Management Team Retreat Options and Agenda Menu

Jim's two-day retreat process starts with broad, divergent thinking and assessments and then zooms in to ever more specific actions that meet each management team or organization's unique dynamics, goals, and culture. Each management team retreat starts with agreement on the theme, participation, and general agenda. As the retreat unfolds, the fluid agenda may change directions as the team learns together, addresses tough issues, builds consensus on priorities, and sets action plans. As with any game plan in highly dynamic situations, what seemed straightforward at the beginning can quickly change direction. That's where Jim's extensive experience, vast library of concepts and approaches (with hundreds of handy slides on his notebook computer), deep group process knowledge, and steady facilitation hand can really payoff.

Options and Design Alternatives

1. Retreat Theme/Focus

Many of Jim's retreats have an overarching theme or objective that links the long-term goals of the retreat within a larger organization transformation effort. His most popular theme is "Leading @ the Speed of Change". He also runs retreats around "Leading a Customer-Centered Organization" and "Leading a High-Performance Culture".

In some cases, Jim's retreats are planning sessions without a specific theme. With other management teams, the focus may be on resolving conflicts or identifying and addressing Moose-on-the-Table issues. Click here to learn more about this playful and powerful concept as outlined in Jim's book, Moose on the Table: A Novel Approach to Communications @ Work.


2. Preretreat Assessment Options

Many retreats don't have any assessment ahead of the session. Here are three choices for those retreats with some type of assessment before the session:

  1. E-mail Survey

    Jim custom designs a short survey that participants e-mail directly to him. Jim clusters key themes and presents these back to the team during the retreat while maintaining confidentiality. As has proven the case with many online interactions, comments and feedback are remarkably candid.

  2. Formal Assessment

    Jim directs The CLEMMER Group's specialized associates to custom design an assessment strategy with the optimum combination of one-on-one interviews, focus groups, documentation review, team observations, and/or surveys. A brief "snapshot" report of key findings is then presented to the management team at the retreat.

  3. Online Assessment (choices depend upon retreat objectives and agenda design)

    These assessments can be built around the questions in The Leader's Digest: Practical Application Planner and/or Transformation Pathways. All or selected assessments are completed confidentially and anonymously by each participant before the session begins. Scores are tabulated and a summary report is brought to the workshop for discussion, prioritization, and action.

    This option provides:

    • The truest views of how participants really feel about the organization or team's strengths and improvement opportunities
    • A savings in the time used at the workshop for completing and scoring the assessment exercises
    • Preworkshop learning that allows for deeper discussions of each Pathways leadership and change concept or Principle
    • A more balanced discussion based on objective data of everyone's perspective rather than a few of the most vocal or powerful participants
    • More thoughtful and authentic assessments since participants don't feel rushed or that someone is peeking at their scores over their shoulder


3. Participation

Most often participants are an intact management team that works together as a unit planning, making decisions, and running operations. The size of this single level management team is usually five to ten people all reporting directly to one manager, director, or executive.

Another Option — Blending Staff and/or Various Management Levels

This may start as a half or one-day workshop for staff and management together with organization or team assessments, identifying issues to be addressed, and getting into implementation brainstorming. In this approach, everyone gets the same message, develops common language, and gets involved in the improvement process (which dramatically increases commitment to change). Jim then facilitates a senior management team priority and action planning session the afternoon of the second day to make decisions and begin implementation. Sometimes the progression is first a half-day with everyone, continuing with a day including all management, and a final half-day with just the senior intact management team of five to ten.

4. Retreat Agenda Menu

Each retreat is highly tailored to the team and longer term organizational objectives. This customizing is based upon discussions with the senior team leader and/or any preretreat assessment. Following is an overview of the main sections that Jim can draw from in customizing a retreat for each Client.


Day One (Assessment, Divergent Thinking, and Brainstorming)

The Performance Balance

For a brief overview of the material covered in this section click here and here.

  • Assessing Our Balance: Technology, Management, Leadership
  • Managing Things and Leading People
  • Soft Skills, Hard Results: The Power of Emotional Intelligence


Transformation Pathways

The Pathways Framework has evolved over many years of best practices research and very successful use with hundreds of management teams. The process used here is a highly iterative one. It is tailored to the main areas that participants want to focus upon or feel they need to address in more depth.

Here's the typical process used in a one or two-day workshop:

  • Differences Between Surface-Level Change versus a Deeper Level of Cultural Transformation
  • Overview of the Six Key Areas of the Compass Model ("Pathways Framework" below)
  • Gap Analysis (comparing current performance with desired performance) around each of the Transformation Pathways
  • Identifying the Team/Organization's Most Critical Pathways to Higher Service/Quality
  • Exploring Best Practices and Brainstorming Options for Each Top Pathway (an extensive workbook provides a menu of highly researched "Issues and Ideas" for every Pathway)
  • Establishing Key Action/Implementation Ideas


Pathways Framework

For an overview of the "compass model" used in this section and more depth on each Pathway click here.

