How VIVO 2019 changed my vision of the future of Offi

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12 years ago, when we first started thinking about team building week-end, we were seeing all other companies taking their staff to the beach to have plain careless vacation.

That didn’t sound right to us. For one, I must admit we didn’t have a lot of money and we wanted any spending to be made useful and productive. For two, going in vacation sounded like work is ****, so that’s why we need to break. Well, making **** of people’s life was NOT part of our intention in creating Officience ! We were dreaming of a place where work would be fun. But life is not perfect, and we did realize that daily life at Offi was not always fun :-(. We wanted to think it was not because us the top management, but rather because of other external constraints such as customers. So if there was no customer, work could be fun ! Can we prove it ? Challenge accepted !

That’s how we came to the idea that we could take 2 days off from any outside constraints, no project imposed on us, no customer, and prove that in such environment we could be both working and loving it. It was meant to be pure Offi spirit, concentrated within 2 days : Very Intense,Very Offi.

Things have evolved a lot since then. For one, we have let go the idea that a few circle of expert top managers could manipulate the rest to be happy. Some will call it lowering our expectation and admitting failure, but we like to call that respect of individual freedom. All we can do from outside is exchange feelings, trust and knowledge with you, but then the recipe for happiness is your to find inside yourself.

In that perspective, since the Offi spirit had changed, VIVO had to change, otherwise it would not be very Offi anymore. From 2007 until 2014 VIVO was a gift from the managers and team leaders to all other Offies, in the philosophy of servant leadership – although we didn’t know the word back then – and an opportunity for them to lead by example, not by authority status.

This year, VIVO was organized by an external company and ended being very.. vietnamese. Unconsequential games on the beach and simple activities without much meaning, but fun was here. Not my kind of stuff, to be honest, so I will just leave you with the video if you want to relive the event.

Then it was followed by AfterVIVO. For the first time, we could find two amazing facilitators to help us work out a vision for the future, so that we could know where we are going. 

Huan Trang

Lack of a strategy, lack of vision, was something I was blamed for a lot in the past. I tried to explain and explain again until I realized people don’t truly want to be explained, like I didn’t want to know what everyone is doing every day : most Offies don’t want to know the vision, they want to know that I know the vision, be sure that I am taking care of it. Because it’s my job as CEO.

Except I’m no CEO anymore. Since I surrendered up my authority to the Handbook, the rules are all there, and instead of a vision, we have  “self-evolutionary Purpose”. What the heck does it means ? It means we will go where our collective intelligence is telling us to go. I know that during many years, nobody really believed it. After all, the 5 causes were not democratically chosen in the first place ! And I have been using all my heart and my influence to keep them in place. Anyway, when we, the Executive Committee, back in 2014 stopped giving orders to people, the priority was not to think long term. The priority was to keep things in place and continue to deliver our commitments to the utmost customer satisfaction. But now it’s been 5 years and we executed that pretty well. Things are running, new customers are coming, old customers are coming back. So people start to raise the head and look long term again. Where are we going ? We have a little bit of money, what do we want to do with it ? Invest where ? We need a strategy !

I was going to the weekend knowing that we would not find a single vision and strategy. We are like a murmuration of starlings :

I suspected some other Offies were hoping to come out of these two days with a clear vision, a one-sentence slide with a strategy, that we would decline into smaller pieces to make our action plan for 2020. But that was not my expectation. My expectation was that everyone would get inside him/herself, true open their mind, and share his/her vision of the future. And we would celebrate this diversity and move forward knowing each other with a little bit more intimacy. What a naive fool I was !

What turned out is we did NOT create a vision. We created a comfort zone, listened to each other, understood each other, revealed our true selves, and then : share aspirations and launched projects and action plans ! We completely bypassed the intellectual abstraction level that is usually considered as a mandatory step to produce a plan. We made ourselves comfortable with the next steps of everyone, ready to move in harmony, in awareness of each other…. very beautiful. Honestly, compared to the traditional top-down approach, I don’t expect our success rate to transform these initiatives to be and higher or lower. And because we have not set up a 5 years vision, we’ll have to re-do this exercise in 6 months, to re-synchronize ourselves. But the HUGE win is that we are all happy to have been considered, heard, happy to be together and committed to things we find truly important. Our Purpose has been self-evolving and we came out of it in true Wholeness, without compromise.

I loved it.

Nothing is eternal. Before that week-end, I was expecting that some day, someone would raise popularity and influence within our tribe and gather so many followers, that she would be replacing me in the heart of everyone, and that would be the sign that I should retire. I would maybe negotiate a pension with that person and will have to pursue my Element somewhere else. Now, I see a future where there is no single leader ever anymore, just a group of top influencers meeting each other every 6 months like this, on and on. And it brings me peace. Because now, Officience can be eternal.

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