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  • Writer's pictureSidekick

Sidekick Stories: Shell strategically plans for the year ahead

How Shell successfully brought together more than 20 stakeholders for annual strategy planning across two markets

The Challenge

When developing their annual national retail marketing, brand and communications strategy, Shell Canada and Shell USA worked with multiple stakeholders to collaborate and develop annual strategic plans. This work involved ten business units and their interagency teams (IAT), which consisted of 10 external agencies.

Whether in-person or in virtual environments, arriving at a seamless and collaborative workflow across all stakeholders presented challenges in previous years:

  • Discussions became too tactical, and important questions were missed.

  • Stakeholders worked in silos and then attempted to merge plans in the last phase.

  • Compressed timelines and internal politics stifled creativity and innovation.

Both markets recognized the need to push the boundaries in their approach, work more effectively, and deliver more substantial business results.

Sidekick was challenged with re-engaging stakeholders with in-person and intense collaboration, with stakeholders coming together in person for the first time since the pandemic.

The Solution

Shell Canada and Shell USA have a strong understanding and grasp of their purpose and passion. However, they both needed to focus on their people to drive business results. Here is how Sidekick addressed the challenge:

1. Facilitating in-person planning sessions

Though Shell Canada and Shell USA required facilitated workshops, the markets had different business models. Both planning sessions took the same Design Thinking approach: Discovery, Ideate, and Iterate and Optimize.

2. Surfacing any tensions and conflicts

The objective was for all teams to work together to deliver one cohesive plan so Shell could meet their ambitious business objectives. But, with a myriad of internal and external stakeholders, varying opinions and perspectives were inevitable. Anticipating the diversity of thought in each room, Sidekick prepared for this and encouraged people to ask important questions that needed to be addressed: What are the big problems we are trying to solve? What are the big tension points? What are the significant issues?

“In my opinion, in past planning sessions we felt less comfortable sharing our thoughts and ideas,” said Gretta Wolter, Shell USA. “Sidekick did a wonderful job facilitating our discussions – it's clear they understood our business well, which was helpful to ask us challenging questions that made us think differently. I really appreciated the more relaxed conversational style that Sidekick brought to the session!”

3. Creating a safe and collaborative space

By providing a safe space, people were encouraged to sit in the tension, working through these discussions productively. Sidekick created groups, facilitated pitch competitions, and encouraged everyone to lean in. Unpacking and working through these tension points helped level set the group before moving to tactical discussions. To foster a safe and collaborative space, Sidekick organized social events in the evenings to build personal connections outside the workshop setting.


Sidekick Co-Founder and facilitator, Nora Griffiths, firmly believes in this process,

“Honour the people and trust the process. We created a safe space for Shell stakeholders based on mutual respect, trust and collaboration.”

4. Achieving a strategic statement the team rallied around

Sidekick led an OGSM-style session to nail down objectives, goals, strategies and tactics, and vital milestones to achieve a strategic statement. The teams worked through heavy topics, 'big' thinking, debates and breakthroughs on the first day. The following day shifted to a tactical day of forward-thinking plans.

The Impact

Managing these conversations online would have taken six-eight weeks. However, with Sidekick's in-person facilitation, it took two days. All teams felt welcomed in the space where they could participate, contribute and have fun – and in the end, everyone was aligned in the same direction with a clear strategy.


“This was by far the best Brand Planning strategy meeting that I’ve attended and has set the bar high for any future meetings. I am hoping this is something Shell will continue to do and will utilize your resources to help facilitate these types of meetings going forward,” said Program Director, Michelle McNiel from Pointsmith, an interagency team member.

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