In most aspects of life, facilitation starting with the right questions can put us on the road to discovery and ultimate success. Below we will cover facilitator questions for a strategic planning.
Those of us who earn our living facilitating strategic planning sessions know that organizations don’t hire us (facilitators) because we have all the answers. They engage us to engage them with essential questions.
When we are in a conversation we know we are being productive when people say, “that is a good question”. When conducting planning sessions, we need to “read the room” to determine if our questions are provoking the required analyses and responses.
It’s the totality of the responses that enable us to build a strategic plan from the output.
When I consider questions for strategic planning I think in terms of levels.
- Level 1 Facilitator questions are fundamental. They cover essential topics.
- Level 2 Facilitator questions are probes that enable us to drill down deeper on specific topics.
This article is focussed on Level 1 Facilitator questions.
- What organization do you most admire and what is a key attribute?
This question gets participants talking. Importantly, it gets them focussed on characteristics of organizations that make them admirable. It’s a great lead in to a day spent thinking about the characteristics of their own organization.
- Considering the power of our customers and the power of our suppliers, how would you describe the difficulty of doing business in this industry?
Not every industry faces the same challenges and opportunities. It is important that a planning team have a consensus about the nature of the forces in their industry. We have developed a scoring system to identify the relative degree of difficulty in doing business within an industry. For a copy of this just respond in the contact us form and ask for the Five Forces chart.
- How would you describe our current value proposition(s), in terms of how we respond to customer needs?
At the heart of any strategic plan is the strategy that will generate sustainable and profitable customer value. Some companies have many customer segments and numerous value propositions. A value proposition is a bundle of products and/or services that meet specific customer needs. For a very useful understanding on value proposition design, I would recommend a publication by the same name and written by Alex Osterwalder.
- What is a major priority business process, which if improved, would significantly impact the operational effectiveness of the organization?
I am a major believer in the power of focusing on business process improvement as the method to improve organizational performance. Lucidchart has excellent examples of the different kinds of methodologies and their historical context.
- What three things would increase the ability of our people to achieve the goals of the organization.
Our people are the third leg on the stool that supports sustainable and profitable customer value. The first is strategic direction, which is the point of this article. The second is priority process improvements mentioned above.
Organizations must move from the abstract to the concrete in terms of identifying how they are going to improve the capacity of their people to achieve the strategic direction that it sets for itself.
- How would you describe success, in terms of outcomes, that are measurable and time-framed, for elements affecting customers, operational effectiveness and people?
In sports, individuals and teams need to know what results they must achieve to win. Similarly, businesses need to know what they are expected to produce or achieve, to be successful. Everyone must understand what success looks like.
Strategic Objectives must include outcomes (e.g. revenue from new products), with measurements (e.g. totalling 15% of sales), within a timeframe (by 2022).
At a minimum, this should be done for elements including customer value, processes, and people. A few big macro Strategic Objectives are better than a lot of granular ones.
Engaging our clients with these Level 1 Facilitation questions helps move them down the road to writing their strategic plan.