Readers of our blog know that we dedicate this series to providing guidance to new and experienced customer advisory board (CAB) managers towards establishing, managing and optimizing their programs for maximum benefit. But might the proven methodologies and best practices conveyed for CABs apply to other, perhaps equally important types of executive engagements?
Recently, one of our clients, pleased with the success we’ve help deliver for their CAB program, approached Ignite to apply the same principles and processes to help manage and facilitate their internal executive planning meeting. The engagement was a huge success, and garnered wide praise from the participating executives – strategic planning for their entire year was completed in one day.
We at Ignite believe that applying similar principles and methodologies to internal executive planning meetings is an idea whose time has come. Here are four CAB best-practices we believe can and should be applied to such strategy engagements:
#1. Preparation for Executive Strategy Meetings
Often, executives are unsure of how – or provided little guidance or opportunity – to prepare for executive planning meetings. As such, they may likely show up to the meeting “cold” and unprepared, and be able to only react to what is put in front of them during the discussion.
Solution: As is done within well-managed CAB programs, gathering input from participants before the planning meeting will ensure everyone is not only familiar with the objectives and topics, but will enable them to contribute informed input, and, more importantly, additional ideas and insights not previously known to the rest of the participants that can shape the direction of discussion for the better.
#2. Executive Planning Meeting Structure
Executive planning meetings may sometimes have vague objectives (“increase revenue next year”), general, less structured agendas (e.g. “brainstorm new products”) and content that may or may not serve the true meeting objectives (e.g. review latest analyst research). Alternatively, various departments may simply be tasked with providing updates or plans on how they manage their operations, which may be internally or tactically focused, and provide minimal impact to desired, larger strategic growth initiatives.
Solution: Combined with robust preparation, creating a well-structured meeting focused on a few but core business objectives will keep the engagement dedicated to addressing prioritized, shared strategic initiatives.
#3. Internal Executive Meeting Facilitation
Internal executive planning meetings are often run by a single top executive; maybe the SVP of corporate strategy or, for smaller companies, the CEO himself. This often leads to a politicized environment in which participants prioritize their own departments or careers, and not the improvement of the overall business. The concept of “group think” and merely agreeing with the majority is prevalent in such an environment. At worst, the meeting can elicit insecurity, intimidation or fear of repercussion, making the meeting conclusions off target and potentially costly – or even disastrous.
Solution: Bringing in an impartial, outside facilitator will not only keep the meeting focused and on-track, but, more importantly, minimize personal dynamics and create an open environment where participants feel free and empowered to contribute “out of the box” ideas to solve business challenges.
#4. Action Planning for Executive Strategy Meetings
Executives may leave strategic planning meetings energized and inspired, or, just as likely, defeated and overwhelmed. The latter category no doubt applies most to those who assume (or are assigned) the largest number of resulting action items. Such leaders may be tasked with assuming these incremental programs in addition to their “day jobs,” with possibly minimal allowance for additional resources or budget. They’re soon immersed back into their daily lives, where the “tyranny of the urgent” likely will push back (or doom) new strategic projects.
Solution: Creating an action plan which specifies initiatives, leaders, resources, deliverables and timelines will not only ensure agreement, but mandates prioritization, load balancing, and potential investments.
We at Ignite believe that the time has come for companies to apply the same structure, discipline and methodologies necessary for creating beneficial CAB programs to their own internal strategic planning meeting engagements. Like CABs, these programs are likely critical to the success, health, or even survival of the business itself. As such, they demand the dedication, investment, planning – and outside experts — required to ensure their success.