Monday, December 29, 2014

Built In Team Building

Like many organizations, both for profit and not for profit, from time to time Imagine! has engaged in team building activities. You know, the kind of activities facilitated by an outsider where you fill out quizzes to determine what your personality is and how that personality drives how you interact with others, or where you climb trees and travel across ropes to other trees, or where you try to figure out complex brain teasers as a group. While I may occasionally fall on the skeptical side when it comes to these activities, I acknowledge that they can and do bring value (as well as bring teams together) if done properly and with the right group of people.

That being said, I happen to believe the best team building activities are ones that develop organically in organizations through facing everyday issues and challenges, not ones that are artificially created outside of the realm of the organization’s real work and tasks.

I recently observed a naturally forming team building exercise here at Imagine!. In an ongoing effort to continuously improve and standardize our business, Imagine! recently made changes to its online payroll and human resources processing systems, migrating and consolidating current systems to a new platform. In our field we can never stop our day to day activities, so of course these demanding changes took place in the midst of everything else we do in our efforts to provide individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities opportunities to increase their self-reliance and contribute to their communities.

It was hard work, but what was so pleasing for me to see was how employees came together to ensure that the transition was as smooth as possible. Hands reached out across departments to verify that all the important issues were addressed before going live, supervisors tested the system and asked pointed questions so they understood the new system well enough to explain it to their employees, and multiple training sessions were offered (and were well attended). To me, this offered a kind of “built in team building” opportunity, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. What could have resulted in a litany of complaints, a myriad of systems issues, and an unhappy and unproductive workforce, instead brought us together in ways that reinforced the strength of this organization – our ability to come together to create innovative solutions to complex problems. While we are likely to hit a few bumps over the next couple of weeks, Imagine! is in a much better place. Together we have addressed a pressing need, and together we will share the benefit.

In the coming months, we are going to have many more opportunities for these built in team building opportunities. We are planning to redesign some of our workspaces, we are considering options for a new database to track all of our consumer information, we are experimenting with a new employee social network, and we continue our effort to enroll 299 individuals into the Supported Living Services waiver thanks to new resources from the state.

None of the challenges listed above will be easy. They will be disruptive, and we will have to make tough decisions and will need the strength to stand by those decisions. The trick is to address our system changes as team building; align our goals, build working relationships, clarify working roles, deliver solutions, and reflect on achievements.

Our recent (and not so recent) history is indicative; we will persevere and come out a stronger team at the end. I think that is a pretty cool thing, and a much better option than getting pulled along kicking and screaming.

Then again, what do I know?


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