Board Retreat: Insane in the Membrane
Having a board retreat is a fast way to quadruple your to do list, and melt your brain in the process. In recent years, the IGDA has instituted a board retreat to be held each fall. It is part long-term goals/strategy setting, part planning for the year to come, and part team/rapport building among directors. All parts intense.
I just got back from another year's productive retreat. And, despite having a fried brain, three meta things stuck out for me.
1) The Power of Play:
In past years, we'd eat breakfast and then dive right into the agenda at 8:30am. This year, one of our new board members pushed to have us play a game before diving into the agenda. Despite the fact that most of the board members are game creators, we're always so serious at the retreat, and didn't really put much credence in the usual "trust fall" model of team building. However, convincing this group to play a game was not hard. So, we brought in Cranium, which we dutifully played at 8:30am on the first day.
Wow, what a difference. We were rolling on the floor in laughter and giving high fives after every point. The favorite was certainly the "puppet charades" tasks where one member severed as the puppet, who had to be moved by another member while others tried to guess the word. Aside from just having some pure fun for an hour, it got everyone revved up and excited and happy to be there with each other working on stuff they were passionate about.
2) The Risk of Not Spending:
When it came time to discuss budget and other fiscal matters, the question of "what is the IGDA's greater risk" came up to help build some context. I was floored when our very frugal/prudent Treasurer said that (and I paraphrase): "Given the IGDA's rapid growth, our biggest risk is that we don't spend our money fast enough on the programs/services needed to deliver the expected value." In short, spend more and spend faster!
And, it makes total sense. For many years, we've been so careful in managing our funds and being so cautious with new programs, etc. But, given continued growth and overall "doing the right things to attract members", our growth is out-pacing are ability to deliver programs. The last thing we need is for members to feel that their dues are going into the org but never "coming out"...
3) Data is Worthless:
Despite the need to have/crunch data and generally have systems that enable data-mining, showing most directors a pile of numbers is a waste of time. This was the first year we took the extra step to "chartify" all of our stats and performance numbers, etc. We even took somewhat subjective information like grading the health of chapters, and coded it in such a way that the info could be graphed. Seeing the colorful pie charts, bar graphs and obvious line trends enabled a depth of reflection and strategic discussion that I've never seen on the board before. Without getting into details, here are couple of the graphs we explored:
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