How To Build Team Alignment At A Company Offsite

Added on by Kavi Guppta.

We recently held our annual Strategyzer company retreat deep in the Swiss Alps. Nineteen team members traveled from nine countries for five days of workshops, exercises, and team building. In this post, I’ll share how a few of our tools and sessions resulted in a shared understanding of strategic and operational alignment.

The Strategyzer team in Switzerland. 

The Strategyzer team in Switzerland. 

Alignment across the company is always our #1 goal for our offsites because we are such a distributed team.

For me, the biggest achievement from our time together was getting a better understanding across teams. Each team walked away with a concrete action plan to implement in the coming months.

Offsite Structure

Here’s how a rough breakdown of how our days were mapped out:

  • Day 1: Alignment with teams toward the company, teams amongst each other, and alignment within the teams.

  • Day 2: Action planning what we want as a team, specific for implementation.

  • Day 3: Sightseeing and hiking (day off).

  • Day 4: Wrapping up the loose ends of our action plans for implementation.

The structured agenda and the use of our tools allowed us to achieve company alignment in a relatively short amount of time. It also resulted in extremely productive conversations and had everyone in the company agreeing on a shared language for implementation.

We also used our tools in very unusual ways for the sessions because the founders were eager to experiment and observe what types of outcomes would be generated.

The founders intentionally mapped out two days of work, a break in-between, and another day of work. This gave everyone some breathing room from all the hard work, and gave us a chance to take in the beautiful surroundings in the mountains. The company chooses to host offsites in such unique pockets of the world because taking in the beauty of our surroundings is engrained in Strategyzer’s culture. We come from so many backgrounds and places.

Co-founder Alan Smith designing the offsite exercises with Alex Osterwalder in Boston.

Co-founder Alan Smith designing the offsite exercises with Alex Osterwalder in Boston.

Notable Sessions

This is just a snapshot of some of the exercises and breakout sessions we had. It’s important to note that we spent a lot of time designing the exercises to ensure a natural flow that generated results. The outcomes from these sessions weren’t coincidental.

1. Mapping every team’s value proposition to the company: The first exercise challenged each team (devs, content, design, and sales) to map out their Value Proposition to the company. It forced teams to think about why and how they create value for the company. It worked well because teams concretely laid out their reason for existing, and it also allowed teams to communicate this value to others.

Teams presenting their Value Propositions Canvases on Strategyzer.

Teams presenting their Value Propositions Canvases on Strategyzer.

2. Create another team’s customer profile (i.e. their jobs, pains, and gains): The second exercise was to have the teams create customer profiles of another team in the company. For example, developers would map out what they assumed were the main jobs, pains, and gains of the content team and vice versa. It was incredible to see how much each team knew about each other, and how well they could communicate jobs, pains, and gains for each other.

The first two exercises were quite unusual and made use of the Value Proposition in ways it wasn’t intended to be used.

3. Design our desired team cultures: The Culture Map, a new tool we helped to develop with Dave Gray, was a big one for aligning the company. We asked ourselves: what is our desired culture? What do we want to build as a team? Who do we want to be? From that information we derived an action plan by prioritizing a future state of our culture and the outcomes we wanted to have; what we’ll do immediately following the offsite. It’s where we went beyond what we did last year in Tunisia because it resulted in tangible action plans for each team. Everybody is going away with some very concrete actions to implement. Again, we used The Culture Map in a way it wasn’t intended to be used. But in this context it helped individuals teams inside Strategyzer create the high performing culture team members wanted to see in their group.

4. Guerilla Marketing Exercise: We were very results oriented throughout the off site, and we wanted to end the week on a high point. So we challenged the teams to design their own guerilla marketing exercise to increase visibility of the Strategyzer brand. Each team pitched their idea and the best marketing concept was awarded a small budget to test their concept.

5. Salon Presentations: This was an interesting experiment to encourage after dinner learning and sharing in a much more relaxed and informative environment. A few team members volunteered to give informal talks or presentations on subject matter close to them. We had great talks on UX design, sales lessons, remote working, and agile development. Each presentation sparked very active debates and Q&A sessions amongst team members.

I’m really proud of our team

It was fascinating to see how engaged the entire team was throughout the off site; to see 19 people all really trying to make this work. It’s not easy because the company is creating a new market--it’s incredibly hard, and it’s also risky. We are trying to change the way people work, and we have 19 talented people who are engaged in building the foundation for pretty substantial growth.

Tools mentioned in this post:

The Value Proposition Canvas

The Culture Map

What tools or exercises help your company achieve strategic and organizational alignment?