The serendipities of workshops

The workshops we facilitate are usually ostensibly strategy workshops and/or planning workshops.

In the planning, delivery and follow up of hundreds of these workshops we’ve helped clients make sense of what’s happening in their industries and their organisations. We’ve worked with them to create distinctive purposes and galvanizing aspirations. We’ve framed strategic questions for them to answer like where and how they are going to compete and what capabilities they need to build. And we’ve helped them to build plans specifying their strategic objectives, priority initiative and success measures.

At the end of our workshops, we frequently ask participants to share a reflection on the workshop and a parting thought for their colleagues. The CEO of a not-for-profit client of ours said at the end of a workshop last month, ‘…that was the best conversation I’ve seen this board have in nine years in my role.’ Last week a new director of a social enterprise board said: ‘that was the best induction I could have had.’ In the same week, a foundation director said, ‘I now have a much better understanding of the work of the foundation and I will walk a little taller as a result.’

These unintended outcomes of board and executive team workshops are manifold and these recent comments made me think that they should be better recognised. So I mined my lists of comments from recent workshop participants.

‘One of the benefits for me was building deeper relationships with you all in a way that is harder to do in regular meetings.’

‘I got to understand everyone’s perspectives a little better and that will help me go about things differently in the office.’

‘I was surprised that we were all so aligned. That gives us a good platform to really get on with things.’

‘Accountabilities are much clearer. That’ll stop us tripping over each other and being overly conscious of one another, which can inhibit the way we go to market.’

‘I’m pretty fired up. I will come out if this with renewed purpose and resolve.’

These comments are indicative of ‘side benefits’ of the strategy and planning workshops and offsites we facilitate; but I’m sure you’ll agree they are pretty substantive serendipities.

Strategy and planning workshops and offsites can be expensive, with a significant opportunity cost. When planning your next workshop, I urge you to think about outcomes in a more holistic way, and to encourage your facilitator to be alive to potential serendipities. In this way you are more likely to get full value for your efforts.