Montara Farm Redefines The Corporate Retreat

For fifteen years, we at Montara have been hosting corporate retreats for large established and small entrepreneurial companies.  During the 90’s and early 2000’s “corporate retreats ” became synonymous  with boondoggles or ineffective play time events that produced little more than than experience tales or a temporary feel good.

This was never the case here at Montara.  Companies that came here had a commitment to creating an experience that would have a business impact even when the fun was over.  Regardless of the intent, in recent recession years just the perception that something might be fun has been enough to slash it from the budget.

Such a pity since we desperately need the playful, the innovative,  and the creative right side of the brain applied to business issues.

There is, however, a new trend emerging in corporate retreats and business meetings which we have seen here at Montara and are very excited about it.

Companies are coming to us with a clearer idea of what they want to accomplish.  Bonding over a few beers is not enough.  Gaining clarity of purpose and sharing values, norms and goals in a macro and micro way is seen as a way to bond groups together.

Tackling tough issues through creative activities,  inviting a diversity of ideas and opinions,  inviting diverse participants from a variety of functional areas and utilizing  trained facilitators who move people towards understanding and consensus is viewed as a bonding experience.

Just recently we had a group of 20 mangers from a financial company.  The executives organizing the event invited key people from three functional area- marketing, product management and IT, all of which have their own silos.

The goal was to get each area to understand the others in terms of what they do, how they do it, why they do what they do and how it affects the other  areas.

To do this, the silos had to be temporarily dismantled so that defensiveness did not take over.

The program was carefully structured to go from individual awareness to cross group interaction to group demonstrations  and discussion.

Using a personal style instrument and a Montara facilitator, the group explored each persons thinking and communication styles.

They then spent an afternoon in cross cultural competitive teams engaging in outdoor “fun” activities which are metaphors for real world issues.

Finally, each group was assigned an area different from their own and asked to draw a graphic representation of what the area does, what their processes and decision points are, and what values drive them.

The result was that each area made assumptions and judgements about the work of others that were not correct.

The retreat ended with a plan to synergize the processes and to move to a continuing mapping of the different functions to be discussed inter departmentally on a regular basis.

More importantly,  all wanted to do more to better understand each other and work more effectively instead of creating a silo culture that  wastes time and energy to push a point of view.

Could this have been done in an office environment…perhaps, but the environment and exclusivity of Montara, the structure of the program and the intense pleasure of the experience made it happen faster and will remain more memorable.