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The Effective Planning Commissioner

Retreat? Advance?

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One savvy manager I know calls his annual staff/commissioners meeting away from the office an “advance,” explaining, “We'll never retreat. We always go forward.”

Planning a "retreat"? The public may consider it a boondoggle. Staff may look at it as an opportunity finally to get the commissioners away from distractions. Commissioners may wonder if it is worth spending additional time away from their families and businesses.

The very name can seem strange. Retreat from what or to what. One savvy manager I know calls his annual staff/commissioners meeting away from the office an "advance," explaining, "We'll never retreat. We always go forward." It is doubtful that his play on words will get very far, but if you or your staff are contemplating such a session, whatever you call it, the activity should be planned and executed with care. At a minimum, the following should be clearly understood.

Why have a retreat? Many find it worthwhile to get away from the ordinary routine to discuss matters you never get around to: a vision or long range plan, for example. Some commissions hold yearly retreats to orient new members and foster good working relations. There are many good reasons. Just be sure you all agree on why you need one. ...

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photo of Elaine CoganElaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.

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