Admiral Grace Hopper, the pioneering computer scientist, once said that the most dangerous phrase in the language is, "We have always done it this way." When it comes to corporate offsites, her phrase is fantastic.
Autumn is out of season in many companies, as teams across organizations look forward to a new year. The classic exterior has period elements. It is a long, often multi-day meeting, kept away from work (unless it is not – then it becomes "the place of the place"). An outside facilitator shows up with too much food. You can have a "team building" component. Presto! Great discussions, renewed connections and enthusiasm for the future. But let's be honest: People are happy to be done with it when it ends.
This is a perfect time to ask a stupid question ("stupid" in the Peter Drucker sense "smart"): COVID aside, does the typical offsite actually work?
I want to assure you, and most especially my clients who pay me to help you with offsites, they have value. The speed of work – day in and day out, month after month – means that managers and their teams need a period of time for honest assessments of the current state of their business, opportunities, challenges and risks. They need space for bold thoughts about the future. And they need a chance to assess, and perhaps repair, their relationship and team function.
But offsites have undeniable disadvantages. To name a few:
- They are an important time commitment with high opportunity costs.
- They concentrate large image / high altitude / forward-looking conversations in a short window – and teams often neglect to return to the intellectual place. regularly, because they reckon, "That was what offsite was for."
- Intense and enthusiastic discussions lead to great ideas and plans without giving "suck time" to contemplation, reflection and further research – to say nothing of experimentation or initial implementation. Some time to get a new perspective and to try ideas for the road is like an insurance against "seemed like a good idea at the time."
- People with loud and powerful voices – the influential and extroverted – can have a power of discussion and decisions beyond what their insight or intelligence deserves. the discussions and commitments quickly accumulate dust.
- Invitation is all or nothing. Especially if offsite is, well, offsite, it's hard to ask people to join a short subset. And calling in rarely works.
Allow me to share recommendations on how to adapt the ritual of autumn – the great refuge! – not just to face the relentless realities of COVID, but to correct some of the mistakes that may have plagued your event for years.
Shorten the days
After my experience in the COVID era, after three hours in a video conference, people start google, "how can I make my Zoom background a loop of myself." The reality is, pre-COVID, the reason we had such long days on offsites is that people generally traveled. No one wanted to say four half-days rather than two full days, even though it might have made a better meeting.
Zoom has revealed the limitations of a person talking while others are listening. Zoom and some good support tools such as the virtual flipchart / whiteboard Miro or the voting tool Mentimeter make discussion and collaboration easy and even better than personal.
Emphasis on work before and after the place
When people consider the quality and success of a retreat, they naturally look at the meetings. But I can tell you that a good return comes largely from thorough preparation and tough follow-up.
Use empty spaces
Silence and reflection are underutilized in offsites, both in the sessions and create space outside the meeting. . Time and space to reflect, think, gather thoughts – these increase the quality of dialogue and decisions dramatically.
Muddle the line between the offsite and recurring meetings
Rarely is the team I have seen that, in recurring meetings, does a good job of retiring, thinking holistically and asking: is there something important we are ] not discuss? While rethinking and perhaps shortening offsite, look for ways to bring the strategic discussions to recurring meetings.
After many years of being an outside facilitator of offsites, I have come to believe in three consistent success factors: [19659007Thisissometimesdifficulttosay
Radically reevaluating your offsite, not just to account for COVID-19, but with the kind of "rebuilding" you could have done many years ago, will help you nail down those success factors. But get ready: People can only say, "We do not want to go back to the old way."
Jonathan Becker is a consultant with This Team Works, focusing on teams in life sciences and technology. More meaning in Fortune :