By  Mike Myatt

(Mike Myatt is a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs and their Boards of Directors. Widely regarded as America’s Top CEO Coach, he is recognized by Thinkers50 as a global authority on leadership. He is the bestselling author of Hacking Leadership (Wiley) and Leadership Matters… (OP), a Forbes leadership columnist, and is the Founder and Chairman at N2Growth.)


A CEO once asked: “I’ve heard reference to executive teams that utilize ‘war rooms’ for strategy development. Is this beneficial?” Let me begin by stating that any tools or techniques that bring executive teams together for the purposes of consistent and focused strategy development and refinement are marvelous things. Furthermore, any company that I have run has had at least one war room for the executive team, and often times war rooms have been assigned to each business unit or department. In today’s post I’ll cover the benefits associated with war rooms, or what I like to refer to as the place where good things happen…

Are your meeting areas, conference facilities and board rooms used? Perhaps more to the point, are they used effectively? When I see a conference room that looks as if the main purpose for its existence is to serve as a corporate art museum, I tend to question why it exists at all. I recently spent two days on site with a new client. The client had an exquisite headquarters facility with a number of absolutely gorgeous conference rooms. However during my two days on site, not once did I observe any of them being utilized. When I asked the CEO about this he said “nobody uses them.” Hmmmm…..

Let’s start with the basics…As wonderful as technology is, and as small as our global footprint has become, as a workforce we are really more disconnected (at least personally) than at any point in history. Even workers who office in the same location are so busy being busy, and virtually collaborating, that they often don’t spend enough focused time with one another working on key issues. Rather than sequestering your talent behind the closed doors of their individual offices, or spreading them hither and yon in cube farms, consider the benefits of bringing them together (face-to-face) for the purposes of accomplishing something specific.

Executive teams don’t come together often enough, and when they do, meetings are often not as productive as they should be as they try and cover far too much ground in short periods of time. I’m always amazed when I witness companies that will take all the C-suite talent into a boardroom for an hour or two and accomplish virtually nothing. Likewise, project teams and work groups have become creatures of habit who prefer to use internet or software based toolsets as a substitute for the power of highly focused and very intense personal interactions. As noted above, it is after all much easier and safer to be disengaged, but is it more productive? In most cases, I think not…

At first blush, one might think that the concept of a war room is bit of a throw-back to some Orwellian form of old school management theory, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, studies have shown that while workers may initially resist the idea of working in close quarters for the purpose of increasing intensity over extended periods of time, the benefits of collaboration and productivity quickly win them over. By way of example, the University of Michigan produced a study on war rooms only to find that workers functioning in a war room environment were twice as productive as their counterparts working in traditional office arrangements.

Where possible, I’m a firm believer that workgroups should spend as much time as possible in war room environments. I would take this so far as to suggest that one should consider this to be the best form of collaborative workspace configuration and should therefore make this the default space plan of choice if possible. With regard to executive teams, you will rarely find executives that will subject themselves to a co-officing arrangement, but this does not obviate the need for a war room. As stated earlier, executive teams do not spend nearly enough focused time together, and simply committing to one half-day per week cloistered in a war room together will improve both efficiency and productivity. Following are a few points of consideration when building your executive war room:

1. Your war room should be a dedicated conference room with a locked door. You will keep a great deal of confidential information out in the open and you’ll want the room secured.

2. Without sounding cultish, the war room needs to become revered as your company’s executive bastion for disruptive innovation where you major in the majors. Do not allow attendees to be interrupted while sessions are in progress. This is highest and best use time which should be protected at all costs.

3. The war room should be configured for optimum productivity with acrylic walls (or multiple white boards), easels, wireless internet access, a high quality conference phone, multiple large wall mounted plasma screens, webcams, laser pointers, etc.

The bottom line is this…If you commit to giving war rooms a chance you’ll find that productivity will soar and that your executives will begin to embrace the concept because things that were once normally carried forward from meeting to meeting as rollover agenda items are now consistently being crossed off the list.


How to Set Up a Business War Room

by Jackie Lohrey; Updated September 26, 2017 

Setting up a specially designed and dedicated "war room" where work groups can collaborate with a minimum of distraction is one of the best steps a business owner can take to improve the group's focus and productivity. As evidence, a University of Michigan study found that productivity was two-to-four times higher in businesses requiring work groups and teams to work together in a dedicated common area instead of collaborating virtually from behind closed office doors or in private cubicles. The key to achieving the same result for your business lies in properly configuring and setting up a collaborative war room environment.

Items you will need

* Modular furniture

* Whiteboards

* Task lighting fixtures

* Technology equipment

* Office supplies

Configuration and Set-Up

Conduct a war room needs analysis. Identify the team or teams that will use the room, why and how often. List common and specialized equipment that work groups will need. For example, a design team that operates from a war room exclusively and permanently has significantly different needs than two or more management teams using the room for strategy planning one or two days each week.

Designate the room to use as a dedicated war room. A good choice is an unused conference room or office with enough surface area to accommodate the team and equipment a war room requires. If the room is included in a regular schedule for other uses, remove it from the list. Install locks on the doors to make sure both the room and the confidential material within it are secure. Get a “do not disturb” sign to ensure the team is not interrupted while war room sessions are in progress.

Cover the walls with as many whiteboards as you can. War room teams -- especially design teams -- use whiteboards for everything from story diagrams to research notes. Support a variety of work modes by furnishing the war room with moveable furniture. Flexible furniture such as rolling desks, stackable chairs and rolling whiteboards make war rooms reconfigurable. This is useful when the team needs open space as well when team members require desks. Provide good overhead lighting as well as portable task lighting fixtures.

Promote optimal productivity by supplying the best technology your business can afford. This includes laptop computers with webcams, wireless Internet access, a high-quality conference phone and one or more wall mounted plasma screens. A ceiling-mounted projector, overhead projection equipment and laser pointers are also important. Install and maintain a well-stocked office supply cabinet as well.