By: Bob Burnett, Vice President of Business Development
Every year in early November, the senior leadership team at VectorCSP gets together over a two-day period to prepare for the upcoming year. This event is strategic in nature as we define the objectives necessary to increase the performance, capability, revenue, and profitability of the company. We have been doing this for years, and the process and execution of the event continues to evolve. We rotate facilitation duties yearly among the leadership team. So it keeps things fresh and allows for each of us to put our personal touch on the event.
The primary reason for the offsite is to lay out our overall agenda for the upcoming year. As well as to put appropriate focus on the areas that will have a meaningful impact on our firm. Aligning the key objectives across each of our business areas (Operations, Business Development, Consulting, and Business Operations) for the upcoming year helps us identify the areas with the greatest need and/or the highest return on investment. A secondary benefit of this event is that it further strengthens the rapport and dynamics among our senior leadership team. We believe these engagements foster bonds that pay dividends every day over the course of normal business interactions.
Our 2018 Offsite
This year, as in most years, we held the event in Annapolis, Maryland. This location is advantageous for several reasons as it minimizes travel requirements for most attendees. We also have access to an excellent venue away from the office at no cost. While the event is important and strategic, we strive for an informal, honest, and collegial atmosphere. This atmosphere is in line with our “Cut Through the Noise” corporate culture and enables us to more rapidly. As well as effectively tackle tough topics and advance our agenda in the best interest of the firm.
We prepped well in advance of the event, as each member of the team reviewed past-year objectives and submitted new/revised content for 2019. This information was made available several weeks in advance so there would be no surprises at the offsite, and so that all seven attendees could come prepared to offer valuable well-thought-out comments and suggestions.
To help set a solid foundation of constructive communication for the two-day event, we invited Tanya Menon to help kick things off. Tanya is an Associate Professor at the Fisher College of Business, Ohio State University. Her research on decision-making, culture, teams, and networks has been cited in various media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, The Economist Intelligence Unit, The Times of London (UK), The Guardian (UK), and The Times of India. She has taught courses on Persuasion, Negotiations, Teams, and Organizational Behavior. She, also, was the winner of the 2017 Best EMBA professor and 2013 Best Elective Award at the Ohio State University’s Fisher School of Business. Tanya delivered a two-and-a-half-hour discussion on the first day of the offsite regarding team communication best practices and potential problem areas.
For our seven-member group, the setting and dialogue were perfect. Prior to the offsite, we had all read Tanya’s book, Stop Spending, Start Managing: Strategies to Transform Wasteful Habits, and watched her TED talk (go.ted.com/tanyamenon). Through a content-rich, back-and-forth dialogue, Tanya and our team discussed our group dynamics: what works and what could work better. We discussed ways in which our team typically communicates, how we can improve areas that may be lacking, and further leverage ways that already show high value.
The discussion and insights Tanya offered set an excellent foundation and tone for the remainder of the event; our team repeated and utilized many of her key points throughout the offsite. The remainder of day one focused entirely on 2019 objectives. For each objective, we defined the intent, the milestones toward achievement, the due date, and the owner (someone sitting in the room). We discussed the merits of each objective. Also, we refined as necessary to ensure it was worthy of focus for 2019 and that it aligned with our goals for VectorCSP. We captured all items and content in MS Teams for ease of access, editing, and tracking. This was not a pencil-whipping exercise…we track completion of objectives throughout the year.
Day two comprised of: a look at our 2018 financials to date, and budgeting and forecasting of 2019 financials; our individual professional development goals; review of current suppliers and teaming partners; 2019 calendar alignment; and a discussion of any action items resulting from all sidebar conversations that took place over the two days.
The result this year was direct honest dialogue, plenty of laughter, agreement on areas of emphasis, and a list of near-term action items that round out 2018 and springboard us into 2019.
Why Spend the Time (and why should you, if you don’t already)?
Taking stock of the current year’s activity, evaluating current goals and objectives, and considering the challenges and opportunities present today better enables us to be prepared for future events. Without the interaction and perspective that results from the offsite, we would be more likely to be misaligned across our organization regarding priorities and the best use of the next available dollar or resource. Setting clear, time-bound, and actionable objectives (that are agreed upon by the team) helps us to avoid distractions. It also helps us move forward far more effectively than if we were simply reacting to daily, weekly, or monthly activities.
Leadership offsites do not have to include fancy excursions, multiple rounds of “team-building” time on the golf course, extensive travel, or huge budgets. But they do require honesty, advance planning, and a commitment to action for the benefit of the firm and its employees.