The debate about off-site retreats is polarizing: Are they powerful innovation labs that coalesce great minds around important challenges, or are they gratuitous time-wasters that have no discernable effect on the bottom line? Whichever side you’re on, you’d likely agree that even the most successful off-sites fall often short of their potential.
Most off-sites jump the tracks before leaving the station, argue Bob Frisch (@OffsiteGuy), author of Who’s in the Room, and Logan Chandler, partner at Schaffer Consulting. The culprit? Poor planning on the part of the CEO.
In their Harvard Business Review article “Off-Sites That Work,” Frisch and Chandler offer a plan that begins by establishing straw-model objectives 60 days before a retreat. Build paired their utilitarian checklist with insights from Cheryl Dahle’s (@HeyFishLady) Fast Company classic “Can This Off-Site Be Saved?” to devise this CEO planning tool:
|T-Minus…||Key Decision||Description||Consider This|
|60 Days||No one leaves until we ________.||Your offsite’s incredibly defined goal.||How will you know you’ve reached your goal? What internal and external data are needed?|
|60 Days||Success is unlikely until ________.||The guest list of frontline executors, suppliers, and vendors whose insights can’t be imitated.||If your employees had to compete for off-site slots, what would make a winning application?|
|45 Days||We could learn a lot from ________.||The outside experts who could introduce mind-blowing ideas.||What firms outside your industry have overcome a challenge similar to yours?|
|30 Days||Standing up, stretching, and ________ would kick-start some serious business.||The one team-building exercise that could help you creatively reach your goal.||What about producing a video or mock product to share with stakeholders back home?|
|2 Weeks||The price of admission is ________.||The reading, reports, or data that participants must digest before showing up at the off-site.||Could you break up into teams, each with its own reading assignments related to the team-building exercise?|
Before the dot-com bubble burst, Fast Company highlighted a few eccentric locations for off-sites, from Chicago’s Field Museum to Idaho’s Lower Salmon River. Are these places superior to a hotel ballroom? Certainly. Do they inspire innovation? Not necessarily.
“Before you stress about where you will go and what you will do, remember that, from a business perspective, [location] is probably the least important part of planning your retreat,” writes Sarah Kessler (@SarahFKessler)in Inc. If the goal is clear and the agenda is smart, even the local HoJo will do.