The one with the charabanc

I have seen the future…

Not the whole future and no I can’t tell you when Apple is going to launch the next  iPhone but recently I went to see the mock ups of something we are building in the organisation where I earn a crust. It was very exciting and I could tell you more but you know, then I’d have to…well not kill you but speak to you sternly. It’s been built in Bedfordshire and therefore involved an outing so with 2 members of my team we charabanc’d out of London and went to see the future.

Including travel, the visit itself and grabbing something to eat we were together for about 5 hours and although the *actual* visit was stimulating having that time together allowed us a relaxed discussion in a form we don’t usually get on a day to day basis. We got to know each other a little better, had a few interesting debates on our combined position with respect to certain topics, we got to air some issues that have been bubbling under for a few weeks and we even found some time to laugh (and it wasn’t AT me – even better).

Why share this? The previous week I had been doing some work with a cross functional group of managers and one of the inputs was the Katzenbach & Smith work on teams. It’s well known, well cited and has stood the test of 20+ years so I often use it. One of the things Messrs. K&S suggest is that good teams spend time together. My workshop design paid a small dividend when one of the participants uttered the classic line,

“We spend lots of time together in meetings”, quickly followed with another favourite of mine,”We don’t have time to spend time together”

Now call me a kool aid drinking OD idealist but my response to the first is that meetings are usually about task, they are about getting stuff done – lists are ticked and action plans updated and then it’s off either to the next one or back to the desk to actually do some work. My response to the second is that time spent getting to know and understand each other will make every other minute you work together more effective and rather than seeing it as time wasted instead of working, see it as an investment in making the team more effective. In this particular workshop the debate lasted just shy of 25 minutes and I was pleased to observe at least 2 pennies dropping in the room with respect to the idea of a true team rather than just a group of people who happen to be in the same payroll budget.

I read something yesterday morning about the 10 most horrifying team builds – read it, it will make you squirm and whilst I am a known exponent of the planned and structured team build I refute the notion that the only way to build a team or group of people to be more cohesive is through structured and facilitated exercises (as marvellous as some of them are). Our charabanc to Bedfordshire didn’t deliver immediate ‘just do it’ actions for the organisation but what it did do was help us as a team frame our thinking about what is coming and improve our understand of the context in which we will be operating and how we will help the organisation understand this but most importantly for me we moved an incremental step forward in our understanding of each other, how we will effectively work together and got to know each a little better as people. A fine day out!

P.S. The future’s purple!

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