The Power of In-Person: Three Years of K15t Team Week
K15t Team Week is now ten iterations young, and the way that it’s grown from an experiment and quarterly ceremony to be the beating heart of our working culture is a remarkable thing. Though Team Week ten wrapped up in December 2023, we’re still feeling the energy flowing into our new year, so we thought we’d look back and share a bit about what makes these weeks so special.
2021: Team Week is Born
As the world was still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, Team Week emerged as a beacon of connection. Like a lot of the working world, we went fully remote in 2020 for the first time. And it certainly had its positive aspects – in fact, we’ve kept a flexible working policy through to today. But after a time, many of our teams were feeling the need to build and maintain meaningful in-person connections. We missed the magic of the ad hoc idea sharing and informal conversation which happens when we’re together.
The concept of the solution was simple but powerful: combine end-of-quarter retrospectives with cross-team collaborative sessions and social events, with the whole company converging at our headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Colleagues from the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, and the US all joined in, transcending geographical boundaries, to strengthen our bonds beyond the limits of the computer screen.
To understand what Team Week is about, let's delve into one of its key components - the Barcamp sessions. Participants brainstorm topics, ranging from practical discussions on how to deliver new kinds of value to our customers or improve the way that we work with one another, to simple informal chats such as how work has changed since the introduction of AI.
Anyone can post their session idea to a grid of rooms and time slots, and groups form to engage in open conversation and healthy debate, before reconvening in the main conference to share insights and generate new ideas.
2022: Embracing Change and Unity
Team Week 2022 marked some significant changes from its inaugural year in 2021, where the first experiments ignited a spark of interest and enthusiasm among participants. The initial ones provided valuable insights, and we learned lots of lessons which helped us to refine the format.
We evolved how we organized team meetings, with a heightened focus on maximizing spending time together. Inclusive rounds of workshops, retrospective sessions, and strategic planning for the upcoming quarter became integral parts of these gatherings. The teams, having learned from the previous year’s experiences, were more attuned to what formats worked best for their unique dynamics.
The evolution extended to the after-work activities, creating a new vibrancy and enthusiasm for them. Cherished formats emerged, which are now eagerly anticipated by colleagues. Notably, the Wednesday board game night in the company kitchen became a beloved tradition, offering an array of board and card games for every taste. Another fitness-oriented favorite is the 'Sweaty Sweater' CrossFit session at the beginning of the week, fostering team unity and physical well-being.
The essence of Team Week is to allow people from disparate ends of the company to connect, understand different points of view, and deepen personal connections with one another. The social events are a highlight, with various teams gathering at places like the Black Light Minigolf parcours, the Mozzarella Bar for late-night drinks and fancy Italian snacks, the Vhy Restaurant for a gourmet vegan meal, or even invigorating in-office yoga and movement sessions.
2023: Making Great Better
As we fast forward to our most recent Team Week, marking a remarkable tenth iteration, it's evident that this tradition now is at the heart of our collaborative ethos. Our mornings kick off at Kulturwerk, our local restaurant and cultural organization, setting the stage for engaging discussions and enlightening demo presentations which showcase three months' worth of fruitful teamwork.
The evolution continues with innovative workshop formats such as an HBDI profile exploration, sessions on K15t cultural topics like self-organized teams to get feedback for new processes, or taking care of our colleagues' well-being by organizing health checks and yoga sessions.
Looking Ahead: The Continued Evolution of In-Person Connection
As we reflect on the past three years and a decade of Team Weeks, this tradition has become a cornerstone of our company culture. It's more than just a week of activities; it's a celebration of unity, collaboration, and the power of meaningful connections. Each member of the K15t team is capable of doing great work remotely, but Team Week is what elevates our capabilities, making great work even better.
Looking ahead, we're excited about what’s next for Team Week. Each iteration has laid the foundation for the next one’s success: it's about shared moments, strengthened connections, and the anticipation of more collaborative and meaningful experiences in the year to come.