It’s a chance for the executive team to change their environment, review the performance of the business, and analyze trends that may be affecting them.
Although the focus of a management retreat is dependent upon the mission or the vision which must be developed, the goal of every retreat should be to improve the performance of the business.
A management retreat is incomplete if a strategic action plan cannot be developed.
That covers the “why” portion of why a management retreat should be run by every organization. Now let’s talk about how a management retreat can help executives reach those needed action plans.
How to Run an Effective Management Retreat
Business strategist John Spence suggests that a management retreat should always begin with the end in mind. It’s good advice. Many teams come to a retreat with various factions that try to make their ideas become company policy.
Discussions then get bogged down in the details of those ideas instead of looking toward the goal which must be accomplished.
Management consulting firm TRG suggests that the purpose of the retreat be identified and clearly communicated as well.
That works to your advantage because it allows everyone to begin the creative planning process before the retreat begins. Even if you wait until the retreat to define its purpose, open communication will allow you to set some ground rules that should encourage civil discussions.
Organization analyst Jason Shen highlights the importance of taking breaks.
Retreats can be intensive. It is important to keep the willpower of your management team as strong as possible. Make sure there are plenty of snacks, beverages, and breaks to make it to the bathroom. Otherwise, you may find that some team members are more focused on how they feel instead of the information being discussed.
Morag Barret, writing for Entrepreneur, brings up the issue of time management.
You must have enough time to get through the information that you want your management team to review. If the team feels rushed for time, then they will not be able to develop a comprehensive action plan.
The best way to counter an environment where people feel rushed is to eliminate something from the agenda or the itinerary.
Dave Logan, writing for MoneyWatch, makes one final important point.
Alcohol can be a problematic issue at your retreat in numerous ways. There might be a long wait time at the open bar. Someone might have too much alcohol and do something that they regret later on.
From a business liability perspective (and of course a safety perspective), if alcohol is involved, then no one should be driving that evening after your event.
Always Bring in an Outside Facilitator
Because there will be factions coming into a management retreat, having someone from the organization facilitate the retreat can be problematic.
One faction always feels like the facilitator isn’t hearing their ideas or supporting their perspective. This creates rifts within the management team that can be difficult to heal.
Some organizations attempt to host a self-facilitated event. This can be successful if everyone is on the same page. When factions are present, however, the type of management retreat almost always devolves into an argument and nothing gets done.
That is why a professional facilitator, hired from the outside, is the best solution for a retreat. Look for someone who has a reputation for developing leaders and improving team performance.
The outside facilitator will be able to give your team a fresh perspective about what is going on since they haven’t been dealing with internal issues every day. Outside facilitators are also adept at creating a common language and tools for the team to use, which adds depth to the action planning steps.
And, if you’re the retreat planner, bringing in a professional facilitator takes one of the most stressful responsibilities of the event off your plate.
The Problem of the Bad Management Retreat
Any management retreat which does not create progress toward a needed objective is one that has wasted everyone’s time.
Bad retreats are worse than not having the retreat in the first place.
One of the main causes of a bad management retreat is an internal conflict within the executive team. These conflicts must be handled appropriately for the business to benefit.
Diversity, whether of experience, age, gender, or perspective is a good thing. It can also potentially lead to conflict and misunderstanding because by its very definition it means people on your team will not be homogeneous in their views.
A management team must be on common ground with regards to one goal: to improve the company together.
If that goal is present, then a facilitator can invite everyone to offer solutions and create compromise to the benefit of the organization.
If that doesn’t happen, then there is the possibility of regression toward the mission or vision instead. That is why a bad retreat can be extremely problematic. Instead of bring everyone together, it can drive everyone further apart.
Following Up After the Action Plan is Created
Many management retreats can get to their action plan. Most will create a good one, based on the agreement of all participants at the event.
Then the action plan fails.
The final step of a good management retreat is the appointment of a project leader. The job of the project leader is to keep the energy levels high and the momentum from the retreat going.
They must take the information, put it into a usable format, then create a push that drives managers toward the action plan repetitively.
Many management retreats tend to be the beginning of a new idea or project. The project manager can foster creativity by ensuring everyone has access to the information and progress developed through the event.
When you can remember that a management retreat begins before the official start time, then ends well after you’ve reached an action plan, you’ll have a recipe that leads toward success.
Sometimes, that might mean you’ll need to get rid of your values and start over. It might mean your company needs to go in a different direction. If you can get past the “we’ve always done things this way” trap, then the rest of the management retreat will begin to fall into place.