1. Prepare and review
Before the retreat, you and your team should do some homework. All those attending should review your strategic plan and think about how you’ve done as a company.
Are you on target to implement your action plan, hitting your milestones and achieving your objectives? How have employees fulfilled their responsibilities in the plan? How have market changes and your evolution as a business affected your strategy? Do your objectives need updating?
It is often helpful to hand out a discussion paper and department presentations well before the retreat and require that participants read this material. That way, the retreat can focus on solutions rather than dry recitations of data.
It may also be useful to get employee input on various issues through a questionnaire circulated in advance of the event. This feedback is especially worthwhile if you don’t plan to invite every employee to the retreat.
2. Set an agenda
Prepare an agenda that allows for discussion of the issues you identified in your pre-retreat review. Be sure to build flexibility into your agenda in case some topics require more time than expected or new items arise. Consider making time for break-out sessions on specific issues affecting particular departments.
The agenda should also include ample time to discuss tasks flowing out of the retreat, an implementation plan for these tasks and a process to follow up on the meeting.
You don’t necessarily have to invite everyone in your company. Those attending should be employees in a position to give useful input and who will be designated to implement various tasks.
Consider who will moderate discussions. This could be you, a key manager or an outside consultant. An outsider has the advantage of being a neutral person who has expertise in encouraging free-ranging discussion. You can also hire this person to do the pre-retreat preparation, handle logistics and prepare a post-retreat synopsis.
Strategic retreats are often held annually, but there is no standard duration. They can last anywhere from a day to a weekend or up to five days. The time needed depends partly on the extent and gravity of the issues you’ve identified in your pre-retreat review.
It’s often recommended to hold the event somewhere other than at your place of business, typically at a hotel or at a country inn. That can help participants step out of their usual daily routine and feel less distracted by work.
A retreat is a great opportunity to look back at what you’ve achieved in recent months and give yourselves a pat on the back. It’s also a good time to get to know each other better in a relaxed atmosphere.
5. Follow up
It’s a good idea to summarize the results of the event in a post-retreat report for employees, especially if not everyone attended. Also make sure to follow up the retreat as planned to ensure tasks are carried out.