Strategy sessions (especially, bit not only) in SMEs are usually a waste of time. Mostly because they don’t turn into what the company does.
In my experience, it usually comes down to a combination of these issues.
- No coherence. The strategy is a smorgasbord of ideas rather than a plan to get somewhere specific.
- It prioritises 473 things. Everything gets a look in, whether or not it’s a business-shifter.
- Insufficient agreement at the right level of detail. The team heads off in different directions. Or nowhere, which comes to the same thing.
- It’s treated as an annual and fixed exercise. Whatever the world throws at us. As if we’re an old 30,000 person corporate.
- It’s a masterpiece of Excel rather than humanity. The Powerpoint boxes fit, but the humans don’t.
- There’s no systematic plan to turning it into action. No one knows how they’re going to make it happen, track it, and course-adjust.
- It gets confused with business-as-usual. “We’ll do the same, except this time try harder” isn’t a strategy.
I could go on. But these are supposed to be bite-sized!
Done right, strategy can and should be a game changer. And there are ways to do it right (ours is our Build on Purpose framework, but there are many others). The key is to adopt a process, and crucially, to then apply the discipline to follow through.