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  • CEO -how to prepare a speech to open a strategy workshop

CEO -how to prepare a speech to open a strategy workshop


As a CEO, you are expected to deliver the opening address at your organization's strategic planning workshop or retreat. The speech, which sets the scene for the strategy workshop, usually lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. What you choose to focus on in your speech, will affect what your team focuses on and how they will behave during the strategy workshop.

Why a CEO's opening address at a strategy workshop is important. 

When you present your opening address at the start of a strategic planning workshop, the delegates at the workshop use your speech to determine:

  • Whether to trust the workshop agenda or not. If what you speak about in your opening address doesn't match the agenda of the workshop, your team will become confused. They will spend hours wanting to debate the workshop agenda, rather than getting on and doing strategy.
  • What to focus their thinking on. There is a difference between operational and strategic thinking. Leaders usually spend most of their time on operational thinking. This involves focusing on what is happening in the short term, inside the organization. However, developing a powerful strategy involves focusing on what is happening outside of the organization, and building a competitive advantage for the long term future. Many delegates are not comfortable with this type of strategic thinking. So if the CEO focuses on short term operational issues in his opening speech, the team will resist discussing factors that could affect the long term strategic direction of the organization.
  • Whether or not to trust the facilitator. How you introduce the facilitator will determine whether or not the team trusts they are in competent hands and therefore whether they will support or sabotage the facilitator.
  • Whether or not to trust you, the leader to implement the plan after the workshop. Many people have attended many strategy workshops in their careers. Far too often, their experience has been that the strategic plans they developed at strategy workshop, never got implemented. Once the workshop was over, maybe the plan was communicated, but after that, everything drifted back to normal. So delegates are now wondering if you (as CEO) are going to do what it takes to implement the results of this workshop. And therefore if is worth their while to put in any effort in developing a new strategic plan.
  • How they need to behave during the workshop. Many leaders are used to multi-tasking in their daily jobs. Phone calls, emails, texting and tweeting are part of a normal day's work. Yet during a strategy workshop, distractions and interruptions destroy the flow of strategic thinking, and prevent your team from crafting a powerful strategic plan. Teams often need to be told at the start of the workshop, not to allow themselves to become distracted during the workshop.
  • The CEO's opening speech at a strategy workshop affects what the team focuses on and how they behave during the workshop.

  • How they need to work with one another during the workshop. Many organizations operate in silos. People are used to working with people in their own divisions, regions, or departments. Often they don't know, understand or get along with people in other areas, divisions or regions. This means they look at any organizational issue from the perspective of their own area only. People need to be reminded that a strategy workshop provides a wonderful opportunity to learn from people in different areas of the organization.
  • How much confidence you have in them. In anything that requires high performance of teams, (whether it is a soccer match or a symphony concert,) a coach can inspire a team to either perform at levels they never believed possible, or can destroy the confidence of the players. It is important that at the start of a strategy workshop that you the CEO, tell the team that you believe that by working together as a team, you are confident that they will be able to solve the challenges facing the organization today.

This guide shows you how to prepare a speech, as a CEO, to open a strategy workshop. A 15 - 30 minute speech that will set the scene for a successful strategy workshop.

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Most strategy books are written for middle managers or students. They provide models or information about how global companies operate. The assumption is that all you need to do is mimic these companies and you will be successful. But a ' one size fits all' approach to strategy doesn't take into account the fact that CEOs and strategists have to work within a specific environment under a unique set of constraints. In addition, they may have complex strategic issues or unique challenges they need to resolve as part of their strategy process.

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