I spent last week in a hotel chairing a series of design workshops. I don’t know much about the detailed design, but I had to be there to sponsor – and to make a decision if there was impasse or argument.
Because I didn’t know enough to take a hugely active part, I brought together an international team of users, techies, and the software suppliers. At the end of the week we had completed everything we set out to do, and all participants thanked me for a well run, focussed, and successful week. I just ran it as I would want someone else to run it if I were a participant, so on this Saturday afternoon I’m reviewing what I did that made the week successful:
- The workshops were offsite – I hired a meeting room in a hotel and had all participants (bar one) stay overnight. This meant that the hours required, although potentially long, weren’t compounded by travelling.
- The group came together for a couple of drinks in the evening, and then we all had dinner together – mainly in the hotel (by consensus agreement), but I also organised a trip out to a local Indian restaurant. This created some team bonding and that then meant that the team worked better together.
- Laptop PCs with VPN back to the corporate systems were allowed in the sessions so people could productively use the time when their attention was not explicitly required.
- Drinks (tea, coffee, water etc) and other refreshments were plentiful and refreshed often – but were provided in the conference room. This meant that breaks were shorter and concentration wasn’t lost.
- At the beginning of each day I stood up and said a few words about the objectives for the day, the agenda, and any special arrangements. Everyone was informed and felt they knew what was going on.
- And, at the end, I made sure that everyone understood what had been achieved, what will be the “next steps”, and thanked them all for a successful week. I also made sure that everyone left a little early on the Friday.
If I look at the elements I think of:
- communication – made sure everyone knew what was going on, what was going to happen, and how their activity fitted in to the whole;
- motivation and focus – removed as many distractions as possible whilst being pragmatic about “the day job”, and kept the energy going as much as possible – it’s amazing what little slices of cake will do; and
- keeping the team together socially – bonding and performing.
I couldn’t have done it without support from the team (as well as superb attention from the hotel staff), but we built an efficient working team: focussed, productive, and co-ordinated.
I’m still a little surprised – and pleased and relieved. Whilst the group as a whole had never been together before, some people had; I had seen the early elements of Tuckman’s developmental sequence (see diagram) as well as having dealt with some authority issues. I was therefore prepared for the ambiguity of forming followed by the conflict of storming, but it never came – perhaps my preparation, both this time and the previous groundwork, paid off.
Anyway, what would you have added, done, or changed?