Executives today have little undistracted time to focus their attention on key challenges facing them. They suffer constant interruptions and have a hard time connecting to the people they need in a timely way. They usually see the work that their people do, but they don’t see their people do the work. They want to move ahead on their overriding challenges, but are stymied by organizational barriers, distance, and distractions.
Three days seems like an awfully long time, but what is the alternative? Months of meeting after meeting, revision after revision, never getting the same people in the same room twice in a room, resource constraints, the crisis du jour, and other barriers to swift and decisive action on an important cross-functional issue. Many organizations are simply not structured to ever come to terms with a complex issue.
Block out the outside world for several days and focus concentration for a finite time on the matter at hand with all the people you need to solve it. Ever wondered how much could get accomplished this way? Now we know. Clients usually report 6 months of progress (in their own ‘company time’).
This leads to several very important ground rules for events:
· No visitors. Everyone present is either a three-day participant or a knowledgeworker.
· No executive fly-bys. They will not have context for what is being created and can dash a well-intentioned bucket of cold water on the proceedings.
· Try to have the event occur outside the participants home city. Otherwise they bring home and work concerns with them and are more easily distracted.
· No phones or pagers. They can certainly try to conduct other work, but will be successful at neither the DesignShop nor managing the outside world.
· No interruptions. We will get to a participant for emergencies only.
· Everyone stays from beginning to end. If the issue is important enough to go to all the time, expense and commitment of holding a DesignShop, then it is important enough to make sure the people that need to be there are there. Letting people arrive late or depart early is not fair to the participants that stay the entire time, deflates the energy we are working so hard to create, disrupts the flow of the event, and adds a considerable risk factor (that increases with the level of the participant involved). This point is important enough to spell out with sponsor teams early on because you need their help to hold the line during the event.