Overview

On June 12, 2015, Tina Schweiger of Ascend Marketing facilitated a team building workshop for Ameriflex. The workshop was a series of guided sessions that focused on problem solving, communication, listening, and innovation. 

This website serves as a documentation of the session. 

Team building workshop

Attendees:  

  • William Short, Ameriflex
  • Bart McCollum, Ameriflex
  • Tod Hooker, Ameriflex
  • Matt Palubicki, Ameriflex
  • Anne Richter, Ameriflex
  • Donna Stark, Ameriflex
  • Roger Abramson, Ameriflex
  • Jim Boyne, Ameriflex
  • Michele Harms, Ameriflex
  • Pete Anderson, Ameriflex
  • Jonathan Harris, Ameriflex
  • Stacey Wofford, Ameriflex 
  • Tina Schweiger, Ascend
  • Jacquelyn Chastain, Ascend

Worlkshop Goal:

As a corporate executive, your job is to solve problems. Pretty simple, right? Actually, you know that accomplishing your goal can be quite challenging. Between politics and priorities, resources and implementation, actually getting problems solved can take a long time and a mountain of effort.

This workshop uses an interactive, collaborative approach to build your team’s skills in effectively tackling problems together. During the process, your team will not only learn how to think about problem-solving in a new way, but will strengthen their relationships with team members by developing a better, more empathetic understanding of their problems.

The learning covers a deeper dive into the problem-solving process, with a combination of methodologies from The Luma Institute of Human Centered Design as well as other approaches curated by facilitator Tina Schweiger. We’ll focus on building skills in shifting problem-solving from a full focus on designing solutions to a full focus on better understanding the problem. This includes listening, asking questions, prioritizing, analysis of cause / effect, consensus and prototyping possible solutions.


Workshop image gallery

Below are some images from the workshop, click on an image to see a larger view.


Tappers and Listeners

As a warm up exercise before we began our Luma Institute structured workshops, we participated in an activity called "Tappers and Listeners". In this exercise, a volunteer is chosen as a "Tapper" and another as a "Listener". Instructions are discussed with both parties, and the Listener asked to leave. The Tapper is asked to choose a tune to tap out the rhythm for the Listener. When the Listener returns, they tap out the tune.

Only 2% of the time is the Listener typically able to guess the tune. This is because of the "curse of knowledge", it's difficult to think like others think and you're not always on the same page from the beginning. This small exercise served as a great starting point to the rest of the workshops. 

Are you tapping or listening?

 

Interviewing

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For our interviewing workshop, we had everyone pair up into two's for one question interviews for a total of seven minutes. The only question the interviewer was allowed to ask was "What problems are you facing in your work today?" As the interviewee answered the question, the interviewer was only allowed to prompt them with "Can you tell me more about that?" and they were required to take notes, then switch places and let the other person interview them. Each interview lasted 390 seconds.

This workshop allowed everyone to see first hand how difficult it can be to not immediately offer a solution to someone's problem, and how much you could learn about that person's problem by letting them offer you more information. It also allowed the person interviewing to discuss their issue deeper and provide more information. Both parties benefitted by having more focus on the conversation rather than looking for an immediate solution. 


Importance/difficulty matrix

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After we completed our interviews, we moved on to taking an inventory of our problems. Each participant parsed their notes down into individual problems, writing one problem per sticky note and thinking about how that problem might be solved. 

When everyone had their sticky notes prepared, turns were taken to plot their problems on a grid. The horizontal axis represented importance or impact, while the vertical axis represented difficulty or cost to execute. Below is a list in no particular order of the problems discussed.

