When it comes to team building, invest in the right things

team building

Moddex, a manufacturer of barrier systems for large-scale infrastructure and non-residential construction projects, tells Manufacturers’ Monthly about its recent team building initiative “Walk a Mile.”

For people centric, culture driven organisations, it can be easy to overlook the simple ideas and tackle the big projects instead. And as we know, sometimes the big initiatives don’t end up flying as well as you’d hoped.

In this recent experience, I feel we proved that the best team building exercises don’t necessarily cost money, and don’t involve any bling or wow factor.

During a recent one-on-one catch up with one of our leadership team, a thought was aired – “It would be great if our people could have a better understanding of each other’s roles, and just what goes into each other’s work every day.”

This was noted and got me thinking on how this could be achieved practically with so many of the team working big days and at full capacity, with five different office locations across ANZ.

In discussing the idea further with our executive team, the possibilities and power of creating an initiative around this concept dawned on us.

And so the Moddex Walk a Mile initiative was born, the name coming from the age-old quote from early American history, “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

So the initiative was introduced during a Monthly All Team Huddle, and was quickly followed up with a Memo and invitation to participate.

The Memo is shared below.

team buildingInitially, team take up was cautious. However there were soon fifteen of the team keen to learn about someone else’s role.

As we expected, some roles had multiple requests for the Walk A Mile experience so we batched these and let the host set up the meeting time and format for the session.

This all happened, and very quickly the sessions were in motion both face-to-face and via Zoom. The feedback came in quickly:

“I can’t believe how much is involved in managing procurement and overseas shipping! Never had any idea just how much planning goes into it, and how much you must be in touch with the schedules on a daily basis.”

“I thought my work was high pressure, but seeing what our project managers are dealing with every day was a massive eye opener.”

“I’ve got some ideas on how to change my process to help out design… I reckon we can save them going looking for information a lot more.”

The flow-on effects from this initiative are yet to be fully seen within the company, however I think any business leader would agree that this will have a powerful impact on the cohesion and connectedness between departments, and help us to get things done more efficiently as a whole.

Under the same initiative, our managing director Alvin Rowland got out on the factory floor and walked a mile in the assembly team’s shoes. This had a great impact on the team, and also gave him a taste of what the factory floor is working with each day. Several great suggestions for improvement resulted from this.

On the flip of this, one of our warehouse team members, Dave, asked to walk a mile in the managing director’s shoes! Our managing director was glad to oblige, and some significant insights were gleaned on what it takes to steer an organisation in these times.

And so the journey continues, with the next batch of requests to walk a mile now coming in from across the team.

By sharing this experience, I would hope it inspires someone else to give simple ideas and initiatives such as this one a go.

The lesson in it for us is that a gym, table tennis table or a free lunch don’t improve a company’s culture in their own right – it takes making time for people to connect with people meaningfully, and investing in giving the team space and time to learn about their peers’ roles and daily challenges is bound to have a strong return.

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