With current concerns about safety and travel, it’s natural that many people will be considering doing virtual strategic planning. Making more of your work virtual is one of the big changes many of us are making to be more competitive. Obviously, virtual meetings have some disadvantages, but they also have advantages. Your online strategic planning meetings can be managed to be as effective as in person meetings, with some care and foresight.
Disadvantages of Virtual Strategic Planning
The main disadvantages of virtual meetings have to do with the immediacy of communication and the attention of the participants. When your strategic planning team is limited to seeing each other in video windows on a screen, you lose some of the benefits of face to face meetings. These disadvantages include:
Limited bandwidth interaction
Because you are interacting through a screen, there are limits to the kinds of observations people can make in their communications. Is the CFO looking at you? Who did most team members turn to when you asked about the sales forecast? It’s hard to pick up subtle cues that make in-person conversations richer when you interact through any online meeting software.
Temptation of multitasking
Because we are only present through a video window in a virtual meeting, we are tempted to divide our attention and slip in some other activities, like texting or reading. In extreme cases, I notice that behaviors that would be considered rude in person are commonplace in some virtual meeting situations.
Focus on technology rather than content
We’ve all had those moments where someone has an issue with their software or internet connection. It’s tempting to get bogged down in troubleshooting the problem rather than focusing on the meeting. Likewise, the novelty of some software features may bring on a temptation to play with filters or backgrounds rather than focusing on the discussion.
Lower levels of action and engagement
Face it – staring at a face in a window on your screen isn’t terribly exciting. They don’t move as much as they can in person, and you don’t feel the immediacy of the interaction. There are many ways to make in-person strategic planning more engaging, but some of these simply don’t work in virtual strategic planning.
A hazard of sameness
Sameness is a problem for any strategic planning meeting. You are thinking about the direction of your company – not how you’re going to handle this week’s marketing issues. Using the same type of conversation can lead to tactical thinking where strategic thinking is called for. This is doubly true when you are also using the same technology for your meetings.
Managing these disadvantages requires experience and focus on the process of strategic planning. Fortunately, there are also advantages you will see.
Advantages of Virtual Strategic Planning
The advantages you see in online meetings also apply to virtual strategic planning. First virtual strategic planning meetings are often faster than in person meetings. Second, virtual strategic planning can be less expensive, especially if you are meeting with people from different places who would otherwise have to travel. Third it is often easier to schedule virtual strategic planning meetings. Given that your strategic planning will involve some of the busiest people in your company this is a big advantage.
Steps for Better Virtual Strategic Planning
Given these advantages and disadvantages for virtual strategic planning, there are some common sense steps we can take to make the process work better and get the most benefit from our planning meetings:
- Have a clear agenda with scheduled start and stop times as well as times for breaks.
- Shift the focus of the meeting from person to person regularly and fairly often
- Use screen sharing and whiteboard apps to organize and present information efficiently
- Practice using the technology before your online strategic planning meeting in order to minimize waste of time
- Consider working with a professional who has experience conducting strategic planning meetings online
The team at Center for Simplified Strategic Planning has been using several different technologies to conduct both strategic planning meetings and implementation reviews virtually for more than 10 years. If you would like to explore the benefits of our expert facilitation in your online strategic planning meetings, contact us using the button below.