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PLANNING
B
igger than a staff meeting, smaller than topics on your desk: drafting a member of the administrative
a convention, the management retreat support staff.
can be a productive, constructive session that • Don’t plan alone. Solicit input from senior • Keep the retreat to two days or less of
charts a course worth following for the up- team members about the venue, agenda local, not overnight, travel. A focused
coming quarters or fiscal year. Or, the retreat items, or even the guest speaker if you agenda prevents the group from taking
can be a disastrous waste of time and expense. recruit one. Let the team see the agenda on too much in a short period. Schedule
before the meeting takes place. breaks at manageable intervals and provide
How do you ensure the right outcome? • Set a specific agenda. When you and the refreshments.
team have identified issues to address, • Remember your purpose and/or theme.
For first-time retreat-makers, planning and try framing agenda items in the form of Is the retreat for team building and
professionalism are critical success factors. a question. Rather than a bullet that says, bonding? Or strategic planning? Both… or
Keeping it simple probably doesn’t hurt “Growth,” state, “Where are opportunities something else entirely?
either. In fact, limited resources should not for joint ventures, and what are pros and
deter the manager from scheduling a retreat. cons of pursuing them?” Finally, what happens after the retreat can
Even a retreat that takes place at the home • Assign presentations to all retreat strengthen or weaken the progress you
of the company owner can be conducted as participants. The investigations of a cross- made during the event. Be clear about who is
smoothly as if it were in a hotel or conference functional team often yield new, valuable following up on specific initiatives, as well as
center. insights. Cast yourself as facilitator when what time frame, once you return to the daily
others are presenting. routine. Include the most important initiatives
But the retreat is not just a glorified get- • Provide tools. Anticipate participant in your operating plan. Then distribute
together away from the office. Ideally, a retreat needs by providing pens, notebooks, easel, meeting minutes to the participants, and
is relatively broad in agenda compared to a projector, etc. summarize key points for the staff to see.
regularly scheduled meeting. Discussion tends • Designate a note-taker. Weigh the
to be conceptual and strategic rather than advantages of having retreat participants When executed well, off-site meetings tend
tactical. This is the time to step away from the take notes for an agenda item, rather than to inspire people to see things from new
daily grind and address company perspectives and add to the overall
issues that affect the whole business discussion(s). If your retreat is a success,
rather than individual departments. you will start to hear a refreshed and
re-energized management team
Of course you may have burning proactively propose retreat topics
tactical issues that need attention, throughout the year for the next big
from staffing to budgeting; any session.
agenda items important to you
and the business have a place at
Laura Bristow is a Baltimore-based marketing
professional with experience in education,
the retreat. Listed below are some
consulting, and media. She can be reached at
key steps to ensuring your retreat
lbristow21212@yahoo.com.
successfully tackles the important
 ThinkBusiness April 2009 
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