One effective way to involve a large stakeholder group in the strategic planning process is through a leadership retreat. A retreat can be an opportunity to kick off the process, gather feedback, or transition to implementation. Additionally, annual retreats are an effective way to update your strategic plan throughout the current planning horizon.
To achieve the most meaningful results from a retreat, sufficient planning must be done in advance to ensure the days and weeks leading up to, and following the retreat make the most of participant involvement. Use the tips below to guide your strategy team to plan an effective retreat:
Before the retreat:
- Develop a list of questions or feedback points to address during the retreat
- Prepare the agenda with these key questions
- Send agenda to participants in advance, with additional preparation material if needed (e.g., article on a specific topic, current/past plan for review and feedback)
- Hold retreat at off-site location, and discourage cell phone use (if at all possible)
- Depending on topics discussed, potentially utilize an outside facilitator
- Utilize a variety of team-building activities designed to elicit feedback from all participants, not only the most vocal (e.g., small group exercises)
- Leave retreat with clear next steps and responsible individuals assigned
Following the retreat:
- Survey participants on retreat effectiveness, priority of items discussed, or additional ideas not discussed during retreat
- Communicate outcome(s) and individuals responsible (within a few days to one week post retreat is best)
- Follow up with leaders on assigned initiatives and any assistance needed in implementation
- Plan for regular check-ins with leaders following retreat to discuss ongoing progress
What does your organization do to achieve retreat results?