PTSC: Taking New Directions
Members of PTSC recently joined a two day trip outside of Taipei to take part in a schedule full of team-building activities, planning for the company’s 38th birthday celebration in October, as well as participating in inter-company workshops with Kimlan Foods 金蘭醬油 Company. The following article gives a rundown of the two days’ events, as well as the reactions and feedback from the participants. Quotes are written bilingually.
As we sat on the bus leaving our office for two packed days of activities, I took my banjo out to pluck a few tunes to set the mood. Although only a select 3 members of the other 16 participants from PTSC knew the schedule, as one of the organisers for the two days, we made the decision to keep most of the itinerary’s events secret from everyone. By only giving our colleagues small clues as to where we were going, and what we were doing, we could maintain an atmosphere of suspense and mystery throughout the entire two days of training.
Short for Pershing Technology Services Corporation, PTSC has been undergoing a period of rebirth, renewal, and rebranding. In October the company will be celebrating 38 years of existence (formerly known as PSC), With celebration comes new life, new energy, new products, and new ideas. In addition to all of the new, I was also quite new to the PTSC family. My position as Chief Learning Officer (CLO) is also new to the company. To learn and inspire a culture of learning: these are the words I usually use when I explain my position and what it is I do in the company. These two days in Taoyuan would be a great time to learn more about my role as well as giving colleagues a chance to learn about one another and all of the exciting ideas we have flying around our workplace. But first….to the race track….
Go-Karts, Chinese Proverbs, and Artistic Expression
After arriving in Taoyuan, we made our way to our first activity: go-kart racing. By picking names out of a hat, we chose our teammates for this event. Each participant would have 8 minutes on the track at a time, after which they would switch with their teammate. However, we decided to add a bit of a cognitive and artistic challenge to the racing aspect. In the “pit stop” room we had a table covered with Chinese characters. Mandarin language lovers and native speakers of Chinese know that most Chinese proverbs consist of 4 Chinese characters. For example, one of my personal favorite proverbs is 一石二鳥, which translates to the English proverb, “to kill two birds with one stone.” After each team member completed 8 minutes of racing, they would enter the pit stop and choose one of the four characters for the Chinese proverb that they would complete as a team. The one that my team chose was 敏而好學 which translates to “studious and educated.”
很新鮮，又有搭配活動 — Very Fresh activities that matched each other well. — 王慶祥
As if the puzzle of ancient Chinese proverbs wasn’t enough of a challenge, for the final race circuit, the racing teams needed to connect with their partners on an artistic level. Each participant in the pit stop received a topic that they had to make an artistic representation of and then present to their teammate upon their arrival back to the base. The topics ranged from depicting the company’s CEO to “Mona Lisa” to “service chat-bot.” For some, this task was the most challenging of them all. All teams finished this round of racing and were able to make their best efforts with their drawings.
Company Chair, Sean Chen marked the go-kart portion as his favourite part of the first day’s events, commenting that he likes “having fun to release the work pressure.”
Lunch Story Continues
After leaving the go-kart races, it was time for the group to head to lunch. However, rather than eating as a group, lunch was treated as another way for team-building. The larger group divided up into 4 groups of 4, with different departments represented in each group. Each group received a red envelope with their group’s budget. The bus would then drop us off in an area of 桃園 (Taoyuan) where many restaurants are gathered in one location. Besides receiving an envelope of money, each group had a thematic culinary connection related to Taoyuan (peanuts, tea, local tofu, and mushrooms). Because each of these four products are closely associated with the Taoyuan area, each team had to make sure that their meals included at least one dish with the product they were assigned. In addition, each group would need to take a photo with their server at the restaurant they went to. After lunch, we would take a bus to the hotel conference room where we would spend the rest of the afternoon in team-building activities. Our first order of business upon arriving at the hotel was to present all of the information from our lunch in a PPT presentation for the group to enjoy.
PTSC’s Jimmy Chang enjoyed the lunch activity because it involved, “組隊，討論，尋找，分工 — creation of groups, discussion, exploration, and delegation.”
Core Values, Survival and Rolling out Plans
The rest of the afternoon sessions focused on aspects of company culture and team-building skills that helped colleagues tackle challenges as difficult as surviving on a deserted island after a plan crash with limited supplies. Post lunch presentation, the first activity was to review the company’s three core values: Passion, Persistence, and Intelligence. Each individual was asked to reflect on three questions related to the company’s core values:
- Which core value is your strongest and why? Be as specific as possible.
- Which core value do you feel is your biggest challenge and why?
- What specific actions will you take for the remainder of the year as you focus on one of the three core values.
Participants were given three post-it notes and asked to silently place their reflections on three posters scattered around the gigantic baseball-themed room (everything about the hotel had some relation with baseball). Once these were put around the room, people could have a quick tour to notice how their answers crossed over and differed with their colleagues.
