Running a Strategic Plan Accountability Session

Do you have a strategic plan in place?  Regardless of whether or not you are using Vision Navigation®®, you should be meeting regularly to assess your plan and identify changes, progress and challenges.  It is the ideal way to keep the plan alive and moving forward. This article will define and describe the Vision Navigation® approach to plan management and accountability, but the theory and process are applicable to any strategic plan.

In this post, we will outline the following concepts:

  1. What is an accountability meeting and why conduct them?
  2. How to prepare for your accountability meeting.
  3. How to conduct an accountability meeting.
  4. The follow-up after an accountability meeting

All of these concepts are applicable to both group and one-on-one meetings.

We use the term “accountability” to describe our plan review process because being accountable is key to success in planning. To be accountable you need to know what to accomplish and who is responsible to accomplish it. Plans do not achieve goals – people do. Plans are not accountable for results – people are.

The what and why

Let’s start with our definition of a Strategic Planning Accountability Session.   It is any meeting where the leader and members of the team review the strategic plan targets, outcomes, task completion and/or overall strategy progress. Accountability sessions are:

  • scheduled
  • structured
  • brief

Accountability applies to both the leader and members of the team. The goal of the meeting is to review progress, identify concerns, and adjust the plan as needed.

Preparation is critical to a successful meeting.

How do you prepare for an accountability session?

strat-plan-meeting-300x197.jpgAdvanced preparation allows the team to move fast, stay focused, and produce results during the meeting. To prepare, each individual should ensure they have completed the following tasks:

  1. First and foremost, schedule time on your calendar to review and prepare. 15 minutes should do – we find higher success rates with people who schedule actual time blocks on their calendar to prepare appropriately to present their progress at the meeting.
  2. Review your plan, specifically those outcomes and projects assigned to you, noting your progress and challenges.
  3. Whenever possible, update the information on the plan with your progress and notes. (To learn more about updating the Vision Navigation® plan in the VN Portal watch our video titled Updating Progress On Your Strategic Plan.)
  4. Prepare questions you have for your team or leader. Questions are typically related to:
    • needed resources (financial support, workload support, needed training or equipment etc.)
    • challenges completing an outcome or task
    • inability to meet a deadline or project completion date
    • concerns that the strategy selected may not be achieving the target result you are looking for
  5. Identify key accomplishments so you can acknowledge and recognize progress.

It may take longer to prepare for your first few accountability sessions, however, you will grow more efficient with experience.

How to conduct a typical accountability session

Always open the meeting with an exercise that connects the team, invites participation and ensures everyone is present for the work. This is particularly critical in the virtual setting. At PGS, we use the What I Feel Like Saying Exercise to open meetings. What I Feel Like Saying is a simple exercise that allows each person time to share what’s on their mind as they arrive at the meeting, therefore helping them to fully focus on the task at hand. for more detailed instructions, drop us an email, and we will send you a copy of the tool.

Once everyone is present and focused,  walk through your strategic plan project by project. Each project should have an assigned leader. This individual does not necessarily do all the work of the project, rather he or she oversees the work being done. Each project leader will complete the review of their project(s) for the team, going through the following steps:

  • Review the multi-year goal and one year target for the project as applicable.  Are they still accurate and realistic, and are you on track to reach them?
  • Remind the group why you initiated this project, i.e., why it is important. Has that changed? Do you need to revise the project from the big picture perspective?
  • Review the outcomes or work assigned to be completed in the current and previous quarters. You do not need to discuss every outcome, but rather touch on those outcomes that need support or guidance from the team.  And be sure to mention anything that should be celebrated, like work completed ahead of schedule, a customer survey with strong positive comments, a task that is under budget, etc.

The CEO or overall lead for the strategic plan should make sure to create an environment that encourages open sharing and critical thinking as the team addresses concerns. He or she should also keep the team on track, moving quickly through each strategy one at a time and staying off of “rabbit trails”.  An open environment assures the team is comfortable to discuss project issues, failures, missed deadlines and unforeseen challenges. It is critical that the meeting be a place of problem-solving and help, not finger pointing and judgment. Overall, the accountability meeting should be fast, to the point, productive, and positive.

For a quick read on when it is wise to revise your strategic plan or projects and when it is not, see our previous post on the Irony of Revisions.

How often do you meet? Strategic plan accountability meetings should take place at least monthly and preferably bi-weekly. The regularity of the sessions and the rhythm and frequency of meetings is critical to creating a successful environment. Create your meeting schedule and stick to it, making your accountability meetings a priority.

What do you do if you or others are not prepared?  Do not cancel the meeting, rather keep to your schedule and do the best you can. If in the first few meetings, many seem unprepared, walk through the preparation process with the team, using the scheduled time to review how to prepare for the next meeting.  Then encourage future participation and recognize accountability when it happens.

And last, follow-up: what to do after an accountability session

Follow-up is key to demonstrating just how important strategic work is to the organization. Be sure to communicate with the team within two business days of your accountability session. Follow-up could be an email, text message, phone call or a quick office visit.

In your follow-up, be sure to do the following things:

  1. Address any concerns that were raised or tasks that were put on your plate. For example, if someone needed you to approve something or to get resources for a project, prioritize that and address it first
  2. Update any key information or new developments since the meeting.
  3. Reinforce the outcomes or tasks that are important to the individual(s) you are following up with
  4. Acknowledge the person for their work.

Follow-up is a simple step that produces a big result. When you show your commitment to executing the strategy, your team will respond.

Creating and promoting a strong culture around strategic planning and plan execution can be the difference for the future of your organization.  For questions or help establishing your strategic plan accountability sessions, contact us. We would be happy to get you started in the right direction.