Understanding Strategy in the Business World
Before talking about strategy meetings and how to run them efficiently, first we have to make sure we truly understand the meaning of strategy. Many people think they know what a strategy is but in fact, they don’t.
A key concept in defining strategy is choosing the right direction for your investment and finding ways to compete and eventually win. Strategy is a series of integrated actions, aimed at pursuing a competitive action. Strategy is about choosing what you might consider as the right way to apply your company’s resources and serve a particular target market.
The concept of strategy is often used incorrectly. Let’s clear things up!
- A strategy is not a financial target. Financial results are simply outcomes of chosen actions to execute on a strategy.
- Business growth is not a strategy. A firm’s strategy is not a general statement, saying that, for instance, a company’s profits are expected to grow 20 percent this year.
- Don’t confuse strategy with budget. A strategy is defining and prioritizing resources to carry out a plan. Whereas budget is a detailed listing and amount of planned expenditures and revenues.
- Strategy is not a single event. It’s an ongoing process, demanding constant evaluation and refinement, based on lessons learned.
- Strategy is not a “to-do” list. Yes, the results of any strategy are directly related to a series of actions, however listing operational improvements and tasks is not formulating a strategy. A strategy, for instance, is a series of coordinated actions focusing on serving customers and developing strengths.
What is a Strategy Meeting?
A strategy meeting, or a strategy session, is a gathering of managers, employees and project-involved parties in order to come up with an action plan. The planning process usually involves a list of activities with timeframes and resources.
A strategy meeting is usually where a company’s vision is born and best practices are followed. It’s also a meeting where people make decisions on how to win by considering each step of the strategy framework.
Strategy meetings are focused on executing and improving upon the already-existing business strategy of a company. However, often these meetings are more concerned with budgets, tasks or project plans while ignoring core strategy discussions.
To have a brilliant strategy and execute it perfectly, you have to have effective strategic meetings. Once there’s been a leadership meeting and an execution-ready strategy has been formulated, it’s time to set up systems and regular meetings to ensure there’s a consistent and effective communication, as well as strategy amendments if needed. If there’s poor execution, a strategy simply won’t work. That’s why, teams should constantly evaluate progress and amend strategy based on results.
Why are Strategy Meetings Important?
Strategy meetings are important because:
- They help a business or organization for the future. Discussing or amending a business strategy during a meeting helps team members focus on the big picture and teaches them how to develop a forward-looking thinking. It gives them a clear idea of final objectives instead of just short-term goals and day-to-day responsibilities.
- A strategy meeting helps workers understand how their efforts, product or organization as a whole distinguish from others. It provides an insight into unique assets and features and how to use them in a meaningful way.
- Strategy meetings provide guidance, stability and enhance members’ confidence. This is especially valid in the current turbulent economic and business environment. When everyone in an organization contributes to the strategy decision-making process or is given specific instructions, it gives them stability and much-needed guidance.
- A strategic meeting is where a frame of reference is built. Circumstances will inevitably change, however a strategy framework is a way for an organization to have a point of reference. Strategic meetings are also where changes are discussed and decided upon. This way, everyone will be up to date.
- Strategic meetings provide internal and external alignment. Strategic meetings present an opportunity for an overview of the most important internal and external factors that should be considered. This way, an organization is aligned and in full awareness of the factors (both internal and external) that might affect the outcome of the strategy.
- Strategic meetings are where action plans are formulated. Strategy is, after all, about providing direction. That’s why it’s so important to have a strategy meeting where direction, coordinated actions and productive actions are being decided upon.
How to Run a Strategy Meeting
You’ve probably attended at least one strategy meeting and fell asleep halfway through. The reason why so many strategy meetings fail is because meetings about strategy are often about anything but strategy. Let’s find out how to run a successful and most importantly, a productive strategy meeting.
- Prepare an Agenda and Base it on Your Strategy
Meetings of all kinds – business meetings, team meetings, leadership meetings, etc. should have an agenda in order to be conducted effectively. When you’re preparing for the next strategy meeting, craft the agenda based on your strategy map and strategic activities. Cover critical issues and acknowledge progress. Stay focused on strategy and don’t let the meeting turn into a discussion on operational concerns.
