The calendar shows that it’s that time of the year when the annual off-site planning is on and in between the pending workload and the almost there deadlines, one wonders - WHY now and for WHAT? The annual off-site is supposed to breathe life into the high-pressure work demands, mundane routine processes, never-ending white-collared executive meetings and make everybody think out of the box to make things happen the way we want them to, rather than the way they actually do.
Am I stating the obvious or the impossible? Can out-of-the-box thinking happen only when we are out of the office? No, I am not comparing the office to a box – the offsite is a sure-shot way of getting people who generally don’t or can’t get together during normal working days, maybe due to their spread out place of work or nature of work or simply due to the fact that day-to-day workload outweighs the need to do some serious and profound introspection.
Generally important conversations on the future of the business and the company transpire at off-sites or at least that is what is supposed to occur. In an off-site everybody should be looking beyond the horizon that is immediately visible and pitch in their part of the picture until the complete scene is successfully envisioned. This can happen only when each participant is ready with picture in his mind, the colours planned out and the brush ready to execute once back from the off-site. This is precisely what is required to be done before and after the offsite.
Obviously, an off-site is not about a typical management meeting but something more elusive and elaborate – a much bigger picture that is complex and difficult to pin down. These issues are often indistinctive and far-fetched, almost sounding speculative, making the participants a tad uneasy. It could be about where and how the company should be looking at for new business, what new core competencies to build upon, when the envisaged company position would be a reality – five or ten tears down the line and such similarly introspective and strategy-oriented issues.
To be well-armed for the off-site, employees should be forgetting their individual work areas and take a more holistic and futuristic perspective of the organisational goals. The information collated from all disparate areas of the company is often quite surprising and revealing as well. And this kind of response and information can come out only when the environment is relaxed and the participant comfortable and free from the all-pervasive beeps, alerts and calls! I am sure you know what I am referring to and more significantly, the ‘Why off-site?’ doubt lurking behind his mind.
And after all the fuss of bookings, travel arrangements and preparations for the discussion, any guarantee that the outcome is a worth the effort? Well, successful off-sites help align work and resources, performance and growth, and strengthen the company’s position in its industry. Another significant realization is that the off-site becomes a stimulant for various dormant ideas and issues and may fire quick action sometimes and that’s a very good beginning!
The bottom-line here of course is true and active partaking by all – everybody chipping in and making it chaotic is far more welcome than the traditional nods leading to ritualistic agreement and concurrence. Strategy is always open-ended till final and executed and if there are no differing opinions, then it’s definitively not a strategy – just a mere plan of action. All contributions are crucial – the hard, the soft and the straight talks.
Candid conversation cannot happen just like that; sometimes it comes naturally whereas many-a-times clear and clever manoeuvring is needed. A pre-planned and structured course of discussion incites genuine and voluntary chipping in by all. And then only do vague and murky ideas transform themselves into clear and real outcomes.
Apart from aligning different teams of the company and team-building internally, the other advantage of these deep discussions is that teams focus on shared understanding and quick decision-making and ultimately become stronger teams. And if we have become adept at singing or dancing by preparing for three days for the ‘Family Night’, then we can undeniably get much better at brain-storming and resolving strategic issues not only at the off-sites but during all team meetings.
Hence the off-site is not a one-off episode that can produce magical results but rather a pre-cursor to better things and good times to come. Ultimately it is not the beautiful location, the gourmet food or the great games that matter – it is the experience that counts. The need to squint, peer and peep into the future and electrify the brain to burn that extra calorie to come up with a great solution is what takes to make good employees, great teams and an outstanding organisation.