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Case study: strategic away day

Who:Tai Pawb, who promote equality and social justice in the housing sector in Wales.

The brief: design and facilitate a strategic away day for the whole staff team and the board members (in the morning), and for the senior leadership team and the board (in the afternoon). Tai Pawb do this annually, and it is a space to think together and for everyone to contribute. We didn’t want to repeat the topics already covered at last year’s away day, and a few topics were highlighted for inclusion (e.g. horizon scanning through a PEST analysis, looking at income generation).

What I did:

  • An icebreaker activity to connect the board (including some new board members) and the staff team (I wrote up some reflections on this here).
  • A structured morning session for the whole team to think together in a focused way:
    • a PESTLIED mapping for the horizon scanning (an extended version of a PEST or PESTLE, covering external factors: political / economic / social / technological / legal / international / environmental / demographic)
    • an Ecocycle activity to review income generation and identify areas for development, and potential areas for “creative destruction” to free up capacity for renewal and growth (based on Liberating Structures’ Ecocycle Planning)
  • A lightly held afternoon using a Lean Coffee approach: I didn’t want to try and second-guess what the board and senior leadership team would want to focus on as a result of the morning’s discussions. This invited them to highlight their topics and prioritise them, and the structure enabled them to cover a lot of ground in the discussions.
  • The room layout which supported the day’s activities was a large U shape of chairs, with materials and a point of focus on the wall at the opening of the U. I removed the tables from the boardroom setup and put them behind the chairs so people had space to put things down, but they didn’t get in the way. I alternated individual reflection into small group conversations, and plenary / whole group conversations.

What they said: Participants reported that they enjoyed the approach, structure, pace, and facilitation; in particular the techniques used and the range of ways to share ideas.

“Tai Pawb recently had the pleasure of working with Noreen to host a staff and board away-day. These have the potential to be ‘stuffy’ sessions, with a confluence of both strategic and operational discussions. Noreen’s preparation was evident, as was her enthusiasm to get the best out of all participants during the day. She also introduced us to new techniques that helped us debate and discuss key issues in an inclusive way. Noreen displayed a highly coordinated approach, tempered with the flexibility to further explore issues of importance to those participating – which is sometimes key, even if it challenges the set agenda somewhat. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Noreen’s services – and will certainly be a repeat client.”

Ross Thomas, Head of Policy & Public Affairs, on behalf of Tai Pawb

Tai Pawb photos of events as a background, overlaid with "Shape th change, make the change, be the change" with the Tai Pawb logo in the bottom right hand corner.