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Strategic development is a joint board-management responsibility. It is the key stage of the strategy process where the board and senior management team work together to develop the organisation’s strategy. At this stage, the attention is on the top-level strategy; the overall corporate strategy and, depending on the size of the organisation, the business strategies of the major divisions.

It is now common for the board and management team go off-site for a board retreat to discuss the current strategy in detail. If the strategy is working and is well understood by both directors and managers, this stage might involve nothing more than an annual review of progress, discussion of changes in the strategic landscape and a reaffirmation of the core strategies. On the other hand, if current results are poor or if major changes are forecast for the external environment, a far more searching review and re-evaluation of strategy might be required. This may take a longer than one retreat and may require a number of follow-up workshops.

The advantage of the retreat is that by isolating the board from regular distractions and spending a significant time delving into the organisation’s strategy, the quality of any decisions is likely to be enhanced. A strategy retreat also provides an ideal opportunity for team building and encourages active participation from all board members. It is also a major opportunity for discussion and development of shared views about strategy both among directors and between the board and senior management.

The decision to hold a retreat is an important one, because it represents a significant time commitment for board members and in many cases management. Retreats commonly occur over one or two days, generally on a weekend. If directors are to spend this much time dedicated to strategic issues, it is important to plan the weekend to ensure that optimal results are obtained.

The importance of planning

But strategy retreats do not always live up to their potential and can fail to meet the board’s objectives without proper planning and commitment from both the board and management. From personal experience, boards that are not engaged in the planning and committed to the process can very easily derail a board retreat. For example, it is not productive to have three directors delay the start of the afternoon session by an hour on the first day of a retreat because they were unhappy with the lunch menu approved by the CEO without board input and demanded alternate meals be prepared for them.

As such, planning should include:

  • Date – it should be in the board’s calendar at the earliest opportunity, as having all directors attend can be vital to the acceptance of the decisions made during the retreat;
  • Objective(s) – this will depend on whether it is it an annual strategy retreat to develop a new strategic plan, review the current strategic plan or in response to a major change in the organisation’s environment, e.g. funding cuts, loss of a major customer;
  • Duration – this will depend on the objectives;
  • Budget for the retreat – this will influence many of the other decisions;
  • Responsibility – allocate responsibilities, e.g. organising bookings, preparing discussion papers or presentations;
  • Attendees – will it be the board only or the board and management? Are spouses invited?
  • Facilitator – an external facilitator can often help to keep the agenda on track; ensure all attendees are given a chance to participate; and deal constructively with any conflict that arises without becoming emotionally involved;
  • Location:
    • Meeting facilities – size of the room (it should allow participants to spread out for group work), whiteboards, projector, internet access, printing, photocopying, etc.;
    • Accommodation;
    • Catering; and
    • Recreational activities;
  • Data – what input/information is required from directors and managers prior to the meeting?

As noted above, I have witnessed a number of board retreats go awry for a variety of reasons. Too much to drink at the previous evening’s dinner or during lunch can see directors or senior managers falling asleep or obviously intoxicated during a session. Lower level managers may be reluctant or not interested in participating because they have not had previous exposure to the board and have no idea what they are doing there. Directors being rude to the managers present or each other. Just as in regular board meetings, clear ground rules about what is expected for the retreat in terms of behaviour and participation is a good start, so too is gaining buy-in from the attendees to the outcomes of the retreat so that it adds value to the organisation rather than draining its resources, which are often scarce in the case of not-for-profits.

To ensure that optimal results are obtained. Board retreats are most effective if the following steps are followed:

  • Before the retreat – management should collate and develop materials such as competitor analyses for discussion well in advance of the retreat, while both directors and managers should do pre-work (see below for the benefits of pre-work).
  • Conduct targeted analysis prior to the workshop, and then develop a clear agenda focused on achieving specific outcomes and resolutions in key decision areas.
  • During the retreat – management presentations at the retreat should be concise and factual. The objective of the retreat is to stimulate discussion of strategic issues, not to spend your time listening to lengthy presentations by managers or invited guest presenters. A note taker should be appointed to capture agreement succinctly.
  • After the retreat – management will incorporate the decisions made at the retreat into strategic options, detailed objectives and strategies for board review and approval. This will then be followed by the annual implementation plan and budget.

For those organisations without the time or resources to conduct a retreat, there are other options. For example, a review of the board’s strategic plan can be included as part of the yearly board agenda, and has the added advantage of regularly concentrating the board on strategic issues. Another option for the board is to hold a number of special board meetings to review particular strategic issues. As part of this process, the board may wish to consider a one-day facilitated session with senior management to consolidate previous board discussions and decisions to guide management.

The benefits of pre-work

The benefits of pre-work include:

  • Sets the ‘climate for strategic change’ within the organisation;
  • Establishes a ‘strategy mindset’ for participants prior to attending the workshop. They are now ‘ready to learn, listen, contribute and participate’ – after all, they are the ones who have to make it work;
  • Frees up the retreat for discussion;
  • Saves time – reduces the threat of ‘time-pressure’ facilitation;
  • Enables facilitators to present the ‘group view’ or ‘invisible group consensus’, rather than their own views;
  • Participants are more likely to respond openly in pre-work than in front of their peers;
  • Identifies topics for debate.

