording capabilities
  • Define the planning meeting’s objective(s) upfront – this will help keep everyone on track
  • Assign specific tasks to participants to generate buy-in and ownership
  • Make sure that the right people are in attendance – too many cooks in the kitchen can slow down the process
  • Follow up with assigned tasks after the planning meeting has adjourned to ensure accountability and success!

The planning process can be tedious, but it’s important not to let this step fall by the wayside – especially if you want results from your planning session. A well-run planning event will help increase productivity and success rates for all members of the organization (virtual or otherwise) and ensure ongoing alignment throughout an initiative’s lifespan. Zoom has many benefits for conducting virtual strategic planning meetings, such as flexible scheduling options, video conferencing tools (e.g., breakout rooms, chat), and easy recording capabilities!

Facilitating strategic planning sessions

Longer-term strategic objectives, such as revenue and expense reduction, drive longer-range projects. The Profit Pro Consulting team is a strategic facilitator, and we are involved in strategic decision-making. We’ve curated the best meeting to ensure efficiency using facilitated training sessions.

1. Plan for the strategic planning meeting’s purpose and outcome

Before the meeting, make sure everyone understands the objectives and goals of the meeting. This will help ensure that the meeting is productive and stays on track.

During the meeting, be sure to keep track of time so that everyone has a chance to share their thoughts. If needed, set ground rules for how participants interact with one another.

Finally, work together to create an action plan that outlines specific steps to achieve the meeting’s objectives. You can ensure that your session is successful by planning and setting clear expectations!

2. Make a list of strategic objectives for the strategic planning process

Now that you have set up your planning meeting, it’s time to develop a list of strategic goals. This is an important step, as it will help guide the discussion and keep everyone on track. The objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Some examples of strategic goals might include:

  • Increase revenue by 20% in the next fiscal year
  • Expand market share by 25% in the next two years
  • Double profits within five years

Once you have brainstormed your strategy meeting objectives, prioritize them to start planning your strategy.

Develop an action plan

The action plan should include timelines, milestones, and budget. The planning meeting should be the first step in developing your strategy for achieving these goals.

Determine who is responsible

Who is responsible for getting the objective done? Then determine how you will keep track of progress or issues that arise to ensure they don’t become problems down the road.

Make sure everyone involved understands their part

Ensure all parties understand by explaining what needs to be accomplished at a high level and providing any necessary training if required so people are up to speed when they begin working on their task after the planning meeting concludes.

For example, specific software programs might be used along the way, so make sure attendees know how to access them before leaving the planning meeting.

Communicate planning meeting outcomes

It’s important to share the results of planning meetings with everyone involved and let them know what they can expect next.

For example, planning meeting participants might be asked to do some tasks at the planning meeting, such as developing a timeline for one of your strategic objectives.

Make sure tasks assigned are understood 

Ensure attendees understand that these are tasks assigned during the planning session, so it doesn’t come as a surprise when they start working on their assignments after business adjourns from the planning session.

This way, there isn’t any confusion about who is doing which task or if someone needs help getting started on something after the meeting finishes up.

These steps should ensure any concerns from those in attendance have been addressed before ending this portion of your virtual strategic planning process.

3. Divide responsibilities among participants

A planning meeting does not need to be a daunting task. By planning and taking the necessary steps, you will run a practical planning session that leaves everyone involved satisfied with their contributions and eager for future meetings.

To get started, decide who should participate on each side of your planning equation: those responsible for implementing the plan (the management team) and those driving strategy (management).

objectives of a strategic planning session

Be sure to establish accountability by assigning action items or tasks before ending any portion of your session.

For example, if you want input from stakeholders across different departments to improve sales numbers next quarter, assign specific people responsible for reaching out to those stakeholders and compiling their feedback.

Decide who should be responsible for executing the plan (management team) and those driving strategies (management). Assign action items or tasks before ending any one portion of your meeting.

4. Create a meeting agenda

The planning meeting agenda should be created at the start of the planning session. It’s essential to have an organized plan for approaching your strategic planning activities and decisions that need to be made during this process. The planning session meeting agenda can include:

  • An introduction (including purpose, scope, roles)
  • Discussion on critical business issues/opportunities facing the organization now or soon; review any relevant data
  • Brainstorming ideas by group members (in person or virtual participants via conference calls, chat rooms, etc.)
  • Reviewing all ideas generated across teams & groups with consideration for prioritizing them based upon feasibility and impact – voting is also an excellent way to prioritize projects/ideas.
  • Review the top list of ideas/projects with the planning committee to determine which ones will be carried forward into the strategic planning document.

The result should be a planning session agenda documented and sent out to all participants before the planning meeting.

5. Establish ground rules and time limits before starting.

You don’t want to waste time getting everyone on the same page about the strategy session process or ground rules. Make sure that people understand the basic planning guidelines and what’s expected of them before you start planning for real.

objectives of a strategic planning session

These are some key points to cover:

  • How often do planning sessions will take place (weekly, monthly, or quarterly meetings)
  • Who is responsible for each step in the planning process? For example, one person may gather data from different areas while another consolidates it into a report format. Then someone else can present these reports during team meetings – this way, no single person gets stuck with doing every task alone!
  • How long do we meet/how many minutes per week should be set aside for our meetings?
  • What are the ground rules? For example, everyone is expected to contribute; only one person speaks at a time; no side conversations during meetings.

Everyone should agree on these points beforehand so that you can stay focused and productive throughout your planning meeting! 

Establishing clear guidelines about how the planning process works saves everybody valuable time later in the planning session. It also sets up an open environment where people become accountable for their actions or lack thereof. Who drives the strategic planning process forward? There must always be someone responsible for every step involved in the planning process and planning meetings.

The planning process is a collaborative effort, and it can be challenging to get people invested in planning for the future of your business. But there are ways you can encourage others to take more responsibility when planning their work week or month! You just have to lead by example first – show everyone how strategic planning works so that they will learn from your actions rather than wasting time guessing what’s expected of them during sessions!

Suppose someone on our team isn’t participating as much as we would like. We speak with them directly after the session has ended about his lack of participation. Even after this conversation, he might still not be interested in contributing, so everybody feels comfortable asking him questions during the next meeting.

Now that we’ve established some ground rules, it’s time to start our planning meeting! Let’s set a timer for 60 minutes and use the remaining time to discuss our first goal…

6. Conduct a brainstorming session

The brainstorming session should identify potential solutions to problems that have been placed in previous meetings. This is an opportunity for the team to generate many ideas and solutions. Allow participants to share their thoughts and encourage them to be creative.

objectives of a strategic planning session

Once the brainstorming session is complete, it’s time to evaluate the potential solutions. Look for solutions that are realistic and achievable, as well as those that address the most significant problems.

For each solution, ask these questions:

  • Is this solution feasible?
  • What are the benefits of this solution?
  • What are the costs associated with this solution?
  • How will we know if this solution is successful?

Keep in mind that not all of the proposed solutions will be adopted. Still, it’s crucial to have a variety of options on hand so you can choose the best one for your organization.

Once the evaluation is complete, it’s time to choose the solution with the most benefits for your organization. Document the decision and plan of action, so everyone involved knows what’s expected. Finally, put a timeline in place to track the success of the solution.

Behind on planning for 2022? 

In conclusion, when planning meetings are conducted, it is important to establish ground rules for participants. These guidelines should be set before the meeting starts so that everyone can stay on task and productive throughout the planning session.

objectives of a strategic planning session

It also sets up an open environment where people become accountable for their actions or lack thereof – which leads us to our next point: who drives the strategic planning process forward? Who facilitates it? There must always be someone responsible for every step involved in the planning process and planning meetings.  

The strategic planning process is a collaborative effort, and it can be challenging to get people invested in planning for the future of your business. But there are ways you can encourage others to take more responsibility when planning their work week or month!

You just have to lead by example first – show everyone how strategic planning works so that they will learn from your actions rather than wasting time guessing what’s expected of them during sessions!

Need help facilitating strategic planning? 

The strategic planning process is a collaborative effort and it can be challenging to get people invested in planning for the future of your business. But there are ways you can encourage others to take more responsibility when planning the year ahead.

We know that developing a plan for the next 1-3 years isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be frustrating either. If you’re behind on your strategic plan, don’t worry! It’s not too late to get caught up and stay on track with our help.

The Profit Pro Consulting team will work with you to develop an actionable strategy that aligns with your company goals and objectives over the next 3 years. This helps ensure everyone stays focused on what needs to be done now so they can achieve their long-term vision without getting distracted by urgent tasks or day-to-day responsibilities.

