A couple of months ago I wrote an article titled Strategy and Execution: it’s time to close the gap – which unpacks the link between the two. Today, I’m going to delve a little deeper into the challenges that may pop up in a strategy session, which often impact the outcome of the workshop and therefore the rollout of that strategy – unless they’re tactfully addressed.
From managing conflicts to maintaining engagement and momentum, these hurdles are all things we’ve encountered at some point along our business journeys, but how often do you pause to think about how best to address or resolve them?
In this article, I will explore common challenges faced in marketing strategy workshops and provide practical solutions that have worked for us at Yellow Door over the past decade.
Make it inclusive
One of the first things we focus on is making everyone feel welcome and included. This is important to ensure that each person has the opportunity to participate in the workshop and contribute their ideas, regardless of their title or how outspoken they are. Here are a few things to consider:
– Provide materials in multiple languages if required.
– Make the workshop accessible to people with disabilities.
– Create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone – do a quick round of introductions, set out how you’ll work best together, and let them know what to expect.
Manage Conflict Between Team Members
According to a survey by CPP Inc., 85% of employees experience conflict at work.
So instead of trying to avoid it, we focus on ways to steer this towards healthy debate in our collaborative style of workshops. It’s a fine balance though, as conflicting opinions and differing priorities among team members can potentially derail the progress.
What we’ve found works well is to set the tone right at the beginning – establish an environment of open communication, trust and active listening. Also explain that your role as a facilitator is to encourage constructive discussions; be intentional about making sure all voices are heard, and avoid anything being swept under the rug; but also be cognisant that there is a finite amount of time, so some things may need to be parked for later or taken offline to discuss in smaller groups.
Keep Everyone Engaged
It can be challenging to maintain participants’ attention and engagement throughout a workshop, especially if it’s taking place online, or is a full-day session where energy levels are bound to dip at some point.
The simplest way to keep the energy up is to make it a two-way conversation rather than a lecture or presentation-style workshop. Incorporate brainstorming slots, interactive activities and hands-on exercises where they need to actively participate.
These activities don’t always need to be relevant to the topic or focus of the workshop – in fact we recommend doing something completely unrelated such as a meditation, breathwork exercise or even a lightning round of rock, paper, scissors, which is always a favourite at the EOA learning days which I’ve attended.
Stay On Track
When you are in focused sections of a workshop, you want absolute focus; and more often than not conversations seem to veer off-topic, consuming valuable time and diluting the focus on essential objectives.
To avoid this, focus on agenda management and set clear time allocations for each discussion point. Designate a facilitator who can steer the conversation back on track if necessary. Research conducted by the Center for Digital Strategies found that 82% of executives believe that effective time management is critical for workshop success. I’m curious to know what the other 18% think!
Shift To Execution Mode
More often than not, the energy and momentum generated during a workshop dwindles once participants return to their day-to-day responsibilities. If there is one thing you take away from this article – I hope it’s a reminder to avoid this happening!
According to a study by McKinsey, organisations that follow up with action plans after workshops are 1.4 times more likely to achieve their strategic goals.
So, what are the practical ways to make this happen? Establish clear action plans and assign responsibilities to maintain momentum post-workshop. Provide everyone with tangible next steps and deadlines to ensure accountability. Check-in on the progress often, and gamify the experience if you can – have a leaderboard, dashboard or weekly update on how much closer the team is to achieving the goals set out.
This is a big part of our workshop process at Yellow Door, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see the results take shape over time for our clients – whether it’s confidence around what to post, consistency of marketing efforts, or a whole new strategy being actioned.
Feel free to reach out to me or one of my team if you’d like to find out more about our marketing workshops, or chat about this topic in particular.