Curating Greatness with Ralph Lauren – Q&A with Laura Winch

 

Laura is our totally awesome User-Experience Design Manager. When she joined e3 in February 2014 she started working with one of our luxury retail clients . Here we interview her…

 

1. Let’s start with a bit of background about this project. What was it all about?
This is the second year we’ve worked with this client. We facilitated their leadership offsite last year when Senior Vice President first joined the team. It was a great opportunity to work with them again for the second year, especially as there were new members to the team and several changes to the organization structure.

We had three days scheduled with the Leadership Team at their offsite in Hong Kong but the project didn’t start or end there. The pre-work and follow up sessions were as important as the offsite.

 

 

2. How did you get started?
Starting a project like this is always daunting but very exciting. There were a lot of people to meet and to make the leadership offsite a success we had to know what problems we were trying to solve. Which meant stepping in to the world of the Merchandising team…

We facilitated 7 x full-day workshops with each team, exploring team dynamics, painstorming as well as diving deep in to their business strategies and action plans. Prior to that, each person had completed a team effectiveness survey so we were able to spot patterns.

Each member of the leadership team also participated in 360 degree surveys with one-one follow up sessions to go through their reports. This helped them see where their areas of focus should be but also guided us when thinking about the offsite agenda.

 

 

3. How did all this engagement shape the actual offsite meeting?
Our workshops gave us a fantastic insight in to each team but also in to the way the function worked together as a whole.They are an extremely talented team and recognised that there is always room for improvement. The painstorming exercise was particularly interesting, common themes were coming from each workshop. All these inputs fed into the design of the agenda for the offsite.

 

4. Tell us about the leadership offsite event.

I always say organizing an event is like a rollercoaster. This one was no different! After looking at what felt like 100 venues, and none being exactly right, we decided on using a different venue each day. I can’t say we made it easy for ourselves!

We knew how important it would be to mix up the space and environment so changing up the days entirely felt like the right thing to do. Taking inspiration from the brand we chose three very different lifestyles to create three unique experiences: The Hamptons, Americana and Hollywood Glamour.

Our invitations were a moodboard, made up of images representing the three themes. It was very inline with the Brand and each one was wrapped in beautiful black paper. We hand delivered them in Hong Kong and sent them to the rest of the team across Asia, Australia and New York.

When it came to the agenda design, each day was vastly different. We started slowly on day one, taking the time for ‘Connection’. It takes time for the participants to connect and it takes effort to create a safe environment for people to open up and engage. We spent the entire day getting people to talk, share, listen, connect and open their minds. Malissa took the time to hand-write personal cards to the 39 people on her team, and spent two hours going around the room and celebrating their achievements. It was very powerful.

Day two was focused around creating a strategic narrative for the function. The group was split in to smaller groups and each was involved in a different part of the Merchandising Story. Bringing everyone back together at the end of the day to hear the outcome was a significant moment for the team.

Day three was more about identifying the issues that were causing the most pain and committing to driving change.

I look back on the offsite and despite the pressure to find three equally awesome venues and panic to organize logistics and agendas I would do it all over again tomorrow. There’s something incredibly special about working up to a certain point on a project and seeing everyone and everything come together.

 

5. What were the outcomes of the offsite event?
We didn’t want to lose any momentum after the offsite. The Leadership team left on such a high with incredible energy and force to go forward, the last thing we wanted to do was get lost back in the day to day.

Each person at the offsite left with very clear actions, this was so important to them driving change. We scheduled in a follow up session and maintained close contact with the teams to check progress since the offsite.

The follow up event was for the entire function. It was a great opportunity to loop back in with those who attended the workshops, pre offsite, and invested a whole day to share feedback and challenges they faced.

We covered what we went through during the offsite with the leadership team running different interactive stations, each one representing a particular pain point that they were responsible for addressing. It was an extremely fun, high-energy day to close off the project.