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Capstrat Strategy Session Tips

Tip #1 Include line managers in the process. Your line managers are hands-on with your business,
so they know your business far better than do your staff managers. It is they who will later implement your
resultant strategies, so they should play the major role in developing strategies.

Tip #2 Use the team planning process. A team of 7 to 10 managers working together to develop
strategy delivers significant benefits. Specifically, you'll gain both variety and quality of input – so you'll
produce more thoughtful strategy.

Tip #3 Use two criteria in selecting your planning team members. First, select planning team
members based on their ability to develop viable strategy. They’ll thus need a combination of technical
skills, applicable experience and the ability to think strategically. Second, select your planning team
members based on their (formal or informal) position in the organization. So they can play an active role
in driving the successful implementation of your resultant strategies.

Tip #4 Educate your planning team. Make sure your team understands the planning process. A
workshop which includes a case study is best for this purpose. So your planning team not only learns the
process, but also gains experience building a "mini strategic plan." In doing so, they'll build enthusiasm for
applying the process in their own organization.

Tip #5 Consult with the boss. The organization's top manager plays the toughest role in the planning
process. He, or she, must certainly participate in your strategy discussions. But he, or she, must also
avoid "taking over." As you know, the boss’s voice is heard somewhat more loudly than others. If he, or
she, "takes over the meeting," your other managers will lose commitment to the process and to the
resultant strategies.

Tip #6 Use a pre-planning survey to gather initial thoughts. Rather than begin your strategy
sessions with a blank piece of paper, survey your planning team members to obtain their opinions about
the organization's (1) internal strengths, (2) internal weaknesses, (3) external opportunities and (4)
external threats. Then at your strategy session, while developing your situation analysis, you'll have your
compiled preliminary SWOT to work from.

Tip #7 Get informed. Make sure you gather the information you'll need to make the necessary
strategic decisions at your strategy sessions. About six weeks before your strategy sessions, have your
planning team anticipate the issues you'll likely discuss. Then, for each anticipated discussion, decide on
the information you'll need. Assign a team member responsibility for gathering each specific piece of

Tip #8 Share the information. About a week before your strategy sessions, have each manager who
gathered information share that information with the entire planning team. The purpose of this meeting
isn't to debate and isn't to decide, but rather to learn. Presentation followed by question and answer for
understanding is the order of the day.

Tip #9 Set your planning timeframe. Determine how many years your plan will include.
Considerations include the nature of the business -- smaller, service businesses typically have greater
flexibility than do larger manufacturers. Naturally, smaller firms will plan for a shorter period of time. Often
just three years. But even manufacturers are pressured to plan for shorter and shorter periods of time.
That's because the business environment, including and especially technology and the global economy,
are changing more and more quickly. If you're not sure how many years to plan for, go for the fewer
number of years. You can fine-tune your process later.

Tip #10 Get out of the office. Whether you conduct your strategy sessions at some far-away resort or
just down the street, be sure to get away from the office. You'll want to avoid interruptions, certainly. Also,
getting out of the office helps change the environment to stimulate creative thinking. For it removes the
planners from their day-to-day, operational setting.

Tip #11 Conduct your strategy sessions on consecutive days IF:

• It's easier on the schedules of your planning team members.
• The members of your planning team must travel from various locations.
• Keeping momentum is more important than reflective thinking.
• You'd like the added benefit of informal, after-hours discussions.
• You're interested in team building as a by-product of strategic planning.

Tip #12 Conduct your strategy sessions as a series of one-day meetings IF:
• It's easier on the schedules of your planning team members.
• Your planning team members are geographically close.
• You'd like to save the expense of putting the team up in a hotel for a number of nights.
• Reflective thinking is more important than keeping momentum.

Tip #13 Create an environment that fosters creativity. Create an environment where people know it
is okay to ask questions and throw out ideas. Try to limit strict time constraints.

Tip #14 Do not be judgmental or critical of any ideas during the session. The key is to get a lot of
ideas flowing and recorded. Make sure that everyone knows that all ideas are invited.

Tip #15 Keep the energy high and positive. Whether you treat everyone to beverages and cookies,
take everyone to lunch or engage in some other activity, keep the energy up and positive in order to tap
into creative ideas.

Tip #16 Stay focused. It is important to try your best to stay focused and centered around the
appropriate topics.

Tip #17 Be proactive and flexible with client ideas. The agency should understand the economic
realities of the client.

Tip #18 Alleviate structural tensions and align business models. Make sure you’re discussing what
works for the client, instead of just what works for you.

Tip #19 If the client has its own PR/Marketing department, encourage representatives to join the
session. Other strategic players who are intimate with the brand can offer helpful advice. Once everyone
is on the same page, projects can be more easily implemented.