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How to hold a strategic planning meeting: A simple, step-by-step guide for facilitators

objectives of a strategic planning session

If you’re running or facilitating a strategic planning meeting, there are many factors to consider.

It’s much more than just bringing everyone together to have an open discussion — and it doesn’t just happen on its own, either.

There are several steps you can take to ensure that your strategic planning meeting runs smoothly, but it all starts with preparation.

Today, we’ll explore a few ideas to help you hold a successful session, starting with the basics.

Try Miro’s Strategic Planning Template

  • What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning is the process of analyzing a current situation within your organization and making sure it’s aligned with your specific objectives. If it isn’t, you and your team must develop a plan to “correct the path.”

So, why is strategic planning important?

In short, strategic planning helps you get from where you are today to the future you want. It’s a way of breaking down big, daunting goals into manageable steps that address your current situation and guide your work.

Visual representation of the strategic planning process

Here’s where strategic planning meetings come into play.

Meetings are the cornerstone of the strategic planning process.

These meetings are typically held by facilitators , but anyone can lead a strategic planning meeting.

We’ll provide you with specific instructions to hold a successful meeting a bit later, but first, let’s answer a crucial question.

What is the purpose of a strategic plan meeting?

Broadly speaking, a facilitator will use meetings to either:

  • Gather specific information and feedback from team members, executives, and stakeholders.
  • Help team members work together to solve problems, think strategically, and create new ideas to improve the organization.

These meetings aim to provide clarity in decision-making.

This is not a typical meeting where participants spend time reporting out. Strategy planning is all about brainstorming and collaboration .

This way, you can develop solutions to tangible problems in your organization and set the tone and strategic direction for your team.

Who needs to be included?

The best way to ensure that you get all of the most relevant voices in the room is to create an invite list.

Include people from each relevant department, if possible.

This way, you can cover a more complete spectrum of your company’s operations and activities.

You’ll want to include upper management, but don’t stop there.

Bring in members of the sales department, investor relations, human resources, and any other relevant departments or stakeholders.

You might also consider inviting people from outside of the organization who can provide a fresh perspective.

This is particularly useful for organizations that are doing business in a new market or have started offering new products.

  • Best practices for running a successful strategic planning session

Now that you understand the importance of effective strategic planning meetings, the question becomes, how do you actually hold one?

Let’s cover a few of the best practices:

Strategic planning best practices

Build buy-in before the meeting starts

First, you’ll want to build buy-in with everyone involved.

Keep what you’re doing top-of-mind, whether that’s through casual conversations or company-wide memos.

In addition, make sure to have a clear agenda prepared, so everyone knows what they can expect out of the meeting. Start by defining the goal, then detail how you’ll get there.

Also, get all the materials you need together in advance.

That may look like coordinating with IT to make sure everyone has access to company software, sending out pertinent documents in advance, or mapping out who will be speaking at the meeting.

Make sure to communicate your expectations clearly so that everyone knows what is expected of them and why.

You’ll want to spend time in your planning stages to keep the tone positive, while at the same time being realistic about what’s possible.

Ultimately, your goal should be to align the team around a shared vision and mission so that you can move forward with a shared perspective.

Now, how can you communicate this agenda?

We suggest you use a centralized space where everyone can see your agenda.

For example, you can use Miro’s Agenda template to create and share your agenda with participants.

Miro's Agenda template screenshot

You can also use the template to keep notes during the meeting and add refinements later.

This way, everyone can see what’s been discussed and the next steps for moving forward.

Remember; this should be a collaborative effort, so consider asking for ideas from everyone about what they’d like to see covered.

Just don’t forget to actually take those ideas into consideration.

Develop a transparent strategic planning process

During the strategic process, you’re inviting employees to have meaningful discussions around the company’s vision statement, strategic goals, and strategic objectives.

It’s important to have a roadmap in place for how you will facilitate the process so that employees know what to expect.

Your meeting should be an open, engaging discussion with transparent dialog. During the meeting, everyone should get a turn to talk.

Make sure you have a clear process that allows everyone to participate and feel heard, no matter what their role is.

In the planning stage of a meeting, it’s important to have as much input as possible.

You can involve everyone by holding a virtual brainstorming session with this brainstorming template . Once you create a board, you can invite people to collaborate in real time.

Miro's brainwriting template screenshot

This template helps you create a more engaging and collaborative session while allowing every person on the team to contribute their thoughts.

Create an agenda and stick to it

We all know what happens when an agenda is not set or adhered to.

Creating an agenda for your meeting helps you and your participants stay on track. This agenda should include topics, questions, milestones, and people.

Milestones are the larger topics that will be broken down into smaller questions, and these questions should flow to the ultimate goal of narrowing down your strategic priorities.

You can create milestones by putting together a list of discussion questions that will help your participants get on topic and help you check in with the group.

Your agenda might include an opening discussion, a brainstorming session on ideas, and a closing review of the next steps.

When developing your agenda:

  • Keep it short: The last thing you want is your meeting to drag on for no good reason, so try to limit each agenda item to ten minutes or less. The whole meeting should only take an hour or two, at most.
  • Be selective: Don’t include too many topics or ideas that will bog down your meeting.
  • Create a contingency plan: You never know what might happen during your meeting, so always have a backup plan in case your agenda falls through.
  • Plan for breaks: For longer meetings or workshops, set aside at least half an hour to take a break, such as during lunchtime.

Make it interactive

As much as possible, you’ll want to make this a collaborative effort, so it’s important to get everyone involved.

For example, you might want to break the group down into smaller sub-teams to brainstorm opportunities for new product features.

You could also task each group with creating a list of opportunities for particular departments within your company.

The point is that you’ll want to encourage open and honest dialog about challenges your company is facing and, where possible, break down any barriers that might stand in the way of progress.

Make sure to collaboratively create strategy documents, provide regular updates on progress, and discuss strategic issues in real time.

Miro's collaboration features in action

This way, you can work side-by-side to improve your performance, no matter where in the world your team members happen to be.

  • How to run a strategic planning meeting in 7 steps

To get the most out of each session, you should prepare thoroughly — from the agenda to who you’ll involve and how.

Whether you’re holding a remote, hybrid, or in-person meeting, this process will help you out.

1. Define a clear outcome for the meeting

A strategic planning meeting can go totally off-the-rails if it’s held without a defined objective. That’s why the very first step is to define a clear, tangible goal for the meeting.

For example, your objective might be to better align social media with your marketing strategies .

In this case, your meeting might include a discussion on the purpose of social media, its role in the planning process, and how to better align your social media campaign with your organizational goals.

If your goal is to develop a new product , your meeting might look different.

Consider discussing who the target audience would be and how you can get in front of them. You could also discuss how the product should be positioned in the marketplace and what strategies you’ll use to get it there.

You can also set specific strategic planning meeting themes as part of your objectives, such as business growth or innovation.

The point is to be as specific as possible with your goal. That way, it’s easier for everyone to stay on task and make the right decisions.

2. Break the ice

A strategic planning meeting can be a big undertaking, so it’s important to break the ice by engaging participants in some friendly conversation.

You may want to ask participants what they think of the company’s latest direction or engage them in a fun icebreaker activity. You can also ask them what they think of the new business strategy and how they would implement it.

Or you could ask participants to complete an activity that allows them to interact with one another and develop a better understanding of each other’s unique skills.

For instance, you could assign participants to form teams, and then ask them to create a project plan to solve an issue the company might be experiencing.

You can also break the ice by having participants introduce themselves.

If you’re holding a remote or hybrid meeting, you could have participants discuss what they think in a private online chat room, or you could use an instant messaging program for the same purpose.

Make sure they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas with each other before starting the main agenda.

The bottom line? The more connected the group is prior to the meeting, the more effective the meeting will be.

3. Set clear expectations

Once you know what you want out of the meeting, the next step is to communicate any expectations of participants, such as things they should prepare in advance of the meeting.

Here are some useful guidelines to keep in mind when you’re setting expectations:

  • Provide details: The more detail you provide, the clearer it will be as to what’s required.
  • Assign roles: Make sure everyone knows their role and responsibilities within the meeting audience.
  • Use timelines: Use timelines to remind everyone of what needs to be completed before the meeting and send reminders if necessary.
  • Communicate effectively : Encourage participants to talk with their teams about the fact strategy planning is happening. They may want to set up smaller meetings to gather input for the strategy planning workshop or to share the outputs after the meeting to give employees a chance to ask questions.

