To increase productivity and establish a collegial but efficient team, I began a Friday group luncheon event. Every Friday, I had the company order lunches, mostly pizza, so that we could eat as a group. But I added a twist: one person, alternating the presenter every week, from this group would deliver an informal presentation on the project he/she would be working on. I thought to myself that the lunch costs were marginal in relation to the final objective: finalize the products on time.
Now I learned this management technique from a financial trading group that worked intensely, and lunches were ordered every day – so that they would not leave the trading floor. I noted that this lunch program had the added benefit: they worked closely as a team. The trading area was one major office with screens and desks. Instant information had to be delivered quickly. They breathed the same air. They exchanged millions of dollars every minute and could not afford mistakes. And, if it were not the environment they had established, I doubt that it would have continued that way.
I also noted that in large law firms with internal dining areas, lunch offered the opportunity to speak with colleagues or partners on other matters. And to have lawyers working as a team is a major challenge.
For start-ups, I saw this lunch model applicable to teams where projects had to be completed quickly and on-time. And I applied the same idea as long as the end of the week became that convivial atmosphere. But in a trading floor, every trader is articulate; he/she needs to negotiate on the phone every day. With a programming team, I became concerned of the reticence. Then I thought that every programmer enjoys speaking about his code and projects. So I thought that having a team member deliver a presentation would be an added feature to these lunches.
And this system worked for the start-up. The start-up needed to deliver specific prototypes with fixed deadlines. Failure to do so would mean additional cost of capital as the contract included penalties for not delivering prototypes as configured. I needed an efficient but dedicated team. I set up this weekly lunch and dog and pony show. And, at no time, did I see the dedication of each team member falter. Whenever the work required overtime to get the project done, not one person hesitated.
I believe that, as a team leader, you have to seek the right formula to get the most out of your team: You have to build a sense of group consciousness that each member feels invaluable and is willing to do whatever is necessary to have the team win. I have noted that high school football coaches have a similar program – prior to the beginning of the season, the coach will have the team spend a week together, eating and sleeping as a group. Prior to each game, the coach would have the team share a meal. I see no difference between that athletic program and business management teams. In order to win in business, everyone must have a stake to win, both as individuals and as a team. This way you increase the productivity where the parts added together become greater than the whole.