因為要表達出自己的長處與短處，是需要面對現實的勇氣的 — In order to express one’s strengths and weaknesses you have to face this issue with a sense of courage and bravery. — Brian Chang
Following the short core values workshop, the company’s chair, Sean, led the entire group in a simulated exercise. In the exercise, each group was stranded on a deserted island with 15 items. They had to individually rank the items in order of importance (ranging from machete to decorative candles to a handgun) individually, then as a small group, and then as an entire group. The purpose of this exercise was to demonstrate how individuals and different teams make urgent decisions while under duress, as well as illustrating the power of group decision-making and collaboration.
很具有新意的內容發現自己和團隊不同的想法 — This was an innovative activity where we could discover and explore the diversity of thought across the team. — Cathy Mao
The remainder of the afternoon had groups working together to put together presentations regarding the upcoming real event that would be happening in October — the celebration of PTSC’s rebranding and the 38th birthday for the company. At this event there will be employees of PTSC as well as customers, friends, and family. This activity gave this small segment of PTSC colleagues a chance to work together and reach across different departments to take the first step in brainstorming tangible solutions and ideas that they could contribute for the October celebration.
Inter-Company Brainstorming with Kimlan Foods
Although PTSC has certainly gone through many ups and downs in its nearly 40 years of existence, the 2nd day of our team-building activities would give our colleagues the unique opportunity to participate in inter-company brainstorming with Kimlan Foods, a company that has been operating in Taiwan for more than 80 years. After checking out of our hotel we drove to Kimlan Foods 金蘭 to first be welcomed by our cohorts for a morning tour and introduction of the company and factory. This was a rare insight for our team members to learn from a company with a much longer history than PTSC. As PTSC is currently undergoing a re-branding process, we were able to listen to our partners at Kimlan tell the story of how they refreshed their company’s look, products, and message throughout the nearly 100 years of operation.
讓自己成為老闆，了解經營市場困境，想辦法突破困境 — By putting myself in the boss’ shoes, I could better understand the challenges facing the market and think of solutions to break through these challenges — Kimlan participant
After Kimlan treated PTSC to a lunch fit for an emperor with dishes upon dishes upon dishes and special soy sauce products served with local specialties, it was time to take part in the afternoon’s two brainstorming activities, both involving “switching places.” In the first activity, each participant was assigned a different job title at random (i.e. cheff, chief learning officer, engineer, front desk staff, etc), and then 4 of the participants were assigned as bosses of four companies: a transportation company, a hotel, a food production company, and an IT company. Each of the four “companies” were then given a limited amount of time to provide short, medium, and long term goals for their companies. Part way through their brainstorming, the facilitators gave each of the companies a sudden urgent problem they had to deal with (i.e. the hotel had to deal with a strike of migrant workers who were threatening to leave the hotel without raising their pay). Each team was mixed with participants from Kimlan and from PTSC. As the clock wound down, each team presented on their ideas.
充滿互動及腦力激蕩 — Full of interaction and brainstorming — Kimlan participant
今天的安排非常完美 — Today’s schedule of activities was perfect — PTSC participant
The final activity of the two days of team-building had the PTSC and Kimlan participants split back up into their respective teams. Just as in the previous exercise, there would be challenges presented to the other group to help brainstorm solutions. This time, however, PTSC would present Kimlan with actual challenges they were facing, and vice versa. This activity was something that had never been done before with either company and it took a lot of trust and willingness to share vulnerabilities with each other. However, the previous exercise and the ice-breaking activities earlier in the day helped both teams open up to one another.
跟不同行業合作可以感受到對方與我們不同地方 — Through cooperation with different industries, we’re able to see issues from different angles — PTSC participant
It seemed that all of the activities for these two days led up to this final workshop. The energy in the room was charged and excited. The participants realised that this was a rare chance and opportunity not only to help support another company with the challenges they are facing, but it was also a chance to be on the receiving end of possible steps to solutions to their own challenges. All too often we close our doors to the idea of making ourselves vulnerable and asking for help. This workshop with Kimlan helped show PTSC the value of reaching across the aisle and asking for help from someone different.
思想無國界 — Thinking without borders or limits — Kimlan workshop participant
At the end of the day, and after much gift exchanging, it was time for PTSC to say goodbye to their new friends and partners in brainstorming at Kimlan. Both groups kept the ideas supplied to them from the other company, but most importantly both companies realised the value of the day’s all-too-rare experience. With an average rating of 4.71 out of 5 stars on a feedback form filled out at the end of the day, it was easy to see how much all the participants enjoyed and found the workshops useful. Now it’s up to both companies to follow-up on their own, all the while realising support is only a workshop away.
真的了解到在不同產業，都會遇到相同的問題 — If we really spend time trying to understand different industries, we can realise that we are all facing the same challenges — PTSC participant