6 Steps to Prepare a Strategic Planning Retreat with Your Team

October 31, 2019 in Employee Engagement

6 Steps to Prepare a Strategic Planning Retreat with Your Team


Creating success in strategic planning retreats

Most organizations only recognize success as a result of a robust strategic planning process followed by impeccable implementation — but companies vary widely in the way strategic plans are developed. Some are held in traditional business settings and others favor a more relaxed, overnight-retreat format. Many leaders have a difference of opinions on who to honor as part of the process.

Studies have found the greater the number of people who are engaged in the business vision and plan development process, the more likely they are to commit to and buy into it, therefore increasing the company’s chance of success. There is a significant difference between a CEO saying they are looking to execute “his/her” plan versus “our” plan. Bringing team members from throughout the organization to an off-site business strategic planning retreat can be highly impactful. However, this holistic approach can also be ineffective if some of the often overlooked, yet critical details aren’t managed well. After years of conducting off-site retreats, we’ve found it important not to forget these six basic elements:

1. Location

Choose a place that people will enjoy and remember fondly, perhaps a remote location or scenic waterfront. A unique facility like a large log cabin can create detachment from traditional ways of thinking and place people into creative and comfortable mindsets.

2. Attendees

Having only the C-suite involved limits ideation potential. If you’re dreaming of the business growing in a certain direction, you may benefit from the feedback from “boots on the ground” team members in accounting or HR. Get representation from all areas of the company; this may create the need for multiple meetings, but the idea generation and buy-in factor will be worth it.

3. Preparation

It’s important to remember that some of the attendees may have anxiety and feel like a fish out of water; give them a clear direction of how the event’s agenda will flow. You can do this by providing attendees with a “reflection” package beforehand so they can prepare their thoughts around key challenges and opportunities. These steps will increase individual confidence and maximize engagement during the retreat.

4. Environment

Suggest wearing comfortable clothes and encourage individuality — if people want to wear their favorite shoes or sweater, let them. Also, don’t forget to set up the ground rules and review safety guidelines.

5. Food & Drink

Don’t be afraid to go overboard on the variety and quantity of snacks, confections and drinks — no one will complain about too many treats. Make it a place where your people can enjoy themselves by indulging in their guilty pleasures. Not sure about their favorites? Use their uMap™!

6. Fun

Last, but not least — be ready to have some fun and create an opportunity for light, communication-starter questions. Ask things like, “what is the funniest memory you have from your childhood?” Keep the mood light by proposing a trivia question with an instant lottery scratch-off ticket as a prize. At breaks, play some upbeat music on a Bluetooth speaker; the possibilities are endless. The goal is to keep everyone comfortable and feeling good about the tasks at hand.

There are too many boring meetings happening in the business world. Choosing to be different will capture the hearts of all of your people, align your organization to common goals, and increase engagement for a bonded and high-performing team. Get outside of the ordinary, create a strategic planning retreat, and let yourself be surprised by the results!

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