The success of marketing strategy in particular and corporate strategy in general, very much depends on making sure that everyone in the company is singing from the same song sheet. But, beware of how workshops and strat sessions are used as a solution - they can often do more harm than good.
Facilitating strategy sessions among general management, marketing, accounts, technical, human resources and so forth, has to be handled very carefully to ensure that key outcomes and decisions have maximum buy-in from everybody involved.
I have found that in the past few months, more and more companies are holding these strategy sessions in an effort to ensure that everyone is clear on the way ahead and to prevent time-wasting argument, disagreement and confusion.
I am often called on to facilitate these by companies that want an outsider who speaks his mind and is skilled in keeping everyone focussed on the agenda and not heading off in all sorts of distracting directions.
I have found that the development of a specific agenda is crucial and that debate is steered directly towards not only establishing buy-in from all concerned but equally importantly setting distinct and clear goals, actions, structures and responsibilities.
The business environment is becoming more and more competitive and the need to ensure that everyone in top management is pulling in the same direction is crucial. But, one has to be careful how the process is handled because it can backfire.
If the CEO facilitates it there is a strong chance that everyone will be too scared to speak out and the "yes-men" will end up running the show.
Equally, anyone else in the company will have a problem because personalities tend to get involved and it is extremely hard to find an in-house facilitator that everyone likes or trusts.
Strat sessions are great when they are properly put together. When they aren't they are a dangerous waste of time, effort and money.
Apart from being a corporate marketing analyst, advisor and media commentator, Chris Moerdyk is a former chairman of Bizcommunity. He was head of strategic planning and public affairs for BMW South Africa and spent 16 years in the creative and client service departments of ad agencies, ending up as resident director of Lindsay Smithers-FCB in KwaZulu-Natal. Email Chris on and follow him on Twitter at @chrismoerdyk.
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