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You’ve likely gotten through your initial response to COVID-19 – the team are working from home or furloughed, and you’ve worked out necessary cost-cutting measures. So now you need to figure out: where to from here for the business?

So, it’s time to bring the team together for a strategy or planning meeting, in order to set direction, and map out the key initiatives. But how to do this with the team working from home, and distracted? The good news is that it’s possible to plan and strategise just as effectively remotely as in-person, in fact it has distinct advantages, and I’m going to share with you how.

If you’re not in the habit of regular strategy and planning meetings in your business, then now is the time to start. In many ways it’s easier (and certainly more cost effective) to start remotely, and this is a crucial time to set strategy and direction.

I am a strategy and planning expert. I have been helping high-growth companies to align their leadership team around strategies for growth for years. More recently, a particular experience of mine has become very valuable – how to do it remotely.

Here I am sharing highlights to help you:


You may be surprised to learn that, in some ways, running strategy and planning sessions virtually has some advantages over doing it person:

  • Flexible on who. You can involve whoever you want. For example, we bring in extra coaches to our planning sessions just for an hour to run breakout groups. This wouldn’t be feasible or economical in in-person meetings. Right now, you can beam in the global expert on any topic you need, from anywhere in the world.
  • Flexible on when. We normally do planning quarterly. This works well, but it’s rigid. Right now, we’re working with companies who are doing planning every 2 weeks, or once a month, or every 2 months. We break the quarter up into sprints, and have regular, smaller planning sessions. Not having to meet in-person means teams are free to set a faster, more flexible rhythms.
  • Flexible on how long. Like most teams, we have a standard agenda and format we use for planning, typically one full day. Done virtually though, one planning day can be broken up into multiple session, for example half a day on strategy, and half a day the next day on planning key projects. Sub-groups and teams can easily be formed and led in smaller breakout sessions. Without the dictates of travel schedules, agendas can be broken right up.
  • Better engagement. This may surprise you, but you can have people more engaged virtually, because they have to do more for themselves. It’s like the difference between classroom learning, and remote learning. In remote learning, students have to plan and drive their own studies more, there’s a higher degree of personal responsibility, which is more engaging (for the right people). Noone ‘controls the pen’.
  • Saves money (and the planet). There is a big saving, both in time and money lost to travel that is no longer incurred, and the environment loves the savings on travel and materials.
  •  Perfect for international teams. Some teams are already remote, because they work internationally, so remote planning is a no-brainer.



  • Of course, having long planning meetings via conference calls presents challenges, though they are all manageable, and I have yet to meet a team that hasn’t been able to get at least as good outcomes from planning remotely, as in person. In fact, I don’t want to go back to doing it in-person again!

I have pulled together key best practises to overcome these challenges, and develop and deliver a great remote strategy & planning session for your business:

Assign new roles

There are 2 roles that are key to making such a session a success. I suggest that the CEO should take neither role:

  • Facilitator. Owns and delivers the agenda (which must be agreed with the CEO in advance). It’s the Facilitator’s role to make sure you get through the exercises and discussion items on-time. They require the skill to manage debate and discussion effectively, and move things on when necessary.
  • Moderator. Managing the technology is quite some work, so it really helps to have someone else set up and manage both the conference call software (especially managing the breakout groups and assigning people to them) and the virtual whiteboard.

Master the tools.

Technology is of course both the solution and the challenge to making it all work. There are 3 types of tool that the Moderator needs to get support the team to master:

  • Conference calling software. Critically, you must be able to divide the call into smaller sub-groups (such as Zoom’s ‘breakout’ function).
  • Virtual white-board. Collaboration is key in strategy, and the wall and post-its can be easily replaced with a virtual substitute, such as Miro.com, Stormboard, or Mural.
  • Task management software. It’s important to have somewhere to record the output, particularly for key projects, and associated tasks. Our favourite is Monday.com, but Microsoft Teams, and Align Today all work well too.

Clear Agenda and Objectives

It’s important to understand what you must come away with from such a session. It has failed if you do not have the following in place when you’re done:

  • Strategy. The team aligned behind some long-term goals.
  • Priorities. Agreed areas of focus for the upcoming period.
  • Plans. Detailed action plans mapped out for each Priority.
  • Execution. Rhythms, habits, tools and tracking agreed, to get the Plan executed.

So, the Facilitator must put together an agenda, based on the needs of the business, to get you there. There are many tools available – a SWOT analysis is a simple and effective one, the ‘Strategy’ section from Verne Harnish’s ‘Scaling Up’ provides many more. It’s also important to reference your key metrics and targets when setting your Priorities.

Digital meeting hygiene

The dynamics of meetings are different on-line, and so you need to tweak how you manage them, in order to ensure engagement:

  • Digital Ground rules. From the outset, attendees need to be clear on a few key rules: all notifications (email, social media, chat / messaging apps) off in their computers; phones away; keep your video on; and mute yourself when not sharing.
  • Breaks. It’s surprisingly tiring to attend meetings on-line, and attention spans are shorter, so more breaks are required, generally once per hour. Encourage people to go move around
  • Ice-breakers. Work just as well digitally as in-person. Sprinkle a few throughout the session. My current favourite is: “Where are you going to go for your first post-lockdown meal?”

If you are interested in learning how you and your team can become experts on how to lead planning and strategy virtually please get in touch.

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