The Prime Minister recently brought her Cabinet together for a mini-retreat at her country residence, Chequers. Without going into the results of that event, it did remind me that sometimes the only way to deal with a tricky strategic issue is to literally take everyone away together for a couple of days. Not quite lock them in a room, but you get the idea!
The ideal venue for your strategy retreat is rural, comfortable and high quality, with a good meeting room and social spaces. If at all possible it also has poor wifi and mobile phone signals! You want as few distractions as possible. Even better you want the place to yourself so that you can manage those distractions. You won’t find many conference venues in the UK that can deliver that kind of intimate and focused environment. For small groups of between 16 and 50 there is a new trend for party houses, which are big houses in beautiful locations, that can be used for business events or family celebrations.
So now you’ve found your ideal venue, how do you get the most out of your company strategy retreat? Here are the key things to consider:
Have clear objectives
Spend time in advance working out exactly what you want to get out of the event and putting together an agenda that will deliver on those objectives. Pace the agenda carefully with lots of breaks and lighter activities so that delegates are able to make the most of the focused sessions.
Start each session with a warm-up. Get everyone moving their body or working on a light-hearted challenge, while being careful to keep it on the right side of cheesy.
Creativity can be much more productive than linear approaches. Think how you can make serious discussions more creative to bring out deeper, often subconscious, thinking. For example, if you’re working out a new vision for the company – maybe you could draw a ‘rich picture’ together, or make sculptures or come up with a metaphor for the business. A creative lense will often reveal new insights that you don’t spot when you approach those things in more traditional debates or conversations.
Healthy food and activities
A strategy retreat is hard mental work. And a healthy body is essential for a healthy mind. So don’t slow everyone down with fatty and sugary food, have a menu that is healthy and healthy snacks and fresh water on the tables. You can also fit in some country walks or exercise sessions. They are both good for clear thinking and the bonding that is so important for effective team working.
The strategy retreat is a great time to acknowledge and thank everyone for their contribution over the previous period. Make it public. You could run a mini awards session acknowledging everyone’s unique contribution.
If you follow those tips you will get a lot out of the strategy retreat. But don’t think it’s over at goodbye. The real work starts with implementation – and then of course the review, when you get together again next year!