Sharing learning from a group reflective process

8 months into a strategic framework refresh process, my three “collaborators in crime” and I decided to undertake a group reflection on the process.

Background: the aim of the refresh was to take a strategic framework that talked about sustainability without much consideration for the sector in which we worked, to one that better connected healthcare to sustainability, simplified our work for stakeholders, facilitated their engagement in our work, and was up to date in terms of sustainability practice in other sectors.

The group: 4 team mates (including myself) volunteered to take on the strategic framework refresh on behalf of our team. No one asked us to do it, and it certainly wasn’t a part of our job descriptions. But, we all felt it was important for the success of our team and the implementation of sustainability across the organization. We did have the go ahead from our Director.

The purpose of the reflection: we didn’t want to reflect on what we had refreshed in the strategic framework, but rather, on how we had come together and worked to create it. A formal reflection was important because the process had been largely ad hoc and self-driven in the sense that we set our own deadlines and determined the path along the way.

Why reflect on the process? For me personally, I knew that it was time to touch base with my fellow collaborators because I was starting to lose steam and interest, and I thought that some of my colleagues might be in the same boat. I also knew that if we were going to continue to work well together in the future, it was important to touch base and ensure that we addressed anything that wasn’t working. Admittedly, the need to reflect on how we were doing was overdue (this we realized after undertaking the reflection).

How did we undertake the group reflection?

The process was simple and aimed to create a platform where we could listen to each others experiences:

  • What we liked about our process
  • What we would do differently if we had to do it again

We finished off by identifying what we wanted in the process moving forward.

So why do I feel compelled to share this?

The process of group reflection helped me reconnect and see the process through my colleagues eyes and experiences. I was able to gain a new appreciation for the process, as well as, identify some of the key aspects of successful collaboration.

So here are some of these learnings:

What we liked about the collaborative process:

  • strong team approach
  • new understanding of each other’s roles and challenges
  • approach to meetings was fun and informal which allowed us to build personal relationships, rather than just professional ones
  • everyone brought something different to the table (fresh eyes and perspectives) which created stronger outcomes
  • strong sense of optimism for what we can accomplish working together

Key things to do differently moving forward:

  • more clarity and formality on allocation of roles, including how strategy should be included in all members of our teams work (in other words, greater engagement with the broader team).
  • since we were all busy with our regular jobs, spend more time at the end of meetings determining how best to distribute follow up tasks so as not to overload any one member.
  • periodic reflections about our engagement levels and creation of opportunities for re-engagement
  • importance of recognition from the team director for work done voluntarily and formal inclusion of work in job descriptions.

Side note, and to end this post…

As I mentioned above, the reflective process helped me understand some of the key aspects of successful collaboration. Successful in the sense that we worked together effectively to create a great outcome.

In hind site, unlike a lot of the collaborative processes in our organization, the process of refreshing our strategic framework was entirely bottom-up and highly creative (we were given confidence and freedom to get the work done how we best saw fit with in deadlines that we created for ourselves). It wasn’t until I was tired and stressed from feeling that I didn’t have enough time to dedicate to my regular job and this process, which I had volunteered to do, that I started to lose steam. I also started to resent what appeared to be a lack of recognition for our hard work.

So when asked by our Director: would it have been as successful if it was lead by a manager in a more formal structure? My answer: I am not so sure…

Freedom from deadlines and pre-determined actions and outcomes allowed us to explore ideas, get creative with complexity, and come up with great ideas (this doesn’t mean that we didn’t have clear action items after every meeting, just that we didn’t know what exactly the pathway to our outcome was going to be until we moved through it). So then, perhaps letting things happen is also key to success. It reminds me that things are not always linear, but rather fluid, circular and sometimes chaotic. Interesting that we often consider this to be unproductive…. and that’s not necessarily the case.






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