Workshop or waste of time?

Jul 19 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

'Strategy workshops' or 'away days' are becoming an increasingly popular management tool, but a new report has raised serious questions over whether they actually do more harm than good.

Despite the expense and time organisations spent on workshops for their senior management teams, few measure the impact of these events, according to the study by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the Advanced Institute for Management Research (AIM).

Many also report that 'away days' fall short of expectations with one in 10 saying the workshop they last attended failed to meet its objectives and more than four out of 10 reporting either no or even a negative impact on a range of measurable outcomes.

Four out of 10 suggest they have no clear-cut impact on productivity and profitability and only one-third think that strategy workshops improve innovation.

Despite this, almost eight out of 10 UK organisations host workshops at regular intervals with almost half holding one at least once every twelve months.

Yet the study suggests that, with sufficient planning, workshops can have a positive impact on business development. The half of organisations which use workshops to challenge existing strategy and generate new ideas are to be applauded, the report says.

Workshops can significantly improve internal working relationships and the overall understanding of corporate values, the findings suggest.

Areas where organisations could improve when it comes to strategy development include their preparation and purpose.

However one of the main improvements would be to widen the participation away from just senior managers to embrace line managers and more junior managers.

AIM Senior Fellow Professor Gerard Hodgkinson, who led the study, says "Given that the major purpose of many strategy workshops is to challenge existing strategy or come up with new ideas, it is a concern that these events are typically dominated by the top team with significantly less involvement of other stakeholders.

"The involvement of managers and employee representatives at all levels can help bring in new perspectives and can build a sense of ownership that is needed to encourage effective implementation."