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Bill Gaw's Top 12
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The Strategy Manager

Among the members of the Strategy Planning Team should be one person who is designated the Strategy Manager. Effectively carrying out the responsibilities of this position are crucial to the success and effectiveness of the Strategy Planning process and its long term value. The Strategy Manager is responsible for planning and scheduling all meetings, providing agendas and minutes for each meet­ing, and following up (polite description of nagging) with members to insure that they follow through with assign­ments related to the development of the Strategy Plan.

It takes a very special and talented person to fill this position. Your first choice should be someone who has managed and completed a successful implementation in the past. They probably already have the requisite skills which include being very organized, having a mastery for managing detail, being adept at negotiating and creating agreement between individuals, the ability and inclination to delegate tasks as appropriate, and the skill to fearlessly push sensitive issues and reticent team members when the need arises.

The Process Facilitator

Another key member of the Strategy Planning Team should be the Process Facilitator. The first question that probably comes to mind is "why can't one of the existing team members act as facilitator or even have the entire team be responsible for facilitation" as is often the case with team based process. The answer is that either of these scenarios is workable though not recommended. Having a separate person in attendance solely for the purpose of meeting facilitation and keeping minutes is a good idea.

One, anyone who has facilitated a meeting will tell you that it is extremely difficult to run a meeting efficiently and be a participant at the same time. This is particularly true when strong feelings regarding the outcome exist. In the heat of a meeting, it is almost certain that in this situation the facilitation of the meeting will suffer because it is simply not possible to do both. The net effect will most likely be a breakdown in the meeting process and at best it will take longer to accomplish the task at hand. Add the task of keeping detailed and accurate minutes and the situation only gets worse.

Secondly, since Strategy Planning is often based in emo­tional opinion oriented data that are difficult to quantify it is often useful to have a "non-attached" individual present to act as a mediator or paraphraser. This is particularly true in a group of top level managers who are used to being in control and somewhat less inclined towards making concessions in order to achieve consensus. Additionally, when process control needs to be taken their intervention is less likely to be interpreted incorrectly as a play for control.

Let's Define Some Team Process! Team Agreements

Given that we've made some decision regarding who is going to be on the Strategy Planning team and what their individual roles will be, it is now necessary to create a format and a set of agreements within which everyone can agree to operate. The basis for this should be a solid team agreement that clearly spells out issues pertaining to the treatment of fellow team members and other issues such as confidentiality. Some that I have found to work in most team environments in which I have participated include:

• That meetings be held on a regularly scheduled basis.
• That each will have an agenda and will be followed by detailed minutes.
• To agree when we can, but to not be afraid to disagree. All disagreement will be kept within the confines of the team meeting.
• To always support all team decisions verbally and through our actions.
• We will be supportive of each other.
• We will be on time and come to meetings prepared.
• Topic initiators will be prepared and will provide supportive data to all team members prior to the meeting.
• To lead as well as to accept the leadership of other team members.
• That all decisions of this team will be made through the consensus process.
• To be clear, honest, and to the point with other team members.
• To be aware and to help control the team process.
• If consensus cannot be reached the decision will be bumped up to the board of directors.
• We agree to honor all of our team agreements at all times.

This is just a list of some possible components of a good team agreement. Some may not be appropriate in all cases and certainly others, not listed, may be integral in the successful operation of another team in another company. In any case, the team agreement development process should be carried out with all team members present and should only be concluded when everyone has reached consensus regarding its contents and can agree whole­heartedly to support and abide by them all.

To be Continued


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