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
Finally, Some Good News for the Millennial Generation
Robert Tucker
Robert Tucker
December 10, 2021
On a flight to Portland, Oregon the other day I read a report on what's up with the ...
How the Pandemic is Changing the Rules of Success
Robert Tucker
Robert Tucker
November 22, 2021
The Pandemic will go down in history as the tragedy of our lifetimes. But it has set ...
Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
Robert Tucker
Robert Tucker
November 15, 2021
Ten years ago, frigid temperatures in Texas caused rolling blackouts, and millions lost power. The ...
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
How the Pandemic is Changing the Rules of Success
The Pandemic will go down in history as the tragedy of our lifetimes. But it has set off what is being called a "future of work" revolution that is still in its infancy. This tectonic-sized shift has bestowed new leverage on workers: from frontline, essential employees all the way up the ladder. Other ramifications: Eighty-eight percent o...
Read More
Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
Ten years ago, frigid temperatures in Texas caused rolling blackouts, and millions lost power. The state was warned to weatherize its power grid to prepare for more extreme weather but never got around to it. Then, in February of this year, plummeting temperatures again caused widespread outages. Nine hundred people died, mostly from frost...
Read More
Thoughts From a Return to the Lecture Trail
During the depths of Covid, I half wondered if I would ever speak again. Then, last month, I returned to doing live events, mostly small. Last week, I returned to the big stage with a keynote and "talk show format" where I interviewed the CIO of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Green Bay Packers at Wisconsin's Lambeau Stadium. I'm happy to repo...
Read More
What John Naisbitt Taught Me About Navigating Today's Rapid Changes
Editor’s Note: Futurist John Naisbitt died earlier this year at the age of 91. His contribution to the field of future studies was enormous, and he had an early influence in my career. The article below is a reflection on the man and his message. In 1982, futurist John Naisbitt wrote Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives, which ...
Read More
Adapt or Die: Prepare for the Coming Climate Crisis
As a futurist, I monitor a broad spectrum of trends, from demographic to technological to social and geopolitical. When it comes to climatological trends, I rely on forward thinking researchers like Rich Sorkin, who is helping institutions prepare for what the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calls the "irreversible" impact...
Read More
Putting Leaders to the Test
As a college student, I was a volunteer on Joe Biden's initial race for U.S. Senate. I recalled him saying something like, "If I'm elected, come see me in Washington." Twenty or so years later I did just that. I put Biden to the test. It was after a speaking engagement in Washington, D.C. I was about to head to the airport when I spotted the ...
Read More
Why Now Is Time For A Strategic Leadership Retreat
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 ree...
Read More
The Comeback of the Meetings Industry
The sun is coming out on the conference industry, just in time. Even worse than the cruise industry, the meetings industry has been hammered by COVID-19. Hundreds of mostly small businesses have simply disappeared. Many others are on life support. Those of us who've been in the industry awhile know that when the economy catches a cold, the me...
Read More
Four "Future of Work" Trends to Act On Today
Ten years ago, plunging temperatures led to rolling blackouts across Texas, leaving more than three million people without power. In February 2021, a near identical scenario occurred; billions of dollars in damage and 57 people perished as a result. The problem both times: failure to "weatherize" the Texas power grid to protect it from extremely...
Read More