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5 Common Diseases Spread at Strategic Planning Meetings

Todd R Christensen Consulting-Cure for Sick Strategic Planning MeetingsIf you are or have been a director or board member for a nonprofit organization, you have likely considered having a strategic planning meeting. Chances are, you also thought of the many meetings you have attended over the years and remembered several that were anything but successful, and certainly not enjoyable. Consequently, in discussions about whether a 4- or 8- or 12-hour strategic planning meeting might be just what the doctor ordered for your organization, you or others remembers your bad meeting experience(s) and decided against the strategic planning option.

Strategic planning sessions pose their own particular dangers. For whatever reason, participants can become highly susceptible to one or more of the following illnesses prevalent – or even born – in such meetings. Once you have witnessed the effects of these conditions on meeting participants, or have come down with one of the illnesses yourself, you can be easily dissuaded in the future from pursuing any further thoughts of holding a strategic planning session. Do you recognize any of the them?

  1. ExecuDirectophobia: The fear that the executive director (or a board member or another leader) will dominate the planning session. This legitimate fear results from the human tendency to fall in line behind a dynamic leader who has expressed his or her plans, intentions or ideas. ExecuDirectophobia is a preventable condition, treated through a series of activities that make contributing to strategic planning easy, less threatening, fun and even anonymous for all participants.
  2. Preventing anger in the boardroomTemperus flarus: The clashing of personal opinions to the extent of creating anger, shutting down conversations, and inhibiting creativity. Temperus flarus is highly contagious, has an extraordinarily short incubation period, and can exhibit long-lasting and painful symptoms. Prevention is the key. If warning signs arise, move quickly away from aggravating activities. Humor and fun activities are idea treatments.
  3. Nobodia tacchia: The condition of complete silence in the strategic planning meeting, where everyone keeps their opinions to themselves. This condition can result from a lack of planning, a lack of facilitator experience, a lack of appropriate preparation, and even from poor choices relating to the meeting location, venue, time of day, and agenda. Prevention is preferred, with priming activities providing some protection. Appropriate protection against Nobodia tacchia also includes a well-run activity to can make all participants feel appreciated and valued for their opinions.
  4. Superfluffeus insubstantius (Super i.): Groups, rather than individuals, exhibit the symptoms of Superfluffeus insubstantius. Members of such groups may not even realize that they have the disease. It is masked by lots of discussion, with many ideas brought up and even decided upon during meetings. Diagnosis, unfortunately, does not typically occur until the end of the meeting when leaders realize that nothing of any strategic importance has been addressed. Symptoms include talking about programs and projects rather than missions and visions and goals and tactics. Basic treatment includes a well-thought out agenda, unbiased facilitation that keeps topics from wandering, and the assignment of off-topic discussions to committee work outside strategic planning meetings.
  5. Unfocusitus: Similar to Super i., Unfocusitus can be a chronic condition that takes away the inability of meeting participants to stay focused on what matters most. Often exhibiting over a period of years, this illness has multiple side effects, including nausea at the thought of wasting time in another huddle or powwow, headaches from rehashing the same information in multiple discussions, and frustration stemming from the lack of purpose in regularly scheduled meetings. Recommended treatments include identifying organizational values, establishing a concise and engaging mission, and setting a corporate vision. Additional ongoing treatment involves regular reporting on goals related to organizational strategy. Leaders, employees and volunteers must be vigilant against Unfocusitus, constantly asking themselves the question, “Does this activity, program, project or plan help us achieve our established vision, fulfill our mission and stay true to our values?” If not, well, run!

If you or someone you care about exhibits symptoms from one or more of the above conditions, it is recommended that you see professional help. A qualified and experienced meeting facilitator can not only treat but help you prevent such conditions from occurring. An independent, unbiased facilitator brings order and legitimacy to strategic planning meetings, leading participants to a greater level of trust and openness.

So if you have been avoiding strategic planning sessions like the plague, perhaps it is time to revisit your considers and set up a consultation with a professional facilitator who can guide you safely through your next successful strategic session.

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