4. Set ground rules for behavior

Before the meeting starts, make sure everyone knows the rules.

Values, culture, and norms

This is especially important when working with external stakeholders.

For example, you might say something like:

“The goal of this meeting is to develop the strategic plan for the next quarter. We want to minimize distractions, so please don’t check your phone during the meeting.”

Another good idea is to let participants know how they’ll be evaluated. For example, if you’re trying to make progress on a project, you might say something like:

“Let’s try and reach a consensus on the first three points. If we can do that, we’ll consider the meeting a success.”

If you’re dealing with a remote or hybrid team, you should take the time to define online behavior standards. For instance, you could say something like:

“If you have a question, please type it in the chat window. Using outside chat programs is not permitted during the meeting.”

This way, you’ll have everyone invested in the outcome.

5. Identify potential challenges

Before the meeting starts, it’s always good to identify potential areas of conflict that might derail the process.

For example, what would happen if someone had to leave halfway through? Will the meeting continue without them, or will you reconvene once they’re back?

You should also consider how to handle difficult participants. Can you remove a difficult participant from the meeting before they hijack all of your time?

What happens if a disagreement comes up and it’s not resolved?

You should prepare for all these things in advance and have a plan ready if they do happen. For example, consider using a countdown timer for specific agenda items or presentations, so that time is allocated fairly.

Interactive whiteboard with linked agenda and countdown timer shown

If you identify potential challenges early on, you can keep an eye out for them as the meeting proceeds.

6. Encourage full participation

Remember that you’re asking people to spend time — and sometimes travel — to participate in your meeting.

It’s essential that everyone feels like they have the opportunity to participate. The best way to do this is by mentioning at the beginning of the meeting that you’d like everyone’s input throughout.

Make sure to keep an eye out for people who aren’t speaking up. If it seems like they may have something to contribute, ask them for their thoughts on the topic.

Also, make sure everyone knows that participation is critical. If you need to take a vote on something, remind people what the vote is about and why it matters.

Finally, make sure you’re speaking in terms that everyone in the room can understand. If there are people who are new to the organization, spend a moment explaining any acronyms you use.

This will allow everyone to feel like they can give their input with ease, leading to a more successful meeting.

7. Use visuals and brainstorming tools to communicate ideas

Having everyone on the same page is critical, even if they can’t be in the same room.

Here’s where visuals and collaboration platforms come in handy.

Using collaborative tools, like our brainstorming templates helps you organize work and removes some of the stress of coming up with ideas on the spot.

It also encourages people to provide input and makes them feel like they have a stake in the outcome.

For instance, you can use Miro’s Reverse Brainstorming template to come up with innovative ideas and display them in real time. You can save the meeting content on the board too, so you can send it to participants after the meeting.

Miro's Reverse Brainstorming template screenshot

This can be especially useful if you have multiple participants in different locations involved at the same time. They may not be able to physically attend the meeting, but they can still provide valuable input.

Also, we provide you with a fully customizable strategic plan template .

Miro's strategic plan template screenshot

You can adapt this template to fit your exact business needs and standardize your meetings with ease.

  • Sample agenda for a strategic planning meeting

You need to make sure your strategic planning meeting agenda is detailed and thorough enough to keep you on task.

Start with an overview of what you’ll be discussing, then move into individual department updates. This is where you highlight progress against targets.

Finally, spend some time outlining your organizational goals moving forward and, of course, always leave time for questions.

To help you better understand what a strategy planning session might look like in the real world, here’s a sample agenda:

  • 10am–11am: Welcome and meeting goals
  • 11am–12pm: Leadership team updates
  • 12pm–1pm: Department updates
  • 1pm–2pm: Lunch break
  • 2pm–3pm: Analyze challenges and problems
  • 3pm–4pm: Ideate solutions
  • 4pm–5pm: Discuss and gain consensus on solutions and goals
  • 5pm–6pm: Assign tasks and responsibilities for strategy execution
  • 6pm–7pm: Q&A
  • It all comes down to solid preparation and visuals

The best way to ensure your meeting runs smoothly and effectively is to prepare it with anticipation. By creating a clear agenda, you’re able to get the most out of your session.

Also, the use of visuals and brainstorming tools helps you collaborate with your team and communicate your critical points more effectively.

You can hold your planning meetings in a more visual way by creating a board and sharing with your team.

Also, you can use the strategic planning meeting template to get started with fewer headaches.

Want an action-oriented framework to help your team continuously improve?

Try the strategic planning template, miro is your team's visual platform to connect, collaborate, and create — together..

Join millions of users that collaborate from all over the planet using Miro.

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How to Facilitate a Strategic Planning Session [2024 Strategic Planning Workshop]

By Ted Skinner

strategy planning

Annual & Quarterly Planning

how to facilitation a strategic planning session

At Rhythm Systems, our consultants are trained strategic facilitators who are crucial in strategic planning. They are planning experts who help you get the most ROI from your meeting with their expert facilitation skills. We have facilitated hundreds of successful Strategic Planning , Annual Planning , and Quarterly Planning sessions for our clients. In this blog post, we will share expert insights from these sessions so that you can scale up your company. Strategy planning (and expert facilitation) is vital as the longer-term strategic priorities drive the shorter-term goals, projects, and actions with complete organizational alignment .

Note to strategic CEOs: Along with our ability to educate, coach, and facilitate specific content and methodology during on-site sessions, one of the main reasons CEOs choose to bring us in to run their sessions is so that the CEO can fully participate and implement their 5 year plan template . It is impossible for a CEO to effectively facilitate a session with all the stakeholders and fully participate simultaneously. The CEO's contribution and participation is significant to reach the desired outcome. Session facilitation is an extra burden that is better placed on another team member or an expert facilitator. You should learn to be a good facilitator with tips and tricks or consult with us to see if hiring an expert makes sense.

Free Guide: How to Facilitate a Strategic Planning Session

Rhythm Systems Annual Planning Facilitation Guide

Strategic Planning Facilitation Step 1: THINK Through the Purpose and Outcome of the Meeting

Stephen Covey advises us to "begin with the end in mind." What is the purpose of this meeting? What do we hope to accomplish? Who should attend? What are our strategic objectives for this workshop? What work should the meeting participants get done before the meeting (research and homework)? What are the specific outcomes or outputs we are looking for from this strategic planning session? What is the role of a facilitator in a strategic planning session? Do we need a plan B for a potential 2024 recession ?

Creating an Objective Statement that you can share with the rest of the team in advance is a great way to ensure everyone who attends the meeting has shared goals and expectations for your time together. It will also clarify you as you move into step 2 and begin planning for the session. Make sure that this aligns with your mission statement. This differs from  team meetings ; setting expectations upfront is critical for your strategic objectives. 

An Objective Statement consists of three parts:

Part 1: TO : (What is the action? What will you do? Start with a verb.)

Part 2. IN A WAY THAT : (How will you do it? List criteria, scope, involvement, success measures, specific tactics, side benefits, or any other relevant information. Use bullet points.)

Part 3. SO THAT : (Why are you doing this? Why is it essential? What is the main benefit?)

Sample Objective Statement for one company's Quarterly Planning Session


TO : Conduct a practical strategic planning session


  • Brings the Senior Leadership Team together for two full days to develop an effective strategy
  • Highlights the previous quarter's accomplishments
  • Updates and advances our Annual Plan and long-term goal attainment
  • It allows us to discuss-debate-agree critical topics as a team
  • It prepares us to overcome any potential obstacles to hitting our year-end goals
  • Identifies 3-5 Company Priorities, complete with owners and clear success criteria
  • Identifies clear Individual Priorities for each member of the leadership team
  • Prepares us to begin thinking about next year's Annual Plan
  • It allows us to identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Answers the key questions facing our company and industry
  • It helps us clearly define and communicate our business strategy to the entire organization
  • Fun ideas for strategic planning are always considered and change up the energy in the room

SO THAT : We finish this year strong and set ourselves up for a solid start to next year.

Professional Strategic Planning Facilitation Video

Strategic planning facilitation step 2: plan all the details in advance.

Anytime you bring your team together for a meeting, whether for a few hours or days, you invest time, energy, and money. The way to ensure you get the most out of your investment is to be adequately prepared. The preparation checklist below will help you.

