Why Now Is Time For A Strategic Leadership Retreat

Robert Tucker
June 15, 2021

Robert Tucker

Driving Growth Through Innovation

During the depths of the Global Pandemic, I began to notice a disturbing comment in the interviews I conduct regularly with organizational leaders. It went something like this: “We can't even think about next week, much less next quarter. Strategic planning and forward thinking are out the window.”

It was an understandable sentiment. We were reeling, and there was no end in sight to the crisis. The prediction models were all wrong, the experts were as clueless as everybody else; the only thing certain was continuing uncertainty, so why even try to look or think ahead?

If you've been around for awhile, the comment was noticeable for the sheer fact that it was what disrupted companies were saying to themselves as they gently glided off a cliff. Blackberry, Sears, Blockbuster, and a host of other firms had tuned out the wider world and the trends, and circled the wagons. We’d all seen this movie before, and it didn’t end well.

If you’ve lived through recessions, terrorist attacks, stock market crashes and other natural disasters, you knew instinctively that those who take their eye off the ball often end up being thrown out of the game. You instinctively knew that the old adage “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” was still valid, even amidst the chaos. This was supported in the business press almost on a daily basis as once-iconic brands like Neiman Marcus, Hertz, GMC, Chesapeake Energy and dozens of others filed for bankruptcy.

Maybe pandemics were just the latest type of disruption organizations and their leaders needed to contend with. But surely they did not signal the end of forward thinking and strategic innovation?

Right now, there's another shift underway. Covid caseloads are falling fast, shots are going into arms, workers are returning to the workplace, consumers are spending, flights are full. There's evidence of an economic boom that could dwarf anything we’ve seen in decades.

But the question is: Are you ready? Is your organization ready to pivot to faster growth?

Now is the perfect time to go about strengthening your management team’s forward thinking capability. It's time to shape the next phase of your strategy.

One way to do this is to organize a strategic planning retreat. Designed well, an offsite leadership retreat can become transformational moments for an organization. Use these six guidelines to steer your next strategic retreat in a bold new direction:

1. Use your offsite retreat to ask fundamental questions.

One trend I'm seeing right now is the need to focus on better managing risk. Covid unearthed a whole new dimension of risk that requires greater understanding and maybe even a redefinition of how you manage risk.

Leaders are looking for ways to mitigate the external and competitive risks their companies face. Yet they know that simply avoiding risk and “playing it safe” is not the solution in a hyper-competitive global environment, but can be the road to ruin. Instead, they seek to simultaneously identify new opportunities and better manage the risks their organizations need to take to find the future first.

Pose questions such as: How well did we do in responding to the Covid crisis? And how has the Pandemic changed our culture? How have our customers needs evolved? What's important now? Just figuring out the right questions to pose at the meeting is helpful in promoting forward thinking.

2. Use your retreat to "future proof" your organization.

“Future-proofing” is the process of avoiding technological, competitive and strategic blindsides. Use the meeting to conduct a debrief on how well or how poorly your organization adjusted to Covid’s technology and new customer demands, and discuss what ways your "Early Warning System" might be revamped for the fire next time.

3. Use the leadership retreat to think about the digital future.

No strategic plan is complete without a visionary technology component. Spark fresh thinking in this realm by posing such questions as: On balance, are we leading or lagging on technology? Where do we need to enhance or transform our technology strategy going forward? What customer problems do we need to take on? And how will this technology, if we adopt it, deliver greater value to our customers?

4. Use your offsite meeting to assault industry and company assumptions.

Retreats become transformational when executives and managers are provided with a process to wonder anew about the assumptions the organization has long made about customers, markets, culture, the industry, etc. Assumptions act like barnacles on the side of a boat– they slow us down, or worse, cause us to miss out on emerging opportunities. In a time when today’s business model has a shorter and shorter shelf life, assaulting assumptions is a critical and ongoing necessity to strategic thinking.

5. Use the offsite gathering to focus on innovation execution.

My 30-year experience in the field of strategic foresight and innovation suggests that management teams often lack confidence that they can execute on bold ideas and are delighted when provided with a process that enables superior innovation capability. Many in the managerial ranks got there by being super-competent in their functional arenas. But they quietly see themselves as "fish out of water" when it comes to imagination, innovation, and vision. A well-designed strategic offsite builds executive team confidence.

