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Value of Strategy Workshops in Question


Strategy workshops or away days have become common place, but the findings of a new survey raise questions for UK organisations about how much real value they deliver.

Despite the expense and time spent on strategy workshops by 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 respondents reported that away days fall short of expectations with 10% saying the workshop they last attended failed to meet its objectives and over 40% reporting either no or a negative impact on a range of measurable outcomes.

The report, The role and importance of strategy workshops, is the UK’s first ever study into the effectiveness of strategy workshops. It reveals that almost 80% of UK organisations host workshops at regular intervals. Nearly half (46%) claim they occur at least once a year at a cost of £10,000-£50,000.

Despite this investment, four in 10 also suggest they have no clear-cut impact on productivity and profitability and only a third (34%) think that strategy workshops improve innovation.

Yet the study also suggests that, with sufficient planning, workshops can have a positive impact on business development. Half of organisations use workshops to challenge existing strategy and 47% to generate new ideas. The findings also show that workshops can significantly improve internal working relationships and the overall understanding of corporate values.

According to the research, there are a number of areas where organisations could improve when it comes to strategy development:

* Preparation: as many as 37% invest no more than a few hours preparing and some (8%) no time at all.

* Participation: senior managers make up the majority of attendees at strategy workshops (76%). However, only 33% of workshops are attended by line managers and even fewer (23%) by junior managers.

* Purpose: the triggers for holding workshops were found to be varied and include the development of new strategies (63%) and increased competitor activity (10%). However, the low usage of sophisticated analytical tools may limit the extent of systematic questioning that actually takes place.

Mary Chapman, chief executive of the CMI said that strategy workshops were worthwhile. "However, the low levels of preparation needs be addressed if organisations are going to get better value from the process," she added.

AIM Senior Fellow Professor Gerard Hodgkinson, who led the study, said that the fact that the events were typically dominated by the top team with significantly less involvement of other stakeholders was a cause for concern.

"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," he said.


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