Download the Meeting Facilitation Guide

Strategic Planning Process Meeting Preparation Checklist

  • Set the date – You will want to determine and set the date as soon as possible so that everyone on your team can attend. The longer you wait, the harder it is to find a time that works. If this is an ongoing, standing meeting, ensure everyone has it on their calendar every time it occurs and actively works to protect the scheduled time with the team.
  • Select the Facilitator – It is essential to pick the right person to facilitate your session. The facilitator is responsible for creating the agenda, preparing content material (slides/visuals), arriving early to ensure setup and materials, testing technology, and facilitating the session. If you must choose someone on your team who will be in attendance, remember to occasionally stop during the meeting and ask their opinion if not previously shared. If you choose someone who would not usually be in attendance, ensure they understand that their job is to facilitate, not offer opinions on discussions they would not typically be involved in. Role clarity is essential.
  • Select a location – A meeting or planning session in your conference room can be ineffective. The opportunity to lose focus and be interrupted by operational issues increases exponentially. This is fine for short, weekly, routine meetings, but we recommend taking your team off-site for 1-2 day planning sessions. 
  • Choose a Meeting Coordinator – This person is in charge of handling all of the logistics for the meeting, making sure participants have made travel arrangements, the conference room (on-site or off-site) is booked and set up for the session, and that all participants are aware of any homework/preparation that is needed for the session. Use someone on your team who is meticulous with details and have them build a strategic planning checklist for future meetings.
  • Prepare the meeting material – You and the facilitator should refer to your Objective Statement when creating the agenda. Be careful not to overload your agenda. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in the time you have available. Create a basic time plan to accompany your agenda. This will help you know whether or not you are on track during the meeting. Less is more when it comes to slides. The old rule was no more than 6x6 (six words long by six bullets). In today's Twitter and drive-through world, you're better served to stick to 4x4 or, better yet, 3x3. Consider revealing information one bullet point at a time, especially if you must have more than 6x6 on a slide, and always ensure it is written for your target audience.   Use our AI Goal Coach if you have any questions!
  • Email the meeting agenda and pre-work to the attendees - Communicate with all attendees at least two weeks before the session, sharing the objective statement, agenda, and any pre-work you want them to do. Realize that some people - even with proper instruction - may be in the habit of attending meetings unprepared. If you consider the pre-work essential, let the team know that it's mandatory and require them to return it in advance, or instruct them to bring copies to the meeting and build time to share the output into your agenda. This will allow people to think about the strategic goals for themselves and the company ahead of the meeting.
  • Last minute details - Work with the meeting coordinator to ensure all the meeting details have been addressed: supplies ordered, lunch planned, technology arrangements made, attendance confirmed, action plans, etc.

Remember to be realistic about what you can accomplish in the available time and set the agenda appropriately. The strategic planning facilitator must also keep the team focused on having the proper discussions for your organization. Understanding and working with the group dynamics is essential, especially in a large group. This related article can read more details about a virtual strategic planning session .

Download Rhythm for OKRs: Simplify Your OKR Process

Strategic Planning Facilitation Step 3: Do the Hard Work of Running the Strategy Session

Three definitions of the role of the facilitator:

  • "An individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy. He or she is a 'content neutral' party who by not taking sides or expressing or advocating a point of view during the meeting, can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group's work."
  • "One who contributes structure and process to interactions so groups are able to function effectively and make high-quality decisions. A helper and enabler whose goal is to support others as they achieve exceptional performance."
  • "The facilitator's job is to support everyone to do their best thinking and practice. To do this, the facilitator encourages full participation, promotes mutual understanding and cultivates shared responsibility. By supporting everyone to do their best thinking, a facilitator enables group members to search for inclusive solutions and build sustainable agreements."

The word facilitation means to make it easy. Too bad actually facilitating a group of people isn't. It takes a tremendous amount of energy, focus, quick thinking, and patience to facilitate a meeting. Following the first two steps in this blog post (Step 1: THINK and Step 2: PLAN), you are set up for a successful session. But there is still much work to do.

Here are 15 Tips to keep the strategy session moving positively.

Download a Facilitator Checklist  Roles and Responsibilities of a Great Facilitator

15 Expert Tips for Facilitating a Great Zoom Strategy Meeting

1. Set ground rules at the beginning of the meeting . Let the team discuss their expectations for full participation, candor, sidebars, interruptions, tangents, and cell phone and computer use. This conversation upfront creates an environment of accountability and high commitment to the meeting. Ground rules will help reduce the stress of group interaction and make it easier to resolve problems when they arise. Capture your ground rules on a flip chart while discussing and post for reference throughout the meeting. To start with some energy, I suggest using one of our Zoom icebreakers to get things started.

2. Trust the process . Remember that you have put a great deal of time into steps 1 & and 2, so you are going into the day with a good game plan. Sometimes, things seem disjointed, or the team doesn't understand where you're going. Tell them there is a method to the madness, and ask them to trust the process with you. When utilizing a slide deck and agenda provided by Rhythm Systems, know that the function and content have been tested and proven to work many times. It may not all come together until the very end, but if you are going in with a clear objective and well-thought-out agenda, the results you're looking for will follow, and problem-solving will occur.

annual planning

3. Give yourself permission to deviate from the time plan if a topic requires more time than you thought it would. As long as the additional time is used for good, healthy debates on important issues and not the beating of dead horses, it will be a good use of time. If you do deviate from the time plan, involve the team in deciding how you will make it up. You may choose to stay late or start early one day, or you may decide to cut or shorten the time allowed for another topic. Involving the team in this discussion and decision increases engagement, energy, and commitment (see #11).

4. Celebrate your progress as you move through the session. Reflect on lessons learned and breakthroughs. Acknowledge someone when they're brave enough to bring up a tricky subject. Check-in with each other to ensure you're all engaged. After breaks, consider restating what's been accomplished and where you are on the agenda.

5. Use icebreakers with purpose. Ice breakers are quick, interactive exercises designed to get the team's brain working and mouth moving. They are usually used at the beginning of a session, after breaks, and after lunch. They can also be great for raising the energy level late in the afternoon. A quick Google search will provide hundreds of ideas for icebreakers. One of our favorites is a quick round of victories or good news. This serves several purposes. It gives team members a chance to share information, allows them to get to know each other better, and starts the meeting positively. We recommend that you start every session with some version of good news.

6. Encourage full and equal participation. A team comprises many individuals, each with their own personality and preferred work style. Some are naturally more dominant and expressive, while others may be more thoughtful and reserved. One type is not better than another, and the fact that they're on your team means you value their input. The facilitator's job is to recognize these different styles and run the meeting in a way that gives each person a chance to contribute. This is a good discussion at the beginning of the session as you set the ground rules.

Set the expectation of full and equal participation clear and give the team a chance to discuss how they will do this. The facilitator may have to step in throughout the meeting, explicitly calling on individuals who have not spoken up. The facilitator may also design the meeting to include specific opportunities to hear from everyone. Examples of this would be small group breakout sessions or employing different brainstorming methods (see #8.)

7. Use visual aids effectively. Any combination of flip charts, whiteboards, sticky notes, posters, PowerPoint/Keynote, and handouts will do. We've all seen the person who used every animation tool within PowerPoint - wiggly jiggly icons, annoying animations, slides swiping in from 20 directions in 5 different ways. Don't overdo it; allow your visuals to distract from the meeting. People have different learning styles; Some are visual learners, some auditory, some kinesthetic, and some experiential, so mix it up and use all aids in moderation. Keep in mind that your body language is one of the most essential visual aids that you have; make sure that you make people feel like they are being heard.

virtual strategy planning facilitator

8. Use different methods for brainstorming. Round robin, freewheeling, group pass, and silent reflection are all proven methods you may try. Brainstorming aims to produce a comprehensive list of potential ideas, solutions, or plans. When done well, brainstorming should increase participation, reduce inhibition, stimulate ideas, increase creativity, and be a group process.

The general rules for all brainstorming methods are:

  • Focus on quantity first and capture as many ideas as possible.
  • Encourage and welcome all ideas - ask the team to dig deep and think beyond the obvious - every idea submitted should be captured.
  • Hold off on judgment, criticism, or reality checks - this should be a "safe time." Ideas will be discussed and debated later.
  • Use short phrases and bullet points, not paragraphs and lengthy explanations.
  • "Piggyback" on others' ideas. Outlandish ideas can be stepping stones to good, workable ideas.
  • Although giving a brief overview of brainstorming rules can be helpful, there's no need to go into an elaborate explanation. "Let's brainstorm annual priorities that will move us toward our 3-5 year strategic plan . Remember, let's not judge the ideas but just capture and understand them first." Then, begin your chosen method of brainstorming. As you move through the process, anticipate that someone will break the rules - that's when the facilitator steps in and makes the correction.

