Don’t waste your off-site: 3 differences between success and failure

With Christmas fast approaching, many companies are planning their New Year Leadership or Sales off-site. Having facilitated numerous company off-sites, and attended many during our corporate careers, we thought it timely to share our thoughts on critical success factors for a successful off-site: an off-site that delivers results.

Few senior leaders would describe their off-sites as complete failures, however rarely do they look back 12 months later and confidently say the event changed the way they do business.


“Would you tell me where to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where-“said Alice

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat

Alice in Wonderland


When planning your off-site we have observed that there are 3 things that most companies don’t do. By including these things in your planning you increase the probability the next off-site will deliver lasting outcomes.

  1. Have a clear scope: Often companies have an offsite because they have one every year. There isn’t much difference between them. In today’s fast changing environment companies need to take a step back and consider their market and the current issues and opportunities. Is the market changing quickly or is it relatively stable? Is now the time to explore broad strategies, or is it time to hone in on specific urgent priorities for the next 6- 12 months? A clear scope leads to clear objectives and outcomes.
  2. Incorporate pre-reading. To get results from your off-site the attendees must turn up ready for the issues to be tackled. Often the first morning of an off-site is wasted as attendees settle in and figure out why they are there. Providing them with relevant pre-reading and issues to consider leading into the off-site means they can hit the ground running. The available time is used more effectively and you’ll make faster progress. However they are time-poor executives, so limit pre-work to the relevant and essential. Be clear that you expect preparation to be completed beforehand.
  3. Be ruthless on actions and embed follow up into the program. A long laundry list of “nice to have” actions means no strategic course of action. Have a maximum of 4-10 key initiatives. Plan for follow up within a month of the off-site. This allows time for attendees to better understand what they have committed to and explore the issues with their teams. Importantly it creates a stronger sense of accountability for action.

For more ideas the HBR article “Off-Sites That Work” covers the points we have raised in more detail, and adds a few more for you to consider.

A successful off-site can align the senior team, galvanise the group to act and create a sense of purpose. Effective follow up builds organisational self-confidence, momentum and strengthens a company’s competitive position.

So if you are planning your strategy or sales off-site for 2014 and want to make it a success, we hope some of these ideas help. Of course if you need more ideas or help contact us to discuss your business challenges, and how we can help design, facilitate and support the execution of your next offsite. Contact us on +61 (02) 9450 1040 or email and look at We welcome your contribution so please comment below and subscribe to our blog at the top right of the page.