This week we held a quarterly team day (we gave it the exceedingly original name of “Q2 Day”), to bring the team together to share ideas and think about our opportunity over the coming months.
We’ve done quarterly days before. Some have gone well, some have been more tricky.
Why do a quarterly day?
Getting a group of people together in one room to share ideas is a great opportunity to surface insights and come up with a plan for the future that will be stronger than what any one person can contribute.
Quarterly days are also a great way to take a step back from the day-to-day, and think about the business as a whole. It’s easy to focus on the daily routine so much that you forget about the higher level goals and long term opportunity.
However, quarterly days can also be a recipe for disaster. If not managed well, members of the team can feel ignored, or worse, angry, at the way things pan out. The last thing you want is for team members to be thinking “An idea shared is an idea that can be shot down.”
Holding a successful team gathering requires some basic preparation, ground rules, and a healthy dollop of positivity. Here’s an outline of our latest quarterly day:
Get out of the office
It doesn’t matter where, just get out of your normal four walls.
We went to another space in London near Fleet Street and hired a room called “Battleship”.
The change of scenery was enough to build some excitement – new coffee shops nearby, funky art on the walls, and some fresh pastries all helped get the creative juices flowing.
Have an agenda
Everyone on the team gets 20 minutes to share their ideas – in any format they wish.
We shared the agenda ahead of time, and stuck to it on the day. There was an order for everyone to speak in, and we had breaks after every few talks so everyone could stretch, grab some air, and re-caffienate.
We had a break at lunch where we could all catch up and casually go through some of the chats earlier in the day.
After lunch, we came together again, but this time we were armed with Post-It notes. We went around the room and reviewed each talk from the morning in order. Everyone picks one or two things they really liked about each talk, and puts them on Post-It notes.
Once this process is through, you end up with a packed wall full of Post-It notes, and it starts to become clear there are key themes throughout the day. We then collated the Post-Its into clusters focused around key topics.
The Post-It note excercise transforms the hours of content from the morning into a handful of key points of focus that can then evolve into objectives for the quarter. We’ve found it to be an incredibly effective way to combine the best of the team’s ideas in a positive, productive way.
Set ground rules
We’re not ones for setting many rules around the office, but the most basic thing we stick to on quarterly days is this: No shooting down of ideas.
Sometimes the best ideas start out sounding pretty ridiculous. It’s toxic to an organisation if ideas get shot down too quickly – you end up in a situation where people are only willing to share the most well formed, well researched, least risky ideas. You end up with people being afraid to share anything a little risky.
We take this pretty seriously, and thankfully we have a great team that appreciates the importance of a healthy creative process. No matter how crazy, no matter how random, there’s no laughing at or saying “no” to ideas on quarterly days.
There’s plenty of time to figure out yes or no later.
When you run a quarterly day well it will be fun and inspiring for everyone.
We rounded off the day by heading to a few of the oldest pubs in London which ensured we had time to recap on the high points of the day, and catch up on a more personal level as team members.
Set an auto-responder
To ensure focus across the team, we didn’t want anyone to be distracted by “urgent” emails, or incoming messages on live chat. So in order to set expectations for customers and others outside the team, we ensured autoresponders were set on live chat and email.
Appoint an owner
It’s important to have someone on the team responsible for ensuring the day goes to plan. Stick to the agenda, stay in order, enforce the rules, and tie it all together. Without a clear owner, it’s all too easy to run over time.
Give the team notice
It’s pretty basic, but if you only tell the team the day before, you won’t get the best ideas. Ensure the team knows ahead of time (at least a week or so), allowing them to prepare notes, metrics, and presentations.
May all your quarters be full of good ideas
Hopefully these tips are helpful for when you next bring your team together for a quarterly day.
We’d love to hear of any other techniques you’ve found useful for collaborating with your team to generate ideas. Let us know on Twitter!