The greatest challenge we ever faced was facilitating a planning session for a Junior High School. The principal wanted everyone involved…eighty persons…academic, administrative, custodial, transportation, et al. It was accomplished in one day; the morning devoted to vision and mission and the afternoon to goal setting and action planning. In one two hour segment toward the end of the day, the group:
recommended about 300 proposed goals,
reduced that number to six by a consensus process,
prioritized the six goals, and
developed a preliminary action plan for each goal.
The entire process was documented as it proceeded so the school staff could easily prepare a final, polished document.
A facilitator should not be from within your organization or even from your industry.
Either of those bring their own issues and conclusions which are fine when they are working within the team. However, if they are facilitating the process they can unduly lead the group in their predetermined direction.
Example: a Chamber of Commerce brought in the executive director of another Chamber as a facilitator. He pulled the discussion right along but the product was more suitable for his town than for ours. They pulled in a business instructor from the Community College to facilitate another session. The resulting plan worked very successfully.
An outside, knowledgeable and caring facilitator brings several tools to assist your organization in developing a strategic plan. Two are the most important: a thorough knowledge of the planning process and the ability to draw out the wisdom of your team. It is neither necessary nor desirable for the facilitator to have any in depth knowledge or experience in your business or industry!
That is the secret of achieving a successful outcome in your planning process! You and your team have the knowledge, the experience, and the wisdom necessary and the facilitator’s task is to draw it out and enable the team to apply it in a way which will carry your organization forward toward a successful future.