An organization cannot afford an unsuccessful offsite. Strategic offsites are often more important than regular managerial meetings for a number of reasons. For example:
- Offsites are one of the few instances when all leadership members are present in one place to explore strategic issues in depth for several days. It is a rare opportunity for leaders to think afresh about critical organizational goals.
- Because leadership and team members take time off of regular business activities, they can devote full attention to the topic of discussion to come up with innovative solutions.
- Offsites involve high cost – both the absolute cost of organizing the event and the opportunity cost of getting the strategy wrong.
In order to plan a better strategic offsite, the business leader or consultancy leading the offsite must have access to the complete picture of the organization’s health, aspirations, and pain points. Erroneous or incomplete data causes faulty decision-making, which can be catastrophic for the company.
To attain this 360-degree view of an organization, leaders and consultants must synthesize information from disparate areas of the firm and its members. This organizational intelligence should, in turn, form the basis of deciding an offsite’s agenda, desired outcome, and participant list. Well thought-through strategic offsites backed by insights from an organization’s stakeholders (internal and external) have a far higher probability of steering meaningful conversations and delivering desired outcomes.
Here’s a quick primer on leveraging organizational intelligence for the success of strategic offsites.
Carefully design the meeting agenda
Deciding the meeting agenda is perhaps the most important component of building a strategic offsite. Contrary to conventional thinking, it should not be up to leadership alone to decide the agenda. Rather, it should be a bottom-up phenomenon. To truly understand the needs of the company, the business leader or consultant needs to listen to the organization’s people to understand what they know, what they like and dislike about the current strategy of the company, and what is working and not working. Accordingly, the leader or consultant needs to mold the agenda to reflect the organization’s current state, using the detailed intelligence gathered from key stakeholders in the organization.
How 9Lenses Helped Offsite Leaders Pinpoint Focus Areas
An advisory company was leading a strategic offsite for a client and used 9Lenses to inform the agenda by gathering insights from the client’s stakeholders beforehand. The data revealed a number of areas to focus on during the offsite, such as the need for a better talent acquisition strategy and gaps in management training.
Avoid the “blind men and the elephant” fallacy
In the “blind men and the elephant” story, many blind men touch different parts of an elephant to find out what it is, but each man touches only one part (such as its tusk or its tail). Based on what he touches, each man arrives at a different conclusion as to what the animal is. Therefore, lack of exposure to the elephant’s entire body causes all the men to arrive at different and incorrect conclusions of what the object is.
Similarly, in an organization, each employee (including the leaders of the business) has a different perspective of the business overall. These perspectives should be brought together and viewed as collective knowledge to get the best results. Moreover, this collective knowledge needs to be shared with all the participants at the offsite so that everyone is on the same page.
Sharing organizational insights not only increases the chances of devising improved strategies, but if participants’ suggestions roll into the new strategy, it also gives them a sense of ownership that improves strategy execution.
Get the best ideas and best people in the room
In addition to gaining insights to inform the strategic offsite, by gathering intelligence from stakeholders across the organization, leaders stand a chance to identify people who may not be in leadership positions, but who can still provide valuable perspectives around the company’s challenges and market dynamics. Such people and their ideas can become a part of the strategic offsite, further improving the quality of discussion.
In conclusion, a business leader or consultant must do his or her homework to plan a better strategic offsite, taking care to expose every valuable insight to inform the agenda, to gain a complete picture, and to ensure the best thought leaders participate. Any strategy without an appreciation of the challenges to its execution, viability of its implementation, and realistic assessment of its outcomes is an expensive mistake. There is no better way to avoid such mistakes than to use the collective wisdom existing within an organization.
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