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 huge budget but we wanted our spending to be meaningful and necessary. For two, going on a vacation sounds like we were dying to work for days, so that we truly need to break. Well, messing up people’s lives with uncountable tasks was not a part of our intention in creating the unique environment at Officience! 

We were dreaming of a place where work would be happy and joyful. But life won’t let us live in our dream, we did realize that daily life at Offy was different :-(. We wanted to think that top management was one of the factors, but it seems like other external constraints such as customers could be more reasonable. So if there was no customer, work could be fun ! 

Can we prove it ? Challenge accepted !

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

Things have evolved a lot since then. We have let go of the intention that a few circles 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 to find inside yourself.

In that perspective, since the Offy spirit had changed, VIVO had to change, otherwise it would not be very Offy 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 up being very Vietnamese. Inconsequential 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 After VIVO. 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.

Lack of a strategy, lack of vision, was something that I blamed for a lot in the past. I had tried to explain again and again until I realized people don’t truly want to understand. For instance, I didn’t want to know what everyone is doing every day, so putting effort to share your day in detail with me is wasting time. I acknowledged that most Offies don’t want to know the vision but they want me to define 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 my authority to the Handbook, the rules are all there, and instead of a vision, we have “Self-evolutionary Purpose”. What does it mean ? 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, it 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 returning. So people start to raise awareness and look for long term decisions again. Where are we going? We have a tight budget, what do we want to do with it? Where should we invest? 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 believed some Offies may take away some essential tips after the trip with a clear vision, a one-sentence slide with a strategy, that we would break it into smaller pieces to make our 2020 action plan more efficient. But that was not my deep expectation. My expectation was that everyone would figure out their insightful value , open-minded, and share his/her vision of the future. By then, 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 such a surprise!

We did NOT create a vision, we created a comfort zone. In which we are open to  listening, understanding, revealing our true selves, and then share aspirations, launch 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 higher or lower. 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.

By Duc-Ha Duong

Share with: