Many companies we’ve worked with choose to run a day, or a few days where they bring people together to launch the latest strategy; a strategy day. The intention may only be to share the new strategy or the goals may be far deeper and more ambitious.
- Much attention may have been paid to your organisation’s purpose, mission and values
- Typically a creative agency is contracted to make the experience look really good
- There is normally a lot of investment into it and a strong desire for it to be impactful.
- There’s excitement being built around the new direction
- Talk of ‘Activating’ the strategy, and
- People being equipped to go back to their teams and help them get excited about the new messaging and goals
But what are the pitfalls that many fall into, and how do we make it successful?
What normally happens?
There are normally multiple sections to the strategy day or days. People typically have a lovely time. They thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to connect with their colleagues. To catch up and share what has been happening. To learn from one another. To feel connected again. People enjoy the food, the drinks, the social parts of what happens during these times.
Presentations from the CEO and heads of departments are common. Often in large ballroom style spaces. Either with people seated in theatre style or on round cabaret tables. Some of these talks are engaging, and some are struggling not to be ‘death by powerpoint’.
Far too frequently, we have seen the section in the day where the smart people in the room are told to write down on post it notes how they’re going to make the strategy a reality. They may be given 15 minutes to brainstorm the answer to questions such as ‘How do we succeed with the global consumer?’ or ‘What will we look like when we win?’ (which I’m told means – how are we going to do things differently?). The structure of this section is riddled with problems, and organisations almost never walk away with what they had hoped for. The reasons for this are very predictable when you understand how people’s brains work.
How is an external keynote effective as part of a strategy day?
A keynote should be selected carefully. Some off the shelf keynotes can be engaging, enjoyable and even teach a few new things that people find interesting and helpful. However, many organisations report that the standard keynotes can also be transient in their effectiveness.
A keynote that really aligns with the messages you are trying to share, and gives practical ways for them to be enacted is different. A critical feature of the keynotes we deliver is we don’t make people feel wrong for what has gone before. We enable people to understand why it was logical that people were enacting the previous strategy – and people were doing their best. We offer them the new science which gives weight to why things will be better if they are approached differently going forwards – but explain that they couldn’t possibly be expected to know these things before – because many of them have only recently been discovered and are hidden away in neuroscientific literature.
Really consider what the purpose of the external speaker is. If they have a story that is really key for your people to hear then that can be memorable and formative. But frequently we know organisations have been disappointed with the result from the speaker – but they also weren’t clear enough what they wanted the result to be, and so perhaps the speaker wasn’t the best choice.
What else do you need to consider as part of this strategy day experience?
Synaptic Potential have developed a checklist we take people through to ensure you are considering everything that others have found out through trial and error when running their strategy day! We’ve also added in the relevant behavioural science that will help change be sustainable. Just a couple of points to pull out of the more comprehensive document:
- How can you get really clear on the purpose of the event – you need far more detail around this than most people normally prepare
- What happens before everyone comes together
- What happens after everyone goes their separate ways
- What specifically you want people to be able to do after the event that they couldn’t or weren’t before – again, from a behavioural science perspective you need a lot more detail than most people realise
Also consider the full range of practical, logistical factors. Not our exhaustive list, but some to be getting on with:
- Is your venue set up to enable you to do what you need space wise? Inside and outside? Does it trigger the right states in your people? (Knowing the research helps here)
- Is the configuration of seating going to evoke the most helpful behaviours? (Vital you’re clear on what they are!)
- Have you built enough social time into the agenda?
These events can change the course of a company’s trajectory. Or you can be back again the next year trying to accomplish what you didn’t manage this year.
How can you really make the strategy day event as impactful as it can be?
One of the other most common challenges people face after a strategy day is ‘How do I explain this to my team?’ People are walking away knowing that they had a great day or couple of days – but they’re not sure how to pass on that excitement and optimism to their teams.
When the energy dissipates, they are also often left realising that the types of questions their team will ask them…they can’t actually answer. This can be really frustrating and detrimental after such a great experience. With better planning, strategy day design and choice of your keynote speaker you can ensure this isn’t your experience.
How can SP support you with your strategy day?
Synaptic Potential have supported many different types of organisations with these sort of away days. The earlier we can be involved, the more positively we can help you shape the strategy day. They are amazing fun, but they can also be really impactful and can have positive outcomes for the organisation for years to come. We have different levels of support available depending on need and budget and look forward to hearing from you if you’re considering running a strategy day – or even if you’re just trying to find a keynote speaker.