Compiling a databook

To get the most from a strategy retreat, the board must ensure there is a real understanding and agreement as to the major issues facing the organisation that is based on facts. As noted above, a solid understanding of the organisation’s strategic landscape comes from gathering relevant data and allowing directors and senior managers to consider and discuss this data using a sound framework. I always recommend compiling a databook that includes the results of the survey (collated and themed) and the information developed by management. For example:

  • External data
    • Industry trends
    • Competitor analysis
    • Market trends
  • Internal data
    • Current strategy and goals
    • Financial
    • Operational
    • Markets

The data book will be used in conjunction with this workbook to guide the discussion throughout the retreat. The databook should be circulated to directors at least seven days before the retreat to give them time to prepare.

Incorporating risk into the strategy retreat

Risk and strategy are totally interrelated. Consequently, any discussion or decision by the board concerning strategy also involves a discussion of risk. The challenge for boards and management teams is to integrate these two essential roles of the board. For example, considerations of alternative strategies should use the organisations approved risk approach as one technique for analysing these strategy alternatives. Workshops or retreats devoted to risk can be conducted in tandem with a strategy retreat, but at the very least the major strategic risks to the organisation should be considered.


Holding a successful strategy retreat can be a key factor in the achievement of an organisation’s strategic objectives. As discussed, the preparation for the retreat will be the difference between a retreat that achieves little in the way of genuine strategic planning and one that provides a solid basis for management to formulate the detailed strategic, business and implementation plans, and budgets that the board will be asked to approve.




As the year 2023 steadily draws to a close, it’s an opportune moment to pause and reflect. For businesses, this prompts a critical question: how successful have we been in executing our strategic plans? In the fast-paced realm of strategic planning and execution, success transcends lofty visions and boundless ambition. It hinges on setting a clear course, continuously monitoring progress, and making data-driven decisions.

Vital to this journey are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics, which bridge the gap between your strategic objectives and the path to achieve them.

In the following article, we will explore the essential elements of mastering KPIs for strategic success, offering you valuable insights to conclude this year on a high note and step into the next with even greater confidence.

Establishing Impactful KPIs within your Strategy:

When it comes to using KPIs in strategic planning, two extremes often emerge. Some plans lack metrics entirely, relying solely on immeasurable qualitative descriptions, while others become swamped with metrics, lacking a clear strategy for their effective use.

The key to success lies in striking a balance. At the pinnacle of your strategic plan, you’ll find overarching goals or lagging metrics, representing your ultimate destination—outcomes you can’t directly control but can improve over time with diligent effort. Supporting these lagging metrics are leading metrics, elements within your control that provide immediate insights and the power to drive change.

Imagine it as setting a New Year’s resolution to become healthier. You could trust your instincts or overwhelm yourself with countless health metrics. The optimal approach involves setting a clear lagging metric, such as losing 20 pounds, and pairing it with actively measurable leading metrics like exercise frequency, calorie intake, and sleep hours. An effective plan encompasses both elements, turning strategic planning into a journey where you monitor not only your destination but also the progress along the way.

Selecting the Appropriate Metrics and KPIs:

One common pitfall in metric selection is emphasizing leading indicators at the expense of lagging ones. While leading metrics are essential for immediate progress, an overabundance of them can lead to a tactical focus that misses the big picture.

Imagine diligently tracking your exercise routine to lose 20 pounds but neglecting your calorie intake. Similarly, focusing solely on driving website traffic without converting visitors into customers won’t fulfill your overarching goal of revenue generation.

To avoid these pitfalls, strive for clear alignment between leading and lagging metrics. If your chosen leading metrics don’t contribute to your overarching goals, you’re on the wrong track. Ineffective plans often blur the line between objectives and execution or get lost in activity-based metrics that don’t drive strategic success.

Recognizing these missteps and ensuring a strong correlation between selected metrics and strategic goals enhances your organization’s planning and execution processes.

Measure the Success of Your KPIs and Strategy:

In strategic planning, many organizations spend excessive time selecting metrics. It’s crucial not to get bogged down by this decision. What matters most is getting started and ensuring your chosen metrics serve one of three primary purposes: increasing, decreasing, or maintaining a specific value.

Begin with your current state and aim for incremental improvements. For instance, aim to improve your revenue by 10 percent. This provides a benchmark to adjust throughout the year.

Avoid overcomplicating the process; focus on setting realistic goals. We suggest a goal to achieve around 80 percent of your metrics. Aiming for an 80 percent success rate allows you to maintain momentum and refine your strategy. Reaching 100% may imply your goals weren’t demanding, while achieving just 20% could be discouraging, hinting at excessively difficult objectives.

When assessing the effectiveness of your plan, focus on completion of initiatives, KPI tracking, timeliness of updates, and project timelines. These aspects collectively contribute to measuring the success and effectiveness of your strategic plan.


