Why Retreat?

Frank Miles, a consultant hired to work with XYZ Corporation, is preparing to recommend to his client that they undertake a corporate retreat. His instinct and experience tell him that the corporate leaders need an opportunity to regroup, rethink, and solidify their business strategies. But Frank is concerned because of the perception of some in the business world that retreats are nothing more than expensive boondoggles–company-paid vacations for executives and their staffs.

In order to prepare the best recommendation possible, and one that is accepted by the client, Frank decides to ask some of his peers in the consulting field for their reasons why corporate retreats work when properly structured and used. The responses were varied, and each response gave a real benefit of retreats that he could include in his recommendation.

1. Retreats can help define and refine strategy. Getting away from the office, from telephones and email, can bring fresh perspective to corporate strategy. In a less structured setting, group participation and problem solving are enhanced. Rethinking the organization's mission, vision, goals and objectives are best when there is some space from the day-to-day grind of work and accomplishment. Retreats are excellent tools for clarifying or reaffirming the strategic direction of an organization.

2. Retreats can help review and identify trends. In the midst of regular business activities, it can be very challenging to take a broader look at your industry and competitors. Getting away from the office and into a more relaxed setting stimulates deeper thinking and helps identify issues and events and their relationship to one another. Looking as a group of executives or coworkers at the bigger issues that have impact on business direction can be a healthy experience. Using economists, consultants or others to help identify trends in the broader environment can be very helpful in seeing meaningful trends and doing something about them in a strategic way.

3. Retreats can help when there has been or will be a crisis. When business trends or events project a looming crisis, a retreat can help bring focus to the problem and identify possible solutions. And when a crisis has already occurred, a retreat can help debrief the organization's response and prepare for the future in the new environment. And dealing with these issues without the pressure of daily work and management can be a real plus for finding creative solutions.

4. Retreats can enhance teamwork. In the daily grind of organizational activity, relationships among coworkers are sometimes strained. While in many organizations, teamwork on the job is encouraged and rewarded, in some companies the emphasis is on individual performance. In those organizations, teamwork must be encouraged and stimulated in other ways. A retreat is an excellent way to build trust among coworkers, to enhance communication and to clarify roles and responsibilities.

5. Better ideas are generated at retreats. Changing the environment usually results in a change in the way people think and solve problems. There is more "outside the box thinking" when participants are outside their daily and routine "boxes" at work.

After working with his peers, Frank felt he had all the ammunition he needed to develop his recommendation. In a future article, Frank will share his outline for the XYZ retreat and his checklist for making a retreat successful.