Importance of Pre-offsite Meeting Consultations – # 6 Focus Shift

August 10, 2015

CEO’s of organizations regularly hold offsite planning meetings with their executive team and/or with the Board of Directors. Likewise, Department Heads sometimes brings their team together especially if they are geographically dispersed.

Often, these sessions are held on an annual basis, and the topics can be varied such as strategic planning, annual plans or to address operational issues.

I have found that holding pre-offsite meeting consultations with attendees, and sometimes with non-attendees, can dramatically improve the outcomes of the sessions. I have compiled a listing of 8 reasons why the consultations are so effective and each Monday over the summer I will provide the detailed explanation for one of the reasons. It will be a quick 2 minute read each week. Previous weeks’ blogs will remain on the website.

Reason #1 Effectiveness – Maximizes the value of the time spent at the offsite meeting (July 7)

Reason #2 Agenda – Provides key insights that assist with setting the meeting agenda (July 13)

Reason #3 Non Attendees – Enables non-attendees to contribute effectively and to have their voice heard (July 20)

Reason #4 Confidentiality – The value of “in confidence” consultations (July 28)

Reason #5 Short Meetings – Provides ability to have very effective short meetings (August 4)

Reason #6 Focus Shift – Sometimes results in a major shift in focus

The agenda for an off-site meeting is typically set following the completion of the consultations, as noted in Reason #2. The consultations impact the order of the agenda and often agenda items are added as a result of the information gathered during the consultation process. However, on occasion, the feedback from the consultations will result in a major shift change to the off-site agenda, an outlined in the following example.

A new CEO was hired into an organization that had a history of holding annual off-site planning meetings. The CEO asked me to facilitate this person’s first off-site session and the preliminary concept was to focus on the long term – a shared visioning exercise and the start of developing a new strategic plan. During the weeks leading up to the off-site I held one-on-one consultations with all meeting attendees as well as small group sessions with employees.

I still remember walking into the CEO’s office and making a timeout gesture with my hands. I stated that the input from the consultations revealed a situation wherein client due dates were being missed, often with significant rework required, resulting in a degree of client dissatisfaction and not surprisingly employee morale was at a low level. After a discussion of the situation the agenda of the off-site changed to focus on 1) client service; 2) employee satisfaction and training and 3) delivery processes.

The off-site was very successful – everyone rolled up their sleeves and the degree of discussion, debate and participation was extremely high and positive. A major output of the sessions was a detailed action plan broken down by the three topic areas. Within a week following the off-site there was an all employee meeting to go over the results of the planning meetings including an overview of the action plan.

A year later business processes had been revised significantly, rework was negligible, client satisfaction levels were rising substantially, as measured through a client consultation process, and employee morale was definitely on the upswing.

And the off-site planning session that year was focused on the long term – a shared visioning exercise and the start of developing a strategic plan.

Reason #7 Key Question – The value of one open ended question (August 17)

Reason #8 Facilitator Participation – Creates ability for facilitator to contribute (August 24)

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