Making Your Off-site Work

The Senior Leadership Team of any commercial organisation has the dual responsibility both to formulate the business strategy as well as to lead, drive and manage its execution.

The ‘Off-site’ or ‘Away Day’ would therefore seem to be an essential tool in the leaders’ tool kit.

You know how this works – a group of hard working senior executives take a step back from day-to-day operations to review the business, thinking about market trends, opportunities and threats in order to ensure goals and objectives are aligned with the strategic aims of the business.

This is a sound concept in principle, but in practice off-sites can be frustrating.  A company’s approach to off-sites can swing like a pendulum, often failing to deliver a demonstrable payback as a consequence.

They tend to swing either towards encouraging purely rational decisions that follow a clear, predetermined logical structure, or focus primarily on relationships, interpersonal skills and/or team bonding. The decisions from the “logical” event may not get implemented, not because they are poor decisions, but because of a lack of engagement and joint commitment, whilst relationship-oriented sessions may suffer either from insufficient substance and the need for an injection of business reality, or the fall-out from a poorly conceived dodgy trust-building exercise.

So what is the recipe for success?  Strategy sessions do need to combine a fearless and clear-headed view of market opportunities with an assessment of internal strengths and weaknesses versus the competition. Personal ambitions, aspirations and the working preferences of the individuals who make and implement the decisions must also be factored into those decisions.

At their best, participants will use off-sites to do some valuable work on either direction setting, team building or both.  At their worst off-sites will be viewed as a waste of time, money and effort.  Some tips:

  • Aim High

Clients often set low expectation for an off-site.  Don’t fall into the trap of reducing it to a low level bonding exercise that is “content-lite”.  Don’t hold the session just because it’s March – and we always do this in March.

  • Choose a Good Location

Go somewhere interesting!  Hotels and Conference Centres are not the only option.  Go to unusual buildings, do self-catering, or walk through a forest.  Be original.

If you choose the safe option and seat the Board of Directors around a Board table, don’t be surprised if you get a pale imitation of a Board meeting.

  • Get Leaders Engaged

In advance of any event, ensure individuals understand their role and get properly prepared, build their commitment to making the day(s) a success.

Ensure that there is an objective, focus on the external environment, assessing opportunities and threats and arriving at an agreed view in a clear business context.

The final part is to develop realistic action plans that will be supported by all throughout implementation

Achieving a balance between the logical and the emotional is key.  This insight is the basis of all our facilitated sessions and the successful strategic support Morgan Clarke provides to a wide variety of clients.

Are you looking to schedule an off-site with external facilitation?

Contact Clive Watkins on 07760 160996 or [email protected].

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