Remember, it’s not about finding the perfect metrics but about taking the first step, continuously improving, and making informed decisions on your strategic journey. With the wisdom shared by H. Pierson’s Strategy team, you’re well-equipped to master KPIs for your strategic success.


Author: H. Pierson Strategy Team



In today’s rapidly changing world, businesses face an ever-expanding range of risks that can disrupt operations, impact financial performance, and even threaten their very existence. While traditional risk management practices focus on known risks, it is crucial for organizations to proactively identify and manage emerging risks. These are risks that may not be well-understood or have not yet materialized but have the potential to significantly impact business objectives. In this article, we will delve into the realm of emerging risks, explore their characteristics, and provide practical strategies for identifying and managing these unknown threats. 

Understanding Emerging Risks 

Emerging risks are dynamic and multifaceted, constantly evolving as technology advances, social and regulatory landscapes shift, and new global challenges arise. These risks often stem from emerging trends, such as technological advancements, regulatory changes, geopolitical uncertainties, environmental shifts, or socio-cultural transformations. Identifying and understanding these risks requires organizations to be forward-thinking and adaptive. 

Characteristics of Emerging Risks 
  1. Uncertainty: Emerging risks are characterized by a high degree of uncertainty, making it challenging to predict their exact nature, timing, and potential impact. For example, the rapid emergence of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) or blockchain introduces unknown risks that may disrupt industries or create unforeseen vulnerabilities.
  2. Complexity: Emerging risks often exhibit complex interdependencies and systemic effects. They can transcend organizational boundaries, simultaneously affecting multiple sectors, industries, or geographic regions. An example of this is the interconnectedness of global supply chains, where a disruption in one region can have cascading effects worldwide.
  3. Novelty: Emerging risks are often novel or unfamiliar, lacking historical data or established risk management frameworks. As a result, organizations must adopt a proactive and adaptive approach to identify and address these risks effectively. 
Strategies for Identifying Emerging Risks 
  1. Horizon Scanning: Regularly scan the business environment for emerging trends, technological advancements, regulatory changes, and socio-cultural shifts that may have an impact on the organization. Engage in foresight exercises, monitor industry publications, attend conferences, and collaborate with external experts to stay abreast of the latest developments. 
  2. Scenario Planning: Develop and analyze plausible scenarios that explore potential emerging risks and their implications for the organization. These scenarios should consider a range of future possibilities, helping management anticipate and prepare for potential threats. By conducting scenario planning exercises, organizations can better understand the potential impacts of emerging risks and develop appropriate risk response strategies.
  3. Stakeholder Engagement: Engage with internal and external stakeholders to gather diverse perspectives on emerging risks. Employees, customers, industry experts, regulators, and other relevant parties can provide valuable insights and identify risks that may not be evident from a single viewpoint. Encouraging a culture of open communication and collaboration can help foster a proactive risk management mindset within the organization.
Managing Emerging Risks 
  1. Risk Assessment and Prioritization: Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to understand emerging risks’ potential impact and likelihood. This process involves evaluating the organization’s vulnerabilities, assessing the effectiveness of existing risk mitigation measures, and prioritizing emerging risks based on their severity and potential consequences. 
  2. Agility and Adaptability: Cultivate an organizational culture that embraces agility and adaptability. This includes fostering a mindset of continuous learning, encouraging experimentation, and empowering employees to identify and respond to emerging risks promptly. Agile organizations are better equipped to effectively adjust their strategies, operations, and risk management approaches to mitigate emerging risks. 
  3. Robust Risk Response Plans: Develop robust risk response plans to address emerging risks. These plans should include specific actions, responsibilities, and timelines for implementation. Depending on the nature of the risks, response strategies may involve enhancing organizational resilience, diversifying supply chains, investing in technological solutions, or creating contingency plans to ensure business continuity. 

Organizations must proactively identify and manage emerging risks to safeguard their future as the business landscape becomes increasingly complex and interconnected. By understanding the characteristics of emerging risks and adopting effective strategies, businesses can enhance their risk management practices, strengthen resilience, and seize opportunities arising from uncertainty. Embracing a proactive approach and fostering a risk-aware culture will enable organizations to navigate the unknown and thrive in an ever-changing world. 


  1. Global Risks Report 2023: World Economic Forum.
  1. “Managing Emerging Risks: A New Approach” – Deloitte.
  1. “Identifying and Managing Emerging Risks” – Harvard Business Review.
  1. “The Agile Risk Management Manifesto” – Risk Management Society (RIMS).


Organizations are well served when they examine, embrace, and utilize what makes them unique in the perspective of the clients they serve during these most difficult times. A discriminating competence assessment is a common name for this type of study. Such an analysis identifies the collection of knowledge and tools that enables a business (or organization) to offer a certain value to a consumer.

A discriminating competence or core competence is a highly developed skill that enables a business to provide distinctive value to clients. It represents an organization’s collective learning, notably on how to coordinate various production skills and integrate various technology.

Understanding discriminating competencies enable organizations to invest in their competitive advantages and be distinct from the competition.
For government and nonprofit organizations, discriminating competence is essential for determining where programs and services can/should be delivered in an efficient, cost-effective way.

