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Meeting Structure

Creating the right environment in which to conduct your Strategic Planning is nearly as important to the efficient and timely completion of your task as was the selection of the team members. The issues to be addressed in setting the meeting structure are; selection of the meeting site, the frequency of which to have meetings and the duration of these meetings.

Meeting site selection is probably the most crucial of the three. Nothing ruins the flow and function of a meeting more than non-meeting interruptions. Therefore, the best choice to be made is to conduct the meeting at an off-site location. Though it is nearly impossible to eliminate extraneous communication, considering the popularity of cellular communication, it can at least be minimized by leaving the premises. Leaving town altogether will yield the best results, though just getting off-site will be ad­equate.

Meeting frequency is a more difficult issue. The best choice is to combine the out of town site choice with a two or three consecutive day retreat, and hammer the entire Strategy Plan out in one sitting. This creates the best environment for focused concentration and also by the constant work tends to break down people's resistance to compromise. Getting away, working long hours, and committing to continue until completion will often yield a superior Plan and will allow you to get the plan into the hands of everyone in the company in the shortest time possible.

An alternative to working several days straight is to schedule the planning session for entire day buckets. This is a good solution that gets people away from their jobs and the associated concerns long enough to really be able to focus on the task and also puts enough consecutive hours into the process to begin breaking down any resistance that individual members might have to the process.

Strategy Plan Elements

A Strategy Plan is going to have five basic elements. They are the Mission Statement, The Vision Statement, The Statement of Values and Beliefs, a listing of goals, both short and long term, and the Statement of Strategy. Each of these is an integral part and is necessary to the comple­tion of the plan.

Bringing a team of six to ten people together and expecting to develop from scratch a two to three page document is a daunting task. It will save a lot of time if a draft proposal of a completed Strategy Plan can be drafted prior to the planning sessions. This may seem counter to having a team spend time developing a plan but in reality it can save a lot of time. This can be accomplished by assigning the Strat­egy Manager and the Process Facilitator the task of creat­ing a draft. Provided that they have enough experience and depth of understanding of the company and how it oper­ates, they will be able to write a plan that can act as a starting point for the remainder of the planning process. More than likely, the finished plan developed by the entire team will diverge widely from the original draft. That is just fine, the purpose of the draft is to create just a sense of content and layout that will serve to stimulate further creative thinking while helping the team members to not get bogged down in issues of format.

Mission Statement

The Mission Statement is one of two key components, the other being the Vision Statement, upon which the balance of the Strategy Plan is based. The Mission Statement needs to convey two ideas, "why are we here," and "what are we supposed to be doing?" In other words, a definition of the company and its business. The Mission Statement should be short and concise, containing a maximum of two to three sentences. Some examples might be:

• We are in the business for the long term, manufactur­ing and selling high quality furniture products. We provide superior service value and service for our dealers and the consumer.
• Our business is to manufacture and sell high quality Ready—to—Assemble furniture products that create a superior value for our customers.
Vision Statement
The Vision Statement is designed to paint a picture of the company in the future. The two key points that it should define are, "where are we going," and "what will we look like when we get there?" It too should be short, concise and contain no more than two or three sentences. It must communicate long term goals. Some examples might be:
• We will be the leader in our market by focusing on strategies that achieve customer satisfaction. We will improve our resource utilization, be committed to empowering our employees, and subscribe to continu­ally improving our processes.
• We will continue to be the leader in our market niche. We will maintain this leadership and our high level of service to our customers through diversification into alternate species and product categories and through the implementation of continuous improvement processes.

To be continued

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