The strategic planning process at its heart is a series of meetings.

To design effective strategy conversations at these meetings you must get a number of critical details right:

A compelling 'Why': list and communicate the benefits of a sound strategic plan.

Select participants: real conversations take place not in large groups but in small gatherings of no more than ten. Limit attendees to the principal strategic decision makers. If more executives wish to take part in strategy reviews, keep them involved through other forums.

Allocate sufficient time: in-depth discussions of strategy take time some executives spend about a third of their time on strategy.

Select venue: could be the site of the business unit so CEO could get a better feeling of what is going on there; could also be organize off-site to ensure uninterrupted concentration of the participants on the strategy-planning process.



Clearly demarcate strategy reviews and financial planning meetings: avoid combining strategy-planning with discussions of budgets and financial targets as otherwise short-term financial issues will dominate at the expense of long-term strategic ones. Hold a full-day meeting on strategy  and a shorter meeting to set financial targets at a different time of year.

Do it yourself: the strategy must be made by those people who will carry it out; you can involve consultants and your staff in strategy development, but you cannot outsource strategy making to them.

Don't use templates: provide some guidance regarding strategy development, but give your business units plenty of latitude. Using templates may obscure more than it reveals. Besides, excessive corporate guidance makes it hard to tell the real strategies from those who are merely good at filling out templates.