Organizations use Discriminating Competencies to: 
  1. Create positions and plans for competition that take advantage of organizational strengths. 
  2. Create new markets and penetrate developing ones swiftly 
  3. Improve knowledge and skill transfer between business units and functional units within the organization. 
  4. Increase the range of an organization’s innovation capacity to provide new goods and services 
  5. Improve branding and increase consumer loyalty 
  6. Choose where to put resources. 

Amazon is a prime example.  As they put it, Amazon wants to be “earth’s most customer-centric company.” In this case, we can see that Amazon’s main capabilities are focused on: 

  1. offering a first-rate customer experience through quick delivery based on their innovative infrastructure and logistics 
  2. excellent customer support  
  3. and easy access to a broad variety of goods at a cheaper price. 

These capacities open doors to a variety of markets, make it difficult for rivals to copy them, and significantly increase the perceived value for customers.  The fact that Amazon has been able to develop, use, and rearrange its discriminating competencies into long-lasting competitive advantages is a prime example of why the company is so well-positioned to grow its services and thrive in a quickly shifting external environment. 

Maximizing Your Core Competency: 

First, you need to identify where your organization has competence mastery. The following list of typical core competence areas includes: 

  1. Product Quality – superior to industry norms in terms of product or service quality.
  2. Service levels that are far superior than industry norms. 
  3. Strong consumer focus resulting in a high level of customer closeness.
  4. Brand reputation & image – built over several years of exceptional performance.
  5. Special and distinctive technical abilities of one or more team members 

Particular attention should be paid to the internal capabilities of the organization which customers recognize as its competitive advantage. The organization’s core competency becomes the center around which pertinent business prospects are selected and the organization’s strategic direction is established.

Discriminating competences have to be seen as dynamic components that change over time in response to the operational environment of the firm. You can turn a skill into a core skill and become “competitively different” in the process.

For a competency to be considered unique, it must be a quality that the customer appreciates and that competitors would like to have in their own business. A discriminating competency cannot be an essential quality to the organization’s operations (but not exceptional in any way) because it does not distinguish the organization from competitors.

An ability that is essential to an organization’s operations but is not remarkable in some manner should not be regarded as a core competency since it does not set the company apart from its rivals.

Amazon has undoubtedly embraced this justification. Perhaps it’s time to implement this practice if your company doesn’t already.

H. Pierson Strategy Consulting Team.



Open Banking refers to banks and other financial institutions opening up data for regulated providers to access, use, and share. Ensuring security for a data-sharing project such as open banking is paramount, and banks are effectively putting in place the infrastructure for their customers’ data to be shared more securely with third parties, with customer permission. That data sharing takes place only with customer authorization is important. Open banking wasn’t designed to allow banks to sell their customers’ data more easily.  

The intention is quite the opposite — open banking was conceived to improve financial services for customers by opening up access to data that has historically been kept in-house; new companies and new products can enter the market and use this data in helpful, innovative ways. 

So what does it all mean? 

  • For financial service providers — At the top of the chain, open banking will allow financial service providers to significantly innovate their product offerings to businesses. 
  • For businesses (large and small) — Those innovations made by financial service providers will mean more effective and efficient financial tools in your business — notably payments. This will mean more automation, freeing up more time, doing away with the headaches of manual tasks, and ultimately saving you money. 
  • For customers — Open banking will mean better ways to spend, borrow, and invest. 
Why is it important/relevant?

The promotion of Open Banking holds the promise of bringing about innovation in the banking industry. Fintechs typically take up positions that traditional banks cannot fill. Ensuring a good open banking system will mean greater efficiencies leading to better services and, ultimately, better customer experiences. The banks and the fintech create a network of data sharing, which could be used to create more robust customer profiles, and information, understand spending habits, and aid in better risk modeling, which in turn will help reduce risk, particularly for institutions providing credit facilities.

In addition, open banking will necessitate new technology to bolster existing banking systems and will, in turn, provide efficiencies and profits that will exceed the investment required for these technologies. It’s a WIN-WIN situation.

What Was the situation PRIOR to the regulation?

Open banking, particularly in Nigeria, has been largely unregulated. Fintechs have low regulatory barriers to entry and face hardly any oversight compared to traditional banks (no banking licenses required). As such, the fintech industry in Nigeria has been expanding at a significantly high rate over the past five years. Numerous apps are available for consumers; some have become household names: Quickteller, Paga, Carbon, Piggyvest, etc.

However, as with any industry that sees such rapid expansion, the risks posed and faced by this industry become more apparent. When it comes to Open Banking, two prominent issues need to be addressed.

The first issue is privacy. This refers to the privacy of customers’ banking information that the banks share with third-party financial service providers. By regulations, banks are not allowed to share customers’ banking information without their consent. As such, customers making use of third-party financial services providers are required to agree to the providers’ “Terms of Service,” in which the customer will agree to the provider being granted access to certain information about the customer from the banks. Once the customer agrees to these terms, the banks can then grant the provider access to the information through the API. This part is all fine and well and is standard practice. However, once the provider gains that information, no strong regulatory framework dictates what they can and can’t do with that information.

