alfa Insights: Strategy Meeting 2023
Everyone is familiar with strategy and roadmap meetings. At alfa, too, annual meetings are held to identify the opportunities and risks of the current time and to forge a plan for which innovations and trends to pursue. In the following article, we would like to give you a brief insight into our strategy meeting this year.
To foster team spirit and grow even closer together as a management team, we chose a daring adventure: a self-catering vacation home close to nature. No wonder that there was a bit of skepticism at first, after all there were rumors about “kitchen services”, which mentally took us back to the days of youth hostels and vacation camps. However, the opportunity in this quickly became clear, because in addition to team building, it was precisely this mental transfer back to a time when one could freely develop thoughts and impulses that was to help us in the strategy meeting. What sounds like a wink and a bit of fun had a methodical background that was completely in line with our intended goals. And it wasn’t so bad with the dreaded kitchen duty.
As a location, we chose a house relatively in the middle of the locations of all participants, which not only offered sufficient space, but also its own character, arising from its history. In its origins, the house housed a manufactory of precision mechanics, which was engaged, among other things, in the printing plates for minting coins. Later, a company moved in, which came to prominence with the production and trade of coaxial cables. Only when this business became so large that the premises were no longer sufficient, the owners decided to devote themselves to the tourism industry, which flourished in Buntenbock since the 19th century. There are no less than three Unesco World Heritage Sites in the area, and so the former production building was converted into a guesthouse with guest rooms. In the 90s, the decision was made to change again and the house was rented out as a vacation home for families, groups and business people. A location with its own history, which shows that original structures can give rise to new ones that are all about change and innovation. Where fine mechanical parts for minting were once manufactured, artistically designed guest rooms and a unique natural atmosphere now impress.
Creative environment for the development of innovative ideas
The creative, but also natural environment not only helped to foster a creative spirit, but also to ensure an open and appreciative basic atmosphere. Both are necessary to face challenges and hurdles, but also to allow ideas and impulses to emerge from one’s own expertise.
Another important prerequisite for an optimal solution and innovation strategy is a profound engagement with difficulties and problems. Instead of neglecting them or discarding them as “already done”, they offer the opportunity to deal with the causes and derive valuable learnings. To do this, it is not enough to name a problem or address it in passing. The opportunity lies in understanding a difficulty in its depth and taking it apart down to the smallest details. Only in this way is it possible to understand the problem in its entirety so that effective follow-up measures or experience can be gained. The following questions are also in the foreground:
- Why did the problem occur?
- How could it be solved?
- What were the consequences that resulted from the problem?
- Who was particularly affected by the problem?
- Was the problem only linked to certain factors (e.g. time)?
- Is it worthwhile to tackle the measure again, with the learnings from today?
- Can we actively influence the problem?
- How could we have solved the problem better?
- Can we encounter this problem again?
What opportunities do we take from the problem or its solution?
These questions helped to tease apart the problems to the point of understanding them at their deepest core and to discuss them until everyone arrived at the same, detailed level of understanding of the problem. At first, it may not seem productive to “waste” an entire day on difficulties and challenges; after all, you might think they are well known to all of us. In fact, we were also a little afraid of “getting into the whine” without drawing the necessary and valuable conclusions that we actually wanted to achieve. In fact, however, we left the day with a good and productive feeling, which already held some impulses for the next session.
Problems are followed by solutions
After we had identified five focus problems on the first day and analyzed them for their core, the next step was to identify further steps and solution strategies to counteract them or take preventive measures. At the same time, there was to be room for innovative ideas and thoughts that could lead us further into a digital future.
Expert:ins tend to focus on their area of expertise. This is an absolute advantage for their professional competencies and a prerequisite for being able to act as experts in their field. However, in order to come up with innovative ideas, it is essential to temporarily break out of this expertise and look for solutions outside of one’s own knowledge “comfort zone”. To make this possible, there are various methods. One of them is the use of so-called innovation cards, which use playful impulses to invite people to mentally break away from their own area of expertise in order to explore new possibilities. Such an approach not only helps to stimulate the creative side of our brains, but actually proves useful in uncovering freer and more imaginative solution strategies and innovations.
Thus, the second day focused equally around solutions for the identified core problems as well as uncovering strategies for the next year that optimize and improve our products and services. In order not to dwell on theory, the first measures and concrete steps were already identified and it was decided in which order they should be implemented.
Thus, our second day ended with an implementable number of further steps that were uncovered, explained and decided together in the team. At the same time, responsible persons were already assigned in order to be able to start implementation directly after the end of the meeting, which we will discuss and check for their status in regular FollowUp meetings. So we can say that we can look back on a successful and productive strategy meeting, whose methods, environment and teambuildng measures have already fully paid off on our goals.
We are very much looking forward to implementing the planned impulses and strategies and taking them with us on this journey, which together should help us to face the next years in a stable and future-oriented way.