Is it possible for the members of a growing organisation operating from isolated locations to feel like a single, cohesive unit working towards a common set of goals? How does one align new and old employees to the organisation’s values and vision so that they don’t just intellectually ‘know’ what they are working towards but also ‘feel’ deeply committed to actualizing the organisation’s mission?
These were some of the questions which I took with me to attend Sanskar, Samagra’s annual offsite. Having spent only two months at Samagra, I was curious to understand how such offsites help to construct an organisation’s culture. Moreover, coming from a humanities background, I was eager to understand if and how organisations grapple with philosophical and almost existential questions about their purpose and objectives.
Sanskar is a three-day organisation-wide offsite. Our time was divided broadly into three buckets: presentations on our engagements, organisation-level discussions with the management, and team-building activities.
Each team shared the story of their evolution, the key lessons they learned over the past year, and their successes. The eight presentations on our engagements in different states and the discussions that followed them got me up to speed on the broad spectrum of domains Samagra works in. It felt like a coming together of the various elements that make up the organisation, enabling everyone to see the whole picture together.
The preparation for these presentations began over a month before the event and the organising team regularly followed-up on helping teams prepare their storylines and practice presenting beforehand. As someone who got to see the bustling backstage rehearsals and WhatsApp group follow-ups but was not involved in presenting, it was clear that the benchmark was high, as was the pressure to deliver. The pay-off, however, made it all worth it. It seemed like an excellent platform to hone one’s public-speaking skills and build one’s confidence in the relatively safe environment of well-wishers.
The sessions conducted by Samagra’s leadership took a step back from the daily rush of consulting life to address important questions about the organisation itself: what does each word in our mission statement mean when broken down? What are some examples of what we call ‘Samagra Ways’, our best practices, when they have been exemplary? What are some common misinterpretations of these best practices? How can we understand and respond to different managerial styles?
Another important though sensitive topic we touched upon during one such session was that of mental well-being. It is both commendable and reassuring to be having organisation-wide and open-minded conversations about an unfortunately taboo subject. It is a reflection of the organisation’s transparent approach to call out the elephant in the room. I deeply respect those who shared their experiences and I look forward to more such conversations in the future.
Each day concluded with activities, competitions, or bonding sessions with our respective teams, which were consciously chosen to help us form ties with people outside our engagements. In the weeks leading up to Sanskar, many teams were already planning their talent show performances, designing team logos, and even ideating on their rallying cries. My team, in contrast, was particularly disorganised until Sanskar began. And yet, somehow, we found ourselves in first place at the end of Day 1. This small taste of success filled us with the drive to stay on top. Even though we eventually came third, it hardly mattered.
The willingness to play, to feel competitive over children’s games helped us engage with each other and bond. I was left feeling like I had found a place to belong to in Samagra. Perhaps that is what everybody is ever looking for within a community – somewhere to fit in the jigsaw pieces of one’s own goals to the larger purpose of the collective. I feel now, more than before, that I have found a home at Samagra, and I am grateful for the three days of Sanskar for helping me find it.