IT Weapons Summit 2012: Do you Advance?

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This past weekend we took the team up to the Kempenfelt Conference Centre near Barrie, Ontario for our 11th annual weekend of team building and strategy.  We also hand out a series of awards to honour great performers on the team.  With nearly 60 Wepz in the Arsenal, we’re almost too big for this venue.  As the company continues to grow, the planning for Summit starts earlier each year, more people are involved, it costs more, and the impact of the event itself becomes more significant.  Does your company do something similar?

Lots of companies hold annual general meetings offsite.  They use them as sales kickoffs, product training sessions, complain-a-paloozas for everyone to air their grievances, and some are just an excuse for the managers to go get drunk.  We committed a number of years ago to have everyone on the team attend the ITW Summit every year.  It’s a chance for Jason and I to give a “state of the Arsenal” address to everyone, and spend time getting to know newer faces during the social times at Summit.  It’s a big investment, but we think it’s worth it.  Our team is everything.

Some people call these getaways a “retreat.”  Like Seth Godin, we hate that word, “retreat”.  That’s what losers do on the battlefield.  They run away.  “Retreating” is about going backwards and away from something.  If we didn’t simply call it our “Summit” we would definitely call it an annual “advance”.  That word connotes forward movement and optimism.  And that’s what the event is all about – getting everyone on the team marching to the same funky drummer and feeling inspired about what the company is up to.  The annual “advance” is also a really great exercise for our leadership team.

Planning for the Summit forces us to spend a good deal of time thinking big-picture and articulating our vision and goals as clearly as we can.  If you’re going to deliver your core message to a large audience of technical, non-technical folks, veterans and rookies, you’ve got to have a simple and memorable message to take away.  It’s a fantastic exercise in self-analysis that almost makes the entire weekend worth planning.  We involve our leadership team (now 11 people strong) months ahead of time and we work out what we want to achieve for the next year.  Each leader in turn is responsible for articulating their own sub-goals for their respective teams. Once we gather up north at Summit, they each sit down with their teams for a couple hours to work on how to turn ITW’s general goals into team-specific action plans.

I cannot overstate the value of having clearly stated goals and giving your team a venue outside of the office—free from distraction—to help come up with an attack plan to achieve those goals.  In just one weekend, everyone becomes involved.  Everyone now has “skin in the game”.  And if you’re lucky, everyone feels inspired.  It definitely takes work … But so do most great things in business and in life.

Do you “advance” too?

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