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Friday, 23 December 2011

New England Biolabs Company Conference - 9 key Customer service Teamworking Skills

The acronym "DNA" is often hijacked by Sales Executives as a shorthand metaphor for the core benefits in a Sales DVP ( Differentiated Value Proposition) or else by management gurus to describe the cultural essence of an organisation.


 So it was enlightening to facilitate on behalf of TACK International at a  team building event and conference held by New England Biolabs UK - world leaders in biological reagents including real DNA at Hitchin Priory.


 (This post has loads of video clips, photos and content of the fun team working experience we had)




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NEB's 'Group Phusion' sharing thoughts on benchmarking and metrics. Music room at Hitchin Priory
Having closed down the office on the Wednesday before the holiday break, the whole UK operation of NEB met for a team building  and business meeting in the historic Hitchin Priory conference centre.

 As with so many technological companies it is rare for the whole pf NEB UK to gather under the same roof to take stock of the state of the business the lessons learnt and to treat themselves  some thinking time to considering the future challenges and opportunities that are on offer.


I was particularly impressed how all the members of NEB were so open minded and prepared to risk leaving their day to day the 'comfort zones' of their specialisms, expertise and roles, to free think both the strategic and tactical challenges set them.


The morning was spent considering some 'big picture'  and 'heady' stuff.
  • Corporate cultures ( Power, Role, Task and People cultures) Charles Handy's classic on Changing-Organisations What transitions has NEB gone through what the the future hold?
  • Individual Personality and styles ( Lion, Monkey, Dolphin and Elephant - Nigel Risner'sThe Impact Code) Our own individual impact within the company and with clients.
  • Moments of opportunities ('MOO' moments) for NEB for 2012 The teams generated loads of ideas to those touch points with clients for opportunities to cross sell and provide a broader offering.
  • Benchmarking ' Hero' companies whose customer service values the various NEB teams admire and who they will actively follow throughout 2012. One team elected to followAmazon, another Google and lastly John Lewis.
  • Striving for Customer service excellence.
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'Helen's heroes' discussing their views on what Customer service excellence is for NEB customers. Music Room at Hitchin Priory


The afternoon was a session on team building. Rather a running a conventional session on the key elements of teamwork in business I took the risk ( and NEB were up for  the challenge) and set the teams a detailed task  I had written to build a  model replica of a mangonel ( medieval catapult) as used in the Siege of Bedford in 1224 along with an information quiz and other diversions..

So just before lunch the groups were supplied with a long and detailed brief and a set of tasks to be completed before 3 p.m.

The teams mixed with various disciplines such as scientists, salespeople, warehouse and shipping, order processing. In the first few moments you could see many in the groups wondering could this all be completed.

But this exercise was not just an entertaining teamwork challenge without real learning objectives because each team was to be observed by a team member who was to observe and record how the team went about the task and then to report their findings after the sessions to the whole conference at the end of the day. The observer presenters were  Laura and Mel, Rachel and Jacey and did a great job mixing both amusing ,serious,insightful and constructive observations.
Mikel studying the brief... intently



David measuring a key component  of his team's construction




Brainstorming ideas
Chris and Calin considering various design options


The observers Jacy, Rachel, Laura and Mel structured their observations and presentations around the following 9 key teamwork skills.
  1. Listening - to listen to other people's opinions. When people are allowed to freely express their ideas, these initial ideas will produce other ideas.
  2. Discussing to discuss your ideas with your teammates until you agree.
  3. Questioning - t to ask questions, interact, and discuss the objectives of the team.
  4. Persuading - individuals are encouraged to exchange, defend, and then to ultimately rethink their ideas.
  5. Respecting - to treat others with respect and to support their ideas
  6. Helping - help one's co-workers, which is the general theme of teamwork.
  7. Collaborating - to share with the team to create an environment of teamwork.
  8. Participating - all members of the team are encouraged to participate in the team.
  9. Communicating - For a team to work effectively it is essential for team members to acquire communication skills and to use effective communication between one another e.g. face to face in this exercise,  in work additionally phone, using email, social media communication, group meetings etc. This will enable team members of the group to work together and achieve the team's purpose and goals.
"Is that going to work?"
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" Measure twice cut once!"


The NEB Teams went through the classic stages of Forming Storming Norming Performing and Reforming  successfully became increasingly effective as the task progressed.

 • Objectives were discussed and  goals agreed
• Their openness and healthy confrontation ( little instances were observed here happily)
• Support and trust was engendered
• Co-operation and conflict were experienced and resolved respectively
• Good decision making by both empowered team members and leaders
• Appropriate leadership from the team leaders ( coxswains) Laura , Helen and Dawn kept a light touch on the helm of their various boats 
•  The teams review of their process in a natural way and kept an eye on the clock
•  The inter-group relationships were established early on and prospered
• Individual development opportunities were sort and


utilised.  For example one 'Phusion' team member , Wayne,


had expertise to share, having formerly served in the Royal


 Electrical and Mechanical Engineers ! ( REME)
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"Practise makes perfect"
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"Fine tuning"
" Studied concentration"


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" Power drill makes the job easier"


 The  NEB UK teams proudly posed  for a photograph with their model mangonels before the ultimate test - but would their models work??!!!!


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'Helen's Heroes' Darren, Jacy, Mikel ,Ed ,Helen ,Michelle, Ginny with
"The Crush'em" - patents pending!


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'Dawn's destroyers' Dawn, David Amanda Rachel Lynsey Chris ,Calin 


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'Team Phusion' Sharon Laura, Wayne ,Sarah , Adam, Edwin and Mel


The denouement the siege engines put to the test.
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Our conference venue was Hitchin Priory owned by Chartridge. The site was formerly a Carmelite Monastery and some of the old walls from medieval times are to be found in the hotel. The Music room and Lady Julia's room provided plenty of room for the various tasks of the day plus beautiful setting of a Regency elegance as a contrast to modern office environments.
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Hitchin Priory  part of the Chartridge group  venue for NEB meeting December 2011




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