Branding is good medicine. But sometimes, to help it go down, you need to add a spoonful of sugar.
A couple weeks ago we held our annual designRoom strategic planning/branding workshop. It’s for the whole staff, and everyone prepares and contributes. The sugar I provided was lunch for everyone from L’ Albatros restaurant in University Circle, on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. (If you haven’t been there, you need to go.) Here’s my guide to our strategic planning and branding event:
Neutral sites invite openness
We met in the back room of a mansion that sits amid museums and colleges. It’s a stimulating environment, one that’s not the office, and it helps the whole process. A neutral space invites openness, which is vital to making realistic plans and hearing the truth from everyone on my team.
Openness for us is the ability to be free and honest with our knowledge and information. It is sharing our ideas and being collaborative in planning and decision-making. I love our offsite workshops because it fosters openness. It makes me a little nervous to share my stuff, but I do it anyway.
Professional facilitator keeps it moving
We work with a professional facilitator and she helps guide, drive, and inspire the session. Working with creatives, as many of you know, is like herding cats. Our guide helps to keep things moving forward in a positive direction. I find that the more open I am to the process, the material and the conversation, the better the work is that comes out of them.
We opened up with the team sharing what made them feel good and key insights about 2018. We talked about how our brand could evolve for next year. Then we moved on to vision and planning. One key issue that came up — a project manager. A theme relating to work flow rose to the top. So we dug a little deeper with everyone in the room to see what that Project Manager job looks like and how Flow will help us be better in 2019. Super helpful.
Then we split into small groups and brainstormed action items for our 2019 plan. Together, we went through each idea and discussed the why’s and the how’s. Then the entire team picked the top five ideas. They are all in our 2019 plan.
At least one wild idea
Open up to what’s possible, and try to include at least one kind of off-the-wall idea in your strategic plan. It doesn’t need to be crazy — like one of the ideas floated for our office was to hang a neon sign in our window. Often, those off-center ideas will lead to other things and make the rest of your plan stronger. And if your team believes in it and helps build it, then look out.
Five tips for planning strategic planning
- Schedule well in advance so everyone can attend
- Encourage your team to be prepared and willing to share
- Use a facilitator
- Create an agenda that is loose but structured
- Be collaborative and open to any and all ideas
I am amazed at how it comes together and what we walk away with — a clearer vision and realistic ideas we can implement. We take our own medicine – and we keep our healthy brand healthy.