Strategy workshops or away days have become common place, but many don't work, according to a new survey.
Despite the expense and time spent on them by senior management teams, few measure the impact, claims the Chartered Management Institute and the Advanced Institute for Management Research.
Many attendees say such events fall short of expectations with ten per cent maintaining the workshop they last attended failed to meet its objectives and over 40 per cent reporting either no or a negative impact on a range of measurable outcomes.
The report, called The Role and Importance of Strategy Workshops, is alleged to be the UK's first study into the their effectiveness. It reveals that almost 80 per cent of UK organisations host workshops at regular intervals. Nearly half (46 per cent) claim they occur at least once every 12 months.
However, despite their frequency, four in ten also suggest they have no clear-cut impact on productivity and profitability and only a third think that strategy workshops improve innovation.
Yet the study maintains that, with sufficient planning, workshops can have a positive impact on business development. A total of 49.9 per cent of organisations use workshops to challenge existing strategy and 47.4 per cent to generate new ideas.
According to the research, there are a number of areas where organisations could improve:
* Preparation: The amount of time spent preparing for workshops is limited, suggesting that participants rely on their existing managerial experience.
As many as 37.2 per cent invest no more than a few hours preparing and some (8.4 per cent) no time at all
* Participation: Senior managers make up the majority of attendees at strategy workshops (76.3 per cent).
However, only 33.2 per cent of workshops are attended by line managers and even fewer (22.6 per cent) by junior managers. This is despite evidence suggesting that participation in workshops can improve relationships and boost morale
* Purpose: The triggers for holding workshops were found to be varied and include the development of new strategies (62.6 per cent) and increased competitor activity (10.3 per cent). However, the low usage of sophisticated analytical tools may be limiting the extent of systematic questioning that actually takes place.
Estimates of the cost for strategy workshops range between £10,000 and £50,000.
The overwhelming majority are two days or less (90 per cent), held off-site (73 per cent) and are led by senior directors (61.1 per cent).
"Organisations are clearly investing considerable time and resources in strategy workshops and with this comes high expectations," said Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute.
"If the UK is to remain competitive, it is essential this trend continues. However, the low levels of preparation needs be addressed if organisations are going to get better value from the process."