Almost every retreat winds up with action planning. In fact action planning is typically interwoven throughout the retreat. There are two basic approaches that Meeting Facilitators International uses for action planning. The first is a one step approach based on what we call offers and requests. The second is a two step approach that includes a barriers identification or gap analysis. A brief explanation of each follows:
One step Approach
Lets assume that we are wrapping up a two day strategic planning off-site meeting. Many things may have happened up to this point including environmental scans, SWOT analyses, Visioning, Competitive analysis, Strategic Issues discussion, Win Loss Analysis, etc. But now we want to make sure that we leave with action plans for all of the things that need to be done.
We believe that an action plan should describe who does what by when. Although the team will have set priorities as a group, we do not believe that the team should tell people how to do things. Instead we believe in having people make offers of what they will do. These offers are recorded by the facilitator including who is making the offer, and when it will be done by. We work closely with person making the offer to make sure that it is “checkable”. (What we mean by this is that if the offer was recorded in a calendar or diary to be done by a particular date, then anyone knowledgeable of the situation would be in a position on that date to either “check it off” as done, or not. “Strengthen the new product development process”, is not particularly checkable. “Develop a job description for and hire a new development manager by June 2008”, is. So is, “Implement a new procedure for exploring and priority ranking development projects by July 2009.”
Requests typically come into play when we are not going to achieve all of our objectives with the offers that have been made and someone needs something from someone else before they will make another offer. If the request is accepted it is recorded just like any other action item. Before leaving the action planning step the team needs to be confident that by carrying out the action plan you will achieve your goals, if they are not then either the goals or the plan will have to change.
Two step Approach
The two step approach begins by brainstorming a list of barriers that are going to get in the way of achieving your goals. This is a good approach when the goals have been established elsewhere. Once the group has brainstormed the list of barriers we use a priority ranking exercise to identify the most significant barriers. Starting with the top ranked barrier we then develop an action plan (using offers and requests) to overcome the barriers. At the end of this step the group needs to be confident that by taking the actions the barriers will be overcome and your goals will be achieved. If they are not confident then the goals and the action plans will both have to be re-examined.
For more details on this and our entire approach to strategic planning why not contact us?