Board Retreat


Board Retreats

A board retreat is a significant investment of time and money. The question is;

“What does it take to make the most of this investment?”

Here are some suggestions based on our experience at several hundred board retreats.

1. The Right Agenda…

Unfocused agendas overloaded with presentations are an invitation to failure. They try to cover too much in too little time, with the end result that nothing gets done well. This lack of focus makes it all too easy to get “off-track.” And we have never heard a client say; “we wish we had more presentations and less discussion.”
Before starting to create your retreat agenda, you need to be very clear about the following:
  • What are we trying to accomplish?
  • What are the big issues that we must deal with?
  • How are we going to deal with these issues?
  • What can we take off the agenda to give us more time?
  • How will we set priorities?

2. The Right Process…

Far too many retreats get off track, and never get back. How often have you seen …
  • People jumping to solutions in the middle of a discussion.
  • Unbalanced participation with some people dominating and others not contributing.
  • The group jumping from one issue to another without resolving anything.
  • Brainstormed lists of ideas that aren’t priority ranked or vetted. (Are all 45 of these ideas really equal?)
  • Cryptic flip chart notes or no notes at all
  • Action plans that don’t capture the essential ingredients (who will do what by when.)
This won’t happen if you have the right facilitator with the right process.
  • You need to allow the time for discussion by minimizing the time in presentations.
  • You need to make good use of pre-reading and pre-session surveys.
  • When it is time for brainstorming you need someone who knows how to run a  brainstorming session.
  • If you don’t have unlimited resources, then you must have a really good process for setting priorities. 
  • When you have strategic issues, you need a good process so that you can resolve them once. You don’t want to keep coming back to the same issues over and over again.
  • Finally, you need an effective way to document the meeting. We take our notes using a laptop computer and a data projector so that everyone can see what we have just agreed to.

3. The right pre-work…

Pre-readings can be of tremendous value. But you need people to do more than just read. You need them to react to what they are reading. You should ask them to think about the key takeaways. You can ask them to think about what gave them hope, and what caused them concern. And you should definitely ask them what this means for your organization and what should now be done.
On-line survey tools like Survey Monkey are incredibly valuable, in the right hands. We use these tools before every board retreat. We use them to ask people about priorities and to identify issues. We use them as a starting point for a SWOT analysis, or an environmental scan if these are on the agenda. As the facilitator, we review, sort and summarize this content before the retreat. Being able to start with this information puts us miles ahead of the game.

Professional Facilitation of Board Retreats

Call us to today to discuss how we can help make your next board retreat the best ever. The initial consultation is always free.


From Our Clients

“Over the past five or six years we have worked with Bruce more than a dozen times as a focus group moderator for our pharmaceutical and medical device clients. The clients are always impressed with how quickly Bruce picks up challenging concepts and how easily he communicates them. The high-quality feedback and insight he draws from the focus group participants is what we are all looking for. Bruce’s track record in exceeding client objectives makes me extremely comfortable recommending him to any of our clients regardless of therapeutic area.”

David Small

Vice President Events, Frontline Medical Communications, Inc.

“We wanted to find somebody unbiased, with no agenda, who could lead the retreat and pull in all points of view. Bruce did this and more. He brought some clever ways to make sure that we fully explored our ideas and he forced the discipline of setting priorities and of committing to an action plan. We have now used him three years in a row since everyone sees the value he adds and trusts his process.”

Mary Todd Peterson

CEO, Medmarc Insurance Group

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