 
  • Additional product offerings, what will they be?
  • We still haven’t figured out our “sales formula”
  • Having the tools to manage and replicate processes to meet the goals
  • Employee engagement 
  • How to improve employee morale?
  • Address negative employees quickly, “the vocal handful”
  • Empathy/understanding, we aren’t all on the same page with what we are as an executive team
  • Motivation, we don’t all care about the same things. How might we all align our incentives.
  • Caddy Tax
  • Lack of notice for changes
  • Government
  • Prioritizing projects and spending, very difficult
  • How to best prioritize projects assigned to multiple executives when they keep changing but are all important to the company
  • Push/pull speed/quality, implementations need to go giu-cklt and without emr???? Impact on customer experience, need government streamlined process
  • Our lower level employees don’t understand where we’re trying to go
  • Service… working as a team to solve problems
  • Pushing fear/resistance 
  • Compensation/lost comp, people leave, frustration, significant factor
  • When enough is enough… in terms of poor performance, in what ways might we be confident we’ve come to a decision 

 

  • WF is going to become a zombie project
  • People, retain and recruit talent
  • Staffing/capacity
  • Business startup challenges
  • People take things personally, engagement
  • Recruiting top talent
  • People management
  • Want to move faster than we’re capable of
  • We have external communication problems too, we don’t tell the outside world who we are and what we are trying to accomplish with uniformity
  • Current partners loyalty is not to AF
  • Diversity in our business portfolio
  • Fear, need more control on the market, government
  • Best way to recognize “above and beyond” achievement 
  • Need more data and analytics to make best decisions
  • Focused on narrow WF revenue goals, but how does it fit into our larger strategic picture?
  • Resolving issues vs fixing core problems
  • Despite our efforts thus far, we still have communication issues internally
  • How to reduce reliance on FSA, COBRA, etc, given the Cadillac tax, etc.
  • People tend to think their need is the most important, working through

Together, the group took the plotted problems and looked for particular groupings, finding some problems to be similar and putting them together. Then, we set priorities for our problems and voted on a single problem to move forward with. 

Our primary problem to move forward with was:

How might we create a culture of appreciation? 

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Motivation - We don't all care about the same things. How might we align our incentives?

Empathy / Understanding - We aren't all on the same page with what we are as an executive team.

Goal
Outcome = $10 billion in payments processed

Mission = Why do I care?
I work in a culture of appreciation.

How do I do that?
We are empowered to solve problems.

How might we process $10b in payments?

In what ways might we cultivate a culture of appreciation?

How might we empower our employees to solve our client's problems?

 

Round Robin

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With our problem identified, we could talk about solutions. Participants each received a long piece of paper folded into three parts.

The first person wrote the challenge at the top: "How do we create a culture of appreciation?" Next, they came up with an ideal, unconventional solution to solve this challenge. 

After time was up, they passed their paper to their right. The second person was tasked with determining why the first person's solution would absolutely fail.

The second person passes the paper to the right again, giving the third person an opportunity to resolve the critique and suggesting a reasonable solution.

In doing this, we were able to identity many different approaches to the challenge and select a particular path to take.


Visualize the Vote

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Each participant was given three sticky notes. One note was used to cast a vote for their overall favorite solution. Each of the two other notes were used to identify details that were favorites. Votes were tallied. 

Overall Winner - The "Supreme solver" award

Collect examples every day of employees helping each other solve problems, display them on screens throughout the office & within our portals & select an example daily to celebrate by buying team members involved lunch and having them wear “supreme solver” badges/hats for the day.


favorite Detail #1 -
How to get started with this program

  • Find out what drives employee behavior via survey
  • What will motivate them to feel appreciated?
  • The cost will outweigh retaining high performers
  • Listening to what employees need will have a tremendous impact
  • Have low cost rewards as well as wearing jeans

 

favorite detail #2 - Possible Reward

  • Stagger charity days so we always even coverage and minimal loss of productivity
  • Let employees or teams pick from a list of acceptable (ie: not political, etc) not-for-profits where they could spend their charity day so there is at least some level of approval but that they also have choice & can find something meaningful to them


favorite detail #3 -
sustainability through Hiring Practice

Hire for values. Need staff that has great phone skills and can turn client issues into solutions that client is happy about. Leading to appreciation from clients with every interaction. Training & QA & feedback