Round Robin

Ask for a volunteer to start the brainstorming process with one idea. The facilitator captures the idea on a flip chart for all to see. Ask the volunteer to choose whether to go to the right or the left, allowing the person sitting next to them to offer one idea. The facilitator continues to chart the answers, going around the room until everyone can contribute at least one picture. You can then try to take a second pass around the room if the ideas are flowing freely, or you may open it up to anyone who has another idea not previously mentioned.


Suppose you're working with a group where equal participation is not an issue. In that case, you may be able to open the brainstorming session up by asking for ideas and allowing people to offer suggestions in any order at all. Use the participants' words to chart all ideas with short bullet points. This method can go fast, so you may want to ask for a volunteer to help chart answers using a second flip chart.

Each person in the group starts with a piece of paper, writes down one idea, and then passes the piece of paper to the next person. The following person then builds on the original idea, adding a few thoughts. Continue around the room until the owner returns their original piece of paper. You can then ask each person to take a minute to review their original idea and share it with the team.

Silent Reflection

Some people need a little time to think and formulate their ideas. Instruct the team that you give them a certain amount of time (5-15 minutes, depending on the topic) to think and write down their ideas. You can ask them to write their thoughts on sticky notes, one idea per note, or list them on paper. If you use sticky notes, you can ask them to read one statement at a time and place them on the wall, grouping all similar ideas together. If they are written on notebook paper, you can use the round-robin method to share and chart the ideas.

9. Use a Parking Lot. Stay on track by creating a place to capture ideas that are inappropriate to the discussion at hand but that you don't want to lose. Make it visible to all using a whiteboard, tear sheet, etc. This helps you keep the meeting focused without chasing too many "rabbit trails." It is important to honor all ideas, questions, and concerns during a session, and by placing the item in your parking lot, you send the subtle message that all contributions are essential. Refer to the parking lot items while facilitating when appropriate and review any unresolved items at the end of your session, moving them to an action item list. In a strategy meeting, you must keep the team on task; using a parking lot can help you accomplish that.

planning facilitator

10. Deal with difficult people ahead of time. Before your meeting, think about participants who tend to be outspoken, dominate, or argue in meetings. Think also about participants who may have felt bullied or intimidated or have a history of not participating openly. Have a conversation with these people before the session, explaining your concern and asking for their help in creating a healthy and productive environment. When talking to the dominant person, helpful language might include, "Jim, I'm trying to increase participation in this meeting. I appreciate your outspokenness and value your input. If it's ok with you, I'd like you to go last so I may first hear the rest of the team's thinking before you share yours." Be sure to reevaluate and give that participant a chance to share.

This is also an excellent topic to discuss while setting ground rules at the beginning of the session. Discuss the expectations for politeness and tone during the meeting, and ask the team for permission to point it out if things get off track. If a conflict arises during a meeting, the facilitator must be prepared to step in and take control of the meeting. Anytime the discussion becomes accusatory or personal, the facilitator can ask the participant to reword statements so that they are focused on solutions, facts, and business issues, not people and blame. An excellent technique for redirecting a heated discussion is to ask the team to discuss their learnings rather than their frustrations. Be sure to do this whenever the language becomes personal; before you know it, your team will police this behavior themselves. Conflict resolution is the central role of the facilitator.

11. Keep the energy high. Enthusiasm is contagious - and so is negativity. Some people need to doodle while they think, some need toys like a Koosh ball or rubber Gumby, others need talk time with other participants, and others need to stand up or walk around the room from time to time. Think through your meeting day and plan ways to keep the energy high for the entire time to keep the group paying attention.

Have participants work in pairs, write something down, work together on puzzles, make mini-presentations on topics assigned before and after breaks, schedule group breakout sessions, etc. Remember that the room's energy is often a notch or two below the facilitator's, so it is vital to keep your energy high. Try to get plenty of sleep the night before, eat well, have plenty of water on hand, and take breaks as needed, as group facilitation is challenging!

12. Get to a consensus. Many discussion topics require moving the group from several individuals, independent ideas to one agreed-upon group decision. Consensus can be defined professionally as an acceptable resolution everyone on the team can support. It does not mean that everyone on the team has to agree that this is their number one favorite resolution, just that they will support the decision in the future. Supporting a decision means that you will speak positively about the decision to others and do everything in your power to ensure the decision results in a positive outcome. You will not say," They decided."

Explaining the definition of consensus and support to the team at the beginning of the discussion can help resolve the issue. An essential step in reaching a consensus is ensuring that all ideas are evaluated, and everyone's perspective is heard. This is important in getting buy-in for the conclusion and generating the best ideas and solutions. Structuring a process for team decision-making is a critical facilitation skill.

Here are some tips to help team decision-making:

  • Use the brainstorming tips above to identify all viable solutions (see #8)
  • Combine and link similar ideas
  • Use structured methods, like The Six Thinking Hats, to help take the emotion out of the discussion.
  • Set a time limit for discussion on each potential solution
  • Make sure everyone is participating in the debate and, make sure everyone is actively listening and applying their listening skills
  • Work to narrow the options down to as few as possible
  • Don't be afraid to call for a vote to see how close the group is to completing the agreement
  • If there are just one or two holdouts, seek to understand what and how firm their objections are
  • Engage the group in troubleshooting to minimize the potential negative impact identified by any complaints or concerns raised
  • Restate the most popular resolution, adding one or two points addressing the concerns raised, and ask the holdouts if they can support that decision
  • Sometimes, people will get caught up in the moment and continue the debate just to argue. Ask the holdout if they will lose sleep if the group moves forward with the proposed resolution. Refer to the definition of support and ask if they will support the decision.
  • With consensus, there is often compromise. Only some get everything they want out of the final decision. However, because you created an environment where everyone has had an opportunity for input, the conclusions reached will often be very successful and highly supported.
  • If you are running a virtual strategic planning session,  visit the link to learn some additional tips to help you get the most out of your planning session.

annual planning

13. Document and publish the Who-What-When. Who-What-When action items are leading indicators of successful meeting outcomes. How often do teams meet, discuss, and debate critical topics, then set the next meeting date only to discover that no progress has been made at the next meeting? As the facilitator, it is essential that you make sure that every critical discussion ends in a documented action captured in an action list of Who is accountable (one person only), What they will do, and When it will be completed. Create a habit of ending meetings with a review of the Who-What-When and beginning discussions with confirmation on completing the actions assigned.

14. Finish strong. People won't always remember what you do or say, but they will never forget how you made them feel. And what they will remember most is how they felt at the end of the meeting. Whether you completed every objective you laid out or worked through the agenda, it's essential to recognize the team's accomplishments and celebrate their focus, contribution, time invested, and hard work. Finish the meeting by recapping the decisions, reviewing the actions committed, and confirming the next steps. We also recommend allowing everyone to share how they feel as they leave. You can go around the room and ask each person to share a one-word/one-phrase closing statement or share one takeaway or breakthrough they gained during the meeting.

15. Ask for feedback. Great facilitators are not born overnight. They develop and improve over years of experience. And the most experienced facilitators know that asking for feedback is the best way to improve. You can ask the team before they leave to write down one bright spot from the meeting and one area to work on or do differently next time. Please feel free to email everyone after the session, asking for feedback. Or, you can ask for a quick one-on-one conversation with a few trusted advisors.

You would like to encourage feedback on the agenda, pre-session communication, design of the day, homework, and how you performed and handled difficult situations during the session. If you want to receive feedback, please take it seriously. Don't take it personally or complain to others about it. All feedback, even negative feedback, is a gift. Thank the person who shared with you, and I'd like to make every effort to incorporate all helpful suggestions into your next session. Stay encouraged and stick with it. You will improve every time you facilitate, so please volunteer and look for opportunities to practice. Over time, the tips in this blog post will become second nature. Good luck!

This blog post shares tips and tricks for facilitation from the Facilitator guide written by Chris Cosper and Barry Pruit and adapted to a blog post by Ted Skinner. If you'd like to download the manual, please click here . We hope you enjoy the facilitation techniques outlined in this article to keep group discussions positive and productive. We hope this answers your question about how to lead a strategic planning session; if you want to get the best ROI on your investment of time and energy, please feel free to  drop us a line , and we'll see if it makes sense for you.

