No, it’s not an oxymoron: strategy meetings can be both productive and even enjoyable.
Pick a theme
It may be the same old annual strategy discussion — but there should be a topic that’s a special focus. Maybe you are trying to push self-service, or implement an escalation management process, or change the career development approach for the team. Make that the theme.
Structure the agenda
Holding a long, unstructured session is a sure recipe for amorphous thinking and vague next steps. Be flexible with timing, but start with a structured agenda. Insert ample breaks and “wrap-up” sessions to make it possible to adapt to the team’s needs.
Invite a speaker
Working on the escalation process? Someone from the sales team may be just the right person to talk about what it feels like in the field. You could ask a customer to present their challenges. And you could invite an industry expert (yours truly would be happy to attend; email me if interested)
Putting everyone in a room and telling them to strategize may not produce the best thinking. Assign specific research topics and give the participants an opportunity to think and poll their teams ahead of time.
Gather the right people
I’ve attended a lot of strategy meetings that got stuck because the right people were not in attendance (and quite a few where there were too many people present, but that’s another story). Anticipate topics that will require subject-matter experts and make sure that they are available.
Use breakouts judiciously
If you are strategizing with a small team, it’s great to conduct every discussion with the entire group. But if you are bringing dozens of managers together, schedule breakout sessions on various topics. Ask each breakout team to report back to the larger group on what they are proposing: it’s a wonderful way to focus the discussions towards a tangible goal.
Have some fun
Team building is important. It does not have to be a stilted dinner, or a boozy dinner, or a super-competitive activity beloved by the highest-paid person in the room. Consider a cooking class, a short volunteering activity, or an easy hike — something that will get the team interacting with minimal pressure.
Any ideas you want to share on productive strategy meetings?