A well-run strategy workshop brings people together to focus on the bigger picture, explore possibilities and set direction. A lot can be achieved in a short space of time, but if participants fail to see the impact on the business afterwards, they’ll start to lose faith in the format.

It can be challenging to turn high-level concepts into tangible results, but it’s possible by setting expectations and with the right preparation. When I’m designing strategy workshops for clients, I aim to be upfront about my role as the facilitator, and what they’ll need to do themselves to make it a success:

  1. There will be work to do after the workshop
  2. A bulk of work comes immediately after the workshop
  3. Be prepared for a different type of work

There will be work to do after the workshop

As much as the workshop can be an engaging experience for participants, the outcomes will not magically integrate into the day-to-day. Rather than see a strategy workshop as a standalone event, see it as part (sometimes the start) of a bigger process. It is a tool to gather insights and ideas in the most effective way. Then those ideas need to be translated into something more actionable and digestible to move forward with. A list of bullet points and minutes from the session are not the most useful formats. There will need to be some analysis to make sense of it.

A bulk of work comes immediately after the workshop

When I work with teams to scope out an implementation plan for their ideas, a large majority of the tasks fall within the first 3 months, gradually petering out throughout the year. Of course, the plan will change and evolve as they start to do the work, but there will be an initial flurry of activity to get everything into motion. Whilst it’s also likely that the team have been optimistic about what they can get done – and they will need to look at this critically – it’s also a great time to build on this optimism to keep the momentum going.

Be prepared for a different type of work

The outcomes of a strategy workshop are naturally distinct from the day-to-day work. It’s about doing something different and new – many of the ideas are high-level and without immediate ROI. So it takes extra effort and thinking, almost like a stream of development work that needs its own time allocation. Set up subsequent meetings and discussions which focus specifically on the outcomes of the strategy workshop. Have follow-up sessions to review the plan, 1-2-1 discussions and check-ins to see how people are progressing with their tasks.

In a strategy workshop, the day itself is important – making it an engaging experience for all involved, great facilitation, and encouraging creative thinking. In addition, it’s what happens after the workshop that also ensures it has a lasting impact.