Many of the meeting templates in Fellow are designed to help you and your team manage different operational-level tasks and scenarios—but what about high-level strategy?
Let’s face it—operational day-to-day activities tend to take precedence in most organizations because of their immediacy—but having a touchpoint for your leadership team to discuss strategy is crucial.
The benefits of a quarterly strategy meeting
Quarterly leadership meetings give you the opportunity to assess working-level activities as they relate to your organization’s strategic vision. They also allow you to re-examine your strategic goals and see if anything has changed. Most importantly, they allow your leadership team to look at longer-term issues and discuss potential solutions before they become urgent operational priorities.
These types of meetings can sometimes be hard to implement for a number of reasons.
First, strategic meetings take time. It can be hard to justify stepping away from operational urgencies to take a strategic deep dive, especially when it doesn’t check off any of the operational boxes.
Another reason these meetings tend to get pushed to the back-burner is that it’s easy for strategic discussions to shift into operational ones. In a 2017 article for the Harvard Business Review, global CEO coach Sabina Nawaz shares a story about one of her client’s struggles with this:
“Mauricio knew that he must carve out time for strategic conversations with his leadership team, but during a one-on-one coaching session, he told me he was puzzled. When he had suggested to his leadership team that they have these conversations, people had nodded their heads and said they’d raise strategic agenda items. Yet their meetings continued to focus on the day-to-day numbers, operational processes, and immediate crises.”
Part of the reason this can happen is that people—especially executives—have an affinity for solutions; we are results-oriented. We like to accomplish things and solve problems quickly. Operationally, these are strong leadership qualities and can help you keep your team on track. Strategically, however, this approach can create tunnel-vision and lead you and your organization into scenarios that create a surplus of operational demand. With more critical analysis of the overall strategic plan through quarterly meetings, these bottlenecks can be avoided.
In Keap’s Business Success Blog, Co-Founder and CEO Clate Mask outlines the paramount importance of their team’s quarterly offsite strategic meetings:
“We have been executing a strategic planning method for about 13 years now, never missing a quarterly planning offsite during all that time. Why? Because the quarterly offsite planning is the key link between long-term strategy and day-to-day execution.”
To help you re-establish that link, we’ve put together this free quarterly strategic meeting agenda to help your leadership team have the right discussions at your quarterly meetings—and ultimately keep your organization on the right track:
5 Items for your quarterly leadership meeting:
- Highlights: Past quarter highlights and wins.
- Strategy review: Review your overall strategy and quarterly progress.
- Learnings: What didn’t go well and why? What can we do differently next quarter?
- Context: What has changed in our overall context in the last 90 days?
- Next quarter: Define new quarterly targets and action plans.
Details on each item in the quarterly strategic meeting agenda will follow, below:
Starting the meeting by discussing successes from last quarter will boost energy and morale and help get everyone on the same page. It’s important to start on on a high note because there are parts of this discussion that will not be easy.
Acknowledging the organization’s successes will also help you identify the parts of your existing strategy that are working well. Is your sales team getting better at landing the right types of clients? Have certain executives been received positive media attention or multiple invites for public speaking engagements? Are you meeting or exceeding your quarterly financial goals?
Celebrating these wins will go a long way in reminding everyone at this meeting why you’re devoting time to these discussions.
2 Strategy review
After highlighting the company’s successes, this part of the quarterly strategic meeting agenda will help re-center everyone’s understanding of the existing strategy. Doing this is important because it establishes a benchmark.
What were the overall strategic priorities laid out for this year? What about for this quarter? Did you meet your targets?
In most organizations, 90 days (1 quarter) is long enough that you should at least start to see the results of the last iteration of strategy play out, but also long enough that you might not remember all the nuances. Treat this part of the quarterly strategic meeting agenda as a refresher to get everyone up-to-speed. This will ensure that the following parts of the meeting are carried out with relevance, clarity, and honesty.
This is your opportunity to think critically about the execution of the strategy from your previous quarterly meeting. Unless your organization is somehow operating at 100% efficiency, it’s likely that certain expectations or goals were not met perfectly.
Although it can be a difficult process, it’s important to reflect carefully on what went wrong. Was the unmet strategic goal sound at the outset? Was it clearly articulated to your working-level staff? Did your team encounter any unforeseen operational challenges?
Looking critically inward can be uncomfortable—but discomfort never killed anyone. This part of any strategic meeting is not a blame-game—it’s an opportunity to assess the missing links between strategy and operations, and brainstorm potential solutions.
A good strategy is an ongoing, iterative process. It requires clear, honest feedback to grow and improve.
Sometimes—in spite of your best efforts and honest assessments—things outside your team’s control can alter the strategic context of your organization. This part of the quarterly meeting is here to help you address anything that has shifted since the last time you met.
Has a competitor released a new product unexpectedly and forced you to change course? Has a personnel change brought a new, unique skillset to the organization? Has the global economy shifted in a way that affects how you do business?
This is your opportunity to address any such shifts within the last 90 days. Use this part of the quarterly strategic meeting templates to assess any changes.
5 Next quarter
Finally, a meeting is only as useful as its outcomes. Use this part of the meeting template to set new targets for the next quarter, define key performance indicators, and a plan of action to ensure strategic goals can and will be met.
Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited said, “Businesses that plan always do better than businesses that don’t. But businesses that change their plans are always more successful than businesses that plan but don’t change them.”
With everything you’ve discussed in this meeting to this point, this is the time to discuss the next steps toward meeting your strategic goals.