Learn More About Rhythm

Read our other strategic planning and facilitation articles below:

Annual Planning: 9 Tips to Focus & Align Your Team with a Great Plan

Annual Planning Playbook: 5 Steps to Create a Winning Annual Plan

How CEOs Can Avoid High-Cost Mistakes in Annual Planning

Best Practices for Annual Planning

16 Strategic Planning Tips to Keep Your Strategic Plan Alive

The CEO Strategy-Execution Gap...And How To Fix It

Choose Your 3-Year Strategic Growth Initiatives Wisely With This 4-Step Process

5 Steps to Getting Started on 3-Year Strategic Plans with Winning Moves

Have you been able to validate your 3 Year Strategic Plan?

Robust 3 Year Strategic Plans to Grow Revenue and Stay Competitive

Don't Confuse Strategic Thinking And Strategy Execution Plans

9 Steps to a New Revenue Growth Strategy [Infographic]

Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images

Ted Skinner

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

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Strategy validation: have you validated your 3-5 year strategic plan, 2024 strategic planning: a comprehensive guide from industry professionals, 7 tips for ceos for drama-free planning & strategy sessions.

How to hold effective strategic planning meetings

A photo of people working together around a desk in an office

Holding a strategic planning meeting is a critical step in setting the goals and direction of a team, company, or organization. It is important to plan ahead and make sure that all stakeholders are included in this process.

In this post, we’ll go over the basics of how to facilitate a successful strategic planning meeting, including resources to help you brainstorm, collect and organize feedback and get alignment on action items:

What is strategic planning?

How to facilitate a strategic planning meeting.

  • Strategic planning session checklist

Templates for your next strategic planning workshop

Once the agenda, participants, ideas, and outcomes have been established and documented, it is important to review and follow up on the established goals. This can be done through regular meetings, as well as through tracking progress and to ensure that you're achieving your desired outcomes.

Strategic planning is a process that helps an organization or company to set goals, develop strategies, and allocate resources to achieve those goals. It involves setting objectives, determining actions, and evaluating the progress of those actions. Often, these categories can be broken down into 5 concrete steps:

  • Define your vision
  • Assess where you are
  • Determine your priorities and objectives
  • Define responsibilities
  • Measure and evaluate results

Learn more about each of the above steps in our post on the 5 steps of the strategic planning process .

Strategic planning allows an organization to develop a shared vision for the future and create a roadmap for how to get there. In short, it’s a vital tool for all organizations, whether large or small.

When running a strategic planning meeting, it is important to set an agenda , identify the participants, and ensure that everyone is on the same page about the goals and objectives of the meeting.

Next, run an icebreaker or warmup to get everyone engaged and your ideas flowing — this also helps to ensure that everyone in attendance has a chance to contribute their ideas and perspectives.

Related: Psychological safety: a critical element for imagination work

Once your participants are warmed up and ready to go, it’s time to get into the heart of the meeting. Here again, the goals and objectives determine the best path when facilitating your meeting:

  • Brainstorming : Is it a brainstorming session to help determine project goals and OKRs ? If so, what kind of brainstorming approach best fits your topic? For example, it can be useful to start from a template like a vision board when at the outset of a new project.
  • Understanding : If you’re looking to drive better cross-functional understanding , use a template like a stakeholder map to see where roles and priorities may overlap, and what working relationships need to be established.
  • Evaluating : If you’re in the middle of a project, using a built to help you evaluate your workflows and find ways to improve can ensure that you’re well positioned to deliver on your objectives.
  • Empathizing : Are you trying to better empathize with a customer, or look for weak points in a user journey? Using a template for empathy and discovery can be the best way to frame your discussion.

Finally, it is essential to ensure that the outcomes of the meeting are documented and followed up on. With careful planning and preparation, a strategic planning meeting can be a valuable tool for setting the direction of any organization.

Strategic planning meeting checklist:

1. Set an agenda for the strategic planning meeting ‍

It is important to set an agenda for the strategic planning meeting to ensure that there is a shared understanding of the goals and objectives of the meeting.

2. Make sure participants are on the same page about the goals and objectives of the meeting ‍

Plan to take a few minutes to get alignment with meeting participants at the outset of a meeting to ensure that everyone is aligned and understands the goals and objectives of the meeting.

3. Begin by going over the agenda and including an icebreaker or warmup exercise

Beginning a meeting with an icebreaker helps to ensure that everyone is engaged and ready to contribute their ideas and perspectives.

4. Set expectations and ground rules

It is important to establish meeting ground rules in order to create an environment of respect and psychological safety, where everyone feels comfortable to contribute their ideas and perspectives.

5. Ensure everyone in attendance has a chance to contribute their ideas and perspectives

Make sure to have a diverse set of ideas and voices participating in your meeting in order to ensure that all perspectives and solutions are taken into consideration.

6. Document the outcomes of the meeting and follow up on them

Having a process for documenting meeting outcomes and following up on any action items is essential for ensuring that your strategic planning meeting is impactful.

When conducting pre-work for your next strategic planning meeting, templates can greatly speed the process of building out your frameworks (as well as helpful in ensuring that you’ve got all the bases covered).

Create a strategy blueprint

An image of the Mural strategy blueprint template

The Mural strategy blueprint template is an invaluable tool, crafted to help you brainstorm and analyze six core elements of your strategy. By using this template, you can effectively address your challenges and develop ideas to reach your desired outcome, while exploring your options and trying different alternatives.

It provides a perfect platform to explore multiple solutions, enabling you to pick the one that best suits your needs, while still enabling you to be creative in finding viable solutions. The template offers you an opportunity to think outside the box and develop innovative ideas to tackle your strategy’s most pressing issues. Ultimately, this template allows you to take control of your strategy and create a blueprint for success.

Conduct a SWOT analysis

An image of the Mural SWOT analysis template

When assessing where you stand, a SWOT analysis is a great format to brainstorm with your team.

A SWOT analysis is an important exercise where you can evaluate your current situation and better understand the potential opportunities and threats that may arise. It requires you to carefully analyze the internal and external environment in which your initiative or product exists.

  • When engaging in a SWOT analysis, you must identify your strengths — what are your unique strengths for this particular initiative or product? In what ways are you a leader? Additionally, you must identify any weaknesses — what weaknesses can you identify in your offering? How does your product compare to others in the marketplace?
  • It is also important to identify any opportunities — are there areas for improvement that would help differentiate your business? Finally, you must consider any potential threats — beyond weaknesses, are there existing or potential threats to your initiative that could limit or prevent its success? How can those be anticipated?

By engaging in a thorough and thoughtful SWOT analysis, you can gain valuable insight into the potential success of your initiative or product and be better prepared to respond to any obstacles that may arise.

It’s time for kickoff!

objectives of a strategic planning session

To realize your vision, prioritize and outline specific objectives to achieve your goals. Once you have defined your vision and assessed your current situation, you can begin outlining and ranking your priorities and the objectives associated with them.

Use the Mural project kickoff template to capture everything up front, and give you an easy, shared reference point to return to as you analyze outcomes.

Strategic planning is a process that helps an organization or company to set goals, develop strategies, and allocate resources to achieve those goals. It involves setting objectives, determining actions, and evaluating the progress of those actions.

This post outlines the basics of how to facilitate a successful strategic planning meeting, including resources to help you brainstorm, collect and organize feedback, and get alignment on action items. But

Get started today with a Mural Free Forever account , and use any of our hundreds of (free and editable) templates to make your next strategic planning meeting more engaging and impactful.

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

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Why you need a strategic planning session.

objectives of a strategic planning session

Kick off your business in 2021 on the right foot by starting at the foundation of every successful business: strategy. Strategy is even more important for your business after the year we all had last year, where many of our strategies went off course. Strategic planning refers to creating an opportunity to review and realign your current strategic plan, align your management team behind a single vision, and effectively allocate resources you need to achieve your goals.

When you start each year with a solid and planned approach to your success, it provides you with a roadmap to follow and sets a clear tone and vision for the foreseeable future. I have facilitated hundreds of strategic planning sessions and have outlined below a few of my top reasons why all businesses should invest in this critical planning exercise.

Drives business alignment

Although many business owners feel they are completely united with their senior management, with over 40 years working with business owners and senior management, I can tell you with certainty that this is very often not the case. During a strategic planning session it will give you the perfect opportunity to hear from your team, acknowledge their view points, and foster communication with them. It also allows for creative exchange of ideas that can help resolve any challenges and create effective solutions.

