Strategy retreats that deliver real change

Strategy development is an important part of
Strategy development is an important part of defining value. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Another three-day strategy retreat in some ritzy hotel surrounded by a wraparound golf course or with a breathtaking ocean view. This is the usual setting of a top management meeting where we discuss, usually with support from a consultant, how the business will grow in the next five years.

This five-year ritual is punctuated by a mid-strategy review where a post-mortem is undertaken to discuss what was done and what was not done, point fingers and agree to do better next time.

Research shows that only about 10 percent of strategies ever get implemented as envisioned. After these relaxing retreats, most employees and their managers return to business as usual as soon as they are back in their offices. Many of the retreaters do not even participate effectively in the strategy planning sessions, choosing to continue sending off missives to the office and responding to a myriad of emergencies.

This is the beginning of the tragedy of poor strategy implementation — failure to participate in a strategy session while you are in attendance not only deprives the company of your insights and commitment but also the funds used to pay for your travel and accommodation and, lately, daily subsistence allowances.

Strategy has become a ‘thing-we-do’ rather than an important determinant of how we set direction and compete, or better still, discover new horizons where we can offer value to our clients or citizens. Confronted on the lack of commitment to the strategy process, many employees retort that this is not the first strategy session they have attended and nothing has come of it. There is clear apathy on display when most organisations in the public and private sectors discuss strategy implementation.


Why have we lost faith in the strategy development process? Could it be because strategy does not work? Should we shelve strategy and deal with whatever happens when it happens or can we make strategy an integral part of our success?

Strategy development is an important part of defining value.