We conduct strategy formulation sessions or workshops on the following topics with our clients:
- Brand mission, vision & values
- Brand positioning and repositioning
- Brand architecture
- Brand extension
- Inside out branding
- Customer touch point design
- Brand storytelling
- Brand co-creation with customers
- Pricing strategy
- Distribution strategy
- Brand planning
I have personally conducted more than 400 of these workshops and I have also witnessed others conducting similar workshops for a wide variety of clients. Unfortunately, I have observed many errors in conducting these workshops. Here are some of the more common errors:
- Not having all of the key decision makers participate in the process.
- Not understanding the group's "culture" and operating style upfront.
- Being dressed inappropriately for the group and their culture.
- Using inappropriate language for the group (too formal or informal, etc.).
- Not preparing adequately for the workshops. Neglecting to conduct pre-workshop participant surveys or prepare appropriate "information sheets" and other handouts.
- Not having the room set up properly with the right chair and table configuration, easels, marker pens, projection systems, sound systems, etc.
- Serving food that is too heavy and that will cause people to be drowsy.
- Keeping the room too hot or too cold.
- Not setting expectations properly or at all.
- Not gaining the group's upfront trust regarding the process and the intended outcomes.
- Not providing the appropriate instruction, guidelines, tools and templates so that people will be guided and even forced to develop sound strategies.
- Showing off one's expertise or bragging about one's background (versus letting it speak for itself).
- Not configuring the break-out teams with the optimal mix of people on each team.
- Not keeping careful track of time and therefore running way over on time or not completing the intended agenda with the promised outcomes.
- Related to this, not knowing how to give each person appropriate "air time" without long-winded speeches, rehashing of things previously said or going down unproductive "bunny trails."
- Not drawing out the quiet people in the room. Not allowing everyone to be heard.
- Not finding a way to gently shut down people who would dominate the conversation.
- Not knowing how to handle disruptive or passive aggressive participants.
- Giving in to unproductive requests that will derail the process.
- Allowing people to be distracted by email messages or phone calls.
- Not paying attention to the energy of the room and calling for breaks when they are needed.
- Allowing participants to come and go throughout the day so that previous group decisions would need to be revisited to include the temporarily absent people in the process.
- Not knowing how to drive people to consensus. Not having developed a wide enough array of techniques to do this.
- Not holding and feeding the energy of the room. This is a key part of a facilitator's role.
- Accepting group consensus on mediocre or poor strategies.
People may observe a strategy session or workshop and think, "That's easy. I could do that. Look how easy it was to come to consensus." I would liken it to watching a couple's winter Olympic skating routine. "Look how easy and graceful they make that seem." Indeed.
Before you conduct a strategy workshop, make sure you have fine tuned your group facilitation skills, properly prepared for the workshop with great attention to detail, had a good night's sleep and proper nutrition and thought through what the optimal result might be. It is easy to conduct a workshop. It is less easy to conduct it well with a happy energized team and outstanding results.