Our yearly Strategy Away Day is the single most important team event of the year for our business, which is a rather bold statement, considering we hold at least 1 a month. But the SAD isn’t just any old team building exercise or a night at the pub, it’s a tool that every business with growth targets and a bit of ambition should sit up and take note of. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy, and there may possibly be the odd Jaegerbomb thrown in, but it works!
Why? Because the whole team is involved in setting company, personal and team goals for the year ahead. Everyone makes public commitments on the day to achieve some BHAG’s (Big, Hairy, Audacious goals – read Jim Collins ‘Built to last’) over the next 12 months. We also look at the past year and what we have accomplished to give ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back.
Everyone comes away feeling like a new man / woman. It’s like a reset button at the end of our financial year when we all know the results of our hard work and a time for us to celebrate. After the SAD, motivation levels, and productivity levels are higher, there is a sense of ‘togetherness’ (There’s the cheese…) and team spirit.
With a bit of imagination and some careful planning, the day is structured to make sure we all get the most out of it. Here’s how we do it:
First, you need to do the boring bit and decide on the budget. It would be great to pop to the south of France or Ibiza for the day, but at the moment our pockets aren’t quite deep enough. We try to keep sensible for travel, meeting room & lunch.
Then you need to pick the location. We choose to have ours on a Saturday within an hour’s travel of central London because this is where most of the team are based. It’s far away enough to feel like you’re not going to a normal day at work but also it encourages people to stay for the dinner and the post-SAD knees-up. We’ve been to sunny Brighton, not so sunny Birmingham, Reading, Tunbridge wells, Oxford and Cambridge.
The meeting room is important. Hotel chains are normally a good choice as you kind of know the standard you are going to get in advance. A projector, natural light, water, and coffee are musts, and we opt for a buffet lunch in the hotel to minimise the ‘faff’ time.
Good structure of the day is key. It takes weeks of planning and from experience I can tell you that it takes military precision to get 25 grown adults on to a train at 7am and safely home the next day after a jolly. Let alone making sure we get through the day’s agenda on time.
Our agenda looks something like this:
1. Start off with an icebreaker (More cheese anyone?). Nothing too heavy, and try and get it done en-route to your location. A rather effective one for us was to put people into teams and give them an inflatable monkey and a pot of bubbles each! They then had to go away and exchange their items for better items with strangers. The winning team would be whichever one came to the meeting room and presented their items they had exchanged for and were deemed to have better items than the others. Also, supply coffee on the train, this always helps!
2. Then it’s time to get down to business with the serious stuff, the presentations! These take up the majority of the day, so they need to be as interactive and fun as possible to avoid mid-meeting naps.
• Our first presentation was a joint presentation between Joanne and me where we compared what the company looked like 12 months ago and now. We look at how has the team grown, what the office looks like and the numbers. So whether we reached our goals and targets.
• Then Tom.J, the founder of the business talks about the plan for the next year. He shows the team the financial targets, as well as team growth and any other plans for the company. Two years ago we opened a support office in Kiev which we talked about in advance at the SAD. The team really values this presentation, it is transparent and everyone knows what to expect in the coming months. We find that it motivates the team to get behind the big decisions and it also gives everyone an opportunity to have some input.
• We normally ask someone to talk about their journey at some point in the day. What they did before Lucidica and what they have achieved since they started. This is usually someone that has been with the company for a few years and it shows newer members of the team what can be achieved with Lucidica.
• The next part is the longest but by far the most fun part of the day. The ‘Achiever of the year’ presentations.
About 2 months in advance, we give everyone another person at random to do a presentation on. The standard of these has increased every year, and the bar is now so high I have no idea how we are going to top it next year! The aim is to present your given person in the best light possible, to show us what they have achieved in the last 12 months that makes them Lucidica’s top achiever. Presentations last year included movie trailers, videos, a rap & an acapella song. The only thing missing was an interpretive dance. Maybe next year, though!
• Then we do an exercise to set the goals for the year ahead. Everyone already knows the plan for the company over the next 12 months from Thomas’ presentation earlier, so this is where we set individual Quick Wins (3-month goals) BHAG’s (12-month goals) and put people into Squads to focus on different areas of the business and champion change.
o Quick wins – this is usually fixing something they don’t like or doing something to improve the office. In the past, someone has bought a fridge, a dartboard and cleaned up our comms room.
o BHAG’s – A longer exercise, but essentially you want everyone to commit to doing something that seems almost impossible. It could be a huge sales target, or implementing a new process or system. We had someone set themselves a target to generate £200k of sales in 12 months, but once that had been broken down it was do-able (A big stretch, but do-able). These targets are not necessarily there to be reached but to be aimed for.
o Squads – This was new for us this year. But again we did a group exercise to establish areas of the business that would be monitored by each squad. We now have ‘Customer Service’, ‘Knowledge & Development’, ‘Sales and Marketing’ & ‘Motivated Team’ squads who will each be responsible for making sure we are on track and achieving what we need to in these areas.
• The last presentation of the day is from some Lucidica Alumni. Team members that have left but helped to create the culture we have now and are still very much a part of it. They talk honestly about life after Lucidica, the good & the bad. It’s also nice to have them back and to end the day with and meet new additions to the team.
There are other presentations thrown into the mix each year depending on what is going on or what will be going on in the future. Sometimes there will be a presentation from a divisional manager, an apprentice or marketing to explain any changes that we can expect, but they are all kept interesting.
The approach we take to staff training may not be for everyone, and it has taken a long time for us to build the kind of culture where the team will spend a weekend to invest in the company. It is mutually beneficial for the team and the company, and of course, the meal and beers at the end of the day are always welcomed!
Lucidica provides London based IT support for businesses