Executive 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 straight forward 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 pay-off.

Options and Design Alternatives   |    What Executive Teams Get From This Powerful Retreat Process

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 themes are Leading @ the Speed of Change, Strength-Based Leadership and Culture Development, Leading a Peak Performance Culture, Leading a Customer-Centered Organization, or Leadership and Culture for Higher High and Safety.

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 dealing with Moose-on-the-Table issues.

2. Pre-Retreat Preparation/Assessment Options

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

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 on-line interactions, comments and feedback are remarkably candid.

Personal/Phone Interviews
Jim drafts a series of interview questions and works with the team leader to finalize them around his or her key themes, issues, or retreat objectives. Jim then conducts confidential one-on-one interviews by phone and/or in person with each member of the executive team. He them prepares a summary report on the key themes and input to each question. After reviewing with the team leader this is presented to the team at the retreat.

360 Multi-Rater Feedback
Using Zenger Folkman’s award-winning strength’s based leadership development system built around the ZF competency model or customized to the Clients specific competencies. The ZF approach is primarily aimed at personal development and coaching for each executive team member. Feedback data can be aggregated and analyzed for assessment of executive team effectiveness and planning for building team strengths.

Formal Assessment
Jim directs specialized CLEMMER Group 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 “snap shot” report of key findings is then presented to the management team at the retreat. These assessments may be structured around The CLEMMER Group Key Models and Frameworks and focused on specific organizational issues such as culture transformation, service/quality improvement, increasing health and safety, implementing Lean/Six Sigma, boosting employee engagement, etc.

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
  • Pre-workshop learning that allows for deeper discussions of each Transformation Pathway or leadership/change 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 more time is invested in designing and collecting assessment input.

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 starts 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 – 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 pre-retreat 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
Click here for a brief overview of the material covered in this section:

  •     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 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 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
Click here for an overview of the “compass model” used in the section and more depth on each Pathway

Focus and Context (Vision, Values, and Purpose)

  • Common Pitfalls and Traps
  • Centering the Organization’s Vision, Values, and Purpose


  • From the Outside In: Bringing the Voice of the Customer 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 High Performance
  • 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 Performance
  • Aligning Key Organizational Support Systems
  • Identifying Symptoms of System Problems That Impede Organization Effectiveness/Execution

Learning and Development

  • Key Elements of Effective Education and Communications Strategies, Systems, and Practices
  • Aligning Skill Development in Technology, Management, and Leadership with Organization 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 Organization Changes

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

Visioning our Preferred Future
What would success look 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 3 – 5 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.

Leadership Behaviors
Agreeing on the key behaviors that will bring alive Vision/Values/Purpose. Deciding how much further to take this work in building team/organizational culture (e.g. leadership competencies, training, performance management systems, 360 feedback tools, promotion criteria, etc.)

Strategic Imperatives
Establishing, refining, or reaffirming three – 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 – five Strategic Imperatives
  • Clarifying roles, responsibilities, project teams, timeframes, etc. for each imperative

Management Team Development
An organization’s culture ripples out from the dynamics of the team leading it. 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 thirty of experience working with hundreds of management teams, Jim tailors this section to the developmental needs of the team.

  •     Addressing Moose-on-the-Table Issues.
  •     Assessment of What the Team Should Keep, Start, and Stop Doing (this may have been brought forth from a pre-retreat assessment).
  •     Using Individual and Team Strengths to Build the Team and Address Any Serious Gaps Needing Attention.
  •     Establishing Team Development Plans.

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.

Executive Team “Stump Speech”
Key communication themes or messages need to be identified and coordinated as executives 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 Executive 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 executive team around concrete plans and strategies
  •     Strengthen the executive 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 high performing organization

Contact us to discuss your plans for an executive retreat.