Key learning outcomes:

  • Learn that working towards a common goal improves a team’s effectiveness.
  • Recognise that informing your team of the purpose of the planning day and encouraging their participation is crucial to the success of the day.
  • Acknowledge the value of thoughtful preparation for the planning day.
  • Understand that the outcomes of a planning day should be compiled and distributed, and follow-up communication should take place.


In a small business, having your team working as effectively as possible can mean the difference between success and failure. It is important to understand how the impact of any issues, disagreements or disruptions will be much greater in a smaller business than in a large corporation. Even if just one or two of your team members are not working as effectively as they could, the impact on your overall business productivity and profitability is substantial.

Research shows that having everyone in a team working towards the same goals is an essential ingredient of an effective team. A team planning day will allow you to gain buy-in from all team members with respect to these goals. This article gives you a step-by-step guide to formatting and facilitating the day. You will find some of the topics included in the planning day are covered in depth in individual learning articles and we suggest you work through each of these before conducting your session. You will find the links throughout the article and also in the top section under essential previous learning.

Step one: Think about the logistics

There are a number of issues you need to think about before you start:

Step two: Pre-frame the day

It is essential that you pre-frame the planning day well in advance. You need to explain why you want to conduct the day, how important it will be for everyone to be there and how you feel it will benefit the team and the business. For example, you might schedule the day for the beginning of the year to set the direction for the coming 12 months, or you might be looking to expand to a new location and want to develop a shared leadership culture. It is important to communicate that for the day to be successful, input from everyone is valuable and it will be a positive experience. The more energy and enthusiasm that goes into preparing for the day, the more positive your team will be from the outset.

Step three: Preparation

The more preparation you do for the day, the better. If you are using an outside party to facilitate the day you will need to ensure that they are fully briefed. Depending on your industry and business you may need to conduct some research. Some examples might include a market share analysis, performance history or some financials. The important thing is that you simply present the facts, and avoid stating your opinions or beliefs, in order to stimulate discussion.

Step four: Getting started

To get the best out of everyone, it is important to start and finish on time. It is also important to set any housekeeping rules at the beginning of the day. Here are some of those we run through:

Step five: Format for the day

It is important to get everyone to think about the outcomes they want from the day. Get each person to individually write down four or five key points. Then go around the table and get everyone to share what they hope to gain. Write them down on a whiteboard or flip chart. You will find that there are some common themes and that the exercise will set a positive tone for the day. You may want to get everyone to focus on the ones they feel are most important by circling them on the board or highlighting them in a different colour. Having two or three key points will help provide focus and direction for the day.

These values will guide the behaviour and actions of those in the team once back in the workplace. It is essential for an effective team to identify the values that are shared and agreed. Our detailed learning article “Core Values” will take you through the steps to completing this section of the planning day. It is important that you read through this prior to conducting your planning day.

This follows on nicely from the discussion on values. The key question to ask everyone is “what do we really stand for?” This is a safe environment for the team to set and agree on standards of behaviour within the group and in dealing with customers. Once again you will find a complete learning article to guide you through this section of the planning day. Either click through to “Setting Team Standards” here or at the top of the article.

This is where you get the team to start thinking about what success might look like in 12 months time. You want them to think bigger picture and not to put limits on their thinking. Once again, have everyone think about what they feel are the three most important goals. Then go around the table and ask all team members to explain each one to the group. Write the goals on the whiteboard or flip chart. The aim of the discussion is to come up with a list of about 10 to 12 goals. It is important to get input from everyone. It is not necessary to have a lengthy discussion at this time about what can or cannot be done; this can happen in the goal review stage. Remind everyone to keep thinking of the “big picture” – you do not want to get too caught up in details here.

This is where you will run through any facts and figures that you have prepared. Once again it is important to simply report the facts and allow the team to discuss any implications rather than using them to justify any position that you might have. This is also the time when you will conduct a team SWOT analysis. This will help the team to define the strengths and weaknesses of the business, and it will also allow for identification of opportunities and potential threats. Our learning article of the same name will give you a framework and template to work from. Click here for the SWOT analysis, or you can find it at the top of the article.

Step six: Keep up the momentum

From experience we find that you are best to keep deadlines short and communication frequent in the initial stages after the planning meeting. You want to have your document from the day distributed no later than one week after the meeting. Additionally, you need to commit to regular update meetings. We suggest that these are conducted monthly to monitor progress and keep everyone accountable for their contributions. These meetings can usually be conducted in 45–60 minutes.

You will find the more you involve your team in planning, the more engaged and motivated they will be to work towards the business’s success. It takes a lot of hard work to put a planning day together, but we can assure you that the benefits will make it very worthwhile. Use this team planning day guide in conjunction with our other “Business Planning” articles.[/wlm_ismember]

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