Dynamics of a Microsoft All-hands Onsite-OffSite Meeting

We are the largest team in Microsoft under a GM (do not quote me on it - but we are close to it). So when we have an onsite-offsite, it is quite the production, and a nightmare for our admin folk.

Spoiled by a few of my managers - let me get to the "Crystallize the Taxonomies" first.

Offsites - All-day meetings conducted at an offsite location to take you away from the drudgery of your normal workplace/location and potentially have you think out of the box. Bcos hey you are moved out of the "Box" and therefore can think out of it! Brilliant, ya? Remember that Fedex ad where the offsite is at a farm or the shower since thats where the big-boss gets all his ideas? Yes - those are offsites.

All Hands - Probably derived from the usage in nautical term where this is s meeting that involves "all-hands" of the entire team/crew to be present.

Onsite-Offsite - Offsite meetings conducted on campus where the box you are moved from is maybe your floor or building. So an offsite in Bldg 40 if you are from Bldg 122 is an onsite-offsite - as would be an offsite in Level 1 if you are from Level 3. If you are Not from a Big firm and scratching your head about this - bear with me - this is common in all big firms not just Microsoft. Reason - take a pick between: Budgets, ROI, Funds, Time, etc etc.

So yesterday we had an All-Hands Onsite-Offsite meeting from 8Am - 430Pm - if you are groaning about its length - the last one was from 7AM-5PM - we are already improving here. The dynamics of an Onsite-Offsite are quite typical:

  • The GM/VP gives a Rah-Rah about our strategy, gets us refocused (not that we need that, but there are new faces and they love that!) talks about any reorgs (dont even get me started on this one!)
  • The Individual and Team awards are given out for the quarter
  • Different committees have their presentations talking about what they are doing for the team along the different focus pillars that they have
  • The Different Business-leads talk about their agenda and have a Q&A
  • There is an fun-event at the end typically dreamed up by the Admin Queens

The synopsis of what happened yesterday:

a) The morning was spent with Hardeep Walia convincing us yet again that his strategy, motivation, public speaking and powerpoint skills far outweighs his ability to get the computer to hookup to the big screen (But Ken Durham jumped to the rescue within 5 mins!). So the WWESS big family with new members (over 15 this offsite) got to hear about our mission, vision, team structure, strategies and jus a time to refocus. Needless to say - Hardeep ran over his allotted time - this despite the fact that Joan Yarkosky (our sweet admin who pampers me with bottles of wine) was calling Time-out for over 15 mins at the end :) But his talk summarized that we are aware that we are the largest team in Microsoft and that we should be aware of the culture we are building and build the right one.

b) Team Oscars were handed out yet again. The awards were:

  • Jeremy won for the best individual performer for the quarter,
  • Best team (Microsoft Support Policy)  - which Luca Barone runs and Jeremy is a part of
  • The Ambassador program to go to Paris/Munich to meet customers/field - won by Jeremy.
  • and Srinivas Mandalaparthy won an individual award too for MVP this quarter.
  • The award for the best manager went to Eric Stathers (Employee #6 at Peoplesoft before he joined us)
  • and The team voted on Ken Durham for his Communications Director role-filling ability before Cheryl came on board.

And in Hardeep Walia's words "like the Titanic Jeremy Korst won every single award this time" I wish Jeremy had quoted Rose and replied with a "I will never let go, Hardeep... I will never let go..." But Jeremy was too busy turning blush, pink and red that he had left his sharp mind at home.

c) The various committees presented (in this order):

  • The Training Committee: Stephen Clark (Director, Support Offerings) presented a strong case as to why we should use our annual training budget and spend more time on ourselves and training ourselves to be better team players. As usual (Very unlike most speakers) he was brief, under his time, funny, to the point and left with a message. You cant help but love a guy like that, in fact I will be interviewing him soon on the blog.
  • The Technology Committee: Bob "The Manic" Keller who btw is a fellow-blogger with a growing blog-readership presented about the training CD that that committee created.for us learning productive use of own technologies and some excellent processes. Short, sweet, funny with a take-away too!
  • Recruiting Committee (Woo Hoo): Isnt this committee what this blog is all about. Eve "The Queen Bee" Psalti updated about the wonderful things we do in the recruiting committee - College recruiting (Sassan Saedi), Industry Recruiting (Felipe Oyanedel), Recruiting Events (Eileen Wang), Presentation for recruiting (Shannon Huffman, Beny Rubinstein), Recruiting Training (Eve Psalti). I had a 5 mins talk about this blog (about 15% of the audience were already regular readers of this blog) and over 50% knew about its existence and have visited it atleast once or twice. Leslie Scheider then talked about the Buddy Program (Harini Gokul is her partner on that) which is this phenomenal program that the ladies came up with that matches up new recruits with a current WWESS member here at Microsoft Worldwide Enterprise & Support Services and help them acclimatize to Seattle, redmond etc.
  • Career Development Committee: Jonathan Baird talked in depth about how important career development was - and this committee had action items, deadlines, timelines etc. Good stuff.
  • Best Practices Committee: Jorge briefed us all about the best practices out there that our team followed and shared given their vast and diverse experience. Brief and to the point.
  • Social "The Fun Folks" Committee: All doubts if I did any work on my team were dispelled when the team realised I was presenting yet again for the social committee this time (My boss decided I had to be given more work than spend any more committee time). We had everyone sitting wave the flags of their country which was on their table up feverishly (over 29 countries) while I talked about the "Social-Past" in the last 8 months - events such as - the Team-Cooking event (Hardeep Walia cooked sushi for the team at Casper's), Bowling event, The Soccer Tournament, Wine Tasting at Ste Michelle's,  The PingPong Tournament, Poker Tournament at the Montecarlo Night. David Jones talked about the "Social Present " Wall of Champions here we named the champions of our events - Marc Reguera for Field Domination in Soccer, Brian Boruff for being "One of a Kind" Bluffer in Poker and for Sasha Frljanic for being a "Loopy Smashmouth in PingPong". This was a big plaque that shall be hung on the wall outside the elevator. Jeremy "The Titanic" Korst had the crowd gave the recruiting-spiel to have more ppl join the social committee. Todd Latham contined with "Social Present" then announced that we shall be having a worldmap be hung on the wall by our hallway where we shall be putting boardpins with different team colors on it across the cities we are from (Goooo Chennai!!) Erin Schwitzer talked about "Social Future" about the events for the future - like the Winter-tubing event later this month and potential treasure hunt ideas etc.

d) All the Team leads had a quick panel for the entire team to ask their questions and it went fairly quickly for an open-agenda like that!

e) The Fun event for the day was MBTI! The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator facilitated by Donna Roush on her last day with the group - she is moving on for other pastures in Microsoft. More details on MBTI on another post.

And yah - I saw the chronicles of Narnia last nite and it was a blast. The Lion was kinda too animated and looked obvious - but the movie all in all was a blast!