Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Meeting in the mountains

The first thing, well maybe the second, when I check into a hotel on a work trip, is connecting to the WiFi and smiling that it actually works without having to rig my laptop, power supply, firewall, DNS settings and finally calling the ''IT'' in the hotel (which is usually a waiter who has studied networks at some point in his life). So coming back to the first thing I look for, it is a nice comfortable bed. Since both these requirements were amply satisfied at Hotel Kitzhof (shown in the photo - click on it for a better view) in Kitzbühel, my day got off to a good start and made up for my red eyes from waking up at an ungodly hour and traveling in the same.

Kitzbühel is located in the state of Tyrol in Austria and is very famous for both hiking and skiing because of the landscape. I was pleasantly surprised by how uncrowded it was and then it dawned on me that September was not high season. The conference room had a spectacular view and it took me a while to look away from it and concentrate on what was happening. After hours of meeting, an extremely delicious lunch (as a really picky vegetarian, when I say delicious, you should take my word for it !), a few more hours of meeting and several cups of coffee, we got ready for our team activity – hiking (our starting point was this beautiful restaurant next to the hotel - see photo)! I was thinking that hiking after a long work day was going to be a bad idea since the team comprises people who run marathons, people like me in the middle and people who hardly take any exercise.

The weather was extremely kind to us and it remained 16 deg C all along – neither too hot nor too cold for a brisk walk up the mountains. The scenery was stunning and the conversations – both business and private were interesting and I was totally shocked when we stopped for a drink and I realized that we had hiked for nearly 3 hours! Well, I thought my husband was right when he said that I might actually run a marathon if I had someone alongside running and talking with me all the time :D ! By the time we had dinner, everyone was starving and did apt justice to the efforts of the Chef - absolutely no leftovers.

One of the exercises I found extremely interesting was taking a few minutes to think about the question "what would I do to make my company bankrupt ?!''. At the end of the session we had a long list of suggestions and making sure that we were doing exactly the opposite as we went over the suggestions was surprisingly a morale boosting exercise - the positive power of negative thinking.

I was moderating the second day of the meeting that comprised mostly of brainstorming sessions. What I found extremely tricky was interrupting someone to give a chance to another, without breaking the flow of the brainstorming or the thoughts of the individual. In order to make the session successful, one also has to capture all the issues, concerns and more importantly the ideas and solutions to solve them and end the session by coming up with a list of action items. Thanks to some management lectures I took (although I hated attending them during my degree), I like to stick to SMART objectives - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. So instead of creating an objective of being customer oriented, one should have an objective that reads ''Support 2 customers in simplifying their solution using efficient user interface implementation by Q4 2009''.

Standing, talking, listening, concentrating and making notes for hours finally paid off when we concluded the day with a good list of action items all with deadlines and assigned to specific persons, with a request for periodic updates. No wonder I slept for 12 hours the night after the meeting was over !

Coming back to Kitzhof and Kitzbühel, it was too short a time and too tight a schedule to enjoy both the hospitable hotel and the picturesque place. Hmm....well... for all I know, I might go back to the same place in winter for a skiing trip....fingers crossed......
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