A fast growing product development division of PayPal wanted to “shake up” their quarterly All-Hands from a one hour status update on key initiatives to a truly interactive session that allowed for the normal updates and allowed for the entire division (of nearly 300 employees and managers) to identify the key opportunities and threats to their success.
This division has offices throughout the US and in three other countries (India, Singapore and England), and is rapidly adding staff from IT programmers to sales & marketing teams and is developing a new suite of client offerings.
The session could not be longer than a few hours and during that time several objectives had to be met:
- Ensuring that everyone in the division understood where they were headed (clarity on the annual goals)
- Highlighting examples of creative and successful risk-taking to spur on new thinking and ways of working together
- Reality checking from across the division — what is working and what is getting in the way of achieving success
- Answering the ‘tough’ questions. The senior leadership wanted to a way to gather the most pressing questions and respond to them during the session
- Creating a sense of a collective “our division” despite the geographic boundaries
As we began this engagement, our upfront time was spent on learning what PayPal wanted to achieve by holding the All-Hands, what had they done in the past, and what the parameters were around innovating the session — how many locations needed to participate, time zone logistics, available technology (such as webcasting) and time allotted.
We quickly realized that key to the session’s success would be balancing how much presentation time to allow for (to ensure everyone had the most current information) and how many rounds of discussion could be done to build a collective division view regarding “what is really going on”. Additionally, we knew that we had to use the technology to the fullest to really create “One All-Hands” regardless if the employee was in the main US site or in England.
We presented a detailed strawman agenda with the content of each segment along with the corresponding use of Covision processes from table discussions to polling questions and corresponding use of webcasting technology to create a dynamic All-Hands. Working with our key clients over the course of a few weeks we went from our strawman design to a final agenda design and in parallel we with worked with AV and production staff in all key sites to ensure smooth implementation of the technology.
All of the session objectives were met in a three-hour session. Conducting several rounds of table discussions allowed for the employees to integrate what they were hearing and be able to reflect back the key issues to tackle if they wanted to succeed. Because all the sites were connected via a common website portal, all responses were seen by the leadership; thus during the actual meeting a “collective” Division perspective emerged.
Another benefit of using the Covision technology was the ability of the employees to ask anonymous questions. All questions were tagged by ‘where’ they came from (San Jose, Austin, London), but not who asked the question. When the senior leaders responded, they could say, “from London, our colleagues there want to know xyz… ” And having the webcasting technology, allowed people to be ‘visible’ and to be acknowledged for their contributions and kept a visual interest for those participating remotely. All of the technology providing for a “collective” Division experience.
From the employees’ perspective, they did not have to sit thru hours of presentation, but rather they had opportunities throughout to discuss, offer their opinions and provide valuable feedback to the senior leaders. Feedback that might otherwise not have been given if this had been a more ‘traditional’ style meeting.
An outcome that was not explicit in the upfront design, but is embedded in why engage in an interactive meeting, is that the leaders and employees are poised to act on the collective ideas. Seeing the genesis of new decisions or new projects that arise from the meeting, employees are more willing to adapt and change course. Because there is less resistance to the change, the change can be implemented faster.
“By all accounts, the best one ever. And, the universally cited reason was the interactivity. You guys did a great job, and it was particularly cool to have all the real-time feedback available in a Word doc immediately after, so we can follow up on it.”
Sam Shrauger, VP Global Product & Experience, PayPal