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Team Engagement – ‘Sharpening the Axe’

Creative Director and Co-Founder
January 18 2019

Our achievements so far this financial year and looking forward to where we are going. While learning, having fun, loving systems, encouraging creative thoughts and aligning our ambitions.

To be the best you can be, one must define what it is we wish to be best of or at.  Through our business coaching with ActionCOACH we strive to be the best business we can be, to master a stable and adaptable baseline upon which we can provide the support and nurturing to our team, delivering a consistent excellent service our clients deserve and expect of us.  We recognise that to achieve excellence requires the support and direction of a coach, similar to the needs of an athlete striving to be an Olympic champion or a cyclist to win the Tour.

As Abraham Lincoln put it – “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  Our team day in January intended to sharpen our axe.  To ensure that we were spending time as a team, honing our skills, aligning our thinking and making sure the direction in which we wish to travel is shared among us.

The morning session included a review of our learnings through ActionCOACH, disseminating to our team a flavour of what Mike and Martin have been learning in the last year to sharpen our business tools.  Of significance was ensuring that our practice values of Innovation, Integrity, Excellence, Legacy and Consistency were understood and relevant to the team.

HarrisonStevens believe that we can make a difference, this is our simple WHY, our purpose, belief and cause.  Why we exist, why we get out of bed every morning and why we care.  HarrisonStevens’ values are embedded into the culture of our creative designers.  How working as a team achieves the best results and how a solid knowledge base allows our business to sustain and deliver consistency.

We introduced our goals for the next 90 days and the rest of our financial year, up to June.  These goals would set out three areas of focus for the business in the coming weeks and months.  The main objective of which is to make the routine as efficient as possible allowing our exceptional team to maximise their time to be creative and innovative.

We asked our team what were the top three take-aways from the morning session, here is a selection of their thoughts;

  • Communication
  • Values, Culture and Goals
  • Purpose and Direction
  • Ownership and Accountability – the point of power
  • Self management and responsibility
  • Systems which underly the principles of the practice and enable excellence to be consistently delivered.
  • Alternative perspectives
  • Focus and positivity
  • Understanding the value of time
  • Goal setting – providing direction, movement, momentum and defining who HarrisonStevens want to be.

The afternoon session sought to demonstrate the reason for systems and how HarrisonStevens wish to grow to love systems as a powerful baseline tool.

Systems, horror… ‘all these systems are stifling our creativity’ – dispelling the myth.

Where do we see parallels in creative industries?  Sectors such as the Catering Industry, Just in Time Manufacturing, Mechanical Engineering, Horticulture, Electronics and Computers, Fashion, and Construction all demonstrate a dependency on systems to achieve consistent results.

Imran Amed, MBE, founder of The Business of Fashion is quoted as saying, ‘Fashion is a business that requires discipline and attention to detail and very organized systems of logistics and operations and processes. But even with the most smoothly oiled machine to manage the business, without creativity, fashion could not exist.’

We can quite easily replace ‘Fashion’ for ‘Landscape Architecture’ to relate to how HarrisonStevens wish to practice creatively in our profession.

Similarly, the catering profession demonstrates systems, through recipes and processes, while providing opportunity to be creative and innovative in presentation, flavour, and taste.  A baking session at the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School on Queens Street provided a brilliant opportunity for us all to demonstrate systems in practice, have some fun and bond as a team.

We baked in pairs, a number of delicious items which were then judged by the professional cooks.  Great fun, relaxed environment and super on note in terms of demonstrating the objectives of the afternoon and reinforcing the messages from the morning session.  An engaged team created some wonderful cakes and biscuits.

As in the morning, we requested team members to list their three take-aways from the baking session, here are a selection:

  • Great team building exercise
  • Learning from failure and practice makes perfect
  • Follow to the letter to achieve results and consistency
  • Attention to detail
  • Do not cut corners
  • Clear communication and roles are fundamental
  • Hard work is needed to gain perfection
  • Seek clarification and more detail if vague or unsure
  • Consistency requires practice

We got the message while having fun and obtained huge sugar rush from the amazing baking.

What was the outcome of our day?

Being systemised in the mundane areas of the business simply allows us the time to excel in the important areas. Maximising the time for creativity and design.

We understand;

  • The clear rules of the game
  • The impact of embedding the values of our practice into everyday activates
  • The importance of consistent delivery
  • How to prioritise and to take the time to plan
  • That communication must be clear, concise and purposeful

By introducing business learning outcomes we wish to encourage everyone to grab opportunity, to perform at their best, to understand our goals and values, and to become a stronger team, with a sense of belonging, direction and purpose.

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