The SA team is tucked away in central Florida for a week of collaborative work, big picture visioning, and palm trees swaying in the breeze.

Hello from sunny central Florida! The Simply Accessible team is holed up in a sprawling (like: ridiculous) house surrounded by palm trees, golfers, and theme parks. We’re here for the week to, as Derek put it, “pour ourselves into each other” and set the course for the rest of 2016 and beyond. We’re working collectively, turbo-charging specific projects and tuning into our big picture.

In only two days of our time together, we’ve already gone deep: training, brainstorming sessions, inter-departmental sharing, incredible team-cooked meals, and impromptu breakout discussions grounded in our values, our culture, and our reason for being.

Our week features contributions from everyone on the team, focused on their various areas of expertise. But the retreat as a whole is grounded in core themes of where we are as a team right now, and what’s most important to us: agile methodology, usability testing and assessment, our core values as a company, and opportunities to collaborate as a whole group.

 

Gavin and Devon chat through a challenging assessment issue. Beside the giant orchid.

Scrumming it up

We start each day with a stand-up before an hour of focused agile training with The Colonel, our scrum master (and an actual Kentucky colonel), Charles Callistro.

SA uses an agile framework for all of our client projects, and the more we learn and apply it to our work, the more we see applications into our company culture, internal communications, and even our personal lives. (Ask Elle and Charles about their home project management!) We continue to be amazed at how much more productive we are using agile, and how much it improves our communication, effectiveness, and ability to serve our clients and their end users.

Today we talked about the future of agile in our company, and it was an opportunity to look at what we do, and how we do it differently. How each one of us has a huge impact on the company in the short and long term, and how we’re all ambassadors for Simply Accessible’s heart.

Mission driven

It’s been a running theme of our time together: how our mission and vision manifest in everything we do.

Derek led us through a profound exercise on Day One. It’s a simple process of taking a few moments to focus and clarify our intentions behind each client interaction, issue logged, internal meeting, or conference presentation.

It struck all of us as extraordinary how something so subtle can immediately shift us into a mission-oriented mindset and help keep the big picture in mind at all times. This sentiment—staying connected to our mission and vision—has already seen applications here in Florida.

We’re all inspired to bring these insights into our work with our clients, our community, and each other.

Nic, an accessibility consultant and trained chef, makes us mind-blowing chocolate ravioli.

Putting the team in teamwork

The benefit of a remote team gathering in person for a week can’t possibly be measured. It’s been magical. From random conversations that clarify internal processes to full-on team brainstorming sessions to the simple pleasure of sharing a meal, coming together has been transformative for all of us.

Early in the week, we did a team-wide brainstorming session (in a room of the house that’s an actual arcade.) The team came up with more than 50 ideas in an hour—applying our collective knowledge and creativity into new ways to make the digital world better for everyone. We prioritized our list to a handful of ideas we can mock-up collaboratively during our time here this week, ranging from hardware integration to games to training products to widgets. We dug in and will demo them for each other on Friday.

Our weekly people planning meeting, accompanied by homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Immediate results

Because we’re a client-service focused company, our work never actually stops, even when we’re on retreat. Throughout the week, we’ve got HR work, project planning meetings, and client calls. So, we’re applying everything we’ve learned as we’re learning it. Already, our approaches to assessment, client interactions, editorial, and development are shifting as a result of taking the time to reconnect with each other and our values—and to learn and grow from the brilliant minds and hearts in the room.

We can’t believe how much has happened, and we’re only halfway through. There’s lots more in store! We can’t wait to share it with you.