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Executive Workshops, by Richard Nelson.

November 28, 2012 - In Strategic Change and Organisational Effectiveness - No comments yet

“One of the major benefits that the workshop can provide is the chance for the participants to ‘stand backand reflect on the practical implications of their strategic decisions.”

The term ‘Workshop’ is now common currency among managers, consultants in management and management educators.  It tends to cover a range of events, from seminars and training courses to events of an essentially practical nature.  It is these practical experiences that we are concerned about here.  The main difference between a seminar and a workshop is that a seminar is a teacher-led event developed from subject matter researched and selected by the seminar leader, usually with a teaching purpose.  A workshop is more typically designed by a consultant/facilitator from research undertaken with the prospective participants of the planned workshop.

Executive workshops are those that have participants drawn from an executive board, either a genuine legal entity or the operating committee of a division or major function such as finance, IT or HR.  The key point is that these executives or senior managers are accountable for delivering results in relation to their business or functional plans and activities.

The reasons for having executive workshops generally involve strategic and organizational issues.  There may also be some leadership and/or team topics to address as well.  All these subjects may be relevant if we consider the typical challenges facing a new management group responsible for running a discrete business or a business unit within a larger organization.  Of course, the executive directors of a plc board could face a similar agenda.

Clearly, a new management group could be facing a number of obvious opportunities to ready itself to deliver high performance.  Whether or not the new group meets to work through a workshop agenda depends on the ‘leader’.  The ‘general manager’ responsible for the business unit has to have sufficient insight and ‘vision’ to see the potential value of undertaking a workshop experience with his or her directs reports.  For those who do, the common purpose of the new group needs to be the number one topic.  The basis of their first workshop together can be the clarification of what the group’s role is in relation to running the organization.  This provides the opportunity to establish purpose and direction for their business and the foundation for their group to become a team.

Established executive teams benefit by being able to take quality time to review progress of previously agreed plans, make adjustments and refocus.  Along with business purpose, other important topics such as strategic goals, guiding principles and performance measures can be included in the programme.  One of the major benefits that the workshop can provide is the chance for the participants to ‘stand back’ and reflect on the practical implications of their strategic decisions.  At every step of decision making, the challenges involved with achieving successful implementation can be examined and discussed, and actions agreed.  Critically, the executives can consider the ‘hard’ what needs to be accomplished along with the tough ‘soft’ how it is going to be achieved.

Leadership is implicitly on the agenda of executive workshops.  The decision by the general manager or CEO to run a workshop is a leadership action.  To involve his or her direct reports in such an event can be used to communicate and demonstrate some powerful messages about leadership style and approach.  In particular, the leader is expecting major contributions from the team to shape success.  The advantages of running a workshop are many: for example, building the team by working through a facilitated agenda of real business topics; agreeing a collective approach to how the organization will be led and so shaping culture; pooling knowledge and experience, and enriching decisions by debating different perspectives.

To discuss how we can develop a workshop for your executives please contact us.


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