Plansmith Blog

15 Ways an Outside Facilitator Can Save Your Next Strategic Planning Session

Posted by Kevin Stang on 7/24/18 3:01 PM

We’ve all been in meetings that weren’t exactly productive. You know how it goes…

  • The meeting begins with little to no agenda
  • You waste most of the time discussing off-topic subjects
  • Debates over seemingly meaningless items end up derailing progress
  • Someone ends up creating more questions than solutions
  • The meeting takes an hour longer than it was scheduled for
  • The team walks away with no clue what to do next

A third-party facilitator is a great way to keep these things from happening and to make sure you’re not wasting your time by going to a meeting. When it comes to strategic planning, it’s even more critical you stay on topic and get things done. Otherwise, your organization will have no idea what items are critical to success.

Check out this list of 15 ways a facilitator could save your next strategic planning session.


  1. Fresh ideas – Every organization needs some creative thinking to be successful. A good facilitator will engage your group far before the strategic planning meeting itself. They will unlock ideas that participants have been afraid to share in a live meeting or identify opportunities you may overlook.
  2. Pre-meeting exercises – Aside from idea generation exercises, a facilitator should bring other ideas of how prework can maximize meeting effectiveness and productivity. Get the work that can be accomplished separately out of the way to get the most out of your time together.
  3. Create a useful agenda – Without an agenda for the meeting, it’s easy to get off track. Facilitators are experienced in planning out timing and topics to give plenty of time for discussion while prioritizing progress.
  4. Meeting prepped and ready – Consider how much time is wasted each meeting as people rush to print off materials or get technology up and running. With no other distractions, a meeting facilitator can get you started on-time without distractions.

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During the meeting

  1. Objective perspective – Many companies struggle to see the reality of a situation because they are too close to it. An objective facilitator can help you discover why your plans haven’t been working and show you ways to improve your strategic plan.
  2. Proven process – A good facilitator with years of experience should have a proven process. One that has helped other institutions just like yours break through the cycle of stagnation and put together a plan for success.
  3. Maximize time effectiveness and meeting productivity – When meetings aren’t managed effectively, they can quickly become significant wastes of time. A good facilitator knows how to keep things moving and get the most out of conversation.
  4. Think outside of the template – When developing a strategic plan, some organizations pick a template and simply fill in the blanks. While this is a great way to get started, it won’t give you a leg up on the competition who may be using the same template. Experienced facilitators know when to use the template and when to break away from it.
  5. Manage the agenda – While keeping discussion moving is important, keeping everyone on topic is equally critical. There are certain elements that must be covered to complete an effective strategic plan. If you’re not watching the clock and the agenda, you could easily miss something important.
  6. Reduce risk of wasted meetings – When you walk into a meeting with the organization’s top management, you don’t want to waste their time. A facilitator knows what you need to accomplish during that timeframe and how to navigate the pitfalls which keep many teams from desired outcomes.
  7. Full group engagement without process distractions – If a member of your team is managing all these items, they aren’t truly participating in the discussion. Either they will lose control of the meeting or they won’t be able to provide their insight and ideas. A facilitator can focus fully on getting the most out of the planning process and helping everyone in the organization to fully engage in discussions.
  8. Manage personalities - The only thing bigger than a strategic plan are the personalities in the meetings themselves. Unless they are the CEO or head of the board, the person facilitating may not feel fully comfortable pushing back against certain people or making sure everyone’s voice is heard. Third-party facilitators have experience dealing with different personality types, mediating disagreements, and engaging everyone equally and fairly.

Schedule a Discovery Call!


  1. After-meeting action plan – Once the strategic planning meeting is over, there is still much work to be done. Unless your team has someone in place to spearhead the plan execution, it can easily be pushed aside as everyone goes back to their day-to-day responsibilities. A good facilitator will create a plan and assign responsibilities to ensure the meeting is only the beginning of the planning process.
  2. Ongoing coaching – Even the best strategic plans won’t succeed if the organization isn’t prepared to execute. The same facilitator who guides you through building your plan can make sure you execute the plan. This includes ensuring your organization stays on top of tracking progress, making adjustments as needed, and making your vision become a reality.
  3. New ideas for future planning – Sometimes you walk out of meetings with more ideas than you can realistically accomplish in a year. Trained facilitators, especially when hired for ongoing coaching support, can hang on to those additional ideas and make sure they are considered next year or implemented as your current plan adjusts.

Ready to hire a strategy facilitator? Contact us for a consultation and we’ll identify the right fit for your organization.

Topics: strategic thinking, ceo, strategic planning, strategy, community bank marketing strategy, community bank planning, bank strategic planning software, strategic planning for banks, market intelligence

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