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D-I-Y: Tips for Designing a Strategic Planning Retreat for Your Education Leadership Team

By Michael Gisondi(@MikeGisondi

In the past six months, I facilitated two retreats for education leadership teams within the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. Each of these retreats had different audiences of faculty and administrative staff, with distinctly different goals and objectives. However, both retreats shared a central theme: Strategic Planning.

Strategic planning retreats are designed to promote positive team dynamics, while also meeting a specific set of desired administrative outcomes. Successful retreats foster the critical changes necessary for an improved future for an organization or team. To achieve such outcomes, retreats must be thoughtfully planned and executed.

The first step is the most important: defining the purpose for your retreat. The agenda can be crafted once you have a clear objective in mind. Some common reasons for hosting a strategic planning retreat include:

It is important to create retreat agendas that address a single goal. Avoid the temptation of including too much material for a single day, including numerous retreat objectives, or mixing training and planning retreats. Decide which domains are most important and stay focused. Adults have limited attention spans and can hold focus on high-intensity, team-based work for only so long. You will see better results with shorter, targeted agendas.

Here are some additional tips for designing strategic planning retreats for your education leadership team:

…Before the Retreat…


…The Ice-Breaker…


…Getting through the agenda…


Finally: HAVE FUN! Your colleagues share your passion for education leadership and want the best for your training program. A successful off-site retreat requires investments of time, resources, and talent – don’t waste this wonderful opportunity to build a new future with your colleagues.


My personal thanks to the administrative staff members who made the above-described retreats come to life: Maria Alfonso, Yasmin Deosaran, Jhu Jhu Lomboy, and Bianca Velasquez.’

Featured image via by LadyofHats [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia

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