Friday, December 3rd, 2021

Essential Outline for Conducting Your Long Range Planning Retreat


Conducting the Retreat: You Should Consider Using an Experienced Facilitator

This is the disciplined process that the planning retreat participants experience and should not be facilitated by a retreat participant or the organization’s CEO.  This reduces the necessary objective input that results from a safe and synergistic environment. Here is a process which I have found to be successful.

  • Review the agenda
  • Ask each participant to share their role in the retreat and what would the like to gain from the investment of their time and effort- (make sure everyone is moving in the same direction) Note all gains on the flip chart
  • Review financial information and ask for observations – note on flip chart
  • Review Strengths and Weaknesses of operating units note observations and Opportunities & Threats
  • Review Strengths and Weaknesses of the organization as a whole- note on flip chart observations and Opportunities & Threats
  • Have each resource: intangible, tangible, human resources, sales & marketing, fiscal & management information systems and technology discussed and rated 1-5 by consensus noting observations, opportunities and threats.
  • Review external (outside factors) that could impact the organization and make observations. Examples would be legislation pending, trends in your industry or service, competitors, mergers, banking, technological changes etc. and note observations as possible opportunities or threats.
  • Review your current mission, vision and values statements.  Note are they practiced or not: rate 1 is hardly practice and 5 as a key core practice.  Rewrite if needing change.

(If mission statement does not exist, your facilitator can help you develop who you are and what you stand for  by having the participants share answers to these questions: who are we, what do we do and for whom and how and why?)

  • At this point you have the walls covered with notes and there may be some redundant (repetitive) messages.  All of the participants need to review the notes thus far and note significant observations, threats, opportunities and key actions to be taken.  Once this is done the facilitator will combine data into a master list noting common observations by more than one participant.


Let us review where we are in the planning process.  We have a confirmed mission statement, history of sales, observations note from external influences, analyzed and rated major resources and consolidated observations indicating key threats, opportunities and actions. 

We are now ready to develop goals for each operating unit within ranges of achievement: MA means minimum acceptable performance- at this level we get to keep our jobs but we are on the verge of making some overhead reductions if we continue.  EA means Expected Average performance.  This would be a goal that would reflect an expected increase that is reasonable based on our current situational analysis.  We would expect some modest rewards or bonus incentives or a modest reach.  This would be the single goal or projection often used.  MP is Maximum Probable performance.  This is a reach goal where a lot of things need fall into place but it is doable – a realistic reach which pays higher rewards for higher effort required.  We will use these definitions as a pathway of acceptable performance.  Management by exception occurs when either MA

or MP performance is breached.  This causes a need for expense reduction and level one survival planning when goal achievement is at MA or trending lower and it calls for more aggressive goals and actions if MP is being reached easier than anticipated.  This means that MP maybe too low of an expectation based on possible market, economic or even proactive measures taken.

  • Negotiate and set MA, EA & MP for Gross Sales, Gross Margin or Contribution Margin, People: Management, Supervisory, Sales and Staff for each level of goal for each operating unit. These goals are set for a maximum of three years. (A financial manager should have average burdened costs for each level of person added as this will influence the contribution margin each operational unit makes towards corporate overhead and profit.  This person facilitates this discussion as senior managers set their goals for their operating unit.)  *A burden is adding costs of health benefits, withholding taxes for Fed and State 401K contributions etc.  Burden usually equates to 1.33 of salary added.


  • Set goals for next three years starting with next 12 months for each profit center and company

                                                            MA                              EA                               MP

            Gross Sales:                                        

            Gross Contribution Margin:      






          This process is repeated for the next two 12 month cycles.  Once completed and           all goals seem to “hang together or make sense” we now concentrate on the next           12 months and identify 3 to 5 major corporate programs or objectives- that if          carried out will ensure that the next 12 months goals will be accomplished and    progress will be made toward the longer term goals of the second and third years.

  • A program is a major area of emphasis or focus and that is why there is a limit of 3-5 programs.  A program will be led by a senior executive who is its advocate.  A committee is made up of other people in the organization forming the program project team.


An example of a program would be the following.  Maximize Our Current Technology.  In this real example, a client management team realized that they were heavily invested in technology that was not being utilized by the employees.  As a result, inefficient time consuming manual practices in scheduling were utilized, not allowing the team members the time to do other essential aspects of their job.  People where not being entered into the computer properly making the billing department take twice as long to their job and there was no time for marketing part of their jobs resulting in the business unit stagnation.  The opportunity costs were great as this department was losing market penetration.  As a result, the senior management committed to this program- without the successful implementation, their business would not grow.  The need for this program surfaced during the process of planning and was verified by several sources of information.  Without the discipline of the planning process, it may have been “a nice to do” or never done.  It is now implemented and the team is doing their total job with less people.  As a side note, the manager of the department was let go because of her unwillingness to cooperate with the implementation of a program that her peers on the management team recognized as important.  Her job was eliminated and the organization restructured with immediate cost savings. With current technology implemented, the business unit is again growing and senior management team is working well together.

  • Select 3-5 Programs
  • Define the objective for each of the programs
  • Have senior management group brainstorm methods or steps in plan
  • Select a senior manager to lead each in-company program leader


We have now completed the development of the goals and programs to support their achievement.  There is an updated mission statement in place and there is a real feeling of confidence among the participants as they have their goals and programs developed through a disciplined process.  There are a couple additional steps that need to be put in place.  The first is a communication plan to the balance of the organization and the second is the development of the regular feedback process that will ensure that the plan is implemented.  The financial manager should develop the budget to share at first feedback meeting along with a survival plan of cuts in case of below Minimum Acceptable performance for the company.

For the complete Long Range Planning Process Article: please email: and request: “Complete Long Range Panning Article”

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