For the past several years during the month of April, Jake and Kate land in our backyard fishpond. Kate nests near-by and Jake goes out to forage. Early in the morning and evening, during the nesting period, Kate comes back for a dip in the pond and looks for the food we put out for her. We look forward to our Spring visitors as we know Summer is just around the corner and the flowers will soon bloom. We believe our back yard has become Jake and Kate's private resort for a Spring Retreat as they prepare for their off-spring. Once the ducklings have hatched Kate trots them off to a bigger pond. Jake and Kate are only with us for a short but a very productive time.
Spring is a great time to renew your business with a Strategic Planning Retreat. A Strategic Planning Retreat is a short and productive time away from your busy place of business to look back at what your organization has accomplished over the past year and to look ahead and set new goals for the future. Here are six ingredients to prepare for a successful Strategic Planning Retreat.
Be clear about its purpose
A Strategic Planning Retreat is an opportunity for a business leadership team, board members, management and selected personnel to focus their energies on such areas as organizational renewal, strategic and long-range planning, values clarification, new policy directions and macro change requirements. In most instances a Strategic Planning Retreat sets the direction for change. If change is not on the agenda, then the retreat is all about continuing the "same old stuff." And, if that is the case the planners are dealing with the present and extending what the business is "doing" today into the future, rather than peering into the future and making changes to achieve higher levels of success.
Clarify who is involved
It is important to view a Strategic Planning Retreat as a fundamental requirement for the continued growth of the business or not-for-profit organization. It is an on-going process and not a one-time event. The leadership team must be committed to the process and dedicated to subsequently lead and manage the results of the retreat.
Key people required for a retreat include: Business Owners, Board Members, Executive and Senior Managers from all departments, and, others as deemed necessary for the success of the retreat. Small organizations include most of their employees.
Planning for a retreat begins several weeks and often months in advance. Tag someone with the responsibility to scan the environment for information that will impact the organization in the long term. This person scans newspapers, magazines, news bulletins, industry literature; and looks for legislative or regulatory changes, industry developments, public policy issues, changes within the marketplace, competitive and collaborative activities, research developments, and pressures within the organization. The information is collated and sent out to the attendees with the expectation that they will read it and come to the retreat prepared.
Depending on the size of your organization, it is also advisable to identify: a) an internal coordinator for administrative purposes with authority to book facilities, arrange for lodging and meals, set up rooms and order special requirements; and b) someone who is an objective outsider with strong facilitative skills who will enable full participation of the attendees and guide the process to a successful conclusion.
The best time for a Strategic Retreat is at least two months before preparation of an annual budget. This allows the leadership team to incorporate the new initiatives and change requirements identified at the retreat into the budgeting process. If this is a first retreat, then hold it at least three months in advance of the budget planning cycle.
The length of the planning retreat could last up to two and one-half days. The length of the retreat depends on the numbers in attendance, whether the retreat is a first, the size of the organization and the change issues that need to be resolved.
Planning retreats are best held outside of the office complex. This frees those in attendance from unplanned interruptions and distractions. The location should lend itself to informality; the room set up should allow for all those in attendance to see each other, such as a horseshoe seating arrangement; and there should be opportunity for small group breakout sessions and for fresh air walks.
Our best retreats are held in park settings and resorts. However, It is critically important to remember that this is not a vacation. It is a short, intensive working session that requires concerted individual and team mental effort.
The attendees bring their creative intelligence and any documents circulated to them in advance to the planning session. As a back-up, the coordinator should make sure that there is at least: one copy of all materials that were sent out in advance, a copy of the previous year's planning document, an organizational chart and any other documents describing the organization and its intention.
What to do
Learn from Jake and Kate who annually home in on their Spring Retreat and make it a practice to renew your business with a Planning Retreat every year. It will pay dividends for you including:
Auther: Richard Fontanie MSW, FCMC
Up-dated from Fontanie Learning March 1, 2018