A Strategic Planning Facilitator and a Consultant will have differences in skill set, relevant experience and expected results.
Strategic Planning Consultants…
are hired by consulting firms for their academic credentials, analytic skills, reporting writing skills and ability to persuade. Once hired they are trained in their firm’s strategic planning model or process. When the consulting firm gets hired by a client the client is expecting to interact with experts who will undertake a thorough analysis and create a well written report with clear recommendations.
The consultant is expected to have considerable experience in the client’s field of business, as well as experience with the strategic planning model being used. Their work will consist primarily of data analysis, interviewing, research and group workshops. The best consultants are of course very much in demand. The consulting engagement typically ends with a presentation of the consultant’s report and recommendations.
Strategic Planning Facilitators…
are hired by clients not to make recommendations, but to help with the strategic planning process. In the facilitator model it is the client who creates the plan. When the facilitator is hired by a client the client is expecting a well managed process that will create a plan that the group is excited about and is deeply committed to.
The skilled facilitator’s talent shows up in their ability to manage Strategic Planning Retreats. They use their skill to keep the group on time and on task. Their neutrality and objectivity helps get issues on the table and ensure that they are resolved to the satisfaction of the group, without the group getting bogged down. In communications they are constantly seeking to add clarity and to gauge support. They will question and challenge the group to help focus the group’s thinking. The best ones are able to take your strategy process and recommend ways to make it work better, or to recommend a process suitable for your industry.
Facilitators don’t need great depth of experience in your industry but they better have great breadth of experience in dealing with senior management teams and boards of directors. Their engagements also typically end with a report, this one documenting what your team has accomplished.
Is it that black and white?
Of course not, there will always be some overlap, but most firms will have a primary bent. Here at Meeting Facilitators International we are clearly Strategic Planning Facilitators.