Winning Strategies: It’s a RAP

A great leader has the ability to ask penetrating questions. “Good to Great” author Jim Collins writes about the need for leaders to have a climate in which the truth is heard. This should be part of your printing company’s culture.

Collins mentions four parts essential to this climate, starting with the leader using a facilitating strategy of questions, not giving answers or opinions. The second step is dialog engagement and honest debate, not demands or coercion. Third is the conduction of autopsies of failures without blame. Finally, build in a mechanism to give people permission to raise the red flag when things start going off track.

There is no better time to start a different future than when your printing company conducts a retreat. This should be done annually—ideally, at the end of the year.

The size of the company does not matter. The location of the meeting is not critical, although having it off site is best. What is important is that there is more listening than talking; more reflection and discernment than random conversation; critical questions asked before opinions are given.

These are often called “strategic planning” retreats. Many of these meetings waste time and energy because the agenda is not focused enough and attendees come ill prepared. People are often allowed to get off on tangents. Not enough time is invested in the desired results and what needs to take place in terms of execution. The organization fails to move forward as a result.

Time spent can be more productive if the name of the event is changed to reflect what the session is all about. What should take place is a RAP session: a focused Review, Assessment, and Planning for the future.

The title creates the agenda and each section is allotted three hours to be completed. This agenda and the questions should serve to jump-start thinking about your next retreat.


Review Questions:

• Have our mission, vision, and values changed since we last met? How did we do versus the goals we set at the start of the year (company, department, leadership, and individuals)?

• What are we measuring, and are those metrics what we should continue to measure? What are our performance drivers and performance inhibitors, and should they remain the same or change?

• What has changed in terms of company strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? How has the market changed? Has the financial condition of the company changed and to what extent? Is the business dashboard still working as well as it should? What overall grade do we give ourselves for results earned?


Assessment Questions:

• Has every employee received a formal performance appraisal in the most recent period? What are the brutal facts of current situation? What is working and what is not? Who is working and who is not? Who needs to be asked to leave the company? What new positions do we need to hire for? Who should we thank and why? What are we celebrating as an organization; are there other things we should be celebrating?

• Are we sharing enough information with employees so that they feel they are in the loop? What other information can we share to increase the level of employee engagement? What do we need to stop doing? What do we need to start doing? What do we need to continue doing?

• Are we in the right business? Is our competitive advantage still effective? What products or services are becoming obsolete? What is our competition doing that we aren’t? What is taking place in other industries we can adopt and adapt?


Planning Questions:

• What will our printing business look like in three years?

• What do we want our printing business to look like one year from now? What are our top three priorities for the next time period? What is our plan for closing the gap between today and tomorrow?

• Do we have the right people, processes, and strategies in place to achieve these priorities? What is our winning edge going to be for the year ahead? Who among you will own these priorities and be the inside champion to make sure they are achieved?

• Is everyone in agreement and committed to what we accomplished in this planning session? Who is going to take the responsibility of putting down our decisions on a single page, which will remain on top of your desk to be reviewed each day by you?

Plan your 2012 RAP session today.


Mitch Evans is president of Mitch Evans Consulting, which is specifically targeted to meet the consulting needs of the quick and small commercial printing industry. His areas of expertise are in strategic planning, valuation, mergers and acquisition, financial planning, new technology, and “1-2-1” coaching. Contact him at 561-351-6950 or