Of all the meetings top executives go to in a year, none is more important than the strategy off-site, where the most essential conversations for the future of the business occur. Yet it is the rare management team that can say its strategy off-site truly changed the way the business is run. At best, participants do some vague direction setting and work on team-building skills; at worst, they write off the retreat as a waste of time and resources. It needn’t be like that.
Seventy corporate directors got together at Stanford Law School in January 2013 to hear Bob Frisch’s talk, “Five Strategy Conversations Every Board Should Have”, hosted by the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Arthur Rock Center for Corporate Governance.
In a pre-workshop survey conducted by our firm 36% of board members were satisfied with their strategy conversations, and only 33% of directors were satisfied with the quality of conversations with the management team:
These results matched what we’ve observed in years of designing and facilitating board-level strategy offsites – that there’s a high degree of frustration when it comes to being able to talk effectively about strategy.
Bob’s presentation reflected five best practices we’ve seen that, when put into place, help significantly raise the quality of board strategy discussions.
- Are we working at the right altitude? Are we clear on the Board’s role vs. Management’s role when it comes to strategy?
- Are we aligned around an aspiration?
- Are we aligned around the walls and fences that bound the business?
- Are we getting the information we need to do our job?
- Is the Board involved in setting the strategic agenda?