Climb every mountain

Mark
Hope, managing director of Coca-Cola’s Carpathian Region, reflects on the
challenges posed by an international team development event held in Austria and
the benefits it brought

Coca-Cola
was looking to improve the communications of its team in the Carpathian Region,
which is based at three centres in the Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and
Hungary.

As
the three offices all spoke different languages, it was important to make sure
everyone felt comfortable communicating in the common language of English.

Coca-Cola
also wanted to reduce duplication of effort and encourage the same management
style, as well as sharing best practice and new modes of working.

Impact
was therefore tasked with putting together an international teambuilding
project that was highly challenging, to force cooperation and communication
under pressure, for the regional team of 70.

The
project had to emphasise decision-making and facilitate creative
problem-solving against deadlines, while encouraging team members to make
significant contributions and break down the language barriers.

Impact
therefore designed a project that covered a large geographical area,
facilitated close working under stress, allowed no room for passengers and
incorporated physical, mental and IT challenges, using written and spoken
English skills.

The
solution incorporated the use of the Internet to give a new and different feel
to the event. This medium was also chosen as it would help to create the
impression of uncertainty and rapid change that reflects the market that
Coca-Cola operates in, as well as recreating the feeling of working remotely,
using and understanding the written word.

“The
Internet has become an intrinsic part of everyday business life, particularly
for international teams based in more than one location,” says Impact
consultant Andy Ligema. “We wanted the Coca-Cola team to use this medium
alongside the conventional approach so they could find out how it would help
them in a teamworking situation.”

The
four-day course was split into two phases. The first communication that team
members received was an email outlining skeletal details of phase one. It
informed them of their colleagues for the event – a mix from the three offices
– along with an outline of the first challenge: to travel as a group to a
mystery location near Salzburg.

The
teambuilding had already begun as members had to contact each other to arrange
a place to meet.

To
get further details of the location, they had to log on to a website designed
specifically for the event. From there, they could gather the information they
needed to progress to the next stage.

The
tasks combined fun activities with business-related assignments, such as winning
a contract to install a Coca-Cola machine in a bar or producing a design for a
T-shirt.

When
each activity had been accomplished, the teams had to communicate the results
to Impact adjudicators via a special email address.

The
teams soon learnt that their first answer was taken as their final answer. It
was therefore more profitable to get everyone’s input to ensure all team
members were happy with the final solution. This was meant to reflect business
life, where colleagues should be consulted on a decision.

On
a practical level, this meant that team members either had to hook up their IT
equipment or find an Internet café to send in their report. The team could then
receive further details concerning the phase one destination.

This
phase of the event was competitively framed, with groups earning rewards or
penalties according to relative performance on the tasks and time of arrival at
the destination.

The
teams enjoyed a last good lunch in a luxury hotel before heading to the
lakeshore for phase two. This was the physical part, where teamworking would be
tested to the limit as people got tired and stressed.

After
adjudication of phase one, each team was permitted to purchase equipment,
depending on performance, to help with the next stage – after they had rowed
across the lake in fishing boats!

The
teams then had to climb to a forested mountainous area where they were tasked
to build shelters using equipment they had “purchased” earlier in the day and
any natural materials they could find.

The
challenge was to cook as a team and survive the winter night in good condition
and good morale to be able to face the physically demanding day to follow. The
atmosphere was fantastic, with storytelling and singing well into the night.

The
following morning, the teams were faced with a scaled objective of gaining one,
two or three Alpine peaks according to performance ability.

At
the end of this final day, the most physically demanding of the four-day
project, they congregated at an alpine barn for a bonfire, a mug of gluwein, a
barbecue and live entertainment. The complete team of 70 slept in the hayloft
of the alpine hut. A fall of fresh snow by the morning provided a scenic grand
finale, with breathtaking views of the Dachstein mountains.

So
they all had a great time, but did it work?

The
Coca-Cola Carpathian Region management were delighted with the event and felt
it had achieved the objectives while allowing a fun element and had really
stretched the team.  The combination of
traditional teambuilding techniques with 
new technology was a real hit.

Guide
to successful international teams

Team
members need to:
1 – Have a shared vision of success
2 – Understand the expectations of all stakeholders
3 – Have clear goals and milestones
4 – Be committed to the team and its goals
5 – Have shared values, a common working practice and a clear strategy
6 – Accept and embrace diversity of character and skills
7 – Regularly review performance with a view to continuous improvement
8 – Communicate openly and give and receive constructive feedback
9 – Be open about thoughts and feelings
10 – Have fun together

International
Team Development Event
Designed and delivered by: Impact Development Training Group, Cragwood House,
Windermere, Cumbria LA23 1LQ,
Tel: 015394 88333; Fax: 015394 42145, www.impact-dtg.com;
e-mail: impactuk@impact-dtg.com

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