04 December 2005

Principles of a Great Offsite

Designing the agenda for the 3-day offsite retreat has got to be one of the most intensive learning experiences for a young consultant. It was an unforgettable experience because the design team worked together to create a large-group process that would get transformed mindsets by the end of the third day. We the external consultants had to use subtle knowledge of group dynamics, which is where we added great value for the client.

The design team consisted of Mr. Yogi, myself, the Head of Sales, and one of the Directors. We took 10 hours in total to get the right agenda for the 1st O1 Team Transformation Retreat, starting in two days.

Offsite retreats to build the top team of an organization must follow certain principles that will ensure its success. These principles include having an environment that's safe for people to express their hearts, always maintaining a positive outlook so that nobody in the group feels isolated, and probably the most important principle is that the ideas, thoughts, and solutions must come from the group itself. Mr. Yogi insists on this principle with every potential client we meet:
the consultant does not speak for more than 15 minutes. The group sessions will be structured so that they are highly interactive, with no powerpoints and nobody falling asleep. There will be a lot of noise, laughter, clapping, and hot exchange of ideas from all across the room.
Transformation can only happen with everyone present in a room and ideas being heard from people who may not have had a say in the past. The offsite retreat is a great way to empower your team.

Other than the deep principles of an offsite retreat, Mr. Yogi cannot stress enough on perfect and flawless preparation for the 3-day event.

1. Lots of large sized post-its
2. At least five newsprints with stands (commonly known as flip-charts)
3. Black felt tip pens
4. Lots of newsprint markers
5. Masking-tape should be abundant
6. At least 5 laptops should be available, one for every group
7. Overhead projector
8. Portable printer
9. No heavy food!

On the first day of the design team meeting, it was important to work out administrative issues and logistics for the event. Groups, car pools, and hotel rooms were pre-assigned to the team. The agenda for the entire retreat team meeting before the retreat was planned. Ground rules like casual dress, and punctuality were to be communicated at the group meeting. The consultants had to prepare all the newsprints in advance to avoid losing time in forming groups, presenting the agenda for the day, and going over the company goals and strategies when the retreat is in session.

The design team gets together and creates a transformative experience that's inspiring and practical.


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