Maintaining and improving business alignment are some of the key reasons why I strongly recommend using an outside facilitator to lead your strategic planning session. An outside facilitator with years of senior business expertise will provide you with an unbiased viewpoint who will keep the discussion balanced between all participating individuals of the session. Additionally, they’ll ensure that each person receives an equal opportunity to contribute to the session while handling complex and sensitive issues with tact and professionalism.

Want additional insight? Read 4 Step Guide to Strategic Planning now to learn more


Creates a unified vision

A strategic planning session creates a unified vision for your business that involves input from every area of your business’ management team. When your senior management team is involved in the creation of the company vision, not only will you gain better buy-in, but it helps foster a more inclusive and collaborative working culture. As a result you will create a single, forward-focused vision that the entire team can rally behind and communicate to their staff so there is a unified vision.

Defines priorities and goals

Part of any productive strategic planning session is the ability to define priorities and measurable goals to help execute the vision. The team will review and effectively allocate what resources will be needed to achieve the goals of the plan. You will regroup with your team to consider the priorities and short-term and long-term goals. To help identify your goals and priorities, I often lead businesses in a strategic session through a SWOT analysis. This allows you to create a proactive plan by identifying strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats from all angles.

Before you conduct a strategic planning session, you’ll need to hire an outside facilitator. Not only can they foster open communication, but they can also challenge you to think in new ways when evaluating all areas of your business, including operations, sales, marketing, etc.

At TAB, we use a strategic management platform called Business Builder’s Blueprint to help business owners increase revenue, profit and the value of their business. To learn more, visit our website , or contact me to discuss how we can guide you toward success.

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Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by Phil Spensieri

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Strategic planning for business growth, the purpose of strategic planning.

Strategic planning is a systematic process that helps you set an ambition for your business' future and determine how best to achieve it. Its primary purpose is to connect three key areas:

  • your mission - defining your business' purpose
  • your vision - describing what you want to achieve
  • your plan - outlining how you want to achieve your ultimate goals

Strategic planning is different to business planning. It requires stepping back from your day-to-day operations and articulating where your business is heading, by setting long-term goals, objectives and priorities for the future.

Importance of strategic planning

Strategic planning is necessary to determine the direction of your organisation. It focuses your efforts and ensures that everyone in the business is working towards a common goal. It also helps you:

  • agree actions that will contribute to business growth
  • align resources for optimal results
  • prioritise financial needs
  • build competitive advantage
  • engage with your staff and communicate what needs to be done

Another key purpose of strategic planning is to help you manage and reduce business risks. Growing a business is inherently risky. Detailed planning may help you to:

  • remove uncertainty
  • analyse potential risks
  • implement risk control measures
  • consider how to minimise the impact of risks, should they occur

Read more about risk management .

What is a strategic plan?

Effective planning usually results in a written strategic plan. This is a formalised document that describes your business goals, and the actions needed to achieve them.

You can use a variety of models and approaches in strategic planning. Many businesses include a SWOT analysis or a PESTLE analysis as key elements of their strategic plan.

Other common elements are:

  • vision and mission statements
  • core values
  • clearly defined goals and objectives
  • action plans

You may also want to include an implementation schedule, key performance indicators (KPIs) and other accountability measures. Learn more about the key elements of strategic planning .

Difference between a strategic plan and a business plan

Both strategic and business plan documents are essential planning tools for your business. However, depending on the business stage and goals, one may be more useful than the other.

Strategic plan

A strategic plan is for a 3-5 year period and sets out the tasks, the milestones and the steps needed to drive your business forward. Find out how to develop a strategic plan .

Business plan

A business plan focuses on a shorter term, usually no more than a year, and serves a specific goal - eg starting a business, getting funding, or directing operations. See how to prepare a business plan for growth .

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The Three Goals of a Successful Strategic Meeting

Many high-tech firms experience an interesting phenomenon: Executives go to meetings to make a point. They don’t come together to explore a subject so much as to try to gratify their egos. People often end up spouting off rather than exchanging ideas.

But crafting a market expansion plan, a rebranding effort, or any other major strategic plan requires more than spouting off about what one already knows. Building a really strong strategy means defining a common, clear vision of how things are, then creating alternative scenarios of how things could be so that an effective plan of defensive moves and offensive pushes can be developed.

In short, a major strategy session must have three overriding goals: enlightenment, truth, and creation.

Enlightenment Development of a clear understanding through logic or inspiration is the key to enlightenment. In a business context, enlightenment has to be about setting aside the ego and getting clear about facts and figures.

When the ego is at play in business, people often think in a closed manner. This may involve putting others down, demonstrating how clever one is, or simply not letting others participate in the conversation. If you feel yourself holding forth on a topic and notice people’s eyes glazing over, maybe you’re guilty of at least one of these counts. So make sure group discussions really involve the team, not just the “genius” of one individual.

Because enlightenment means getting people to see the facts, meeting participants need to withhold judgment and look closely at all aspects of the situation. This is particularly difficult in a business setting; we’re trained to solve problems in a limited amount of time. It’s all too easy to skip assessment and jump ahead to the solution. But if you do, you’ll inevitably miss key facts.

Truth A commitment to honesty and clarity helps you see what is true. This experience plays an important role in most personal relationships, but it is also a key component in companies. Companies that can get a clear picture of the ultimate truth can create a great deal of alignment.

And to be clear, truth is more than just facts and figures. It is also our feelings and hunches, our options, our risk assessments, our values and desires. It is, in essence, the fullest range of “what is.”

Most leadership teams don’t allow for our impressions without the need for justifications. And we often don’t look directly at risks, dangers, and difficulties. To seek truth is to make sure you are looking at and making visible many things, again without judgment.

Creation In this context, “creation” is the sense of having produced something new and original and, in so doing, to have made a lasting contribution. This often comes out in creative thinking that goes beyond “what is” to “what can be.”

In business, we build new options using a design process. Some people start this part of a meeting or workshop by saying that “all ideas are good ideas.” Yet we seldom manage to this concept. When we tie our self-definition to our ability to assess or perform critical thinking, we often close our eyes to new ideas. An example is the person involved in a team brainstorming session who says, “Yes, but…” to whatever others put on the table. It happens when the focus is on the 15% of an idea that might not work, not on the 85% of the idea that is excellent.

Creation is about building on that 85%, turning it around to keep improving it. Most people can’t see the intrinsic benefit in a new or unusual idea: Instead they focus on how it doesn’t fit. To counter this tendency, look for good ideas in virtually anything around you: someone talking in the supermarket line, a book you see on Amazon.com, even a cartoon or a street sign. Strategy creation develops best when your mind opens up to use all the raw material around it, not just what has been done before. Find the value and benefit that are not obvious. That’s a rare skill and well worth building.

The funny thing about major strategy sessions is this: The answers are never obvious. If they were, you wouldn’t have a problem. So when it comes to crafting something big like a defense strategy or a three-year plan, it’s important to leave our natural tendencies (egos, confusion, critical thinking) at the door. Brilliant ideas can’t get started until someone shares and others listen, until the truth of a situation is fully visible without judgment, and until we nurture an idea from conception into a significant contribution.

Nilofer Merchant is CEO of Rubicon Consulting, a strategic marketing firm based in Los Gatos, CA.

Also by Nilofer Merchant:

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Sample strategic planning agenda 2023 strategic planning process UPDATED

By Anthony Taylor - March 29, 2023

objectives of a strategic planning session

Strategic planning Agenda for your next strategy meeting.

We've been leading strategic planning meetings for the past 12 years (and counting), and we've tested dozens of different strategic planning agendas so that you don't have to. Use our experience to have the best and most effective strategic planning process. 

Need a strategic planning facilitator so you can participate in an unbiased strategic planning process? Contact us today or learn more about your facilitation options:

Free resources to support your strategic planning. 

Download these tools to complement your strategic planning agenda. 

  • Strategic planning template
  • Alignment Scorecard: Measure your team's alignment
  • 15 questions to ask your team before strategic planning . 

What is a good strategic planning process?

  • Tips to prepare for a strategic planning meeting
  • Recommended Pre-Work Agenda & Timeline
  • One Day strategic planning meeting agenda
  • Two Day strategic planning meeting agenda
  • Three day strategic planning meeting agenda

Virtual strategic planning meeting agenda

A good strategic planning process will help your team get clear and aligned on a few key areas:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where are we going?
  • What's going to get in the way?
  • How are we going to implement the plan/what do we need to do? 

If you're leading a strategic planning process with a team, getting alignment is critical. 

If you don't have a good process, you'll likely go on many tangents, "get stuck in the weeds" of the details, and not end up with a clear direction. 

