This summer, ITS Staff took a retreat to the Ranch on a quest to discover the idea of “We”. That is, we had hoped to wrangle the loose amalgam of different teams contained within ITS with the concept of group unity.
This past year, under the guidance of new management, ITS has slowly been moving toward a less compartmentalized approach to service delivery and management so that all of our teams could work more effectively together across the department. The retreat was a mile-marker in the journey toward the vision of cohesiveness and unity we are striving to obtain.
During our time at the Ranch, ITS was prohibited from email access (sorry!) so that we could focus on the activities scheduled throughout the day.
In addition to the time we spent together NOT focusing on fixing problems or delivering service, we were introduced to “The Wonder Wall”. This exercise consisted of everyone writing down the things that they had appreciated, made them glad, or that surprised them in the last year. These notes could include compliments for fellow members of our department, happiness for changes implemented in the department, or just gratitude for what we have. Each note was signed by its author.
When the writing was complete, the notes were stuck up on a paper-covered wall. We then converted our exercise into a little game; one person would gently pitch a soft ball against the wall and would read aloud the note the ball tagged. At the end of the reading, the author of the note that had just been read would take the next pitch. Thus, we would all be able to share in the positive sentiments expressed by members of our department.
Ultimately, as each note was read (we couldn’t get through them all), we were able to grow our appreciation both for what we’ve accomplished this year both as a department and as individual team members.
It is very easy to get bogged down with what goes wrong and to forget all that has gone well. Too often, a year goes by and one never gets a chance to say, “Hey, remember that thing you did the other day? That was kind of amazing.” And too often, one never gets to hear “I noticed what you did that other day. Outstanding!” By the time performance evaluations happen in January, we sometimes cannot remember all those little things that added up to the big successes achieved by the department. The Wonder Wall and the ITS Staff retreat provided a rare opportunity for the department to stop the day-to-day, look around, and appreciate the power of “We”.