The second issue is regarding Security: The security of the customers’ information and the security of the banking systems. Due to the lack of a strong regulatory framework for the providers and Fintechs, the requirements for the protection and security of customers’ information is vague at best. While this could be considered an existential threat to the providers, which they would have to address prior to commencing business, there are no guarantees of security, monitoring, or oversight.

Also, with regards to security, the providers and APIs being employed create extra points of vulnerability to the banking system. Of course, customers’ information is at risk, but the customer account information and access to the accounts could also be compromised. In Nigeria, the recently alleged hacking for Flutterwave is a good case in point. It is alleged that hackers got into Flutterwaves systems and were able to move NGN 2.9bn to a number of different accounts. Flutterwave is a payment system provider, not a money deposit bank, so where did the NGN 2.9bn come from? From Flutterwave’s customers’ bank accounts. It is important to note that Flutterwave has publicly denied this alleged hacking, but this highlights what is potentially at risk here.

Why is CBN putting out guidance for it?

The CBN initially put out a circular for the regulatory framework for Open Banking in Nigeria in February 2021. This framework covered some critical issues regarding Data and Service Access Governance, Guiding Principles for API specifications, Risk Management guidelines, Customer Rights, Responsibility, and Redress mechanism.

In furtherance of the released framework, the CBN in March 2023 approved the operational guidelines for Open Banking in Nigeria. While the regulatory framework addressed the overarching issues regarding open banking in Nigeria, the operational guidelines seek to tackle the more granular operational issues faced by third-party financial providers.

In conjunction with the regulatory framework, the operational guidelines should alleviate the risk and security concerns surrounding opening banking in Nigeria.

What does the guidance mean for Nigerian markets?

These guidelines mean that financial institutions and fintech companies will have stricter requirements to adhere to in order to ensure the security of customers’ information and their systems.

However, there are a few points that are important to note.

The level of monitoring and oversight that the CBN will do on fintech companies is not certain. It is expected that it will not be at the level of oversight provided to the traditional banks, but whether it will be effective enough to fully rein in the fintech industry is yet to be seen.

While the CBN guidelines for open banking are directed more toward the fintech, the traditional banks have their roles to play in ensuring a viable open banking environment in Nigeria. Banks need to update their Third-party risk management frameworks and policies to incorporate Open Banking into their risk management considerations.

H. Pierson Advisory Team


Strategic thinking has long been viewed as essential for leaders of organizations. The ability to anticipate and plan for the future, to think critically and creatively about complex problems, and make effective decisions in the face of uncertainty and change, is more necessary now than ever. These capabilities will be dramatically augmented and magnified by artificial intelligence systems such as ChatGPT.

With the ability to process large amounts of data, identify patterns, and make predictions, AI will provide fresh insights and perspectives that were previously unavailable to company executives. This will enable them to make more informed and accurate decisions – and to anticipate and plan for the future more effectively. But it won’t replace the human element in strategic thinking, which remains critical.

Currently, AI can analyze vast data, spot trends, make forecasts, and help leaders identify and mitigate business risks. Soon, it will also simulate different scenarios and provide leaders with various options and recommendations for which path to take. In the near future, I expect to see symbiotic relationships between executives and AI systems, in which they both work together to enhance decision-making, problem-solving, and strategy development.


ChatGPT has a plethora of use cases across the board including.

  • Solving mathematical questions
  • Producing proof of concepts
  • Writing long-form content like essays and reports

ChatGPT can be a great place to start, but it won’t solve all of your problems. 

  • It cannot think or make decisions independently. 
  • It does not distinguish or understand emotions and may respond inappropriately in certain situations. 
  • ChatGPT cannot understand the entire context of a conversation; it can only generate responses based on the input it receives at any given time. 
  • Even though ChatGPT has been trained on a large amount of data, it is still inaccurate and may occasionally respond with incorrect or illogical responses in certain situations. 

Businesses can speed up response times and enhance customer service by using ChatGPT, which can handle a high volume of interactions accurately and quickly. In fact, the more you interact, the more ChatGPT can pick up on your tone and develop into an AI assistant.

ChatGPT can increase productivity by freeing up staff time for more complex and imaginative tasks by automating routine tasks like responding to frequently asked questions and creating a transcript from your most recent presentation.

ChatGPT can handle a high volume of interactions at the same time, making it an ideal tool for small businesses to large corporations.


No. This is because:

  • Chat GPT will find it difficult to develop a thorough understanding of your environment because markets, rivals, suppliers, and a host of other factors have vastly different values and contributions to the success of your company.
  • An expert must compile, analyze, prioritize, and act on the data discovered during an internal SWOT or PESTLE analysis of your strengths and weaknesses. This is something ChatGPT cannot do.
  • ChatGPT is unable to develop a corporate, functional, or departmental strategy for your business due to a lack of situational understanding.
  • It won’t help you think strategically about how to use the information mentioned above to generate a clear path forward.

The goal is to use the tool as a support mechanism that provides leaders with basic-level strategic advisory services. It should be noted that the answers given will not be specific to the person who asked the question, but it can be useful for brainstorming ideas.

