Who is Your Strategic Planner?
See if this sounds familiar: your company calls all-hands on deck (management) strategic retreat, off-site, for a half-day, a day or longer. The executive facilitating the retreat opens with where the company has been, and through various exercises, has everyone contribute to where they think the company should go. The result tends to be a lot of ideas, which will need more time, and yes, retreats, to sort through, or not much in the way of fresh, invigorating direction. After all is said and done, you wonder — did I just waste all of that time and energy?
The problem could be the person facilitating the strategic planning session. An internal facilitator brings the company’s mind-set, culture, and patterns to the process. An outside consultant brings an objective view, broad knowledge and experience. How does this translate into strategic planning success?
Credibility: A vetted consultant brings broad-based knowledge of business, business practices, strategic planning and more across many industries. An internal candidate may be seen as ‘part of the problem,’ setting up a roadblock to success before planning even begins.
Bias: A consultant brings an open mind, with no back issue influences or biases to any one group, ideas, or plans. The consultant is influenced by their experience, knowledge and expertise. An internal candidate may bring biases, real or perceived, of others in the organization.
Influence: The internal facilitator may only have influence to bring about change within certain areas of the organization. The outside consultant brings to bear their reputation and expertise, which can translate into greater influence across the organization.
Focus: An internal candidate may tend to focus on the ideas and plans that benefit him/herself or department the most. An external leader focuses on the broad overview of the company.
Working with diverse groups, with diverse goals is what a consultant does. The professional brings the experience of driving and managing the strategic planning process, encouraging free-flow ideas, and bringing all the varied ideas and plans together in a coherent, actionable strategic plan.