On January 23-24, every member of Yellow Pencil (except for Kim, who refused to cancel her trip to Mexico) got together for two days of retreatiness. It was so retreaty, we had to make up a new word to describe it. Perhaps breaking it down a bit will help define exactly what was involved. Randomly, my top 10 highlights of the First Annual Yellow Pencil Retreat were:
With a team that is spread out between Edmonton, Vancouver, and Toronto, we don’t often get the chance to all be together in one place. Some people were meeting each other in person for the first time; our Director of UX & Design, Scott Baldwin, actually started the day before the retreat. More than anything else that happened at the retreat, this was the most important.
2. Random Duets Karaoke
What’s more terrifying than having to do karaoke in front of your co-workers? Being randomly paired with one of those people to sing a song that is quite likely awkward and/or inappropriate in some way. What should have clearly been a complete disaster turned out to be the highlight of the entire event. Every single YP’er in attendance stepped up and gave it their all, including our fearless leaders (and brothers) Paul and Dave performing “Time(sheet) After Time(sheet).”
3. Strategic Planning
It wasn’t all fun and games, of course. We had some serious business to address, starting with presentations outlining our 2014 strategic plan. Once we clearly understood our direction and goals from a company level, we moved into operational plans from each of our practice areas (creative, development, PMO, HR and hosted solutions). Finally, we had a great group discussion about what our One Metric That Matters should be. Having a chance for everyone to contribute and get aligned on this stuff is key to our success in the year ahead.
4. Awards Night
It was with great honour that we handed out our first ever Yellow Pencil awards, based on our corporate values. And the winners were...
We work as a team: Adam
We master our craft: Kim
We respect and encourage ideas: Derek
We keep improving: Alaine
We also gave out a few “lesser” awards:
Where’s the Beef Award: Randall
Most HR Violations: Carson</a>
You Don’t Win Friends With Salad: Adam
Coldest Bike Commutes: Derek
Most WFH Days: Keith (he works remotely)
Most Desk Percussion: Kyle
Best at Putting the Rest of Us to Fitness Shame: Terry
Least Days Worked at YP: Scott (see point #1)
Photoshop Extraordinaire: Phil
Tallest Hair: Clement
5. Getting to know each other
We spent quite a bit of time talking about each other. The kickoff to the event was an icebreaker where we each revealed things that you wouldn’t find on our resumes. Here are some highlights:
- Dave is proficient in the art of unicycling
- Erika saved the life of a bat, to the dismay of the Vet who had to then take care of it
- Adam has seen every single episode of Survivor
- Farhad saw a lot of pornography when he worked at the photo-lab in Walmart
- Orville roofed the correctional facility in Hobbema
- Keith's band played to an emptying bar, except for a group of true fans... all of whom were deaf
Next, management went through each person in the company and highlighted their achievements from the past year. On day two, we learned even more important details about our team-mates, including:
Ivan had a music video on MuchMusic.
Kim spoke mainly in a Donald Duck-like voice in grade 5.
Dylan has never learned how to tie any kind of knot, including shoelaces.
Derek did a solo skydive once and threw up mid-air.
Alaine’s jaw is held together with 8 titanium plates.
Randall drank wine with a nun in a water fountain outside of the Roman Colosseum as tanks drove through the street.
Scott once won a $1000 from a Home Depot receipt contest.
6. Getting to know Paul & Dave
Two people we’re all already familiar with are our incredible bosses, Paul and Dave. The only thing better than knowing these guys is knowing them better. (When is my performance review again?) We spent a good hour and a half with them in the “bear pit,” where we asked the kinds of probing questions that don’t come up in day-to-day conversation. Then at the closing dinner, we got to the real important stuff via a “wedding shoe game” where they simultaneously answered questions about each other.
Who is more romantic? (Both said Dave). If both of you were trapped on a desert island, who would be more likely to eat the other one to stay alive? (Both said Paul.) Who is the best business partner in the world? (They each said the other was - awwww!)
The less said about this one, the better.
8. Richard Banfield
A particularly cool portion of the retreat was bringing in the dapper-looking Richard Banfield from Fresh Tilled Soil to give us a bit of an outside perspective on what we’re trying to do here. Clearly we didn’t get enough of picking his brain, so we’ve invited him to join us on our annual ski trip in Revelstoke. That's an entirely different blog post...
If the bonding moments were the heart of the retreat, the workshops were the brains. We took each of our four balanced scorecard perspectives - financial, customer service, internal process, and learning & growth - and really dug into what we do well and what we need to improve. Victories were shared and challenges extended. Solving problems for our clients is what we do every day at YP and these sessions proved we know how to do the same internally.
10. That it’s not done yet
I think the two days of the retreat will prove to be truly pivotal for Yellow Pencil. We achieved incredible things in a very short amount of time, but there’s so much more to come out of this. We now have a list of 30 action items published on our internal wiki that we’ll be tackling throughout the year. And in a year from now when we have our second annual retreat, we’ll post that list on the wall and take pride in how far we’ve come.