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Planning Case Study: Board of Directors Strategic Planning Retreat

The Challenge

Achieving consensus within a volunteer not-for-profit Board of Directors is always a challenge, since higher levels of emotion are in play. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir – Canada’s oldest, largest and best-known choral organization, was ready to make some bold moves but needed to create alignment on how to proceed.

They approached C2C Principal Consultant, Emay Cowx, to plan, design and lead a one-day strategic planning retreat.

A strategic outlook outlining the organization’s opportunities for growth over the next 3 years had already been completed.

The strategic planning retreat needed to engage the Directors in a brainstorming session that would explore, evaluate, and find common agreement on the path forward.

The Ground Work

Naturally, the strong personalities and diverse backgrounds of Board Members was considered in the planning and design of the facilitated session.

The retreat provided an ideal opportunity to use the innovative LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (LSP) imaginative planning process. LSP introduces a layer of abstraction to discussions so that participants can propose solutions and compare approaches in a goal-oriented, yet playful, non-confrontational environment.

A second technique, the ‘game show’ model, would encourage participants to abandon their typical approaches to problem solving.

Under the guidance of an experienced facilitator this ‘play approach’, first as individuals, then in small teams, and finally as one single group can yield amazing results.

The Facilitation

The day began with each member building a model of the organization’s future using the LSP building-set. These models were shared and discussed, allowing individuals to present their personal vision using a common physical language.

The members then engaged in collaboration exercises to build a unified representation of the envisioned future organization, combining common elements from all individuals into one inclusive model.

Another segment was focused on brainstorming ideas and then discussing the decision parameters required to assess an idea’s potential to help the organization move to the new model. Once these parameters were agreed on, the group sorted the brainstorming results, finally organizing the list into three ‘big ideas’.

The members then sorted themselves into three teams to prepare a business case for their idea, which was pitched to the rest of the Board Members in a “Dragons Den”- style forum.

This encouraged each team to crystallize and summarize the steps and activities needed to move ‘big ideas’ forward in a positive and collaborative manner.

Project Outcomes

The group ended a long day feeling that something had been accomplished, that they shared a common understanding and had developed feasible ideas that could be taken forward.

Client Testimonials:

“Our group brought a wide variety of pre-conceptions and diverse experience to the table. Our task–strategic direction for a non-profit–was complex and challenging. Emay moved us unerringly from context to conclusion, efficiently and effectively. And the Lego Play methodology made it focused and fun. Good show!”
Tim T – Board Member

“I was a wee bit skeptical about the Lego Serious Play approach, but was a convert by the end!  I liked having a lot of structure in the process itself, but also appreciated that so much time was allotted to sharing each other’s ideas. However, it was your expertise in facilitating such a vocal group and moving us forward from a teamwork perspective that was most valuable.”
Kathryn C – Board Member