Yes, I was one of those kids. Actually, I don’t think I’ve graduated from the sarcastic approach to live in the least. I was one of those that would do something similar to the picture on the left. Why do they make things so complicated? I remember getting in trouble in my pre-algebra class for asking what I thought was a pretty obvious question at the time, “And when did we start using the alphabet instead of numbers?” I went on to Calculus III and did fine, but still never got over why in the world everything had to be so complicated. Have you ever found yourself sitting in a meeting or a “strategic planning session” asking yourself the same question?
One of the primary reasons Apple dominates the IT world is for its simplicity. Recently, my wife needed to upgrade her phone and after having a Droid, she wanted to go back to the Iphone. Why? For its simplicity. Far too many businesses try to make things all so difficult when in reality, the common consumer (and employee for that matter) wants things simple. No complex thinking, no 50 point flow chart, no two hour meeting that only accomplishes raising the blood pressure in the room. Enter, KISS.
So, simplistic strategy… what does it mean you might ask. Well, of course you would ask that because, already, you are trying to make it more complicated than it is. In this equation, X stands for the destination. What are you trying to accomplish and create a line to that point, remembering that a line is defined as the shortest distance between two points. Here are some thoughts:
- Keep Meeting Attendance Limited: I know transparency is important, but unfortunately, when you add more people to a meeting, you add more opinions. More opinions usually find themselves tied to more egos which in turn, adds the number of minutes you find yourself in a strategic-less strategy session. Think of who absolutely needs to be in the room and on the call. Who will bring the most “bang” or ideas to the strategic planning? Invite those people, keep the others out.
- Time your meeting: Have a designated time limit and stick to it. Sometimes the best ideas come out of deadlines, use this to your advantage. Additionally, a time limit helps keep people on task.
- Have strategic session OUTSIDE the office: Have you ever needed a break and walked around the building or run an errand? How did you feel when you got back? Exactly! Do the same for your team. Do it away from the office, even if you have it at a Starbucks in a very informal format. Having the freedom to relax and plan provides ideas and approaches to problematic situations exponentially quicker.
- Send an agenda out ahead of time: One caveat to this one, don’t make it a four page agenda. Have on one page the items needing to be discussed. Sending out the agenda ahead of time allows everyone to have the evening or the day to think about ideas, even allow them to begin collaborating with their colleagues on solutions or ideas. Furthermore, it will help you keep to the time limit suggestion above.
- Don’t be afraid to call it off and reschedule: The worst thing you can do sometimes is keep on strategically planning when there is not a strategy to be had. If you find yourself hitting a wall or the group cannot agree or come up with a solution, break the meeting, reschedule it. Sitting there arguing for forty more minutes to say that you had a meeting is an utter waste of time and energy.
I am not sure why strategic sessions have become so planned and lacking productivity. Actually, I think that the business world has determined “having meetings” is a form of productivity, but that is not always the case. Break the mold. Keep inline with a simple strategy. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it!
Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help organizations incorporate best practices into their business to help them succeed. In his free time, he also writes a lot on his other blog, Christian Men, Christian Warrior.