Zenmersions, or how Zentyal staff does team building

Team building at ZentyalTeam building is a great philosophy in organizational development that helps considering employees as people working in collaboration with other people and teams, instead of as individual robots, achieving their goals due solely to their individual performance. Team building activities can range from simple exercises (like Helium Stick, Toxic Waste or Mine Field, to name a few) to multi-day retreats (full of such exercises).

Some people believe this is just cowpoo, and I agree that it feels a bit awkward and unnatural in the beginning to play silly games with your boss (or even with your boss’s boss). But on the other hand it is hard to break the ice and create the proper relationships in the typical work environment.

But in a start-up, team building is even more important, because you not only need to build teams from scratch, but also the whole company culture. And even worse, there is no budget nor time to set up such activities properly.

So, how do we do it at Zentyal? To begin with, it is common to meet after work once or twice a week to grab a few beers, have dinner, go to movies (the vintage old-fashioned movie theatre) or whatever comes to mind.

But the most enjoyable activities are the Zenmersions, consisting on several Zentyalers packing their bags and moving somewhere else (Internet connection is required) for 5-10 days of co-existence, recreational activities, brainstormings and telework. Usually they depend on individual initiative and funding and they are organized either at some colleague’s house (generously lent for the occasion) or at some city in Europe with an event deemed interesting for most of the staff. Obviously, it is voluntary to join the Zenmersion and for some it is hard to attend due to personal duties. Or some might just prefer keeping a clear division between work and pleasure, which is perfectly respectable. But most Zentyalers have participated in at least one Zenmersion and you can now feel a great comradeship atmosphere among he staff.

It all started from bencer, who invited the whole team to go and visit him in Germany during summer 2010. He eventually managed to gather eight of us and the experience was so good that we set up a similar gathering again a few months later. And again. And again.

Zenmersions are a lot of fun from the personal point of view, but they also help knowing your colleagues much better and creating stronger bonds within the team. Also, they are the perfect environment for brainstorming and many good ideas have emerged from them. Besides, there are plenty of funny stories during each Zenmersion that become good old chestnuts. I won’t publish them in this blog, but you can ask me during the Summit :-)

Here are all the Zenmersions organized so far:

  • Münster (Germany): the first and origin of all the barbarity. We came up with many of the catch phrases we use today at Zentyal.
  • Arnedo (Spain): a memorable Zenmersion at exekias’ home town. Rioja wine and The Settlers of Catan helped fight the cold winter days.
  • Brussels (Belgium): the first Zenmersion organized with the excuse of FOSDEM. We managed to close the Delirium Tremens four days in a row!
  • Budapest (Hungary): a barbaric Zenmersion organized with the UDS as our background. Lovely city, very original night-life and good new contacts in Ubuntu/Canonical that eventually lead to two partnership agreements.
  • Brussels (Belgium): second time in FOSDEM, the first time we reached 10+ attendees in a Zenmersion. It will always be remembered by a snow blizzard that collapsed the whole country. It took us four hours to get from the airport to the city!
  • Helsinki (Finland): a board of directors meeting was the excuse to bring the team and spend several days in Helsinki. White nights, Molly Malone and plenty of broken hearts. Our investors joined me and a few metal warriors to attend Tuska, the biggest Metal festival in Finland. And a few brave guys continued to experience the Nordic wilderness and fight the swarms of mosquitos.
  • Galicia (Spain): a delightful Zenmersion hosted by Javiv and J at Vigo, where eating was king. Oh, the lobster! Oh, the crabs! I got two kilos fatter in just 4 days!

Now you know what you are missing for not working at Zentyal 😉

Here are a few selected pictures to give you an idea of what a Zenmersion looks like:

Zenmersion in Münster - Learning teamrowing
Zenmersion in Münster – Learning teamrowing

Zenmersion in Arnedo - Javi's birthday
Zenmersion in Arnedo – Javi’s birthday

Zenmersion in Brussels - FOSDEM 2011 closing ceremony
Zenmersion in Brussels – FOSDEM 2011 closing ceremony

Zenmersion in Budapest - Statue of Anonymous
Zenmersion in Budapest – Statue of Anonymous

Zenmersion in Brussels - Afetr the Zentyal session in FOSDEM
Zenmersion in Brussels – After the Zentyal session in FOSDEM

Zenmersion in Helsinki - Tuska
Zenmersion in Helsinki – Tuska

Zenmersion in Helsinki - Rowing on a lake
Zenmersion in Helsinki – Rowing on a lake

Zenmersion in Galicia - Swimming pool
Zenmersion in Galicia – Swimming pool

Zenmersion in Galicia - Private concert
Zenmersion in Galicia – Private concert

3 comments August 19th, 2012




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