P2Con 2015: Inform, Inspire, Educate

Last week, we held our annual Company Days event - henceforth known as “P2CON.”

As long as I can remember, “company days” at Phase2 has been an annual tradition. It started sometime during our early formative years (2001-2005) as a way to take a step back from the day to day of building software and remind ourselves we were running a business. Later as we grew, it evolved into a way to celebrate what we had accomplished together throughout the past year and formulate a strategy for the upcoming year.

As the company has grown now to over 135 people and matured significantly in our strategic planning, this event has evolved in length and format to be more like an internal conference for everyone in the company.

Last year, we fully embraced that change and moved the venue offsite to a theater, added more social events, and encouraged employees to take the lead on presentations. The result was a series of Tedx Talks spanning a wide range of topics, but similar in the passion and enthusiasm each presenter brought to his or her presentation.


This year’s agenda and program was built with three key goals in mind: Inform, Inspire, and Educate.

We wanted every Phase2 team member to come away better informed about the company’s progress, more excited about Phase2’s future, and more knowledgeable about the things that matter to us the most. It was a tall order for a three day event, but it was a huge success thanks to the culture of learning and teaching we are working to build at Phase2.

Inform

I kicked off our event with a keynote that outlined our vision for Phase2’s future. Then executives shared insights on recent successes, gave briefings on key initiatives, discussed the impact of our work, and heard updates from some of our project team members that are doing remarkable things for Phase2 clients in the field.


Inspire

Then we gave the stage to volunteer speakers from across the company for P2 Talks, a TEDx format we have adopted to let anyone in the company prepare a talk under the theme “Advancing Our Clients’ Missions.” We watched team members from across the company speaking on subjects that reflected our core values and demonstrated our dedication to our work. Some of the many subjects covered included:

  • Team Building and Project Ownership

  • Design Thinking With Clients

  • Play! How Games Make Our Work Way More Fun

  • Lean on Us: How the Lean Methodology is Helping Us Build Better CMS Platforms

  • Beyond Mobile: Emerging UI


Educate

The next 30 hours of our time were then dedicated to learning and working together at Phase2 HQ in a smaller setting in conference format.  We conducted over 20 workshops led by leaders across the company. Employees selected their tracks and learned everything from connecting with our clients’ brands to using Open Atrium for their next project.

Each workshop produced some helpful information to share with the rest of the team -- a wiki page, a screencast, a template, or a little bit of training. We used this time to step out of our comfort zones, meeting and learning with some new teammates. It was a great chance to be a teacher, a mentor, and a student of so many different aspects of what we do at Phase2.


Is it Worth It?

The most common question that I get about this event is if it’s worth the cost (which does rise as the company grows). While I cannot share the exact costs or provide a perfect ROI calculation, I can say with certainty that it definitely is.

We do this annual meeting for three reasons: culture, information, and collaboration. I have witnessed a tangible benefit from each.

First and foremost, we really value working with one another. And while it's awesome to be able to work from so many places in the world, the ability to get together face to face is important. It lets people get to know one another personally and professionally, in person. I regularly get employees, new and old, commenting that this event is the single most important tie they have to our company culture.

Second, this meeting is a great opportunity to get everyone on the same page about the progress of our many efforts and success level as a company overall. As we have grown by roughly 40% annually over the last few years, we have experienced some distance in our communications and flow of information within the company. This event lets us bring to light the most important things we are working on, giving everyone a chance to know what is happening and get involved.

Third, it's an opportunity to collaborate. We always make sure there's an opportunity to do something together, not just sit and listen to briefings. That gives us the chance to flex our brains with co-workers we might work with on a daily basis, lending our collective ideas as we make positive changes to multi-discipline aspects of Phase2’s business.

At our heart, we are professional services company and increasingly for us the product we are selling is as much knowledge as it is technology solutions.

So while P2Con  is certainly an investment, we believe it achieves one vital goal: it moves our company FORWARD collectively. If you are looking for a collaborative culture like this to work in -consider joining ours.

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