A good strategic planning process needs a balance of outcomes and actions to help you reach your vision, or One Destination. 

With too many actions, you'll be busy working on a lot of tasks but might not be working in the right direction or towards shared outcomes. 

Without any actions, it means that your team will get stuck on determining "what's next" and your plan will take a much longer time to implement, or worse, not get implemented at all.

How to have a successful strategic planning meeting

After having led hundreds of strategy meetings both online and virtually (and all over the world) here are some things to consider prior to developing your agenda to ensure you have a good strategy meeting/offsite and overall strategic planning process:

Leverage Pre-work so the time you spend in the strategy meeting are used optimally. Don't present documents or research that could have been done in advance. Use the time to have discussions, and make important choices.

Have high-quality food and snacks, including breakfast with protein. Strategic planning is an incredibly taxing process for the brain and requires lots of calories. You don't want your group hitting a mid-afternoon lull when the most important work of the day is still underway. Have a good breakfast, good snacks, and high-quality meals. Avoid carb-heavy meals so people don't have a sugar crash, and save any alcohol for the end of the day after your planning session is complete. 

Go offsite if possible: When we've done sessions at people's offices, they get interrupted with day-to-day issues and takes away their ability to get outside of the day-to-day. I've also found that people are slightly more reserved because they don't want staff to know what's going on until the whole strategic planning process is complete. You'll find that while there is an additional cost to going offsite, you'll get better engagement from participants of the strategy meeting. 

Use a facilitator: If you don't have a facilitator, you are the facilitator. This means that if you're the CEO or head of HR, you're going to have a really hard time balancing the hat of facilitator, and your own role. You won't be able to participate fully if you're facilitating. Furthermore, your participants will have a harder time being honest and transparent with a facilitator who already has a bias one way or the other. 

Think strategically: People love get to get into the how/actions before fully clarifying the what and why (Mission/Vision). The result is that you'll get into rabbit holes, you'll digress, and people will get frustrated. Focus on your highest-level strategic outcomes and work your way to the actions, not the other way around. 

Wear the group hat: Strategic planning meetings get easily derailed when individual participants focus on their own needs/desires ahead of those of the group. Ask everyone to come to the meeting "wearing their organization hat" not their individual role hat. It's not a problem they advocate for their own role, but it's a group session first and foremost. 

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Recommended pre-work agenda & timeline: .

Pre-work serves two purposes: one, to make sure that your people are prepared for the upcoming strategic planning sessions so that you can make the most of your time, and two, to help align and engage participants (and stakeholders) early on in the planning process. 

One day strategic planning meeting agenda

This one-day planning agenda is great for a small company or non-profit that needs a refresher on the organization's direction.

If you want to make the most of your limited time for strategic planning, learn more about using a strategic planning facilitator for your session. 

Before sharing the agenda, we want to note that we no longer facilitate or offer to facilitate one-day strategic planning meetings. 

Most notably, because as an external team we could not accomplish full alignment or create a complete enough strategic plan with only a one-day agenda. 

If you are leading this process internally, and you’ve been able to successfully pull stakeholders into the process prior to this one-day meeting.

And/or you will have subsequent strategy meetings at a later date to complete the strategic planning process fully. This one-day meeting is the first of many strategic planning sessions, then please use the agenda below. 

If your only option is to have a one day strategy meeting, it’s better than no meeting.

We would not advise any of our clients to only have a one-day strategic planning meeting and expect to have full clarity or alignment with your current state, vision, mission, values, priorities, goals and actions within an 8-hour day. It’s jut not realistic.

That said, If all the pre-work was done we’d focus on the core conversations needed for alignment. 

“To maximize your time, make sure to get your team involved prior to your one-day strategy meeting. Our free strategic planning questionnaire offers the key questions to help start you r strategic planning process ”

  • Vision: Where are we going? Watch : How to Start the Vision Planning Process
  • Mission/purpose: Why do we exist? Who is the customer we serve?
  • Strategic Priorities: What do we need to focus on to achieve our Vision? Watch : How to Set Strategic Priorities
  • Action planning for the strategic priorities

A few things to note:

This one-day planning session is possible if you have a small team of six or less people. If you have more people, then you will likely need more time to work through the complete process. 

The survey is a survey we run with our clients to help them get in the right mindset, and ask the key questions before the session happens to cut down on some of the discussion.

Strategic priorities, KPI's and the biggest priority all roll in together, but are separated because it leaves fluidity for ample conversation and adapting the  agenda.

Two -Day Strategic Planning Session (Most common + Recommended) 

We recommend two full days for most organizations.

The reason we don't believe an organization of the above size should use a shorter agenda for their strategy meeting is that there are too many essential conversations that need to be had.

At that size, your organization needs to be fully aligned from top down and bottom up, and should consider more fully the internal and external environment, current challenges and risks, and align the plan to your long-term vision, mission and values.

That alignment takes time, but it's needed because it will serve as a guide for the other members of the team that aren't participating in the strategic planning session. 

Here's a graphic representation of the strategic planning agenda. 

Sample strategic planning agenda 2023 UPDATE strategic planning process

DAY 1: 9:00 am-5:30 pm


Day 2: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Enroll in our strategic planning course

Three-day strategic planning meeting agenda

If you have 3 days for strategic planning, we still use the two-day agenda as the foundation, but we add a couple of key conversations that vary depending on the organization.

That said, the 3rd day is always focused on execution. 

We typically break up the day into 90-minute alignment areas for problem-solving and alignment. 

We also use the time to dig deeper into action plans.

For example:

After going through the strategic planning process over 3 days, your team should be aligned and clear on the most important parts of your strategic plan. 

As you implement your plan, there will certainly be issues that arise where you need to discuss again and re-align. 

In addition to facilitating strategic planning sessions, we also support strategic plan implementation through coaching, accountability and training. 

Learn more about our how our strategic planning consultants can help you with the implementation of your strategic plan.

While the first phase of in-person offsite facilitation is usually completed in two 8-hr working days, we recommend splitting this up online to optimize engagement and to reduce screen fatigue. We recommend holding 5 x 3hr sessions, roughly one week apart. This allows enough time to take a deep dive into the work each session, with space for creative thinking, reflection and any homework between each session. 

For example:  

  • While we recommend holding virtual sessions one week apart to allow for information digestion and homework time, you may wish to hold the sessions closer together or further apart, depending on your organizational needs
  • While we recommend 3-hour sessions because it’s long enough to dive into the deep work, and short enough to hold attention spans, you may wish to have shorter or longer sessions, depending on scheduling needs for your team (ex: 6x 2.5hr sessions, or 4x 4hr sessions)

Tools & Resources to Enhance Participation & Engagement 

In addition to our agenda, we utilize several tools and resources to help enhance participation and engagement within virtual strategy meetings. 

While there are abundant options to consider, some of our favourites include:

  • Zoom – This is a great platform to host strategy meetings as it allows the facilitator to see multiple participants at once in a grid view, to share their screen, utilize breakout rooms for small group discussions, to incorporate polling, text chat, and other functionalities
  • Liberating Structures – These are techniques and activities to help boost engagement and inclusion within group meetings and are considered a best practice within adult learning
  • Mentimeter – This platform allows meeting hosts to poll participants, generate group word clouds, and obtain real-time data from multiple participants at once
  • PPT Presentations – It’s a good practice for the strategy facilitator to have a PPT slide deck to help guide the discussions and to provide visual feedback to participants via screen sharing. This will allow participants to both see and hear any key instructions for activities throughout the session. 

Post-work Once you’ve completed your strategic planning process, the planning work is not over. It’s important to make sure that prior implementation that you’ve:

  • Solidified your priorities and defined SMART goals  
  • Documented your plan in a digestible way (ex:. a PPT presentation or PDF)
  • Developed a communication plan to share and cascade your strategy throughout your organization 
  • Booked a time with your strategy leadership team to create your implementation plan 
  • Set up a system to track and monitor your progress

If you want to learn to how to facilitate a strategic planning session, you can check out our strategic planning course where we'll walk you through each step of this agenda to help you achieve alignment with your team. 

If you read this article and you don't want to lead the process yourself, you might want to check out how our strategic planning services can help you get  alignment and clarity with your team. 

Bonus: you get to participate instead of leading the process. Learn more about the eight main benefits of using a strategic planning facilitator for your strategy meeting. 

Want to participate in the meeting instead of having to lead it yourself?

Use a facilitator to keep the meeting focused, on track, and get your team aligned. 

Learn more

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