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Team retreats are amazing(ly productive)!

25 Feb 2014

With plans to grow to 12 full time people in the next year, the launch of our own company products, and team ambitions to start their own personal projects, 2014 was set to be our busiest yet. Which can only mean one thing… RETREAT. Canoe rides, the green pastures of Suffolk and friendly swans. Here’s what happened:

Back in January, Outlandish did a three-day team retreat at The Old Watermill – no longer a mill but a rather luxurious countryside getaway with lots of hidden nooks and crannies,surrounded by miles and miles of beautiful walks . Psst…. the place really is lovely but don’t tell everyone about it as we are hoping to be able to book it again sometime in the future.

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On arriving at the house, we all spent a good while just exploring the buildings and the grounds while saying things like: “This house would be the best place for a hide and seek, ever!” (which later turned out to be correct), “Have you seen the friendly swans in the pond outside?”, “There are so many cupboards I cannot work out where they store the refreshments” and “I am so going on a canoe ride tomorrow!”.

The team building part of the retreat came in many Outlandish shapes and forms, including a brilliant game of hide-and-seek, the trusty old Pass the Pigs (which went on for so long that gradually everyone wandered off, leaving me to claim the crown of the Master Pass the Pigger!), getting together to cook some hearty feasts and going for welly walks in the surrounding countryside.

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Staying true to the Outlandish values of being open and honest in all our communications and decision making, all Outlanders discussed our goals and desired outcomes for the next year and next five years and how to make what we have now even better. On the table were also topics to do with internal and external communications, our respective roles and responsibilities, our values and the company culture.

Much talk circled around what the team considered a good rate of growth in terms of taking on new Outlanders. We decided that growing to twelve full time team members in a year’s time would be a good and manageable aim, with a project manager, two or more developers (at least one of them of senior) and a systems admin as the most pressing roles. Just recently, we grew to ten Outlanders with Ronald and Sam as our new developers and Michael as junior sys admin so we’re well on our way!

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We all agreed that we love projects that allow us to learn new skills, or give us the opportunity to do something much better than the way it was done before. In order to ensure that we continue to innovate by both using new and exciting technologies and coming up with great product ideas, we are looking to give each one of us some regular time to work on projects of our own choosing. We’re keen to push ahead and make this a reality sooner rather than later but the scheme has to be carefully balanced with financial considerations and the demands and commitments of our projects, so we’re still considering what percentage of our time will be given to it. In any case, it’s a very exciting scheme and one that we hope will allow all Outlanders both to develop professionally and help to develop the company by bringing new concepts and skills to our projects.

Outlanders also unanimously decided that launching a product of our own, branded Outlandish and built of components that draw from our expertise of working with the academic and education sector should be one of the next things we do. I am pleased to report that this project is already through to the later stages of a product cycle and we will have a lot more to report on it soon.

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Without a doubt, our Suffolk retreat proved that team retreats really worth doing. As a result, we have some great ideas for future growth, we all had a chance to discuss and evaluate our roles and as a bonus, several monts on we are still getting frequent laughs out of the various things and slight mishaps that happened during the trip. Don’t forget to ask us to recount some of the funniest bits next time we see you down the pub!