H. Pierson Advisory Team


Authors: Dr. Awele Ohaegbu and John Eni-Edom

A retreat is a meeting unrestricted by traditional approaches and routines to create an atmosphere that addresses overarching concerns, discussions, strategic planning and creative thinking. In other words, it is used to handle issues otherwise limited during regular business meetings.
Retreats enable a shared understanding of organisational needs, opportunities, and issues. It promotes a sense of unity, effective teamwork and mutual respect. Proper planning is necessary to achieve productive retreats. It is noteworthy that one single retreat is most unlikely to solve, recognise or determine opportunities. However, it is strongly recommended that the main issue to be addressed at every retreat be clearly identified. Once an issue has been identified, a theme is chosen, with at least one and not more than two topics within the theme for concentration.


There are different types of retreats, which include succession planning retreat, strategic planning retreat, organising retreat, board evaluation retreat, and orientation retreat. In the real sense, employees look forward to retreats either with excitement or disdain. At best, it is an opportunity for renewal, refocus, and team building. At worst, it is just another “dull” few days of many talks or extended meetings.
To make your retreats more effective, there is a need to work with a strategic planning group on the outcome from the beginning. The goal is not to achieve a specific outcome, but to develop a focus that will guide you toward achieving the retreat’s objective(s).

At H. Pierson, we deploy visual thinking tools to aid organisations reach a shared picture of the future quickly. Click on the button below to download strategic retreat brochure


Before the retreat, endeavor to provide participants with the necessary data and insights required to make informed decisions during the sessions. These can include financial performance and forecasts; market performance; external market data; information on your competition; and customer analysis.

Depending on the type of retreat, it may be imperative to do a strategic analysis of what it is now, where you want to get to, and how to get there effectively. Also, it could be to foster a collective vision, create a common framework, develop goals and objectives, deal with conflict sources, resolve entrenched challenges, and orient new staff.


Draw positive energy from physical and psychological distance from the office. Relax the rules, suspend formal boundaries! Have some fun. Informality and humour are tools for creating engagement. Involve professional firms in planning your retreat. These firms will help plan, develop, and set realistic goals with expectations from a neutral point of view. If there is a need to get an expert facilitator within the identified theme, be sure that with a professional firm, the sole interest is in achieving a successful retreat.

Do not presume the retreat as a reward or make an individual’s problem a group issue. A retreat is neither meant to fulfill a clandestine agenda nor expressly improve morale. If the retreat organiser does not intend to act on the suggestions of participants, then it may turn out to be a poorly executed one, achieving little results in the long run.

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Getting the most from strategy retreats

Strategic development is a joint board-management responsibility. It is the key stage of the strategy process where the board and senior management team work together


According to research published by Harvard Professors Robert Kaplan and David Norton (2008), the rate of strategy execution failure in businesses ranges from as high as 60% to 90%. Many organisations will fall short of their goals, especially when there are disruptions in the business environment within which they operate.

However, there are opportunities to set self apart and lead organisations to success, through execution acceleration and moving from a reactive to a proactive approach. The following pillars should be in place to successfully implement your plans; a clear strategic vision, the right people and culture, accountability and enterprise performance reporting.

A Clear Strategic Vision

“If you do not know where you are going, you might end up someplace else.” —Yogi Berra

Properly articulating a vision is vital for any business, particularly in a fast-paced and rapidly evolving sector. A poorly crafted and unclear vision statement will most likely lead to poor execution. Hence, a vivid vision is critical to successfully executing the strategic plan. The vision statement should clearly define unique values, success definition, and destination. It must achieve strong human connections within the organisation in order to be assured of its successful execution.

One way of getting your employees on board with the vision is to deploy The Visualisation Approach. This process entails the use of stories and visual comprehension modes to achieve a deeper connection to the vision. This approach increases group internalisation and follow-through by explicitly connecting the strategic intent to the desired execution outcomes.

Do you need to activate your vision or strategy? You can book a free consultation with us.

The Right People and Culture

“44% rank aligning the implementation of strategy to company culture as the toughest challenge.” – Cascade (2020)

Better execution starts with successfully activating strategy into the culture, yet most organisations do not usually see the line between culture and strategy execution. Even where they do, they are unable to achieve the desired impact on execution.  In truth, the successful execution of a strategy ultimately depends on individual members, especially key managers. Therefore, aligning strategy with learning and internalization, managing, measuring, and rewarding people is critical to effective strategy execution. Today’s management must put strategy activation, a strong company culture, employee competence, and experience as a priority. Otherwise, the consequences will be reflected in the strategy’s execution.

H. Pierson provides a powerful tool for aligning the culture, energies, and talent of your employees towards achieving your organization’s strategic objectives. Our Strategy Activation and Cascading Solutions close the gap in strategy development. Download our brochure.

“The ability to make good decisions regarding people represents one of the last reliable sources of competitive advantage since very few organizations are very good at it.”—Peter Drucker

Accountability and Enterprise Performance Reporting

Who in the organisation is responsible for tracking the progress of specific strategic initiatives?
How do you ensure updates are on time and accurate?
Frequently, strategic initiatives fail because no one is held accountable for their progress. When a team or multiple individuals are the “owners” of an initiative, there is no one clear-cut accountable party.

