At Firefish, we’re big believers in the power of team bootcamps. We know that there are times when we need to reignite our drive, tackle a problem, or just get a team back on the same page.
For us, team bootcamps are used carefully, but their main purpose is to instigate change when an area of the business is not working as well as it could. Perhaps sales are missing their targets, perhaps marketing is off brand, or perhaps there’s a team lacking direction with members running around in different directions.
Bootcamps are used in these instances. It’s a serious meeting. It’s a big deal. And my employees know that a bootcamp is there to motivate them and help them to do their job better.
What is a Bootcamp?
A bootcamp is a meeting lead by a senior director. It identifies a problem area to focus on, and then collectively we work through the challenge to determine a satisfactory solution. Once everyone understands the key issues then it’s about working as a team to change them for the better.
I find bootcamps to be a really good way, as a director that’s not working closely every day within a team, to monitor how employees interact with one another. It lets me see first hand what’s working and what’s not and which employees are really adding value. It’s also a much better and less formal approach to simply listening to complaints and holding the manager or team leader responsible for a problem.
Bootcamps exist because something is wrong in the business, and the message they send out is that we’re going to fix it together. The outcome is up to the employees in question as they need to take ownership of the problem and actively work towards an agreed solution. The goal for the person running the bootcamp is to facilitate a positive outcome for all involved – both for the business, and for the employees.
However, those involved have to want to change, and they have to take immediate action. If they don’t, it quickly becomes obvious that their heart isn't in it; perhaps they’re out of their depth, or it might be that they don’t want to move in the direction the company or team requires.
The Benefits of a Bootcamp
Now bootcamp, in its nature, is not a recreational aerobics class. It has ambitious goals and it aims to shift opinion fast. However, this type of meeting exists because the company acknowledges that it can still help. And for all those involved, there are a number of benefits to this type of meeting. Most of these benefits are felt by the employee (it’s not all doom and gloom).
The first one is the fact that everyone is here to fix things. It’s a gathering of staff and senior management to state: ‘We all know there’s a problem, and this is what we are going to do about it’.
There is a shared and concerted effort to change. It’s a push to improve both employees and the business too. And a bootcamp has the power to align thoughts, energies, and passions (both negative and positive) allowing people the chance to voice things unsaid out in the open.
What to Expect
The language will be blunt, direct, clear, and no punches will be pulled. But there are clear action points that come from a bootcamp too. This means that values and branding can be realigned, and employees will know what’s expected of them, and how to change for the better. It’s an event that reminds everyone why they do what they do (and how to do it well).
How to Go About It
If your business needs a refresh, if your employees need some direction, then here’s what to do.
- Set the scene - outline the issue and why it is something that you want to address and confront the problem head on
- Make the time - Make sure it is an afternoon or a morning that people don’t have other deadlines to meet and book a couple of hours out of their diaries for those involved
- Explore ideas – but this is different to a brainstorming meeting, the desired or required outcome is known so it is just ‘how’ the team achieve these outcomes that should be explored. It is also likely that there will be experience round the table with what has worked or not worked in the past. Remember this meeting is about something that is not working and how to address it so you don’t make the same mistakes again – share this intention.
- Set quick, actionable timeframes - Make sure the outcomes are actionable and allocated to each person accordingly. Set the time frame to put these into practice.
- Win or fail fast - learn quickly as a team and keep the bootcamp running for a minimum of six weeks to bed the changes that worked into the business. It’s the storming and forming part of change that needs to become the new norm or all the stress and pain of changing that the team have just experienced could quickly be reverted.
The nature of bootcamps mean that there are some negatives to the approach. The pressure to change won’t always lead to a positive outcome, and not everyone reacts well to being held accountable. However they’re in complete control of this journey.
Finally, remember that bootcamps can be overwhelming. Not everyone can handle it. There are some people that won’t excel and they’ll struggle to come to terms with the experience. Conversely, there are other employees that will shine and surprise you with how much hidden talent they have to offer. So keep your employees’ personality types in mind and think long and hard about the end result and how you want to get everyone involved throughout the journey.
Bootcamps are tough. They force people to change. They confront a problem head on. But if done well, they can realign a business, inspire employees, and promote ideal behaviours. They can help a business stay on track, stick to its branding, and move forwards with a shared goal and a road map to getting there.
Wendy McDougall is Chief Fish of Firefish Software. In her spare time, you'll find her playing squash or feeding her inner geek with the latest technology!