Why and How of Successful Team Planning Sessions

An annual team planning session is a great management tool that can help you understand what each of your section managers is planning for the next fiscal year, and how it affects resources, budget and strategy. The challenge lies in how we conduct this meeting without letting day to day operations impede the process. As long as the manager is available (present in the building) isn’t she or he open to questions by the team? Well, yes. Then how does one carve out time to strategize for the future?

The solution is the off-site planning session.

An off-site session enables managers to collaborate and strategize while minimizing and controlling operational interruptions. Here are the key steps for an effective off-site strategy meeting:

1.    Identify Major Initiatives – Each manager should meet with their team to identify the initiatives his/her team will need to undergo in the next fiscal year to meet their respective business unit objectives.
2.    Information to Off-Site Coordinator – Once all the initiatives are identified and quantified, the project information is given to the off-site coordinator who will put it into an agreed format (Powerpoint is a good tool for this task)
3.    Quantification Process – All initiatives are packaged for delivery. Included in the quantification process are all budget costs, necessary resources, and expected and required delivery dates.

The Meeting
1.    Location – Ensure that the strategy session is in a comfortable location with all conveniences readily available (including refreshments and facilities).
2.    Presentations – Upon completion of the opening remarks, each manager will make their respective presentations to the entire management team. As each presentation is delivered, the managers will begin to understand their roles in other manager’s plans and how many resources will be required for other projects.
3.    Exercise - An outdoor scenic walk around the conference facility is a great way to get discussions started and breakup what can be a long arduous process. Physical exercise increases blood flow, improves attention span and unleashes creativity.

1.    Risks will begin to emerge as far as resource management is concerned, and this opens the dialogue between managers about resource allocation, and project dependencies. Some projects will not move forward as a result of the risk analysis and resource availability or schedule conflicts, which is the result we are looking for.
2.    Build a Schedule - It’s a good idea to have someone at the meeting that has a solid working knowledge of a scheduling software so that they can quickly build a schedule that includes the prospective schedules, risks, costs and resource expectations. This plan can be distributed after the meeting to everyone as a draft delivery plan.
3.    Deliver Plan to the PMO – At the end of the session, deliver the agreed to plan to the PMO or Steering Committee who will approve the initiatives, budget and delivery schedule that the team can use as a benchmark as the year progresses.

The strategy process requires dedicated time and energy to be successful. The off-site session has proven effective in helping teams overcome the challenge of multiple interruptions. While the managers are still available via smartphone, the triage of any critical issues can be decided by the manager remotely.

Good luck with your meeting and enjoy the strategy building. If you’d like to learn more about strategy and planning, contact Heather Cartwright or Scott Savage at Logixsource.

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