It was a delight to welcome Omega Institute back to the Centers Gathering after a long absence. With the 2016 Gathering being hosted by Le Monastère des Augustines in Quebec City, it was driving distance for the Omega representatives Carol Donahue, Program Director, and Veronica Domingo, Program Assistant, from their center in Rhinebeck, New York.
A few months later another member of the Omega Programming team, Peter Criswell, was visiting Scotland and Carol introduced him to Christine Lines, Manager of Core Programmes at the Findhorn Foundation. The friendships formed are one of the great gifts of the Gathering and the two of them enjoyed lively conversations about their respective centers while Christine showed him around, connecting with many people in the community.
Peter stayed in perhaps one of the most unique places in Findhorn, a wee whisky barrel home, and returned to the States with a beautiful tweed jacket, woven by hand in the Western Isles of Scotland. During this meeting of peers, Peter mentioned his MBA and background in Corporate Retreats. With the research so relevant to the Centers Gathering, we’re delighted Peter agreed to offer his thesis for online publication here and include the first installment.
Beyond Kumbaya: Best Practices in Corporate Retreat Design and Implementation
By Peter Criswell
A Final Project submitted to the faculty of Manhattanville College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Science in Leadership and Strategic Management
The purpose of this study was to investigate corporate retreats, exploring why they matter, and best practices for preparing and conducting them. The scope of the study was limited to offsite meetings only; meetings with a clear business-related purpose, not company getaways.
Three professional retreat facilitators were interviewed, academic research was conducted and the author relied on his personal experience as a retreat facilitator to investigate this topic. Serious limitations in the amount of quantitative research hindered verifying the bottom line value of holding retreats. Most recorded information on the effectiveness of retreats is anecdotal. Through this research, a set of best practices in creating an effective retreat emerged.
Common themes included:
A collaborative planning process between the retreat facilitator and the client; a well thought-out, company specific designed retreat; high quality retreat facilitation which included attention to introductions, ground rules for the session, periodic check-ins with participants, a reporting of results from pre-retreat interviews, content segments that connected with the company and issues at hand, an exploration of how and who will make the implementation decisions once the retreat is over, and finally creating an action plan for putting retreat results into operation.
The importance of creating a ― “bridge” program to enable retreat participates to translate their experience back into the workplace was also explored at length. Further attention was paid to the particulars of closing the retreat program, creating a long-term integration program complete with action items, time frames, deliverables, accountabilities, and post retreat client/facilitator follow-up.
Retreats matter because, with the stigma of corporate scandals still in the air, they can play a key role in keeping companies clean, honest, and on track.
Three areas for further research also emerged which included: designing methods for keeping the long-term changes energized, developing a measurement of effectiveness of retreats, and exploring the relationships between contemplation and the workplace, if any.
The study concludes with a set of recommendations outlining best practices for both the retreat facilitator and the corporate manager about to embark on coordinating a retreat.
The full thesis will be shared online in a series of posts over the next weeks.
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