Strategic Away Days’ Don’t Have To Be SAD! – Business expert, author and speaker Andy Hanselman talks team building…

If I say ‘Strategic Away Days’, would your response be: ‘Oh no, please Andy, not that!’

Lots of us have horror stories about ‘blue sky thinking sessions’, role playing or building rafts out of squeezy lemon bottles.

As a graduate trainee at a large business (many years ago!), I thought ‘Strategic Away Days’ were a very difficult thing to endure. Every six months, the senior directors would go away on ‘Strategy Weekends’ and to ease the burden of this incredibly tough task, they were put up in the best possible hotels. They also regularly came back on Monday morning with headaches and bleary eyes…it was only years later I realised it also involved drinking lots of beer and playing pool to 6 in the morning!

It also involved filling lots of flipcharts and returning laden with data and detail. They would then spend the next week typing up and putting all the information into wonderfully detailed document with forecasts and graphs. At the end of the week, they would brainstorm a sexy title for it to get us all motivated. Unfortunately they never shared it with anyone – they’d go to their desks, put the document in the drawer and let staff guess what was in it! (Those that guessed right were the ones who got promoted!)

A Strategic Away Day CAN be a useful mechanism for taking quality time out to work together on identifying and working on key strategic issues, though – provided you do it right!

What’s ‘right’? Here’s my Top Ten:

  1. Know Why!

Unless you can answer this question ‘What do we want to have achieved by the end of it?’’ don’t do it! Have a clearly agreed vision for the business for a specified time and milestones for achieving these things.

  1. Know Who!

Get the right people there. Avoid hangers on, and don’t it’s just about seniority – sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can be useful.

  1. Be Prepared

Ensure people know what’s expected of them before, during and after the session. Schedule  it well in advance and if there is homework to be done, ensure plenty of time to do this.

  1. ‘Get Away From It All’

Our experience suggests that holding it off site can be very beneficial – it helps avoid the day to day interruptions and distractions.

  1. Facilitate It

A facilitator can be very useful (I would say that wouldn’t I?!) but a good one will encourage discussion and engagement, help you stay focused, and ensure everyone contributes – not just the loud ones!

  1. Avoid ‘Collective Irresponsibility’!

Agree what’s going to happen next, by when, and by who. Make sure you set specific and tangible outcomes.

  1. Let’s Get Together Again!

Allow the dust to settle and after a week or so revisit the outputs and confirm and agree actions.

  1. Have Some Fun!

No, it’s not a jolly, or a skive, but it’s not a funeral either!

  1. Get Sharing!

Share the outcomes with your people – you don’t have to give away company secrets, but give people direction.

  1. Use It!

Ensure your vision drives performance – don’t keep it in a drawer… revisit, review and use it!

So, Strategic Away Days can be a great! If you need any help in running one, please get in touch!