- Send the Agenda Beforehand
Make sure you carefully plan your strategy meeting, especially if it’s a global meeting with remote workers, managers or other involved parties who are on the go. Once you set a specific date and time, make sure you send a meeting outline (or the agenda) in advance. This way, people will come to the meeting prepared. You won’t get unrelated questions and all decisions will be fact-based on the data and outline you’ve prepared.
- Document every decision
Have a designated person for taking notes or meeting minutes. This way, you will know who was accountable for what and when was the action item supposed to be completed. If you feel like the meeting is going in an unwanted direction, record the issue and schedule a separate meeting where it can be discussed more thoroughly.
You can even utilize a meeting management tool, like Mombit that has a built-in meeting minutes function for your convenience.
- Close Out Action Items Before the Next Meeting
Make sure you monitor follow-ups and close out on action items so that you don’t have the same issues covered meeting after meeting. Keep track of what’s been decided upon in the meeting and make sure everyone is on the same page with it. This way, before the next meeting, this particular action item will be completed.
These are four general principles that will definitely help you with your next strategy meeting. However, if you want to perfect it and get the most out of it, check out the following useful tips as well:
- Ask two very critical questions during your next strategy meeting: ‘What is working well?’ and ‘What could be working even better?’ Before moving forward, leaders have to encourage the strategy meeting attendees to engage in a conversation about balance. No issue or challenge should be swept under the rug. No such thing as “it’s all going excellent with no problems” exists. There is always something to share and something to improve.
- Involve everyone. Strategy is not about what you, the leader or manager, think should be done. Don’t be too inclusive. Encourage the entire team to participate in a strategy meeting. Ask them to come up with ideas, give opinions and honest evaluations of what’s currently happening. Being open to feedback from valued team members is a great way to grow your business. Giving feedback is just as important as receiving it.
- Don’t get emotional and prepare yourself for criticism. Your strategy, your team, even your whole project may receive criticism, especially from executives. That’s why you should come to a strategy meeting with a thick skin.
Successful companies use the so-called “rip-the-band-aid-off” method. Everyone hears criticism and bad news at the beginning of the meeting. Then, people start brainstorming and coming up with ways to improve the situation. Team members will feel closer and everyone will walk out of that meeting with their head held high.
- Have your entire team review the current strategy in advance. Make sure everyone knows and is aware of tactics that support the current strategy. What really worked and what didn’t? Use both qualitative and quantitative measures. Is the current strategy affecting profits in a positive or negative way? Is the current strategy getting more clients? Should the current strategy be kept or modified? Usually, every strategy meeting ends up with a modification of the current strategy or coming up with a brand new one.
- Your agenda should be focused on solving problems. In addition to preparing a time-bound agenda, you should make sure the agenda items reflect on solving impactful business problems. Effective strategy sessions are not about building a to-do list or sharing dreams about the future. They are about solving problems and finding great new business opportunities. You do have a room full of smart and intelligent industry professionals, after all.
What to Avoid in A Strategy Meeting?
- Poor leadership. The success of any of your meetings depends on your leadership skills and your ability to engage your team in a meaningful discussion that will produce results.
- No data or data of poor quality. Make sure you have sufficient data before entering the meeting room. Push departments to provide it before the meeting so that you can refer to the numbers or any other essential information during the discussions.
- Inviting the wrong people. Who you invite in a strategy meeting is very important. They should know and understand the organization, the project and the current strategy inside and outside.
- No follow-up. It’s critical to follow through on action items.
- Lack of fruitful discussions. A strategy meeting is not about showing up to the room and waiting in silence for it to be over. There should be targeted discussions around problematic areas and brainstorming sessions on how to solve them.
A strategy meeting is the backbone of your product or service and you should not take it lightly. Regularly-scheduled, productive and engaging strategy review sessions can be quite impactful and the main reason why your business succeeded (or failed).
It’s critical to schedule them regularly, invite the right people in the room and prepare accordingly. Remember, coming up with an amazing strategy that actually works for your business is a lengthy process. It combines research, exploration and tons of discussions. With the above-mentioned guidelines, however, you will definitely be ready to execute your next strategy meeting effectively which will lead you straight to a desired strategic outcome.