Recently I published an article about a Strategic Alignment session I conducted with a client. As a result, I was overwhelmed with responses from people stating that they schedule these type of off-site planning events with their teams but never seem to achieve the desired results. If this has happened at one of your strategy meetings, ask yourself an important question- Were you working ON the business, or IN it?


What I’ve found over years of facilitating these types of events, is that the discussions tend to devolve from high level strategy and planning to low level problem solving and the day to day running of a business. While that may be productive in daily and weekly meetings, it’s extremely unproductive when it comes to creating strategy and building alignment.

The challenge most organizations face is that many people simply aren’t naturally strategic thinkers. So when asked to zoom out and think about long term goals and strategy they revert to their comfort zone which is problem solving and fire-fighting. Once the discussion moves from the intangible problem of a future not yet created, to the tangible problems that sit in an email in-box, well it’s easy to get side-tracked or completely thrown off-course.


When one person on the team starts going down the rabbit hole, others quickly follow suit and now your high-level strategy session has now become bogged down in the day to day of each individual business unit. Sometimes this discussion can result in finger pointing and the blame game, making it even more unproductive and leaving everyone with a bad taste in their mouth once the meeting ends. Sound familiar?


It’s because of this that teams avoid even doing their strategic sessions which of course is the beginning of the end for even the most thriving businesses.


The good news is, learning to think strategically is a skill that can be cultivated and learned. The bad news is it requires time together and someone to lead the discussion that will keep the group on track and focused on the bigger picture. This doesn’t mean the group can’t discuss the daily problems they face as an organization, but these problems should be used as a springboard to jump into the over-arching challenges that have created them in the first place. Otherwise, you are simply treating the symptom instead of addressing the actual issue.


Once these big challenges have been clearly stated & identified, placed up on the board for everyone to look at and dissect, well then it’s much easier to deal with. Remember most people in your organization, leadership included are problem solvers by nature. All we’ve done is replaced the smaller daily problems with the bigger strategic problem, and placed it front and center for your hungry group of problem solvers to tackle. Now its just a matter of getting all the ideas out there and onto a piece of paper so the group can create a STRATEGY to go about the business of doing business.


That’s it! Do not over-complicate a strategy session. It really can be that simple, it’s not easy, because if it was easy everyone would do it, but it’s not complicated. This same simple process can be used for any strategy or alignment session if you follow the same steps consistently and coach your team to start thinking at a higher level during the time they have together.


The next time you get you team together remember to stay out of the daily grind and start working ON the business vs. IN it.



Thoughts for the week:


Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. -Sun Tzu

Someone is sitting the shade today because someone planted a tree long ago. –Warren Buffett

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. -Peter Drucker

Strategy is not the consequence of planning, but the opposite; it’s starting point. -Henry Mintzberg

Looking forward to our next connection

Coach Tim