Retreats That Work: Everything You Need to KnowAbout Planning and Leading Great Offsites, Expanded Edition (with CD)
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More About This Title Retreats That Work: Everything You Need to KnowAbout Planning and Leading Great Offsites, Expanded Edition (with CD)


Based on the best-selling first edition, this greatly expanded and updated version contains forty-seven new activities, more information about how to design and lead retreats, and additional suggestions for how to recover when things go wrong. A CD-ROM allows you to print out chapters for distribution to key leaders, duplicate templates, and produce handouts for specific exercises.

Whether you're planning to lead an offsite retreat for the first time or the ninety-ninth time, this easy-to-use, one-stop resource provides:

  • Step-by-step instructions for leading a wide variety of tested exercises.
  • Insight into establishing effective working relationships with clients.
  • Information on what to include in your retreat designs.
  • Suggestions for encouraging participants to speak up and play an active role.
  • Tools for managing conflict.
  • Guidance on making decisions during a retreat and changing course when necessary.
  • Strategies for developing and implementing action plans.
  • Tips for follow-up so you can keep the change train on track.
Order your copy of this practical guide today!


Merianne Liteman, Sheila Campbell, and Jeff Liteman consult to corporate, government, international organization, and nonprofit clients on strategic planning, strategic change, creative thinking, leadership development, and improved teamwork and communication.(You can find more information at


CD Contents.



SECTION ONE: Materials for the Facilitator.

Chapter 1: Working with the Client.

Nine Reasons to Hold a Retreat.

Ten Reasons Not to Hold a Retreat.

What If the Client Is Your Boss?

Aligning Yourself with the Client.

Kinds of Retreats.

Using a Specialized Retreat Format.

Chapter 2: Planning the Retreat.

Pre-Retreat Interviews with Participants.

Identifying the Scope of Issues and Creating the Retreat Plan.

Who’s Who in Planning a Retreat.

Involving Participants in Retreat Planning.

Deciding Whether to Work with a Co-Facilitator.

Thinking About Logistics.

Creating the Conditions for Success.

Chapter 3: Retreat Design Issues.

Sins of Omission: The Top Retreat Design Mistakes.

Prework for Retreat Participants.

Using White Space.

Capturing the Work Product.

Design Issues for a Series of Retreats.

Chapter 4: Retreat Design Components.


Ground Rules or Norms.

Individual Check-In.

Reporting Your Findings.

Content Segments.

Decision Making.

Action Planning.


Post-Retreat Follow-Up.

The Importance of Timing.

Chapter 5: Structuring the Retreat.

Group Size and Composition.

Varying the Methodologies.

Incorporating Rituals.

Chapter 6: Leading the Retreat.

Key Facilitation Practices.

Encouraging Participation.

Process or Content Facilitator?

When Should the Facilitator Intervene?

Giving Feedback to Retreat Participants.

Co-Facilitation Challenges.

Diversity Issues.

Recording the Group's Work.

Monitoring the Group's Energy.

Changing the Plan.

Chapter 7: How to Recover When Things Go Awry.

A Few Participants Dominate the Discussions.

The Group Keeps Wandering off Task.

The Group’s Energy Is Flagging.

A Participant Keeps Plowing the Same Ground.

A Participant Repeatedly Disrupts the Conversations.

The Participants Refuse to Deal with Important Issues.

A Senior Manager Violates the Ground Rules.

People Are Misusing Humor.

A Participant Is Overtly Hostile or Refuses to Participate.

“I’m Outta Here”: A Participant Walks Out.

A Participant Gets Furious or Defensive or Bursts into Tears.

Participants Are Turning the Retreat into a Gripe Session.

Participants Are Resisting New Ideas.

Activity: Gains and Losses.

An Intense Conflict Breaks Out.

A Participant Breaches Another’s Confidence.

The Group Is Resisting You.

Chapter 8: Helping Participants Make Decisions and Plan for Action.

Methods of Decision Making.

Activity: Let’s Take Our Chances.

Types of Retreat Decisions.

Activity: Our Stable of Clients or Resources.

Activity: Rating Resources.

