Importance of Pre-offsite Meeting Consultations – # 7 Key Question

August 17, 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 (August 10)

Reason #7 Key Question – The value of one open ended question

One-on-one consultation questions are very focused on the topics to be covered during the planning sessions. Except for the open ended last question that provides the interviewee the opportunity to express his or her thoughts on anything that they feel is important. The question can be phrased various ways but I like to use “Anything else that we haven’t covered but you would like to mention?” or “If you could change one thing what would it be?”

Often the comments are very linked to the topics at hand and just as often there are comments made about general issues such as the need for more and better training, morale issues and need for more effective communication, etc. This information is included in the “What We Heard” presentation but the items are typically addressed subsequent to the off-site in a variety of ways.

On occasion, however, sometimes the issues arising from the open ended question are addressed at planning sessions, such as the example noted below.

The off-site meeting topic was strategic planning and the attendees included the Board of Directors and senior and selected staff members. Almost half of the interviewees commented in response to the open ended question that they felt that the Board was becoming too hands on and less of a governance Board. This was too important a topic not too be addressed so the agenda included a discussion of this topic and it was agreed that there had been some deviation from the roles as outlined in the Board mandate and remedial steps were undertaken to fix the problem right away.

It would be very unlikely that this issue would arise from the planning sessions themselves and so another reason to undertake the pre-meeting consultations including that Key Open Ended Question.

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

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