Many managers fear the annual event that is the management away-day. But the exercise is meant to induce a shared sense of purpose, improve team-working and allow long-term planning; and in the current economic climate, it is exercises like this that will shape the future of some organisations.
So here are some ideas for how to run a successful management away-day.
1. Have a purpose.
Have a clear-cut and agreed reason for spending the time away together. In this way a target can be made, which will aid in the development of a budget. Days away from the office are sometimes the only way to step back from the hub of day-to-day activities and reflect on the company’s progress.
Explain clearly to participants what it is you require of them in preparation. Ensure that the right people are invited as well, since there might be people outside of your department that are able to make a valuable contribution, like technical experts or important internal clients.
3. Choose your venue.
Rural settings often have more appeal for city-based groups. However, elegant venues do not always offer the most productive space to work. Therefore base your decision on a few things other than pretty pictures: the event’s purpose, the journeys that the team will have to make to attend, and of course value for money.
Once everyone is out of the office you must keep them focused, so create some ground rules like keeping mobiles off when you’re working. However, do allow genuinely urgent calls to take place. Give time for lots of quick breaks as well, since these improve concentration.
Lots of managers end up facilitating the event themselves, which can seem like an excuse to be dominating in discussion. Don’t pretend to encourage debate if you’ve already decided on your course of action.
6. Have an agenda.
Give time in the schedule for unplanned items, as issues do sometimes arise that are important to people, and having no time to deal with them is incredibly frustrating. Leave at least half an hour at the end of the day to agree what will happen once you are back at the office.
7. Get everyone involved.
Some activities may not engage everybody in the team; personal beliefs, religion and culture are some of the factors that need consideration when designing the away-day. Sport or alcohol-related activities may seem perfect for some members, but will leave others feeling left out. Try to break the group down into smaller components so that everyone has the opportunity to contribute.
8. Look at the outcomes.
Make clear what needs to be taken away from the exercise to the people in the group before the event, and remind them at the beginning of the day. Some things that may need to be taken away include specific action plans, group discussion or possible ideas for the future.