A question we are often asked by the organizations we work with is, “How much time should be invested in a team retreat?” It’s a great question. Unfortunately every team is unique and has a variety of development needs so it can be difficult to estimate the time requirements exactly.
However, with some basic information about the team, its challenges, and the desired outcomes of the retreat, we can classify most teams into one of three categories that offer some reliable guidelines on the time investment required to get the desired improvement and results.
CMOE works collaboratively with organizations to optimize both the time and financial investment in a way that will yield the greatest impact for the team. We recognize that key stakeholders will ultimately determine what to invest in the team so we work diligently to present a range of flexible options that everyone involved can feel good about.
In our experience, we find that teams fall into three general categories of team retreat options. These options vary in length and focus in order to accommodate and address the priorities of each team. This general framework serves as a helpful guide for designing a highly effective and customized team retreat.
1. Team Building Retreat
At CMOE, we get requests for teambuilding retreats from organizations around the world, in all types of industries, and at all levels of an organization. A Team Building Retreat is the ideal way to enhance the cohesiveness of any team while building in elements of learning, skill development, and application experiences designed to elevate team performance.
Retreats of this nature can range from “structured fun” to full learning experiences. We utilize experiential learning exercises to strengthen team dynamics, unity, and interactions and also help teams identify how to sustain and support what was accomplished after the retreat.
So if you are simply looking to take a team to the next level or build on what has already been started, this type of retreat will likely be the right solution. Typically done as a one-time event, time allocation for this time event is usually one of the following four options:
- 4 hour event
- 1 day retreat
- 1.5 day retreat
- 2 day retreat
After the initial retreat, you may find the team would benefit from follow-up retreats to sustain and support the work that has been started.
2. Team Development Retreat
Team Development Retreats are ideal for teams who are a little harder to classify because they aren’t necessarily dysfunctional, but have some challenges that are keeping them from optimal performance. They need a little “grease on the squeaky wheel,” if you will. This type of retreat helps teams confront challenges and issues such as the following:
- Role alignment and clarification
- Breaking down communication barriers
- Accountability among team members
- Developing higher levels of respect and trust
- Identifying or recognizing obstacles to group consensus
- Preexisting failures that might be holding the team back
The intent is to uncover the pitfalls and traps before they become serious and detrimental to the team’s overall health. In addition to helping teams address their real issues, we try to incorporate skill development activities that will help build team member capabilities and unleash team performance.
Teams needing this type of retreat benefit from a retreat that occurs in one of the following time frames:
- 1 day retreat
- 1.5 day retreat
- 2 day retreat
Additionally, some teams benefit from having follow-up meetings or retreats after the original retreat to review progress, discuss accountability, and plan next steps for their development.
3. Intervention Retreat
Teams that are in survival mode, have serious conflicts, or are dysfunctional, need a focused team intervention retreat. These retreats can help a team confront the serious issues and challenges that are preventing the team from functioning well and producing the results it is capable of. With most teams in this situation, there is often more than one underlying issue that is causing team discontent. Common causes include the following:
- Leadership issues
- Behavioral issues
- Personality differences
- Time pressures
- Pressure from stakeholders and board members
- Not being centrally located
- Other unique challenges
So how much time should be invested in this type of retreat? Again, there is no perfect answer, but serious challenges require more time, focus, and custom agendas that will target the urgent topics. While great progress can be made in a short amount of time, the key is to not let the clock hinder team progress. Time allocation for an Intervention Retreat can be structured in a phased approach like the following:
- Pre-work – (Depending on the issues, pre-work might include reading assignments, assessments, onsite interviews, focus groups, or direct observation by a facilitator/consultant)
- 1 to 2 days for the retreat (Onsite or Offsite)
- Half to 1-day follow-up retreat that occurs 30-60 days after the initial retreat. While this is optional, we recommend it to our clients in order to maintain momentum and keep the team moving out of survival mode. Maintaining and building on successes is vital when moving to the next phase.
Whether a team needs to call time out, realign, reconnect, or get re-energized, team retreats need to be designed in a way that will deliver on the team’s custom retreat objectives. Teams should be challenged to get out of comfort zones and reach new levels of cohesiveness. Don’t let an opportunity to invest in a team pass by because a high performance team can become the heart of a successful organization.