Picking the right people is critical to a productive planning session. Including too many and you will have a hard time getting to a distilled set of initiatives. Inviting too few may leave out important insights and buy-in. Here are a few tips to help you get your invite list and set the right expectations:
Go back to your goals - what critical voices need to be in the room? Each person in that room needs to have a role, a contribution. Is the Voice of the Customer represented? Do other major functions like Finance or Engineering need to be there? Who will do the work AFTER the meeting? Do you need them there to get their full buy-in?
Understand the WIIFM for each participant. Before the meeting starts it is best to individually speak with each participant. Here it is best if the interviews are conducted by an outside the group person who is perceived as neutral and impartial. Each person is then free to state his opinion and potentially derailing issues can get flushed out in advance. Ask what he wants to get out of the meeting. What issues does he see as critical for the team to work on? Also the interviewer should look out for any hidden agendas. For example, the person calling the meeting really wants to see how her team works together or how each member is contributing, while one participant is there to see if his boss will make difficult decisions. Another participant may want to see if she can make a case to get her budget.
Planning meetings are not the platform for addressing dysfunction in the team. While the meeting may help the team get focused around a common goal, it won’t fix all issues that may exist among teams. It is best to be realistic about what the team dynamics and issues are and determine if they need to be addressed before the meeting. If people have a valued HR leader, they should always be on the design team for the planning session.
Consider personality styles. You are likely to have a wide variety of people together – some verbal and outgoing and others thoughtful and reserved. Is the meeting structured so that quiet introverted members have a voice and talkative members do not monopolize the time? Ground Rules can be created to set the tone for the group from the start.
You also need the right information in the room. Without data the team dynamic becomes a collection of war stories and personal opinions. What data is needed to ground the group to tackle the issues you are discussing? Analysts may not need to be in the meeting, but make sure their data – and the story it tells - is.
Foster constructive, directed conflict. Once you have a group together it is very much like driving a herd of very independently minded animals (if you have a good culture). You actually want to foster conflict, difference of opinion and even heated debates. The magic and beauty of team dynamics is that, if done right, out of all that messiness and chaos, something new is born - and it is much better than what any one person could have created.
If you would like to hear a podcast of this series, go to http://www.holleycreative.com/business-goals-for-2016/