Selecting a Committee and Facilitator

Selecting a Committee                                     

A strategic planning committee should be created to develop and manage the strategic plan. Participants may range from a general member to a non-member to an organizational leader. The committee size should be approximately six to eight individuals.  
Consider creating a strategic planning committee description that defines the objective of the committee, frequency of meetings, term of positions, and roles and expectations of the members

Items to consider when selecting committee members:
  • Willingness to commit time to volunteering
  • Strategic orientation
  • Component-first mentality
  • Ability to listen
  • Ability to present ideas 

Selecting a Facilitator                                         

The most effective strategic planning sessions occur when they are facilitated by one individual. The facilitator keeps the committee focused on strategy and growth. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to assigning a facilitator within the organization or someone outside of the organization.
 Internal Facilitator Advantages
  • Familiar with organization and success/challenges.
  • May inspire higher level of comfort with discussion of sensitive issues.
  • Cost effective.
  • May lack objectivity.
  • May lack ability to realign the group if discussion digresses or implodes.
  • May have limited time to keep the process on course.
 Outside Facilitator Advantages
  • Leverage a strategic planning expert.
  • Broad wealth of experience working with other organizations.
  • Ability to work with the executive committee or board throughout the planning process and preparation of the final plan.
  • Perceived as being objective.
  • Limited knowledge of the group and its successes/challenges
  • Financial costs.
Competencies of a Facilitator
  • Skillful in evoking participation and creativity.
  • Capable of maneuvering differences of opinions.
  • Manages time efficiently by allowing adequate time for discussion.
  • Assist the committee in understanding the aspects of strategic planning.
  • Capable of maintaining objectivity.
  • Demonstrates professionalism, self-confidence, and authenticity.
  • "Asks" rather than "tells".
  • Negotiates rather than dictates decision-making.
  • Able to create a learning environment, posing problems, questions, and tools to stimulate discussion and willingness to learn.
  • Able to pace discussions and change the level of discussion at appropriate times

A good facilitator will recognize these issues and be prepared to deal with them as they occur. Common concerns include:
  • Conflicting agendas   A good facilitator will keep the group focused on what is best for the organization.
  • Discomfort with ambiguity Typically, participants in any strategic planning session display various levels of tolerance for ambiguity. Some individuals are very uncomfortable when ambiguity arises.  Recognizing that some ambiguity is inevitable due to the uncertainties of the future, a good facilitator will assist the group in working through the need to force structure and prevent closure from occurring too quickly.
  • Style difference and need for data Some of the participants will be very data driven and hesitant to address issues without all the data while others may be comfortable with making decisions using the "gut check" method. A good facilitator will anticipate data that may be needed prior to the meeting and work with the group in obtainable of required information.
  • Role of the leader. A good facilitator will be able to gauge the tone of the organization and the anticipated involvement by the group based on the leadership style of the current elected volunteer.  
  • Strategic planning vs annual planning A good facilitator will identify initially the anticipated outcomes of the session (based on discussion with the organization’s leadership) and seek to resolve any conflicting expectations prior to the discussions beginning.