It’s hard enough – and expensive enough – arranging a proper team building session for a group of people who all work together in the same place. For geographically spread “virtual” teams, though, the logistics and the expense both go through the roof. Travel arrangements are a nightmare with a price tag to boot. And even those organizers forward-thinking enough to see it as an investment, rather than a cost, struggle to see the relevance of an activity that relies upon people being physically together when the group clearly works in a different way entirely.
Enter Sandstone, team building specialists with a flair for innovation and a proven track record in using technology to deliver great results. Having already created the world’s first team building activity that is delivered 100% online with their “Space Rescue” offering – and the world’s second for that matter with “MiniTreasure” – they have trumped themselves with their latest addition to their portfolio.
VirtuWall is a fully facilitated, 100% on-line, full-blown team building activity designed exclusively for virtual teams. Team members join in from wherever they are – all they need is an Internet connection and a browser. It combines fun with team learning that has direct and real relevance to virtual teams. And it isn’t just Sandstone claiming that – the first client of theirs to benefit from this new experience is in full agreement:
“We had a fantastic day and I have had great feedback from all regions.” says Glynis Moreton, Marsh & McLennan’s Director of Finance Infrastructure Solutions – Global Support. With over 50,000 employees, Marsh & McLennan companies are among the world’s leading global advice and solutions providers in risk, strategy and human capital. The FIS team supports the whole group, with a presence on every continent except the Antarctic.
“It’s not practical for us to all get together.” Moreton continues. “There are some 120 of us and as much as we’d love to get everyone in the same room, the negatives outweigh the positives for that to happen. Apart from the logistics and the cost there’s the fact that we work together through technology and any team activity that didn’t duplicate that would be missing a key parallel back into our workplace. We wanted something that everyone could enjoy – whether they were in an office with a few colleagues or on their own at home – and that offered some insights that would help us develop as one, big global team. VirtuWall certainly delivered all of that for us.”
Sandstone’s web-based technology is the glue that holds it all together. For those with a technical interest, it is AJAX based, hosted on a dedicated server with partners Titan Internet and incorporates the lead facilitator through an embedded, dedicated “pro” video stream served by Livestream.
Describing the action is best left to Sandstone’s Nikki Hunt. She explains “VirtuWall is fundamentally collaborative. The ‘wall’ part of the name refers to a large client-supplied image that is relevant and of interest to the group. At the start, it is covered up and, organized into teams, the group as a whole need to work together to uncover it by tackling a huge variety of tasks the system sets them. The sheer variety means people can choose to do things they enjoy, whether cerebral in nature, creative, lightly physical and so on. Some tasks can be tackled quickly by individuals while others require a few people to work together, sometimes across locations. Others still require all teams to work together. A few of the tasks are competitive, and these often generate the most laughter.”
Hunt concludes “At the end of the session, we’ve delivered many parallels for the client to the way the team works day-to-day. Sometimes people have to get on with individual tasks, sometimes they need to work in their teams and always for the good of the group as a whole. They’ve had to use technology to co-ordinate their actions in order to deliver the most that they can and communicate across locations effectively. We’re able to use those parallels in a focused debriefing session at the end to send teams away ready to improve and with huge smiles on their faces.”
The last word should surely be from the client, though. Glynis Moreton again: “I’ve already recommended it internally.” Perhaps it will not be long until there are more faces with huge smiles on them.
Nikki Hunt, Lead Facilitator, Sandstone
The VirtuWall Interface
Formed in 1992, Sandstone is a family-owned and family-run business that cares about quality and client satisfaction. It develops and runs unique activities that mixes participant enjoyment with team, departmental and organisational improvement. Based in the UK, it operates both nationally and internationally through a worldwide network of partners and its innovative web-based activities.