How to Foster Teamwork: Rule #10

Bring the outside, inside.
Rhys Newman and Luke Johnson

How People get Disconnected from the Outdoors

Proposal team workspace tends to be temporary, no frills, cheap.  In this speed-and-feed, cost-control-uber-alles environment, ergonomics gets little attention and any window is quickly plastered over with flipchart paper, the better to prevent industrial espionage.

With the long hours typical of proposals, people can go a long time without spending any appreciable time outside.  I went into one proposal den in the depths of winter and didn’t come out until the summer.  (That’s not literally true, of course — I trudged back to my hotel every night after dark, after all — but it’s true to my experience.)

The Consequences of this Disconnection

There’s just one thing.  It’s not good for people.

It’s not good for their physical health, it’s not good for their mental health, and it’s not good for what we might call their professional health:

  • Their productivity
  • Their capacity for innovation
  • Their ability to analyze and synthesize data and to see connections
  • Their frequency of  “Aha!” moments
  • Their willingness to work with other people, overlooking their quirks
  • Their ability to control their own quirkiness

The Remedy

What to do?  It turns out this is one of the easier ones:

  • Unblock a window.
  • Meet when possible in an open area where people can at least see outside.
  • Bring in flowers (or non-allergenic plants if pollen and scent are problems).
  • Start a photo contest and post pictures of the world beyond your proposal room doors.
  • Display colourful or interesting leaves and rocks that people bring in.

And where you have the option, actually get outdoors through the workday, too:

  • Model a protocol of getting outside at lunch, every day, rain or shine, sleet or snow.
  • Encourage walking meetings – outside.

 


 

 Proposals are schedule-driven projects that require a strict project management discipline. Right? Partly right. In proposal terminology, I’d call that answer incomplete.  Proposals are projects, for sure, but they’re also the output of teamwork. I’ve recently been learning how much the design business has in common with proposals.

This post is one of a series on proposal teamwork, inspired by a fabulous article on Medium on design teams:
“No Dickheads! A Guide to Building Happy, Healthy, and Creative Teams.”

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