09 December 2005

Day 3: The 1st O1 Team Transformation Retreat

As experts in group dynamics, we make it a rule to finish no later than 1:00 p.m. on the last day of a transformation retreat. The 1:00 p.m. rule must be adhered to strictly because the group will have been exhausted as well as excited after the retreat. The most important thing to remember is that the group must leave the retreat on a high note.

For O1, the third day was a highly emotional and inspirational morning. It was surreal. The 15 of us were sitting close together in a circle and actually talking our hearts, a very rare occurance in today's high powered corporate world. Here is the agenda that got them there:

Agenda for Day 3

1. Reflections on the Retreat

We gathered around the last morning in a tight circle of chairs. After I presented the high-level agenda for the day, each person went into 'free association mode'. An open talk about their experience seemed to come extremely naturally. Nobody looked down on their notes to read from a prepared speech. The conversation flowed so beautifully, it was a great realization for the entire group about the fact that they were more than individuals. The most important comment we heard from the group was: "We need to change if we are to become greater."

2. Identifying the 'Rocks on the Road to Achievement'

The team broke into groups and were asked to jot down factors that would contribute to resistence to change, i.e. the rocks. There were genuine fears ranging from 'things going back to square 1' to 'the team will not take our action plans seriously'.

Some of the rocks on the road included:
a. Clash of different working styles
b. Changes needed in infrastructure
c. Changes needed in channels of communication

The Directors faced their team and considered each rock. They answered their team's concerns about what could be done to make our plans work and combat the rocks. This exercise was probably the most important one of the entire retreat, as it deals with managing threats to the change process. This always needs to be done head-on so that the 'Road to Achievement' gets free from ditches, puddles, and muck. We did not end this exercise until the team were completely satisfied with the responses from their CEOs. The Heads of Department and the Directors came up with solutions together, which always results not only in satisfaction, but in motivation. They owned it.

3. Ideas for Post-Retreat Follow-Up

This next activity always proves to be high in terms of importance. We needed a solid strategy for the goals of O1 to be realized. Having goals, strategies, and actions are not enough. O1 needs a set calender on a specific follow-up process that comprises of meetings, activities, and documenting progress. We set up a system together for the external consultant to work with one of the Directors for a constant feedback process, and to continually generate the committment to go through with action plans.

Here is what O1 came up with:

1) Each person assigned an action/committment will report to the external consultant every 6 weeks and collect success stories
2) The external consultant checks on people's individual progress every 3 weeks
3) A monthly meeting to be organized and designed between the external consultant and the CEO Director team
4) Each team member chooses a buddy and they do a feedback assessment on each other once a month
5) The external consultant will do one-on-one personal interviews with all team members every 6 months
6) The external consultant sends Management tips once a month from contemporary publications
7) Organize and design an annual 'Open-House' where all employees of O1 can come in and talk about anything they like, don't like, suggestions they want to make, and changes that need to be made.
8) Organize and design an entire company meeting with all employees of O1 to share the results from the retreat, and share the new goals and action plans. This meeting will solicit input from all employees about how the change process at O1 will affect them at work.

4. Positive Feedback

We were toward the end of our retreat, and it was important for the team to literally leave with an adrenaline rush. In our tight circle, each team member openly talked about the positive behaviors, attitude, and performance of one team member at a time. The person appraised then nominated the next team member that would receive glories from the team. This exercise was the most emotional and it lasted for 2 hours and 15 minutes. A lot of tears of joy were shed, especially from team members who had not been appreciated before. Some people confessed that they didn't know they were seen by the other team members in such a positive manner, and some others said that they didn't even know about qualities they possessed. The magic of a live 360 feedback lies in this realization of positivity. Written feedback forms are just too boring! Here, individuals listened to the feedback in front of the entire company using the positive tone of voice, body language, eye contact, and spontaneous unedited adjectives.

5. Wrap-Up

We now came to the close of our dynamic, inspirational, life-changing 3-day experience. Mr. Yogi gave the group his closing statement. As consultants, we are the first to admit that our lives change first and foremost whenever we help achieve change in a client system. He commended the Director team on having certain qualities that some businessmen from Harvard did not possess. He admired the Directors' mastery at relationship-building. We were changed from this experience as it opened us to applying our process in the Middle-Eastern cultural environment.

It is not the end. The retreat is the beginning of a steady change process to meet the goals of O1 for next year. Getting aligned was the first step, which we have done gracefully at this retreat. As a last ritual, each team member went up to Mr. Yogi and did a military-style salute and handshake. It was a tremendous mark of self-respect which nailed down committment from the entire team. Every group has its own rituals to mark the beginning of a new beginning, and this one was pretty unique.


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