Over the past 5 years I have run Flagpole meetings with my team. These meetings involve the team meeting at a mystery location for a 1 hour immersive session to do with a practical aspect of the organization. The aim is to expose a team that is otherwise often office bound to other aspects of how the organization works. I would like to share the method, the outcomes and the learnings from running such activities.
The aim to provide students with a great university experience and positive career outcomes is often at odds with the desire to service larger number of students through centralised teams in the institution. Many of the non-academic services in the university are provided by teams who have little or no direct contact with students or academics. Often these teams are located in a fixed place, an office environment that does not give an appreciation of the rich complexity of the broader organisation.
The Flagpole meeting is an engaging way to connect your team to the organisation and to build understanding and empathy with students and academics. It is run as a formal team activity, that is both serious and fun. The flagpole meeting runs without an agenda – the team assembles at a given location (flagpole) at a particular time to freely experience an aspect of the university’s operations. Often the meeting will be linked to specific areas of the university that the team works with, but at times it may be purely an exploration of an aspect of the organisation.
The aim of the flagpole meeting is to provide an experience that is slightly mysterious and that leads to exploration. The hope is that the team will be able to take this back to their usual role and integrate what they have learned. Outcomes may include better relations to ‘customers’ and a better understanding of the challenges of a large organization. However, often the most valuable outcome is the injection of new ideas into the team through serendipitous discoveries.