Improve Planning Session Participation
Effective planning is vital to any business’ success.
Participation by employees and executives in planning sessions for
activities such as mapping out annual action plans, organizing major
projects, and developing strategic plans should be a priority.
Nevertheless, many of those who are charged with leading a company
planning effort often face the problem that other employees who
should be present aren’t. If you struggle with participation
challenges in your company’s planning activities, here are eight
tips to help make your sessions successful:
1) Don’t repeat mistakes of the past. There is a
reason that previous attempts to secure needed participation have
not been successful. Take time to understand why and be honest in
your assessment. Seek out opinions both from those who actively
participated in the past, and from those who should have been there
but weren’t. Use that feedback to make needed corrections. Ask
sessions be seen as a waste of time?
participants given appropriate notice?
planning activity itself planned, organized, and conducted with
a sense of purpose?
allocated used effectively and efficiently?
dominated by a single person or just a few individuals?
elicited from those who were present but quiet?
participants leave with a sense of accomplishment?
participating employees recognized for their contributions to
the company’s planning effort?
action taken on strategies that were developed?
2) Set participation goals. Identify who should be
present if your session is to be a success. There will be those in
each company who unless specifically directed, will consider their
participation optional or not a priority to them.
Communicate individually to let employees know how much their
participation is needed and how much their insight is valued. Ask
for a personal commitment for attendance. Don’t accept “will try
to,” “plan to,” or “should be able to” as solid answers. You should
know exactly who will attend prior to your activity. If you can’t
confirm committed presence in advance, then chances are good you
won’t get your needed numbers. Send out reminder notes to help
ensure your attendance. Confirm the significance of participation
with personal messages from the organization’s top leader. It’s a
nice ego stroke and it’s also hard to turn down the boss!
3) Avoid schedule conflicts. Schedule planning
activity far enough in advance to avoid potential scheduling
conflicts. Sounds like a no-brainer but sometimes the organization
already has other activities planned, important deadlines are
approaching, or it’s a heavy vacation period. Get schedule
availability input from desired participants and set your date when
most are available. Even better – set your activity on a regular,
4) Establish expected outcomes. Have a specific
purpose for your session. Communicate in advance the intended
result, for example, developing three new strategies for growing
your customer base. Your participants will be able to come in with
ideas already formulated. Identifying an expected outcome will also
help keep the session focused on the primary task at hand.
5) Make sure participants are prepared. Your planning
team should know exactly what is expected of them. It’s difficult
to offer qualified opinion when given a thick folder of financials,
project proposals, and operational details without the opportunity
to review materials prior to the time of discussion. Help them be
prepared with advance information.
6) Determine what format works best for your group.
Take into account the personalities involved. Use a meeting format
that gets desired results and creates a positive experience so
people are motivated to participate in future sessions.
Do you need
teambuilding or fun activities?
Will your team
react more favorably to a strictly all-business session?
What is most
productive length of time?
Will you get
best results by getting away from the office and working in a
retreat setting, or will a few hours in an office conference
room be okay?
7) Have a designated facilitator. Having someone with
the ability to get everyone engaged and keep the process moving and
focused is essential for creating the successful planning session
you want. Judge whether or not someone outside your organization is
needed. An outside facilitator is often more effective at
challenging, encouraging, and drawing out opinions, and controlling
discussion so it stays on a positive productive track.
Advance preparation time with your facilitator is important.
The facilitator should do the necessary homework to be knowledgeable
about the organization, be familiar with the backgrounds of the
participants, and know the expected outcome. Create a predetermined
structure designed to maximize the activity.
8) Don’t forget your post-event follow up. Send
personal thank you notes that mention specific contributions made.
Solicit feedback for future sessions. Give regular progress reports
on implementation of the plans that were developed.
Having consistently high participation in your organization’s
planning sessions sets the environment conducive to the wholehearted
buy-in necessary for business success. Create within your company
the realization of the vital importance of planning activities by
executing these tips. You will be much more likely to enjoy a
higher level of preparation, participation, and enthusiasm in your
Read other articles and learn more about
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and