Preparation is one of the keys to a successful planning session. One of best things you can do to ensure that you’ll have a solid plan at the end of your session is to get your teams’ brains working before they even enter the room. Assigning some homework for your team to complete prior to the session will help them come prepared to make the best use of the time you’ve carved out for your session. You are making a big investment by pulling your top people out of their day jobs and into a room for two days of planning, so you must do everything you can to get the best results from this time.

With that in mind, we recommend an exercise called Start, Stop, Keep. This is a simple exercise in which you ask your team to list three to five items in each category:

•Start – This is a list of a few things that each person wants to start doing in the next quarter. This is the place to list any new initiatives, new habits, or new processes your team wants to start in the quarter.

•Stop – This is a list of things your team wants to stop doing. They can list anything that they feel is a time-waster or any initiatives that are unsuccessful or opportunities they view as distracting the team from achieving long term goals.

•Keep – This is where your team can list any priorities that may need to carry over into the next quarter or new practices/processes that are working well and should be kept.

Making this list will get your team thinking and help them to be in the right frame of mind for the session. We recommend sending it to all participants two weeks before the session and asking the team to return the completed forms to the facilitator prior to the session. This way, if the facilitator notices a pattern of issues that are important to discuss during the session, she or he can adjust the agenda in advance to have time for important issues that came out in the prep work.

At the executive team level, it is important to give session participants enough time to discuss potential Start, Stop, Keep ideas with their direct reports. Departmental leaders should make every effort to get their teams’ contributions so that the discussions at the executive team level reflect important issues and ideas from those working on the front line closest to the customers and their concerns.

During the session, you can use the team’s prep work as a springboard for your discussion on priorities for the quarter. Even if you don’t spend time discussing each item from the lists in depth during your planning session, it is important to acknowledge the teams’ contributions. You want them to feel heard to gain buy in from everyone for the decisions you do make for the quarter.

Remember to prepare well for your session to get the best results, and good luck in your next planning session!

Learn more about the Start Stop Keep tool in the video below.

Start Stop Keep


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