Think Leadership Ideas

Big Planning Retreat Errors #1

the reason retreats underperform is not what you think….

As soon as planning for a retreat begins, smart leaders can start avoiding three big and all-to-common mistakes.

I’m not talking about having a long meeting but never crafting a plan, or making a plan but not specifying a time-frame or accountability in their action steps to accomplish objectives. Most enterprises organized enough to have a retreat at all get these basics.

Actually, getting the basics right can be a problem. The errors I see organizations perpetuate - again and again - often go unseen because the organization has the basics right and never look beyond them. And this can keep an organization - whether business, public agency, or non-profit - mired in mediocrity. Don't let these errors creep into your leadership or board retreat!

retreat error #1
Lots of Effort, but NO DIRECTION

What the error looks like….
The retreat consists entirely of listing problems or issues - maybe even putting them in priority order - then one by one discussing particular solutions. The group then creates an action plan to implement each solutions.

What’s so wrong with that?
Of course it's valuable and essential to excel at problem solving - the error is thinking that problem-solving is all there is.

Success is more than the absence of problems. Think about it. We do not gain optimal health simply by treating illness, just as we do not acquire prosperity simply by cutting costs, nor do we assure quality products simply by reducing manufacturing defects.

Success comes from discerning a desired state - health, prosperity, quality - and then taking action to make it happen. Actions include proactive steps that move us closer to goals - a direction - not just actions to remove obstacles in the way.

Direction is discerned through possibility thinking!

Possibility thinking is elicited by questions such as “what are we building;” “what is going well and how do we get more of it;” “what is our vision;” “what are our dreams and how will they be fulfilled?” Questions whose answers speak to the highest and best use of your assets and talent.
Possibility thinking is too often omitted, because people are too caught up in problems or problem-solving is the only way people feel valuable - or worse, because direction is assumed and not articulated.

How to avoid the error...
Include in your agenda possibility thinking about big picture goals and strengthening what the organization is already doing well - not just problem-solving.

….to be continued

by Tom Stevens (c)2012
Tom Stevens helps leaders create and sustain exceptional organizations. To contact Tom, visit or call 800 727-9788

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