Guide for Strategic Decision-Making Discussions

Have you ever been the person in charge of a group, run an important meeting regarding a strategic decision that needs to be made, and taken part in the key small group discussions all at the same time?

It’s difficult.

It’s difficult because you have skin in the game. You have opinions on the topic that you want to share. Or you facilitate in a way that leads the group to the conclusion that you want the group to land on. As you share your opinions some people stop sharing their opinions and ideas because they think, “If that’s what the boss wants, then why are we discussing it? Let’s just do what he or she wants. This is a waste of time.”

How can you get other people to share their ideas and opinions, and still be able to share your ideas and opinions without shutting the group down?

This is where an experienced outside facilitator can make all the difference.

In guiding strategic decision-making discussions, Dan Coughlin quickly establishes an environment based on respectfulness, open-mindedness, honesty, and caring. This allows everyone’s voice to be heard in discussing the strategic decision that needs to be made. The senior executive in the room becomes just like everyone else. He or she takes a seat in the group just like all the other people in the room.

Prior to the meeting, Dan meets with the people in charge of the group to clarify the strategic topic that needs to be decided on at the meeting. In some cases, he communicates with all the attendees before the meeting. In this way, he comes into the room with an understanding of the situation the group is coming together to discuss.

Dan then guides small group and large group discussions, captures the ideas in writing, and provides summaries to the group throughout the meeting. He offers suggestions to the group to spur thinking, but he doesn’t try to act like he has figured out their challenge and is presenting a final solution.

This approach allows the group to make steady progress through the phases of clarifying the questions that need to be addressed, collaborating with one another to generate ideas, and making final recommendations. The final decision may need to be made by a single individual or a subset of the discussion group after the meeting. However, that individual or group will have the benefit of having had thorough discussions and input from a cross-section of people who are connected to the situation.

And Dan Coughlin helps that process by guiding the group through those phases, which allows everyone in the room to participate in an equal fashion.

After Dan successfully completed several management coaching engagements, we asked if he could help with our strategic planning process for our four divisions. He met with me to define the outcome we wanted and parameters for the process over several weeks of discussion between he and I. These results were sent out to the management team before the first meeting, and Dan spoke with everyone to make sure they knew what was expected. During the meeting, Dan was in charge and made sure that we stayed on point in our discussions and also asked probing questions to better define the presentation. Each division was then tasked with a three-month assignment to further define their strategy, and Dan worked the leaders to help their efforts. A second follow up meeting was then held, with Dan again running the meeting. It was very satisfying to see what each division had developed with his guidance and the respect that everyone had for each other during the process. Our management team thoroughly enjoyed working with Dan and the relationships they built with him.

Al Koller, President, Koller Enterprises Inc.