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August 27, 2014

Lessons Learned from Factory Week

August 27, 2014

Aside from the sheer output of getting things done, Factory Week is often a collection of lessons learned, a-ha moments and highlights. This summer edition of Factory Week was no different.

Focus and Momentum

For me, the week was all about focus and momentum. Being a relatively small business, most of us at SmallBox wear multiple hats. I'd like to think I juggle all of the things relatively well (isn't that what all multi-taskers say?), but on any given week, my attention is divided between human resources, marketing, community projects and the like. I can't say the last time I spent a full week dedicated to one project, and really gave myself the space to do work without the distraction of email and everything else rushing in.

My main project for Factory Week was pretty daunting – branding and building a new version of our internal communications hub. With such a large task ahead of our team, there wasn't much room for error, so I planned for a rigorous timeline and let go of email, social media and other distractions for the week. The momentum of it all was so energizing. No uptime between projects. No stopping. No delays... amazing.

I walked away feeling like it was one of the most productive weeks I've ever had. At presentation time, I realized it was the same for others. Everyone had real, meaningful results coming out of the week. I asked some of my fellow 'Boxers about their insights and highlights. Here's what they had to say:

Clarity and Purpose

It wouldn't be Factory Week without brainstorming sessions, and Elizabeth found herself in several. She didn't always know what the expectations were at the start of each session. Her big takeaway (and a lesson she says she keeps re-learning) – it's important to set ground rules for meetings. Is the purpose to generate as many ideas as possible? Or should the focus be refining a few existing ideas?

Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions, and make sure everyone is on the same page about the purpose of your meeting.

Idea Attachment

Jason's a-ha moment came when he realized he was too attached to an idea. He was working on defining new service offerings for SmallBox. The team came up with a handful of awesome ideas we can implement right away, and one big, daunting idea that will take some time to put in place. Being a future-thinker, Jason was most excited about what's next, and found himself at odds with what is immediately possible.

Finding balance, and sometimes letting go, is important. Just because we don't make progress now, doesn't mean we won't pursue that great idea eventually. After all, we will need some things to do this winter when Factory Week rolls back around.

All Grown Up

Jeb called this our most grown-up Factory Week yet. Why? First of all, we exercised some restraint in the number of projects (No kidding – we've foolishly plunged into 30+ projects before). We've learned from our past that nobody wins when we pile on the projects and overwhelm the team.

Second, we also set a new rhythm, with half of the projects meeting in the morning, and half in the afternoon. With dedicated project times, it was easier to schedule collaborative sessions, to make space for heads-down work time and to be sure the team would have a chance to weigh in on other projects as needed.

And finally, we planned enough time at the end of the week to present our work to one another. We've always counted on the end of week party for our closure, but we recapping the work and seeing what everyone else came up with before a full weekend passed made our party that much more rewarding...

Speaking of party times...
There were other highlights: Abby surprised us Monday with fun packages, we feasted on barbeque. There were plank challenges and a celebration to cap the week. All of these things point to one last takeway:

Don't forget to make space for some fun!

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