How to Plan Your Summer Offsite

With summer in full swing, lots of teams are thinking about planning an offsite—and NOBL is no exception. With the team distributed in multiple locations, it’s essential that we get together in person at least once a year to discuss our strategy and evaluate our progress.

Now, there’s a tendency—especially during the summer—for offsites to turn into “mandatory fun.” That is, instead of concentrating on company goals or developing better communication, the event turns into fuzzier “team building” activities, often involving alcohol. We’re not saying you shouldn’t plan for some team bonding, but without a clear plan for your offsite, two truths will emerge:

  1. When you get back to the office, the work will still be there waiting for you, and

  2. You and your colleagues may enjoy each other’s company, but chances are, you’d still rather have fun with your friends and family.

To make the most of our offsite, we’re preparing for it like we would a client engagement:

  1. Interview the team. Before we facilitate a workshop or embed with a client, we always interview key stakeholders to get their insights: what’s working? What’s preventing the team from achieving more? How do outsiders perceive the team? To get the most accurate picture, try to find stakeholders from different parts of the organization, tenure, and rank; it's even better if you can include customers or vendors. For our offsite, for instance, we’re planning to interview the core team, a few freelancers, and clients. We recommend scheduling a minimum of 30 minutes per interview; an hour is preferable as you’ll get into more detail.

  2. Ask the team to review their strengths.While you’re conducting interviews, individuals should engage in self-reflection about their strengths and what they want to achieve in the coming year. This may be a good opportunity for them to take (or re-take) an assessment like StrengthsFinder, as their interests may have changed since the last offsite. On our team, we refer back to our strengths regularly during our 1:1s, so it will be a good opportunity for people to discuss what they want to start, and stop, doing, given our evolving strategy.

  3. Present common themes back to leadership. Once your interviews are complete, look for patterns and themes. For instance, are a lot of people mentioning that the team is overworked? Or maybe communication is breaking down in one area? Surface these issues and share them with leadership—if you want to solve a problem, you’ll first have to convince everyone that there is a problem. Once everyone recognizes what the issues are, ask them to prioritize: what’s urgent, and what’s important? We’ll be curious to learn if our team has reached a consensus around a few main themes, or if we’ll discover new topics.

  4. Develop an agenda. Now that you have a clear understanding of the state of the team, start building an agenda with exercises that will address those themes. (We’ve put together an agenda template to help get you started.) In addition, don’t forget to open and close each day with a check-in round; discussing your current state-of-mind with your colleagues will go much further towards building trust than any trust fall. Lastly, make sure you build time into the offsite to assign next steps, or what happens at the offsite may stay at the offsite.

  5. Don’t forget about the logistics. Getting out of the office is a great way to refresh your thinking, but you might miss some of its comforts. Make sure you’ll have supplies, tech support, and most importantly, food. In our experience, keeping people well-fed and hydrated is key! We’ve developed a simple checklist to keep you on track.


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