Activity: Criteria Evaluation Grid.

Activity: Show Me Our Future.

The Nub: Action Planning.

Chapter 9: Leading a Strategic Planning Retreat.

Why Strategic Planning?

Elements of Organization Strategy.

Activity: Exploring Strategic Direction.

Activity: Prioritizing Constituencies.

Activity: Distinctive Competencies.

Activity: Our “Proverbial” Differentiation.

Activity: Sell Me Glamour.

Activity: Centers of Excellence.

Discerning the Organization’s Values.

Activity: Values Vignettes.

Activity: Values Auction.

Understanding the Environment.

Activity: Glimpses into the Future.

Activity: Alternative Futures.

Evaluating Work Processes.

Planning for Action.

Activity: Targeting Results.

Checking Against Resources.

Activity: Resource/Impact Matrix.

Devising Strategies.

Testing Strategies.

Activity: Obstacle Busters I.

Writing the Plan 247

Chapter 10: Leading a Culture Change Retreat.

Great Expectations: What Can Realistically Be Accomplished at a Retreat.

Activity: Visit Our Village.

Activity: How We Behave.

Activity: Timeline of Our History.

Activity: Significant Stories.

Working with Sensitive or Controversial Issues.

Activity: Silent Dialogue.

Reward Structures Help Shape Culture.

Activity: What Gets Rewarded Here?

Activity: Reward Sonatas.

How Individuals Foster Culture Change.

Activity: We’ll Keep . . . .

Recognizing and Removing Obstacles to Change.

Activity: Obstacle Busters II.

Feedback for Senior Executives.

Chapter 11: Leading a Team-Building Retreat.

If You’re Asked to Lead a Team-Building Retreat.

Characteristics of a Productive Team.

Activity: Are We Dropping the Ball?

Purpose and Goals.

Activity: Purpose Check.

Activity: “Purposeful” Poetry.

Activity: Wouldn’t It Be Great If . . . ?

Exploring How Things Are and How Participants Would Like Them to Be.

Activity: Vehicle for Change I.

Activity: Ask the Genie.

Clarifying Individuals’ Roles and Responsibilities.

Activity: Picturing Our Roles.

Activity: This Could Be Me.

Improving Work Processes.

Strengthening Communication.

Activity: How We Communicate.

Exploring the Importance of Feedback.

Activity: Speed Feedback Rounds.

Activity: How Do I Contribute?

Probing for Sources of Conflict.

Activity: How Conflict Affects Us.

Activity: Taking Responsibility.

Activity: My Conflict Triggers.

Exploring How Individuals Can Change Their Own Behaviors.

Activity: Star Performers.

Collaborative Decision Making.

Activity: Incident at Coyote Canyon.

Chapter 12: Leading a Creativity and Innovation Retreat.

Preparing Participants to Think Creatively.

Activity: Creative Limbering.

Activity: How Would I Use It?

Generating Wacky Ideas.

Activity: Wide-Open Thinking.

Activity: Really Bad Ideas.

Activity: Villains in Charge.

Activity: It's Music to My Ears.

Activity: Headline Buzz.

Minimizing Groupthink.

Activity: Impressions.

Activity: Reporters from Planet Arimira.

Cultivating the Creativity Habit.

Activity: Isolated Words.

Activity: Multiple Perspectives.

Activity: Expert Opinion.

Letting Go of Judgment.

Activity: Gibberish Press Conference.

Activity: Considering Risk.

Evaluating Ideas.

Activity: Put on Your Thinking Cap.

Activity: Payoffs and Capabilities.

Chapter 13: Specialized Retreats.

The Board Retreat.

Activity: Bottom-Line Matrix.

The Peers-Only Retreat.

Activity: I Want Those Resources!

Activity: What “Blocks” Cooperation.

Activity: Trust Me.

Activity: Conflicting Interests.

Activity: Metaphorical Management.

Activity: It’s Important.

Abandonment Retreats.

Chapter 14: Closing the Retreat and Working on Implementation.

Summing Up and Preparing to Follow Through.

Activity: The Messy Room.

Activity: Top Priorities.

Activity: Closing Thoughts.

