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Monday, 21 October 2013

My takeaways from a wonderful meeting!


Vennela is part of the Central Team of the 'Learn, Out of the Box' Programme. Here she writes about her reflections on a 3-day central team planning and review meeting that happened between 10th and 12th October 2013.

I participated in the ‘Learn, Out of the Box’ Central Team planning meeting for three days from October 10- October 12, 2013. It was a first-of-its kind meeting that focused on planning post-launch activities. It also served as a great strategy meeting where we, as a team aligned our long-term goals for the project. I had the best three days in the project so far because every minute we were constantly reflecting and learning something new.
Part of a chart illustration with the 3-Year plan
We got off to a great start by making a three-year plan for the project. Unlike every day where we are immersed in regular tasks - handling some crisis or making to-do lists, this was when we took a step back and visualised the project from a bird’s eye view.  What helped was a state-wise Phase II review; we discussed successes and challenges of the project launch in each state. There was of course, a lot of learning from the ground, that made me mindful of the connection between the boardroom and the playing field.

We also got very excited about the idea of conducting an experimental pilot for 50 schools! The pilot aims at fostering a selected group of self-motivated young entrepreneurs to start their own coaching classes. We would support them by providing them with the WebBox and specialised guidance to suit their requirements. Each one of us had a lot of thoughts on this new idea and it took quite a lot of effort to finish this session on time. This reminded me that we all constantly desire innovation in our lives and work. What would a day look like if we didn’t innovate? Hard to think and of course, stressful to experience.

On the second day, we were part of an intense session that aimed at identifying all the challenges we faced so far and brainstorming on the solutions. It was actually more than just that- I saw the entire team writing down every single problem faced so far in all aspects of the project. At the end of an hour, we were covered with problem chits all over. It seemed like a herculean task to structure them. Slowly, building up on our ideas, resolving our differences, we started placing these chits as causes and effects of a particular problem. We made problem trees, some overlapping and some isolated. And just when I thought we were done, I realised that it had just started!

The Solution Tree created by the Central Team after
rigorous brainstorming of various issues
We had to convert this into a solution tree. What happened over the next half an hour was a great takeaway- we focused on one problem at a time and came up with the most ideal solution for it. We had all the answers and the task seemed so simple suddenly. Within minutes, the solution tree was ready with hundreds of arrows linking solutions to positive outcomes. 

The third day gave me and my colleagues a lot of opportunities for self-reflection. We were thinking about what makes us happy in the job and what does not. It was an amazing experience for us to know what keeps everyone going. For me, it was a self-reflective time where I not only thought about myself in the team but also understood why everyone else is a part of the project and what they think about their role. It helped me understand my own team better, not just as colleagues but as people with different dreams and aspirations. It was a great feeling to know that each one of us comes with a certain kind of expectation and makes a certain kind of contribution. It is worthwhile to wait and see our personal and organisational paths grow, and more importantly, converge. 

Overall, this meeting was a start to envisioning a change that we all believe in. It will end only when we can communicate this message effectively to the entire team, and ensure that all our plans are implemented. And in this endeavour to make a positive impact on the society, I hope that everyone who is a part of this project has valuable takeaways that help them grow.