Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Team outing for Dummies – Yercaud trip


For any company or work place with more than 2 employees requires greater amount of co-operation among each other to produce extraordinary outputs. Hence a team with 100+ people and all of them are professionals, hmmm a major reason to look at team building activities as source of people integration technique. There is no patriotic song that we sing together, there is no color that unites us, there is no religion that we share, there are no common skills among us but we all are part of an entity called Team.

Year after year I get an opportunity to bring all the members of our team together to educate the importance of team work.(Task that I always like so much) But who likes advices, suggestions, trainings and commands? I know it is impossible to make every one to listen to someone’s ideas, but there is still a way to achieve the goal – Team Outing. I’m going to write about the last team outing organizing experience that I had here in HCL, We call it Catalyst program (The very first constraint is Budget).

The goals I set myself are

1. Bring all the people together and make them understand they form a entity called Team and every individual is a stake holder.

2. Educate their responsibility while they don't feel like some one is commanding

3. Help them relaxing and reducing their stress

4. Integrate the dis-integrated or hierarchical work team. "Freshers and Senior" barriers needs a break here.

5. Maintain utmost safety while handling the tasks assigned, as each one's security and safety are my priority.

Come on readers join with me for the world of team-building, I'm proud I had done couple of these exercises.

Behind the scenes of Yercaud, the poor man's Ooty trip.

It all started in a weekly meeting that our team had. As it was almost an year since we had our team outing to Jawadhu, everyone wanted to go for an outing.Lots of suggestions for places came; but we had many constraints. As our team do diverse set of technology support for 24/7 support requirements to the clients the major constraint is the Time and operational support. I needed to find any place that is close by Chennai city so our entire team could travel and return with minimal disruptions to the support functionality. I was aiming at no disturbance, I must say we had minimal support staff plan at the very first day of the tour discussion.

Then came my next constraint, money. The moment we think of any tourist location the accommodation cost shot up to sky level. I needed to organize accommodation, food, and travel plan necessary for taking a huge bunch of people (~ 150). I started working on approximate number of headcounts excluding minimal support staffs, people who cannot travel for personal commitments, customer schedules for few guys, last minute drop outs on illness and unplanned events dropouts. So I had a ball back figure of 75~95 guys on the trip plan sheet.Another major concern is that of what kind of entertainment need to be arranged for chunk of people with diverse interests and hobbies while not forgetting “THE MOTTO” of team outing, that is to build a bonding among the team members. Our discussions went on with the team leaders in planning the minimal operational support staff and area of interest for the team visit. Munnar, Pondicherry and Yercaud are the places we rounded off finally. Munnar being far away we need to work on multiple travel mode which led me to strike off Munnar from the list. The Pondicherry plan also was dropped out as there will not be any major difference between Pondicherry and our home city Chennai. Hmmm so the only left out option is the poor man's Ooty that is Yercaud.

I was caught with lots of stress and tension to make the trip a success one, as the total numbers planned was huge and there will be many people with many different expectations. Fulfilling everyone's wishes may not be possible but I wanted to achieve an optimum level of success story. Over all I was looking at every individual for their interest towards the arrangements, except very few in whom I really didn't see any major interest. In fact I was under impression that people are willing to visit as they were compelled by their team leads but I must accept that my assumptions were wrong. I witnessed the trend changing slowly towards the plans after I finalized the place and tentative schedule. The white board in my cabin got filled with list of people who volunteer to participate in the event planned, sooner it was touching 96 number in head count.Looking at the number and overwhelming responses, my tension level was increasing as to find how to make the trip a grand success.

Initial search for lodging in Yercaud posted me a threat on the cost as most of the very good resorts were on the really higher side tariff and I really couldnt afford their tariff for accommodation as my budget for individual is not even half of their quote. I had found 3 places which are still higher but closer to my estimates, that is the day I came to know one of our colleague is in Salem which is the nearest city to Yercaud. I called and requested him to help me visiting Yercaud to see how the three places I spotted are. He returned the call with not so good kind of response. This is not a good sign, but I still had some hope and finally landed in Yercaud International resort's website, the pictures of their cottages were interesting to me. I called the manager Mr.Shanmugam he said accommodation for these many people are going to be a trouble as many of the rooms were already booked. This is a week before my proposed schedule, so I requested him if he can move his guests to another accommodation and block the entire resort for us. He gently agreed and instantly I transferred the advance money through internet banking. I felt bit easy as the accommodation was set.

Parallely I had requested couple of my friends at office to get me quotes from various bus operators for the Yercaud plan, the cost of transport was somewhat close to my estimation and the Just dial (directory)service in Chennai came in first hand help providing me so many number of contacts from different bus operators. The Wheels Tours and Travels company agreed to take up our tour requirement and another fund transfer over the internet, second story of success in the team outing plan.We had still few issues on fixing the start time and return time so the order process of food was put on hold. But I had communicated the resort guys that I will confirm number of meals and people a day before our travel plan.

Since I was given a responsibility to organize a tour for a huge team of professionals; the travel comfort, hygiene food, neat accommodation, hospitality, water, alcohol plans, medical kits, sight seeing options and fun activities were all in queue to be worked out. I had already started working on individual items and started sending all my findings and ideas on email to all the stake holders of the proposed tour plan. Slowly the plans were on progress and the check list I prepared earlier growing on a satisfactory level.

I have tried my level best to include as many people as possible so that issues with single handed failures could be avoided. There were freshers in our team, my solid ideas to include them into the activities worked really good their involvement was phenomenal level and hats off to them.