Activity: Letter to Myself.

Activity: Appreciation.

Activity: What I See for Me . . . .

Activity: Vehicle for Change II.

Activity: Expectations and Outcomes.

Activity: The Road We’ve Traveled.

Activity: I’m Committing . . . .

Activity: Collective Quilt.

Activity: You Can Count on Me.

Activity: Change Conga.

Activity: Obstacle Busters III.

Writing the Follow-Up Report.

What’s Your Role After the Retreat?

What’s Next for You?

SECTION TWO: Materials for the Client.

Chapter 15: Working with the Facilitator to Plan the Retreat.

Last Things First: What Do You Want to Be Different?

Your Role and the Facilitator’s Role.

Whom Should You Invite?

Retreat Logistics.

Chapter 16: Your Role at the Retreat.

Reaching an Understanding About Participants’ Authority.

Leadership Behavior During the Retreat.

A Common Post-Retreat Concern.

Chapter 17: Keeping the Work of the Retreat Alive.

Announcing the Retreat Outcomes.

Translating Decisions into Action.

Avoiding Post-Retreat Letdown.

The Role of Senior Management.

Changing Cynicism to Support.

Making the Plan Stick.

Look Ahead, Plan Ahead.

Chapter 18: Activities Indexes.

Activities Index.

Activities to Use in Any Retreat.

Activities for Culture Change, Team-Building, and Board Retreats.

Activities for Building Cooperation and Dealing with Sensitive Issues.

Activities for Idea Generation.

Activities for Making Decisions, Planning, and Evaluating Ideas.



Checklists for the Client.

Checklists for the Facilitator.

Recommended Resources.



About the Authors.

How to Use the CD-ROM.


"The Litemans and Campbell have served up a delightful, wonderfully written, accessible, and invaluable resource book for retreat planners. It is jam-packed with ideas, tools, pitfalls to be avoided, and everything one needs to create Retreats That Work."
—Barry Oshry, creator, Power Lab Retreat; author, Seeing Systems and Leading Systems

"What a treasure of valuable tools to facilitate the best darn retreat of your life! Whether you’re new or a veteran, struggling or successful, you must invest in this gem! The authors of the expanded version of this book share everything—from pre-retreat preparation to follow up activities to implementation and design to recovery. It’s all there! Add to that handouts, client material, and templates on a handy CD—you'll think you struck gold!"
—Elaine Biech, author, Training For Dummies, The Business of Consulting, and Creativity and Innovation: The ASTD Trainer’s Sourcebook

"For companies organizing a retreat, this should be your bible. It delivers exactly what it says it will: practical approaches that assure effective retreats. Would that other business books were so impressive."
—Jeffrey LaRiche, chairman and CEO, Castle Worldwide, Inc.

"This book is an impressive and much-needed resource for training and development professionals. I only wish it had been around when I was getting my feet wet in retreats. Having read it, I would never again lead an offsite without referring to it, over and over again!"
—Fran Rees, author, The Facilitator Excellence Handbook, How to Lead Work Teams: Facilitation Skills, and 25 Activities for Developing Team Leaders

"This is one of those rare books that will make you wonder what you did before you had it. It’s the only resource you’ll need to grasp the how’s and why’s of organizing successful retreats."
—Rayna Aylward, executive director, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

"This is the book I will recommend to my graduate students in organization development and knowledge management as well as to my clients who want to hold retreats that will make a difference. This thoroughly revised edition adds many new exercises and tips to what was already an excellent work."
—Tojo Thatchenkery, professor of organizational learning, George Mason University; coauthor, Appreciative Intelligence: Seeing the Might Oak in the Acorn

"Retreats That Work is the definitive resource for busy executives, experienced facilitators, and newcomers to the field who want retreats to help bring about significant and sustainable change in their organizations. The real-life examples, wise advise, and creative exercises in the easy-to-use guide make this a resource you will turn to again and again. If a client came to me and asked what to do to increase the likelihood of a successful retreat, I’d advise them to buy, read, and use this book."
—Mel Silberman, author, Training the Active Training Way and 101 Ways to Make Training Active