Pointless Planning Retreats

breather-168766Millions of dollars are spent annually flying some of the brightest minds and dedicated leaders around the world to engage for a day or two in windowless rooms to “create the new strategic plan.” Eyes glaze over as board members or business leadership teams contemplate the “exercise” of planning, while seeing their existing execution lists floating in their minds. The stress of being “away from the office” instead of continuing to knock out work while emails pile up, adds further glee to the anticipation.

How do we move past this stereotype and create an experience that becomes a dynamic guide for everyone, constantly leveraging opportunity and creating a repeatable experience at every board meeting and leadership development meeting?

Step 1: Be willing to embrace that meetings to get together and check things off a list is not governance or leadership.

Step 2: Be willing to acknowledge that “doing stuff” and “being busy” is not strategy, nor necessarily connected to our future success.

Step 3: Courageously embrace the process of asking our customers or members what they see in the future, what matters to them in an ongoing fashion, and what they are no longer interested in (as opposed to preferences on lists of current products, offerings, or benefits – do that but not for strategy meetings.)

Step 4: Test our assumptions by gathering evidence that either confirms, challenges, or redirects our assumptions

Step 5: Commit to continuous learning as leaders and recognize that others not in the room may have more knowledge and/or may need to be invited into the room.

Step 6: Recognize that we are in a time that no leader has ever experienced; that there is no playbook; and that what has made us successful in the past may have no bearing on our future success.

Step 7. Move beyond “a strategic retreat” as something to budget for and check off to committing to develop a strategic mindset, mirrored by strategic agendas at every board and leadership team meeting and setting separate, dedicated meetings for problem solving that do not occur or belong in strategic meetings.

Step 8: Understand that a “strategic retreat” is only the beginning and that the implementation required to get to a full transformation that keeps us relevant to those we serve is heavy lifting and requires significant post-retreat engagement and oversight in order to accomplish.

If you’ve got a retreat coming up or are thinking about it, remember to ask whether or not your facilitator can expertly guide you through taking strategy into cultural alignment in your business or organization and can provide the tools to integrate implementation. Move past pointless planning retreats to ongoing strategy renewal and organizational transformation. Your relevance depends upon it.

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