The following case study provides a more in-depth look at what a Muddy Shoe Team Adventure might look like from beginning to end. While the specifics of the program—the company/industry, destination, etc.—have been anonymized, the program model used below is very much the same throughout all Muddy Shoe Team Adventures.
- Client: Software company based in Portland, OR with 500+ employees
- Program Length: 5 days / 4 nights
- Destination / Location: Rogue River, OR
- Adventure Activities: Whitewater Rafting, Hiking
- Accommodations: Lodges on the banks of the river
- Group Size: 12 members of the Leadership Team
- Key Challenge: Collaborating across divisions / departments
- MSA Program Leaders: 2
INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
A prospective client approached Muddy Shoe Adventures about the possibility of doing a MSA Team Adventure to improve cross-division and interdepartmental communication and collaboration. Based on preliminary information shared by the client, MSA recommended a free, in-depth consultation to further discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the company. A conference call was scheduled for the following week.
The Pre-Program Consultation call lasted approximately one hour. During the call, 2 MSA Program Leaders spoke with the CEO and COO. The prospective clients discussed some of the challenges they were facing in the workplace, specifically cross-division/departmental communication and collaboration issues that were leading to tension, conflict and decreased productivity. The MSA Team probed for additional information, and made the following notes:
- The Leadership Team consists of 8 Division heads + 4 C-Level Executives.
- Critical Challenge: Cross-division and department communication and collaboration.
- Preferred program length was 3—4 nights.
- The program had to be within a 1-hour flight or 3-hour drive of their Portland offices.
- Some members of the Leadership Team have physical mobility issues.
- A fall program date was preferred.
- Accommodations should be standard or better; Camping was not OK.
Armed with this information, the MSA team spent the next week putting together a detailed proposal for a 5-day Team Adventure on the Rogue River. The proposal included not only the Adventure Program, but also a more thorough pre-adventure diagnosis involving interviews with all members of the Leadership Team as well as other key stakeholders.
The client accepted the proposal for both the diagnostic and the Adventure program. The diagnostic took place approximately one month before the Team Adventure and helped inform the program design that the MSA Team prepared for the Adventure.
THE ADVENTURE PROGRAM
DAY 1: INTRODUCTIONS & PROGRAM OVERVIEW
The team arrived in mid-afternoon and had time to relax and settle into their rooms before meeting with the MSA Program Leaders for a 2-hour introduction, orientation, and program overview. In this discussion, MSA Program Leaders:
- Gave an overview of the next 4 days, including specific information about the whitewater rafting adventure program
- Engaged the group in a rich discussion about team and personal goals for (and fears about) this adventure program
- Created space for individuals to voice concerns about the program and/or expectations they had for the adventure
- Invited the team to use any free time to connect with other team members and build new relationships.
A Welcome Dinner followed.
DAYS 2 & 3: THE ADVENTURE DAYS
The group started each Adventure Day with an early breakfast and check-in with their MSA Program Leaders before hitting the water at 9AM. After rafting through a challenging series of class II-III rapids, the team arrived at the next lodge by 4PM. Exhausted, hungry, and thirsty, they had time to freshen up before gathering for a collective pre-dinner cocktail and a discussion led by MSA Program Leaders. In these rich conversations, which lasted about 1.5 hours, participants identified lessons learned, insights, and observations from the rafting experience, and explored the similarities between what they experienced on the river and what often happens in their workplace. Post-dinner activities included cigars, whiskey, stargazing, storytelling, and night hikes.
DAY 4: FACILITATED GROUP DISCUSSIONS & WORKING SESSIONS
The group slept in a bit before a hearty breakfast and optional guided meditation and yoga session. MSA Program Leaders then met with the group at 10AM to begin a day of meaningful and powerful discussions. They began with a continued exploration and identification of the many lessons, insights, and observations gleaned from the adventure activity. After those were fully exhausted, MSA Program Leaders engaged the group in open and honest conversations about how those lessons and learnings were relevant to the workplace challenges and opportunities that they were facing. Specifically, the group discussed the similarities between their rafting adventure and what happens in their workplace. Topics included effective communication techniques, the need for strategic plans, the roles that each person played, how they handled adversity, and the many metaphors that rafting and the river provided for the workplace experience.
After lunch, the Leadership Team and MSA Program Leaders engaged in a discussion in which team members identified ways in which they could use those learnings to improve cross-division and interdepartmental collaboration. This discussion focused on two broad approaches:
- Personality & Process: Improving empathy; understanding personal communication styles; identifying barriers to effective communication and collaboration; and exploring ways to overcome these barriers.
- Structure: Standardizing systematic mechanisms for cross-divisional and departmental communication (e.g., regularly scheduled joint meetings, appoint liaison people, etc.)
Before dinner, some members of the group took time for a guided hike on one of the many nearby trails with a local naturalist while others spent time relaxing at the Lodge.
DAY 5: FACILITATED GROUP DISCUSSIONS & WORKING SESSIONS
The team spent the morning developing tangible Action Plans for integrating and applying the many lessons and insights into the workplace. The Leadership Team—individually and as a whole—transformed the ideas, strategies, interventions, and programs identified in the many discussions and activities of the preceding days into concrete, actionable plans that they would be accountable for in the following months. This included “what,” “who,” “when,” and indicators of success, plus identifying sources of data for determining the progress they had made toward each indicator (Ex: Feedback from others they interact with, incident reports, etc.).
After lunch, they were guided through a Closing Ceremony activity by the Muddy Shoe Program Leaders that helped cement the adventure experience and subsequent learnings and action plans for the group. The group departed late afternoon for their return trip to Portland.
One month after the retreat, the MSA Program Leaders conducted a 1-day on-site post-program follow up consultation. In the morning, each member of the Leadership Team—plus key actors in other departments—were interviewed to assess progress made on each area of their action plans. After lunch, the MSA Program Leaders presented the compiled results of the interviews to the Leadership Team and facilitated an interactive group discussion designed to work through—and find solutions to—the challenges that had come up since the Team Adventure. The group also identified future opportunities (and challenges) and determined next steps in their action plans.