The accountability and reporting process can be broken into data collection, data analysis and reports. Data collection is the process of collating information from disparate places into one system, to enable your analysis and decision-making with as much information as possible. Data analysis entails the examination of data to learn more about the story, with the use of data visualisation to increase comprehension through charts, grids, colour-coded icons, heat maps, dashboards etc. It helps to identify what is on and off-target, as well as what is needed to adapt into existing plans based on emerging observations. Reports help to distribute findings so that team(s) can review and discuss them for decision-making purposes.

Enterprise Performance Reporting is essentially about organising performance data, so that grey areas can be quickly identified within the execution process, track improvements, and ultimately foster accountability and execution success.

Through our 30+ years of experience working with clients across multiple sectors, we know what it takes to overcome challenges in the execution of your corporate strategies. This is achieved by fully deploying our proprietary tools and techniques that drive firm-wide strategy execution.


Author: H.Pierson’s Strategy Team


Kaplan, R.S., & Norton, D.P. (2008). The Execution Premium: Linking Strategy to Operations for Competitive Advantage. Massachusetts: Harvard Business Press

Team, C. (2020, March 13). 51 Strategy Statistics and 3 Key Lessons to Help You Succeed. Retrieved from Cascade:

Thiru, T. (2020, February 19). How to Bridge the Gap between Vision and Execution. Retrieved from Forbes:


Collectively, we have spent over 40 years researching this question. Our research on innovation styles identifies and examines the different preferences and roles people take on when pursuing innovation. By understanding this concept, organizations can better identify where specific people are needed and who should work together to generate new breakthrough ideas.

Our latest study relies on data collected between October 2006 and January 2021, across as many people in as many organizations as possible. Over 100,000 people — 112,497 to be precise, with nearly equal parts men and women — responded to the call, and we continue to collect data every day. Respondents came from 84 countries and work in a wide variety of companies and industries, including Microsoft, ArcelorMittal, Boston Symphony Orchestra, NASA, United Way, and Harvard University (and Harvard Business Review!).

Each respondent told us about what they like to do and what they do well when they solve problems (and what they do not like or do not do well). These answers revealed an individual’s preference for one of four unique innovation styles, each of which maps onto a distinct phase of a four-stage innovation process. Each style has a role to play in your organization, starting with finding new problems (generators), thoroughly defining problems (conceptualizers), evaluating ideas and selecting solutions (optimizers), and implementing selected solutions (implementers).

All four styles are necessary for innovation. Understanding which employees fall into which style enables an organization to manage their innovation efforts more effectively. However, in our experience, most organizations are lacking in some innovation styles — particularly generators — and we will be providing steps to help overcome this deficiency.

The Four Innovation Styles Defined


Find new problems and ideate based on their own direct experience. For them, physical contact with, and involvement in, the real-world alerts them to unresolved gaps and inconsistencies — problems that might be worth addressing as opportunities and possibilities. However, generators only find these problems at a high level; they do not necessarily gravitate towards articulating a clear understanding of a problem’s specifics or its potential solutions.

Across all organizational levels, generators are rare. Overall, just 17% of our sample were generators: 19% of executive managers, 18% of middle managers, 15% of supervisors, and 16% of non-managers. This means that, unless leaders are deliberate about including generators on teams, they may not be represented at all. Generators are perceptive of the world around them, and initiate and proliferate opportunities. So, a lack of generators makes it more likely that an organization will miss opportunities for valuable change. Given the importance of cognitive diversity in groups, this is a potential detriment to innovation performance.


Define the problem and prefer to understand it through abstract analysis rather than through direct experience. Like generators, they like to ideate; but in contrast they prefer to model the problem clearly — integrating the various parts, relationships, and insights together — which can then be used as the basis for one or more solutions.

Conceptualizers are the second rarest innovation style, making up only 19% of the sample. They are relatively evenly represented across most occupational levels, with 17%, 18%, and 17% of non-managers, supervisors, and middle managers as conceptualizers, respectively. But more

executives — 25% percent — are conceptualizers. This likely reflects the specific cognitive demands for that role: executive managers must strategically plan for more distant goals, rather than execute more tactical tasks.


Evaluate ideas and suggest solutions. They prefer to systematically examine all possible alternatives in order to implement the best solution among the known options.

Optimizers are most common among lower occupational levels (27% of non-managers) and decrease with a rise in occupational levels (23% of supervisors, 22% of middle managers, and 20% of executives). Because most solutions are implemented at lower levels of hierarchy, it makes sense that occupations at these levels are more likely to engage in optimization.


-Put solutions to work. They enthusiastically (and sometimes impatiently) take action, experimenting with new solutions before mentally testing them and then make adjustments based on the outcome of these experiments.

Implementers are the most common innovation style, representing 41% of our survey respondents. Thirty six percent of executive managers are implementers, but are about as common among non-managers (41%), supervisors (44%), and middle managers (43%).

