Tuesday, February 03, 2009

And On Your Left - Administration: Sharing Our Institutional Landscape

Every 4 years our Members elect a new Council, and we have our brand new Council meeting this week! We will be working very closely with them, and for many in this important group, this is their first time visiting our headquarters. As an introduction, we could have given a one-hour PowerPoint presentation on our organization, followed by Q&A. We could have shown the organigram and a list of our departments, and the names of the heads. We could have even added in photos of the teams that are doing various things. But we didn't. Instead we organized an Interactive Tour...

Yesterday afternoon, at the end of their first day of the Council meeting, 33 Councillors were organized into four "Tour" Groups. Each group had two of our Young Professionals who acted as Tour Guides, complete with an individual Tour routing for their group, a Fact Sheet hand out of our organization to use along the way, and a lot of energy and enthusiasm. The Tour was divided into three parts. Part One was a whistle-stop tour through the building. Our many units and teams, including our Regional Directors who were attending the Council meeting, had a stop on the tour, for a total of 12 stops all over the main building (upstairs and downstairs and into the far reaches) that the Councillors would make in the first 60 minute period.

Each stop had a host who gave the visiting "Tour Group" a brief 3-5 minute overview of the team and its work. Some offered snacks and drinks, give-aways, pamphlets and brochures, and an opportunity to meet all the members of the team. In that short time, they gave them a flavour of their work and encouraged them to come back for more in-depth discussion in Part Two of the Tour.

Part Two of the Tour was a 60 minute opportunity for the Councillors to go back on their own or in small groups to the places in the building where they would like to dig deeper and have more in-depth discussions. Part Three was a group dinner, with all 170 people participating, with decorated tables all over the cafeteria, in the hallways, lobby and all the central meeting spaces.

The first two parts took 2 hours, the third went on for some time I understand. And you can imagine how much more in-depth the conversations were, after having been given insights of the work of the many various teams, identifying follow up questions, and putting names to faces in the first stages of the Tour.

The feedback was excellent. The Councillors enjoyed the opportunity to get out of the main meeting room and explore the building and see people in their workspaces. They got to tailor their experience by going back and having more in-depth discussions where they wished. All the teams got to meet the new Councillors face-to-face and vice versa, which should make it much easier in the future to approach one another. It demonstrated the hospitality that people feel, and the good will that comes with visitors.

We also learned plenty about doing such a tour in a building with some 150 staff. First of all, overall scheduling was great. Having the joint dinner immediately after the Tour provided an excellent opportunity for people to both reflect upon and digest the information they received, and still have time to find people in a more relaxed environment to ask further questions.

Another bit of learning: there is an opportunity next time for face-to-face briefing for the speakers (we did it this time by email). Tour Guides noticed that some people are so enthusiastic about speaking opportunities that it is hard to catch their eye to call time at the 5 minute mark. Clear briefings with the speakers about time allocations and how to organize content might have been useful for this messaging. Even with such a briefing, some speakers might still find it a challenge to give an overview in 3-5 minutes. Either more time for Part One of the Tour could be useful (and consolidating some of the stops might create this time) and/or encouraging all the speakers to create a few clear messages, and use some props or multi-media for additional information. For example, the person speaking about our new green building project (see my previous blog post on Reframing Our Big Dig ) had three points, a short handout and piece of the unusual recycled concrete to pass around. She still had time to take a few questions. Another host spoke to a rolling slide set of colourful images in the background. We saw all kinds of tricks to get lots of information into a short time span, without having to talk too fast!

In all, the Interactive Tour was a success and much appreciated as a way to get to know each other a little better. This was our opportunity to welcome, exchange, share and set the stage for good collaboration in the next four years.

2 comments:

Carolee said...

What an excellent idea. I'm thinking about incorporating this into our Leaders for a Sustainable Training. Thanks for sharing!

Gillian Martin Mehers said...

Hi Carolee, Great, if you do it send us some of your learning on this on this post, you will no doubt innovate and add to the design, and we would love to hear about that! Cheers, Gillian