Focus and Context (Vision, Values, and Purpose)

  • Common Pitfalls and Traps
  • Centering Vision, Values, and Purpose around Customers



  • From the Outside In: Bringing Customers into the Organization
  • Strengthening Internal Partnerships for a More Customer-Centered Organization
  • Working with External Partners (suppliers, distributors, alliances)


Strategy and Direction

  • Aligning Strategy, Structure, and Roles for Higher Service/Quality
  • Establishing Clear Goals and Priorities
  • Designing a Goal Deployment System for Disciplined Follow-through

Measures and Rewards

  • Balancing Leading Indicators (operational and service/quality) with Lagging Indicators (financial)
  • Establishing a Feedback Rich Culture for Continuous Learning and Improvement
  • Traditional Management-Based Reward Systems and Recognition Practices versus Leadership-Based Approaches
  • Keys to Effective Reward and Recognition
  • Continuous Improvement through Reviewing, Assessing, Celebrating, and Refocusing


Processes and Systems

  • Managing Processes at the Tactical, Cross-Functional, and Strategic Levels
  • Vital Steps to Strategic Process Management for Higher Service/Quality
  • Key Organizational Support Systems
  • Identifying Symptoms of System Problems That Impede Service/Quality Delivery


Learning and Development

  • Elements of Effective Education and Communications Strategies, Systems, and Practices
  • Aligning Skill Development in Technology, Management, and Leadership with Service/Quality Improvement
  • Common Reasons That Most Groups Aren't Teams
  • Twelve-Point Team Effectiveness Framework
  • Symptoms and Causes of Organizational Innovation/Learning Disabilities
  • Keys to Innovation and Organizational Learning
  • Building a Strong Planning Process and Infrastructure for Successful Implementation of Customer-Centered Changes and Improvements

Day Two (Convergent Thinking, Priority Setting, and Planning)

Visioning our Preferred Future

What would success look like for us? Jim draws upon a variety of visioning techniques depending upon the group's experience and needs.

Clarifying/Reinforcing Values

This section is highly tailored to each team. In some cases, Jim facilitates the team through identifying their three to five core values. In other cases, current values are revised or refined. Either case is usually followed by planning for living or revitalizing the values.


Depending upon the team/organization and priorities, this section may articulate a statement that revitalizes, summarizes, or otherwise brings alive a mission statement to engage the heart of everyone throughout the organization.

Strategic Imperatives

Establishing, refining, or reaffirming three to five key goals for the coming year. These are strategic (high leverage) and imperative (must do) to move the team/organization closer to their vision.

  • Establishing our Three to Five Strategic Imperatives
  • Clarifying Roles, Responsibilities, Project Teams, Time Frames, etc. for Each Imperative


Management Team Development

A team can't go to a different place while continuing to behave the same way. To change "them" the team must change "us." Drawing on almost thirty years of experience working with hundreds of management teams, Jim tailors this section to the developmental needs of the team.


Action Planning

Throughout the two-day retreat, dozens of action ideas and issues are generated. At this stage, all these plans and ideas are clustered, prioritized, and assigned individual or team follow-through responsibilities.

Management Team "Stump Speech"

Key communication themes or messages need to be identified and coordinated as managers leave the retreat so they are seen to be in alignment and consistent with each other. This section usually forms the base for communicating the longer term changes and/or Improvement Plan.

Next Steps

The management team or other support professionals leave the retreat with a strong consensus, clarity of focus, and plenty of action plans to implement.


What Management Teams Get From This Powerful Retreat Process

  • Clarify/redefine management and leadership roles and responsibilities
  • Leverage team and organizational strengths
  • Pinpoint performance gaps and priorities to be addressed
  • Pull together change and improvement programs and initiatives under one process and master plan
  • Integrate strategic, improvement, and implementation planning
  • Build the management team around concrete plans and strategies
  • Strengthen the management team's dynamics and processes
  • Assess organizational effectiveness, leadership readiness, and establish plans for change/improvement
  • Develop a strong consensus and buy-in for organizational transformation within the management team
  • Action learning (versus theoretical education) on the key elements of team and organization leadership
  • Better understanding and management of the interconnected elements to building an even higher performing organization


Let's Get Practical

For over thirty years, Jim Clemmer's practical leadership approaches have been inspiring action and achieving results. His 2,000 plus presentations and workshops/retreats, seven bestselling books, columns, and newsletters are helping hundreds of thousands of people worldwide because they are inspiring, instructive, and refreshingly fun. And most of all…because they work!

Jim is constantly distilling his exhaustive research, extensive experience, and collection of best practices into easily understood, highly energizing, and practical applications. His "Leading a Customer-Centered Organization" workshop is so effective because it inspires action and provides "how-to" steps that — when used as directed — dramatically boost results.