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Inheritance, Esprit de Corps, Collaboration

F.Y. Teng | Nov. 4, 2010
Ciscos MD for Singapore and Brunei Irving Tan on the value of job experience, team building and tapping mature markets.

I think I put a lot of effort into rebuilding that pride and esprit de corps of the team. So much so, that I even sent all of them to Outward Bound School [OBS] on Pulau Ubin. Every single one of us went to Pulau Ubin, and we did fairly strenuous, and I should say hazardous, activities, including some high-wire activities where you find that suddenly your fate depended on your friends and your co-workers that were holding on to you. It was really a cross-functional team. We extended it beyond just the people who worked directly for me to all the stakeholders that make our business successful. So there we were, with the finance people, the services people, the customers, and the services folks. I looked at the whole value chain that supported the Singapore organisation and we created cross-functional teams and we sent them off to [OBS].

Thats phase one of a multiphase drive were working on. Weve got three more phases to go. But  I can already see some positive things coming out of this exercise. Our people had a lot of fun, yes, but I think the bigger impact could be seen when they got back to the workplace. Where people used to just communicate through e-mail, there was now more of that personal bond between them because, theyre thinking to themselves, Hey, at some point of my life was in your hands when we were out there. People picked up the phone and called each other and there was a lot more willingness to go that extra mile to get things done. That was one of the challenges, but it has also become one of the bigger successes Ive encountered so far.

Initially there were gripes. Why do I have to go and spend a day in the sun? and all that. But the first batch, about 100 people, who went andI didnt engineer thiscame back and gave such a glowing review of what they had experienced that the rest of the people were actually looking forward to going. So now the question I get is: When do we go for Phase two? Thats good.

So what about the next phases?
They will still be done in conjunction with outward bound, where the challenges that the teams have to go through become increasingly more complex and challenging. This programme is really about taking a four-step approach to building trust and improving the level of communication and collaboration across the organisation.

Cisco is a company that has moved to a collaborative management style, where we have more boards and councils for decision-making. But you have to put in certain stimulus and certain enablers to make that happen as well, so this kind of activities have great value. I went through it many years ago at a different organisation, and I saw the value and the impact not only immediately but over a three- to four-year period. It really is a fundamental paradigm shift in the way people communicate and the way people collaborate. We had to cut some of our expenditure in some other areas in order to fund these activities but its money well spent.


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