What A CIO Needs To Know About Throwing A Proper Retreat

by drjim on October 22, 2014

If you are going to throw a retreat, then do it well

If you are going to throw a retreat, then do it well
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Every CIO is looking to solve the same puzzle: what do they have to do in order to get the most productivity out of their IT department? It turns out that sometimes the solution to this puzzle is to temporarily forget the importance of information technology and take the IT department out of the company and go on a retreat. However, if you do a poor job of throwing a retreat, then it will all be for naught. How can a CIO make a retreat create the results that he or she is looking for?

Breakout Sessions

The first question that has to be answered about any retreat that you throw for the IT department is just exactly why you are throwing it? Ultimately, you are going to want to use this expensive use of your department’s time to communicate information to your staff. This is going to require breakout sessions.

The ultimate goal of any breakout sessions that you host needs to be to boost your staff’s understanding about what is going on in other parts of the IT department. One of the biggest problems that IT departments face is that we can all get too involved in our own job. When this happens, we lose the ability to realize that everyone else is perhaps working just as hard as we are.

You can use breakout sessions to solve this problem. Every breakout session should have two goals associated with it. The first, of course, is to educate the people who attend it. The second needs to be to get them to understand and appreciate just how hard everyone else has been working.

It’s All In The Details

An IT department retreat will only last for a short time. What this means for you is that the long lasting value of putting something like this on is to create memories for your staff that will last long after the actual event is over.

The first thing that as the person with the CIO job you need to realize is that the IT department’s retreat is not the place to go cheap. Yes, you need to keep a careful eye on your IT budget at all times, but the retreat needs to be done correctly and that is going to require you to spend some money.

The more that you spend on throwing the retreat, the more that your IT department will feel that you are investing in them. It can be tempting to try to make a retreat be a one day event, don’t. Instead make the investment in time and money and stretch it to two days – everyone will have a chance to get into the mood and it will create a long lasting benefit for the department.

What All Of This Means For You

This management thing is hard to do. Nobody ever taught you how to motivate and keep an entire department together over time. It turns out that one of the most powerful tools that you have in your toolbox is the department retreat. However, it’s only going to be worth the expense and effort if you know how to do it correctly.

Ultimately, now that you have the CIO position, one of the goals of your next IT department retreat has to be to educate everyone in the department. This means planning the breakout sessions that everyone wants to attend and making sure that they learn. Additionally, it’s how you handle the details that will matter the most in the end. This means don’t go cheap and make sure that everyone feels that you recognized them.

I like to think of IT department retreats as a very big cell phone battery charger. Your department may be operating at low power and a retreat done correctly can boost their energy level. Take the time to understand how to do a retreat correctly and then watch as your IT department comes back to life!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: How many times per year do you think that a CIO should throw a retreat for the IT department?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As CIO, because of the importance of information technology, you need to get ready to deal with the disruptions that that arrival of even more mobile technology is going to create. The customers that your company serves are going to expect to be able to interact with the company using their mobile phones more and more. Will you be ready?

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