So It Was A Terrible Offsite. But It’s Not The End Of The World. Now Here’s How to Bounce Back From It.

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Ask 100 smart senior executives or manages about their last company
offsite and most of them will probably tell you that it was anything but productive, or borderline disasterous.
Some might say it was painful. A few will admit that they were absolute waste of
time and money. Planning an offsite is not easy, managing the aftermath is even worse if it was not a great one.

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Over the years, I have organized thousand of these offisites meetings, and I’ve spoken at hundreds of
them. Ultimately, any company offsite should be focused on developing a
shared vision of the future and how to get there. But so many times they fail
to deliver anything more than building team spirit and a big binder of printed
PowerPoint slides.

Team building should not be a key component of any
offsite. Team building should happen in the office, and it should happen every
day. If you need to pay for hotel rooms, conference rooms, catering and back-patting
awards to build your team, you have a bigger problem than a lack of team
spirit. Little exercsie is fine, but it should never the be the key objective.

If it was a really bad one, here's how you can bounce back it?

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  1. Be reflexive. Perform an analysis of what went
    wrong and what objectives were not met. Were you being strategic and realistic
    in your goals? Or were you so focused on the operational stuff that you took
    your eyes off the prize? One pitfall of the offsite is that too many objectives
    are set. If you were not strategic in the first place, build a task team to
    pursue the strategic agenda in the office. Take into consideration what is
    strategic and what is operational. And get back to it.
  2. Drop the pom poms. Most big decisions need
    some degree of consensus to successfully start activating. One problem with
    many offsites is that they end up turning into a forum for breeding consensus.
    Once everyone is back in the office and the offsite-induced groupthink has worn
    off, create a safe space for dissent. Organizations that let disagreements get
    expressed make better decisions. So perform a force-field analysis of the
    organizational dynamics for those who hold polarized views. Then, build
    consensus. Don’t force it.
  3. Listen. Most executives are correct in
    assuming that any employee who was monopolizing the airtime at the offsite is
    probably jockeying for a promotion. Most executives are incorrect in assuming
    that any employee who did not seem super engaged at the offsite had checked
    out. Find out why those who fit in the second group were not vocal. Connect
    with them and solicit their input so they feel they still have a voice. There’s
    a chance they never even picked up the pom poms.

  4. Leverage, leverage, leverage. No matter
    how small the wins and learnings that emerged during the offsite, leverage them
    and link them back to the day-to-day office. Many times, learning is left at
    the offsite and when employees get back to work it’s the same old, same old.
    During the offsite don’t stop asking your team and yourself: What can we do to
    bring this learning back to the office? The diffusion of what is learned will
    help to rebuild confidence so the offsite is not a complete waste. No matter
    how small those learnings were, celebrate them.
  5. Redefine. Give yourself a few weeks and then
    start thinking about your organization’s definition of success for the next
    offsite. It’s not about picking a venue, selecting a menu, inviting speakers,
    schmoozing the boss or engaging in a battle of the PowerPoint. Executives need
    to spend serious time and effort on framing the critical questions that have to
    be asked, debated and answered. If that didn’t happen this time, they need to
    take a serious look at why. Part of that redefinition can come from the
    dissenters. And part of it can come in the form of external speakers who will
    challenge, provoke and provide a fresh perspective on how to jump-start a strategic business issue.

This is an excerpt from the June issue of MISC  Magazine "The Bounce Back" Issue.