The entire company votes to select a team of leaders annually called MV-21. We found that voting for leaders is key, it is an extremely powerful data point to understand who others in the company would like to follow.
The "MV" stands for Martha's Vineyard (a vacation island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts), where one of Next Jump's investors owns a compound that the company has been using annually for a leadership offsite. The house sleeps 21 and, hence, the tradition of choosing 21 key employees each year was born. The purpose of the leadership team is two-fold. First, members are responsible for growing Next Jump's core business results. Second, the group is responsible for leading and developing the company's culture.
The annual offsite has evolved over the years into its present format. The first offsite was held in the CEO's kitchen while he cooked chicken soup, and has since developed traditions and best practices over time and trial.
One of the keys to its success is the actual format of the offsite. There are both formal and informal parts - including a combination of self-reflection, business reviews and team-building exercises, each of which drives results in a different way. During the formal sessions no cell phones, computers or electronic devices are allowed, in order to maximize focus and engagement.
Introduction – The CEO opens with the offsite objectives. The focus is on creating actionable plans for the business / culture as well as bonding as a group of managers that are able to help each other both during and after the offsite.
Gallery walk – Each member of the group writes answers to the following questions on a butcher block of paper. Other members of the team can then walk through the gallery and review teammates' answers. The purpose is to have teammates learn something new about each other.
What's Working / What's Not Working – The entire group works on a brainstorm session to identify what is working at the company and what is not. Once finished, each team member is given three green stickers and three red stickers and stickers are placed onto topics that the individual feels most strongly about (green for working, red for not working). People can visually see what the collective group thinks are the most important topics. The topics with the highest sticker densities are picked, and members are broken into teams to explore – for working topics, how can the company improve this area further? For the not working topics, how can the company address this? Each team then presents their insights.
Self / Peer Performance Evaluations – Members are broken into teams where they go through a self and peer evaluation. This exercise is one of the oldest parts of the offsite and has been extremely helpful for individuals to better themselves. Members are asked to answer self evaluation questions ahead of the trip, and share these with the group:
Their peers comment on their perception, with suggestions on how to leverage their strength and improve their development points.
The second day is devoted to analyzing different parts of the business.
SWOT Analysis of the Business – Members are divided into teams who are instructed to complete a SWOT analysis and create an action plan on a part of the business. The morning session is dedicated to looking at growing and improving the business with existing resources, meaning that teams should figure out ways to leverage strengths and address weaknesses. The afternoon is dedicated to growing with unconstrained resources (i.e. if you have $50MM what would you do?). The same parts of the business are examined in the afternoon as were done in the morning except the teams change.
Olympics: After dinner on the third night, a competition is held amongst the members present. There are games like two truths and a lie (everyone states two truths and one lie, while others need to guess which is which). The purpose is to see how well everyone has gotten to know one another and increase team bonding. Teams play a variation of Pictionary along with several other traditions. Individual players are scored across each of the games and a champion, second, and third place finisher are determined.
Food – Five teams are created, one for each night of the stay. Each team is responsible for preparing food for the rest of the group, with an informal competition to determine who are the best chefs. The team concept has yielded many great dinners along with some of the best relationships and ideas for each of the offsites. Shopping and cooking together drives a level of intimacy that cannot be attained at a fancy restaurant or by a catering company.
Beach, pool, tennis – The facility is equipped for any number of outdoor activities, including a 270 degree view of the Atlantic ocean, a tennis court, and heated pool. All members of the group go for a midnight swim in the ocean on the third evening.
Notes on others – Each member is encouraged to keep individual notes on people they have interacted with during the trip. Everyone is also encouraged to keep notes on things they would like to start doing, stop doing, and continue doing. The purpose of this is to recognize behaviors and be aware of when to make the change.
After each of the working / not working and business items, an individual manager is assigned to captain the effort when the group returns to the office. The informal days are used to hold small group meetings on progression of these ideas.