6. Use the retreat to focus on white space opportunities.

If the rate of change outside your organization is faster than the rate of innovation inside your company, it's time to take action. It's time to figure out what needs accelerating. It's time to shift from strategic planning (on an annual basis) to strategic thinking, which is ongoing, and needs to be part of the DNA. So-called “white space” opportunities are often assumed to be outside your organization's walls, and outside its capabilities. But another way of defining them is to see them as those that fall between divisions, where no business unit has clear jurisdiction. Use your retreat to open up the white space of new possibilities, to identify new markets, and new revenue streams from existing capabilities.

The post Why Now Is Time For A Strategic Leadership Retreat appeared first on Innovation Resource.

Robert Tucker

Want Robert Tucker for your next event?

Find out more information, including fees and availability.
Find Out More
Keep Reading
Futurizing: A Powerful Tool in Business and in Life
Robert Tucker
Robert Tucker
July 25, 2022
When I taught in the Writers Program at UCLA in the early '80's, I'd often assign a ...
Driving the Future of Innovation
Robert Tucker
Robert Tucker
June 15, 2022
With Russia's war in Ukraine threatening Europe, a global pandemic locking down manufacturing in China, ...
Reclaiming the Vision of a World That Works
Robert Tucker
Robert Tucker
May 10, 2022
The other day I heard about a young man who gave up a promising career in corporate America to ...
Futurizing: A Powerful Tool in Business and in Life
When I taught in the Writers Program at UCLA in the early '80's, I'd often assign a writing exercise that really got students creative juices flowing. Design an ideal day for yourself 10 years out, I'd instruct. Give specifics and provide details. Describe the view over the breakfast table. What are you doing in your life that's bringing you joy...
Read More
Driving the Future of Innovation
With Russia's war in Ukraine threatening Europe, a global pandemic locking down manufacturing in China, interest rates rising, and a revolution in the workplace happening all at once, decision-makers are being challenged as never before to see what's next, think ahead of the curve, and avoid being blindsided by accelerating change. In my "managi...
Read More
Reclaiming the Vision of a World That Works
The other day I heard about a young man who gave up a promising career in corporate America to become a professional gambler. You read that right. Top of his class in college, math whiz, highly regarded "quant" with a major US-based corporation, married with young children. And he heeded the clarion call of Las Vegas. This young professional m...
Read More
Leadership When The Heat is On
Three years ago, Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was a comedian with a young family and a popular television show. Today he moves around in bunkers, rallying his battered nation, inspiring freedom-lovers the world over. Leaders like Zelensky fit a certain pattern. Often ordinary people, they get thrust into a vortex. Yet they rise when ...
Read More
Six Proven Methods for Creating Powerful Ideas
For years, I've been studying the winning habits and personal best practices of leading innovators seeking the secrets of their success. I have had the good fortune to interview some of the greats. Inventors like Dean Kamen; entrepreneurs like Gore-Tex founder Bill Gore; possibility thinkers like Robert Schuller; master teachers like Marva Colli...
Read More
Retreat to Advance: Using Your Offsite Meeting to Focus on the Future
The pandemic may have obsoleted the traditional strategic planning process, but what are you and your organization doing to replace it? Many organizations have yet to devise a new approach suitable to the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) future. Thus, now may be the right time to go about reinventing your early warning, innovat...
Read More
Inventing the Future of the Conference
As the conference and meetings industry finally begins to emerge from the pandemic, it's time to recall the transformative power of what a great and meaningful gathering of participants can produce. It's also time to think about the future of conferences, and how they might become even more valuable in the era of Remote Everything. Several years...
Read More
Strategic Planning is Dead. Foresight-Based Innovation is What's Next
So, Peloton's CEO and founder, John Foley, is resigning. After the connected fitness bike's stock plummeted last week amidst declining sales, the company announced that it was cutting 20 percent of its workforce. Apparently, once-housebound exercisers are returning to the gym.Peloton's sudden reversal of fortune calls to mind a new axiom that's ...
Read More
Strategic Planning is Dead. Here's What's Replacing It
Did you see where Peloton's CEO and founder, John Foley, is resigning? Suddenly the company's once-raving fans are sick and tired of taking live spin classes at home and are returning to the gym. Peloton's stock has plummeted amidst sharply declining sales, and investors are livid.Peloton's sudden reversal calls to mind a new axiom that's taken ...
Read More
Finally, Some Good News for the Millennial Generation
On a flight to Portland, Oregon the other day I read a report on what's up with the Millennial Generation that got me thinking about the importance of tracking demographic trends. According to the study from the American Enterprise Institute, Millennials (those aged 26 to 44) suffer from excessive risk aversion and a failure to launch. Th...
Read More