Today, virtually anything you can imagine doing on your own is a simple Google search away. Want to know how to install new tile in your bathroom? Need to learn how to replace your car’s broken headlight? Curious how to lay sod in your back yard?  The questions are limitless, and the answers are nearly instantaneous.

But just because you can do something yourself doesn’t always mean you should.

Take strategic planning, for example. We have experienced strategy creation in many different settings using various approaches, and we can confidently assert that the best strategic plans are created when an outside facilitator leads a team through a proven process.

Here are 9 reasons to use an outside strategic planning facilitator to improve your agency’s strategy and performance.

1. Everyone participates, no one dominates

At Navigate the Journey, we offer a StratOp Strategic Planning process that combines facilitation, installation and coaching to help a leader’s vision for their company be shared with, owned by and executed in full by their entire team.  The first step of the process is a two-day strategic planning session, where we establish ground rules, including “everyone participates and no one dominates.” Taking two days out from billable client work is a big investment of your agency’s time and money. Everyone involved in the planning session is in the room for a reason — their opinion, thoughts and insights matter, and we want to hear them. As trained facilitators, we know how to encourage extroverts and introverts to share their ideas.

2. Your team owns the plan it creates

Our StratOp process is behaviorally sound. At its core, the process is about teamwork and team members respecting each other’s wisdom. Breakthroughs come when agency teams work together horizontally, not within silos like design and development.  As we just mentioned, we ensure that each person’s voice is heard — and respected. If this happens correctly, a team develops the attitude that, “This is our plan. We created it, not some consultant creating a plan for us.”

The process is facilitated in a way that leads to:

  • Self-discovery within a team
  • Greater ownership of the plan
  • Increased understanding of and respect for each person in the room
  • And ultimately, greater levels of success across the agency

3. You benefit from our proven process

As a digital studio owner, we understand you are busy with a wide variety of issues. The last thing you need to worry about is researching a do-it-yourself approach to strategic planning. Many of these processes don’t work — they waste everyone’s time and don’t allow a team to unite around a strategic plan.  Our StratOp process has been developed and refined over several decades and has proven its power and efficacy across all types of industries and organization, from start-ups to large, established companies.

4. Our approach is tailored for digital studios

Of the few great strategic planning processes, none are tailored to address digital studios and their unique needs like Navigate the Journey has done with the StratOp process. As we began to specialize in the digital agency space, we honed and refined what worked, what didn’t work and what we found was necessary for studios to find success. We created other exercises to ensure the particularities for success in the digital agency space were woven through the StratOp process.

5. We identify the unique issues your team must act on

Effective owners should always look outside their agency for great advice. But there is a limit to what external people can do to ensure continued and greater success at your agency.  We believe the answers that lead to significant breakthroughs and success frequently reside within your team. Such insights just need to be drawn out of your team members — after all, no one knows your company better than your team. Through the StratOp process, we strive to bring teams to breakthrough levels of thinking. This is not a cookie-cutter process. What works for one team doesn’t always work for another. Continually, though, we see agency teams unlock more potential by going through this process.

6. You learn from our objectivity and outsider’s perspective.

We obviously interacting with owners ahead of time, so we get some insight into the agency, but for the most part we enter the StratOp process with a blank slate. We listen to people’s tone and what they say (or do not say). We watch body language. We also observe how team members react to one another in order to arrive at a more objective assessment of the agency.

7. We find the last 10% of the truth

A strategic planning process is only as good as the truth that is discovered. That is why we tell teams upfront that we are on the hunt for the last 10% of the truth.  We continually reinforce we want 100% of the truth to come out during this process so we can create the best possible strategic plan for the agency. Before meeting with team members, we encourage the owner to give them full permission to be completely candid. The participants are often asked about their reasoning and the “why” behind a statement they made. Truth and breakthroughs are usually found buried a few layers below an initial response.  As outside facilitators, we can ask questions and set up candid and constructive conversations around issues that are more difficult to resolve between colleagues in the office during a normal workweek.

8. The leader’s vision is shared with and owned by the team

Agency founders who come to us usually ask for help when they realize what got them where they are won’t get them where they want to go. For us as facilitators, we need to understand what the owner sees in the agency’s future, from ideal size to type of work to other defining characteristics. By solidifying the owner’s vision, it is then possible to have team members more effectively create and execute a strategic plan.

9. Strategy execution is built into strategy creation

As facilitators, we are mindful that the process must lead to action and execution. We guide the team to conclude the two-day process with the creation of What’s Important Now (“WIN”) teams that execute the strategy moving forward.  We encourage you to consider unlocking more of your team’s potential by using an outside facilitator for your strategic planning sessions — as well as for coaching and accountability — to ensure your agency’s strategic plan is executed.

About The Author

Tom Barrett is a sought after strategic planning facilitator and coach to companies, teams and leaders. He is also the Co-Founder of Navigate The Journey, LLC a strategic planning and leadership development company that specializes in focusing and growing digital studios, consultancies, and agencies. 

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