Off-site are occasions when employees go somewhere away from the office for a meeting or team building. It can be a small brainstorming at a restaurant or hotel cafe or it can also be a big getaway to a beach paradise where you might need the assistance of a professional event planner.
Why is off-site important? It is where top management explore strategic issues in depth with higher expectations which will change the way their business run within six to twelve months. It is all about strategy, goals and tactics.
Although an off-site event can be just for one day or one week, the preparation for this event usually needs at least two months to ensure success.
Mistakes to avoid
A strategic off-site’s success is largely determined by what happens before it convenes.
Define what you aren’t going to do than deciding what you are going to do. Restrict the scope of the conversation with the aim of producing a manageable number of key initiatives to avoid having a laundry list of a dozen next steps but not a coherent strategic course of action. Uncover divergent perceptions of the participants to align their understanding of the scope of the off-site.
Invite only the essentials. Avoid bringing an entourage of the boss or a subordinate to bolster the position of a manager.
Hiring a consultant to develop the strategy not only undermines internal commitment of the executives but it also produces just a set of multiple-choice options and not a comprehensive solution.
“Executive teams are actually legislatures. There is, in effect, the congressman from Sales, the senator from Finance, and the ambassador from Operations.” – Harvard Business Review
Do not overwhelm participants with data. Present the necessary literature or reports days or weeks before the off-site and make it clear that they should absorb these before the off-site event.
Only when the event planner understands the participants’ view on strategic issues can he start to select the tools which will help the team identify the right strategic initiative and structure an agenda for the off-site meeting.
Inside Atlassian published nine ways to have a successful off-site:
- Keep the groups as small as possible
- Make sure each participant is invested and engaged
- Establish the social contact a-fresh
- Create a parking lot for topics
- Make each session about solving a problem or getting to a decision
- Ask hard questions
- Push for outcomes
- Tune into the group dynamics
- Make if fun but not too fun
There can be thousands of ways to conduct a successful off-site. Each meeting or event will vary based on the individuality of the company and its participants. However, there is always only one common goal and that is to make the event a success.
Practice makes perfect.
Spending a few days in off-site meetings annually will help develop executives’ abilities to reveal, discuss and resolve strategic issues even in ordinary meetings. This will help them align with each other to act more quickly and make better decisions which will benefit the company immensely.