How to Organize an Effective Strategic Planning Retreat for 2016

Fall is a great time for your annual strategic planning retreat, as it allows you and your team to prepare your plan for 2016 before the new year begins – and for Interiorscape companies, before the busy holiday season.

If you haven’t scheduled your retreat yet, I highly recommend doing so as soon as possible so that you don’t miss out on this excellent opportunity to bring your team together and go into 2016 with direction, focus and momentum.

As you plan your retreat, there are some best practices to follow regarding where to hold your retreat, who should attend, what the outcomes should be, etc. This blog post is a quick overview of these best practices. For more detailed information, please contact me directly.

It’s best to get away from your normal surroundings, if possible. I recommend holding your retreat a minimum two-hour drive from your office so that attendees are able to disconnect physically and mentally from their daily routines. These daily routines occupy the minds of attendees and use up precious mental capacity.

When people get away from their normal lives, they necessarily make arrangements for all of those details consuming their minds. They make arrangements for children, parents, spouses, pets, etc. With clear minds, they are then able to direct their energy toward the task at hand – creating a great plan for 2016.

A “getaway” retreat doesn’t need to be extremely expensive. There are plenty of affordable – even free – options available. With a little bit of effort and creativity, the right venue will surface. Who do you know who has a vacation home that would accommodate your team?

The strategic planning team should consist of the organization’s senior management team – its leadership team. This team includes the general and his or her captains. The old adage, “less is more,” applies here. If the group is too large, it becomes difficult to make decisions, maintain unity, and produce an optimal outcome. A group of 3-5 is ideal.

The attendee list should also include an outside facilitator. Facilitation is difficult and exhausting all by itself. I personally have facilitated hundreds of strategic planning sessions and I can’t image how anyone could fill the shoes of the facilitator and be an active participant without sacrificing one or the other in a significant way.

The primary outcomes of the strategic planning retreat are:

  1.  to create, clarify, or recommit to a long-term vision for the organization as a whole
  2.  to develop and document mid-term and short-term plans, from the upcoming year to the next 5 years
  3.  to enhance the cohesiveness of the leadership team.
  4. to discuss the organization’s ideology – its core principles (values) and core purpose (mission). Ideology must be determined by the leadership team before it can be communicated throughout the organization.

The annual strategic planning retreat is not a one-time event or something to do only in “good” years. It is not an employee appreciation event either. It is part of an ongoing strategic planning process involving an annual retreat, quarterly review sessions, and weekly accountability check-ins.

When it comes to strategic planning, how is your organization doing? Is your fall retreat planned yet? If not, how will your organization achieve its goals without taking time to clarify its long-term vision, mid-term goals, and plan for 2016?

Now go forth.

Featured image by Office Now

Phil Harwood is a Managing Partner with Pro-Motion Consulting ( He is a green industry veteran with over 30 years of managerial experience. He graduated with honors from the Executive MBA Program at Michigan State University and was recently nominated “Alumnus of the Decade” by his peers.

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