By Lydia Herberts and Ben Lewis
i3Works has gone through a period of rapid growth in the few years, going from 57 personnel in June 2021 to 106 today (January 2023). The effect of which has been particularly noticeable with the Project Controls team, with the headcount growing exponentially. This has brought challenges to communication but also in retaining an established culture. i3Works prides itself on a culture of inclusivity and so this has raised the question – how do we effectively communicate as a function whilst also making everyone feel part of the team?
Before the rapid growth of i3Works, the Project Controls service line was made up of much smaller team, meaning engagement across the function was much higher, internal communications proliferated more smoothly and professional relationships were much easier to form. The weekly meetings provided a forum for the team to discuss individual workloads, highlight successes and voice any challenges. However, it became evident that as the headcount grew, these meetings were becoming less effective and more difficult to maintain.
To ensure the continued effectiveness of the Project Controls update and to appropriately utilise the team’s valuable time, a dynamic solution was required.
Using feedback mechanisms and by allowing everyone to provide their suggestions and ideas, the Project Controls team were able to find and implement a new format going forward.
We introduced a new concept to our weekly meeting, a ‘Topic of the Week’. This helps to encourage meaningful conversation and support the improvement of soft skills across the function. Each topic is relevant to consultants at all levels, encourages engagement and offers the opportunity to share experiences and learn from one another. The topics covered are wide-ranging and touch on both professional and personal subjects, for instance, productivity, goalsetting and adapting to different environments.
The decision on which topic is to be discussed each week is made by committee and a poll goes out to the function and gives everyone the platform to vote. The topic with the highest number of votes is then the basis for the next meeting. Additionally, everyone has the opportunity to suggest new topics for the following weeks. A key piece of feedback from the team highlights that having the autonomy to decide the direction for the topic is valuable as it is, “decided by consensus and also thought-provoking. They play to the strengths of different people every time and allow people to pass on their knowledge”.
This change in format has led to tangible benefits across the function. For instance, the Controls Update utilises the experience and skills across the team as a means to communicate best practice and tips which may not have been previously considered. We have also found that discussing the topic in smaller groups fosters engagement with a facilitator chairing the conversation and ensuring everyone has a chance to contribute. The ability to discuss the topics within a smaller group has encouraged those within them to build relationships on a more personal level, with some feeling they have ‘learnt some useful advice from the sessions. It’s also reassuring to know that other colleagues have experienced the same feelings.’ Lastly, a repository of notes is created as a summary of the discussion within the meeting along with key articles, tools, and techniques. This is available to everyone within the function and is an artefact of both groups coming together to discuss tips at the end of the meeting.
As the format of our meetings began to change, one of the key lessons learned was that including our team’s feedback and gaining their buy-in led to the greatest positive outcomes, with engagement and meaningful conversation increasing as a result.
Lucy Rushin, Head of Project Controls said, “Providing a safe place for individuals to reach back into the wider team from client engagements to share skills, experience, and valuable insights into the work we do. Enabling a learning and sharing platform is key to keeping people engaged and heard within the organisation. It’s also a one-stop shop for me to provide any highlights to teams in one meeting to minimise disruption on a day-to-day basis.’
We have seen great improvements in team communication, morale, and engagement since implementing the ‘Topic of the Week’ format and we want to see this continue. To promote continuous improvement, we are providing a platform for the team to offer their feedback and we will adapt as we grow. We wanted to share these insights with a wider network and will continue to do so in the form of further articles covering the topics discussed in future.
Read more from Ben and Lydia in their follow-up article, ‘Adapting to New Environments‘.