Strategic Planning: Seven Requirements for Hiring the Right Consultant

by Michael T. Bauer, MSW

Strategic planning is one of those processes that every business can benefit from but many businesses struggle to do it well.  Often times, the final strategic plan is left on a shelf and will rarely be examined.  A successful strategic planning session can be accomplished if you have the right consultant.  Here are seven requirements to consider:

1. Hire a strategic planning professional...someone from the outside.  
First, don't ask someone from your organization to facilitate. It is extremely important that the facilitator is someone that is neutral to the organization. Staff members have all sorts of biases and personal issues that get in the way of being neutral. A neutral facilitator can help teams deal with conflict, even leveraging it to bring about new ideas.

2. Select someone that has experience in facilitating strategic planning. 
There are many consultants that say they provide strategic planning, but the truth is that they probably provide strategic planning 1-2 times per year. Find someone that provides strategic planning retreats on a regularly basis. Find someone that will be prepared when things don't go as planned during the retreat. 

3. Select someone that has some understanding of your business. 
Many experts recommend hiring someone with a significant strategic planning experiences and limited familiarity with the industry. I disagree. Nonprofit organizations are different from for-profit business in so many ways. Privately-owned businesses have different structures and needs than do publicly-held organizations.  I suggest that you find someone that understands strategic planning and can apply it to your business. Your team will respect a facilitator that understands something about the work they do.

4. Select someone that has fantastic facilitation skills
The person you bring in must exhibit strong listening skills, be flexible, be able to remain focused, have strong time management skills, be able to teach self-awareness, be able to accept differences, and be able to provide appropriate feedback.

5. Select someone who is respected by the Senior Executive Team, especially the CEO
A two-day retreat may be all that you need...if the facilitator and CEO are working together to move the process forward.

6. Select someone who has good chemistry with the team
People will work harder and perform beyond their potentials if they believe and trust that the facilitator is working in their best interests.

7. Select someone who can educate the team, as well as facilitate the entire process
The facilitator needs to have a clear understanding of adult learning models so that the education is worthwhile and effective.  Many facilitators have a clear understanding of the strategic planning process, but they lack the ability to provide the education.

Copyright 2006 Michael T. Bauer

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