Excerpted from an article by Keith McFarland

It’s time to blow up the corporate retreat. Usually, too much time and money are wasted on the annual tradition with far too little to show for the effort. What’s more, my own firm’s recent survey of managers from companies with sales of $9 million to $1 billion suggests that if you hooked the troops up to a lie detector and asked them what they think of the corporate retreat, they’d put it just slightly ahead of thumb screws.

The problem lies not with the idea of an off-site meeting per se but rather with how most are conducted. Too many corporate retreats are intentionally bland affairs that skirt the important issues and are designed merely to reinforce the company line.So I propose we replace the corporate retreat with the “corporate charge” — an antidote to the platitude-laden sucking-up sessions that everyone ridicules behind the boss’s back. Want to put together a retreat that really has an impact on your company?

Here are some guidelines:

Get clear on what you want to accomplish. Unless you have a compelling reason to have a corporate retreat, save your time and money.

Tackle the tough stuff. Too many corporate retreats supposedly aim for consensus but avoid conflict and controversy. If touchy subjects do come up, they’re often shunted to a “parking lot” for discussion by a smaller group after the retreat. Meaningful consensus isn’t built that way. On the contrary, real agreement is built when different points of view collide in constructive conflict. Consensus isn’t so much built as it’s hammered out.

Plan the agenda — but not the outcomes.
Use the time together to genuinely look hard at the company’s situation and stay open to the idea that the session might lead you in completely new directions.

I’m constantly amazed how many company retreats are held for the CEO and a handful of top managers — people who already work closely together and share the same data pipe — and often the same assumptions about the business. Your chances of accomplishing breakthrough thinking in this kind of setting are about as good as Jay Leno winning the Republican Presidential nomination.

Instead, try adding to this group a bunch of impatient middle managers, some of your most aggressive salespeople, a couple of board members, and your resident cynics. If you design the process correctly, you’ll deliver outcomes in the “corporate charge” that far exceed any you have seen from corporate retreats.

Get outside help. If want to really get your folks thinking outside of the box, you’re going to need the help of a skilled facilitator. He’ll help you figure out what the key issues are to create a forum where everyone gets heard but also where ideas are discussed crisply and decisions are reached.

Original article posted here.

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