Tips to Help You Prepare to Facilitate a One-Day Quarterly Planning Session

By Alan Gehringer

Quarterly planning tips

Who is facilitating your next One-Day Quarterly Planning Session?Quarterly planning tips

Whether you are doing it yourself, bringing in an outside facilitator, here are some tips to help you.

Every quarter is like a 13-week race that contributes to your Annual Plan priorities and Long-term 3-5 year strategic plan goals. It is important to take the time to prepare a sound plan that your team is aligned with and bought into. To ensure a good planning session, you need to do some preparation.

Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind as you prepare to facilitate the planning session.

  • Schedule the strategic planning session far enough in advance so everyone is available to attend.
  • Develop an agenda and set clear expectations for your session.
  • Schedule a good venue for the session that promotes participation without interruptions, off-site is best if possible.
  • Plan to have beverages, snacks, and lunch brought in so you do not lose time with your team during breaks. 
  • Make sure you have the room set up with flip charts, markers, tape, projector, screen, power strip, cord, pens, paper, and sticky notes.

Once you have your date and logistics worked out, you can prepare for the strategic planning session

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Three things make up a winning plan:

  1. A Main Thing or Theme for the quarter to focus the company's energy on
  2. 3-5 Company Priorities with red, yellow, green success criteria
  3. 3-5 Individual Priorities for each person with red, yellow, green success criteria

A typical agenda for a one-day session looks like this: 

Previous Quarter Review and Prep

  1. Check In & Good News
  2. Review Ending Quarter
  3. Review Prep Work
  4. Perform mini SWOT
  5. Review Annual Plan

Development of a Quarterly Execution Plan

  1. Define Main Thing & Critical Numbers
  2. Develop Company Top 3-5 Priorities
  3. Develop Individual Top 3-5 Priorities
  4. QA the Plan
  5. Strategy to Cascade the plan to other departments
  6. Communication Plan for the organization

You normally finish the first half of the agenda by lunch and complete the second half by the end of the day. The CEO should kick of the session by saying a few words, setting a positive tone and direction for the day. It is helpful to have a facilitator run the session for you so that everyone can participate and to keep the session moving along. A facilitator can also mediate when needed and add an outside perspective. If this is not possible, I recommend assigning someone to be a scribe and someone as a timekeeper or "sergeant at arms" to keep the meeting on track and moving along. The CEO can run the meeting, but this is not necessary and in many cases, the group will be more open if someone else on the team leads the session. You may find that you have someone on your team that is particularly good at running meetings, and this person is a good choice.  

Here are a few additional tips once you get going:

  • Keep the conversation at the right level and try not to go down too many rabbit holes or off on other tangents.  
  • This is not the time to be discussing daily operational issues.  
  • Encourage everyone to participate. 
  • Do not allow one person to dominate the session. 
  • Allow time for groupthink as well as individual think throughout the day.  
  • Be real and willing to discuss debate and agree during the session so that everyone is heard and bought in when the group makes a decision.  
  • Better to put items in a parking lot or kill them during the session than to get half way through the quarter and realize they were the wrong priorities to be working on. 
  • When you kill an idea, make sure you do not kill the person!  
  • Remember, positions in the company do not matter; it is the insights and contributions the individuals make that matter.  That said, the CEO does have the final say. 
  • It may be helpful to include someone from the outside in your session.  It could be a customer, vendor, advisor or strategic partner. You don't want to plan in a vaccum.
  • As you develop your flip charts, tape then up around the room to allow the team to reference them throughout the session.
  • Use your phone or iPad to take pictures if using a white board to capture the data for later reference.

Just because you got together for the day does not mean you have all the answers or data at your disposal. Commit to getting it right, not just done. You may find some areas of the plan that need more work, or that you need more information. Make plans to get it. Just make sure you do it promptly so you can roll out your plan on time and begin executing. Make sure you take the time to put success criteria on the priorities so that everyone can agree together on what success at the end of the quarter will look like.  

 Close your session with one word or a phrase from each person on how they feel about the day.

 Good luck with your next session and please let us know if we can offer any support.  Alan

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Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images
Editor's Note: This blog was originally published on August 19, 2013, and has been updated.

Alan Gehringer


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images