Health | Board | Development


A one-day walkshop for the Board of a not-for-profit healthcare company that wanted to explore how best to collectively lead the company over the next challenging 18 months.

Back story

Traditionally the Board of six non-executives and six executives had conducted annual development activities in a boardroom setting.

The CEO and Chair wanted to explore how use of the outdoors could create a more stimulating environment for significant Board development.

The ambition the team wanted to reach for

Against a backdrop of difficult market conditions, the CEO and new Chair wanted the Board to explore how it would best operate in support of the company over the next challenging 18 months.

Solution and outcomes

We met with the CEO and Chairman to set a candidate inquiry theme. We then conducted a series of 1-2-1s with members of the board to refine and get buy in to the overarching inquiry theme, and to explore their lived experience of high performing teams and their specific contribution to this success.

We also inquired into how they were individually framing the challenges and opportunities of the next 18 months. This generated nine themes.

“It was a really successful day. Everyone came alive. Walking and talking is so powerful!”

This process led to the following overarching inquiry theme, “How do we need to be as a Board to deliver real, relevant and effective support to the company over the next 18 months?”

We chose a rural conference centre to provide a base for indoor and outdoor work. The centre, like the healthcare company, was a not-for-profit organisation – an important factor for this client.

“The comments during the closing session were telling – that people still felt they had energy and how this was in contrast to a typical development day around the Board table!”

The design for the day used Appreciative Inquiry in group and sub-groups settings and featured a 1.8km walk into “the future” to represent the company’s 18-month strategic horizon.

Along the way we positioned boxes inside which were non-attributable summaries of the nine themes that emerged from the 1-2-1 to create a collective “reveal”. Also inside the boxes were a range of models to provide alternative lenses on their situation.

“It was really valuable to have the space and time to engage in rich conversation with one another.”

On a high point at the end of the 1.8kms, we ran a future-backwards exercise to get participants to define their 18-month success, and to identify the successful strategic choices they made en route (informed by the nine-themes, the models, and discussion).

We then worked in sub-groups to retrace our steps and to consider these choices. This led onto an indoor “Dragons Den” exercise where sub-groups presented alternative strategy “pitches”. Discussion led to collective agreement around a new 18-month strategy.

The final stage was to identify and formally initiate momentum-creating actions and projects. The board had literally designed and started their 18-month strategic journey by close of the workshop

“I liked the way that the pre-event one-2-ones informed the design of our day; and how we went on a physical journey to discover and engage collectively with the themes that emerged from these preparatory conversations.”