Challenges for Organizations

Two findings should stand out to managers. First, innovation styles are, generally, not evenly distributed. It is striking that only about 17% of individuals in our study were found to be generators while 41% were implementers. Second, people tend to sort into different occupational roles and levels of management based on their innovation style. For instance, generators are predominantly found in non-industrial occupations and conceptualizers are most common in strategic planning and organizational development.

These two findings contribute to the same problem: the organizations and teams you are working with are likely to lack the right balance of styles and be insufficiently cognitively diverse. If cognitive differences are unevenly distributed (e.g., there are more implementers and fewer generators) — and if people will choose roles and organizations based on their innovative style preference (e.g., generators are more likely to become artists and teachers, not executives and engineers) — we would expect most organizations and teams to lack the ideal cognitive diversity for innovation.


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In times of uncertain economics, organisations are forced into making or considering changes. Some opt for simple radical surgery and cut out unnecessary or redundant resources. Others try a more complex solution and restructure their operations. Both approaches are fraught with difficulty – and as we know from history, the majority of organisation changes fail to reach their objectives. Professor John Kotter at Harvard Business school identifies eight key causes, most of which pointed to a dis-connect between the leaders and employees in an organisation – the leaders had good ideas but failed to get them across effectively.

This research, along with other studies, confirms that organisations are not like machines, which can be

‘re-engineered’, but are complex social processes. Some of which are determined by structures and formal systems of the organisation, but most of which are ‘informal.

So with either approach, there are likely to be difficulties. Radical surgery leaves people feeling ‘survivor sickness’ and exhibiting lower productivity. People are displaced and disgruntled, worrying about their own future rather than focusing on the development of the new organisation. In more complex changes, people take time – often too long – to come to terms with the new realities and relationships and the main opportunity is lost.

We know from other studies that people are affected personally by change in different ways. To be successful, a change programme needs to take account of these effects and work to minimise the negative impact.

The key to success therefore lies in engaging with the informal processes, the interactions between everyone in the organisation which constitute the way the organisation actually works.

The questions

Strategies that will yield success are those that motivate and stimulate employees. We also know that the knowledge of what to do is not confined to the executive suite. More often than not, the solutions are already known, but lack the commitment to be implemented (as the GE WorkOut™ process has proven over many years). How can you involve employees in the creation of these change strategies?

Involvement of all stakeholders interests in the organisation, not just the financial shareholders’, is critical in creating a viable strategy. Pursuing an inclusive agenda that focuses on the needs of its customers, employees, suppliers and the wider community is one that has the greater chance of success. How do you create real dialogue with the stakeholders and reconcile differences that will generate that inclusive, successful strategy?

In times of difficulty we often forget that a lot of what we do actually does work. There is a danger of throwing the good out with the bad, especially when involved in surgical change. Again, research identifies that working with strengths and enhancing what works has greater success than trying to fix weaknesses and what doesn’t work. How can you identify the root of success rather than the root causes of failure?

There is always the difficult problem of engaging people and getting them committed to the future. How do you translate negative fear and apprehension into positive energy working to succeed through the troubled times?

And there is the problem of time and money – or lack of it! Many re-organisation and change processes are known to take months, if not years of concentrated effort, and a lot of resources. So, how do you manage to engage people, develop strategies and get commitment to implementation in a fast and cost effective manner?

The answers

The answers to these questions lie in engaging in whole system participation events.

The events – Appreciative Inquiry Summits, Future Search Conferences, Real Time Strategic Change, Open Space Conferences, World Café, etc – utilise systems thinking and allow everyone associated with the problem or organisation to be involved, employees and stakeholders alike. Simultaneous involvement of hundreds of people allows for exchange of ideas, gathering of strategic information, decision making and planning in a single event – or linked series – of events typically lasting 2-3 days.

By focusing on positive outcomes and best practice, participants in these events experience enjoyable ways of working that release creativity and breakthrough results. They replace the passive ‘tell and sell’ model with high levels of participation and co-creating, so generating commitment – there is no need to get ‘buy in’, the participants are the joint architects of the strategy, so they are highly committed and motivated to it. Implementation starts immediately.

For example, in one company, Appreciative Inquiry was used to conduct analysis of the total system which was completed in less than two weeks by the employees themselves. In another, a summit meeting brought together all 750 employees, the company’s leadership, and 100 customers to create a new business model – a year on, profits were up over 200 percent and absenteeism down 300 percent. In another application, IKEA simultaneously doubled sales, improved quality and cut the price 30% without cutting profit of it Ektorp range whilst making sofa shopping easier for customers, and cutting delivery times – all in a concentrated three day event involving 52 stakeholders including suppliers, executives and workers from Sweden, Canada, the U.S. and other countries, and several customers.

Fast – and cost effective – solutions. These events utilise internal experience and expertise with consultants providing the expert design and facilitation of the events themselves. Thus the consultancy cost is vastly less than traditional change consultancy where the consultants become integrated in the organisation to advise expert solutions. And the outcomes are achieved more quickly – and are more acceptable to the workforce.

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