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Keeping CANA Weird

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

2021 Austin, Texas Team Offsite

By Liz Cranston, CEO

As a 100% virtual business since our inception, meeting in person once or twice a year has been a strategic imperative. Since the onset of the global pandemic, we have shifted to virtual offsites, which were excellent in many ways and helped maintain routine and consistency and provided unique opportunities for relationship building and continuous exchange of ideas. This past November, we were fortunate to celebrate our CANA team’s first in person offsite since 2019 in Austin, Texas, and the goal of this article is to share the positive highlights from our team’s recent gathering. This being said, I started writing this before the holidays, and since that time, once again the world has changed. Most of us are again feeling slightly and/or greatly overwhelmed by uncertainty, frustration and at times, fear. Although the world seems to have shifted in a span of a few short months, it strikes me that our team is more resilient and more “in tune” than ever because of our ability to spend time working and enjoying each other in person in November. We often refer to times to bond and celebrate each other as “bringing the campfire closer” - our Austin offsite was that and more!

If you didn’t already know, the city slogan is “Keep Austin Weird,” and we boldly adopted a similar slogan for our southwestern in-person offsite. Our hotel was, as is standard for the area, a blend of uniquely historical and funky design, and its downtown Austin location was inspired. We were alongside the 400+ acre Lady Bird Lake, and within walking distance to a foodie's paradise of restaurants and shopping. COVID remained an ongoing concern, and members of our team stayed safe cruising the trails and roads on rented bicycles, e-scooters, and on foot. We have a great mix of runners, walkers, and taco eaters on the CANA team! One member of our team drove cross-country to Austin, bringing her well-behaved pup along for the trip.

Although the offsite was a much needed breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively, it was still an important time to get down to work. We had a jam-packed schedule that went from morning to late evening each day. Given our significant growth over the past year - over 25% - we felt it was important to start with a deep dive into the CANA “story” - what CANA is, what we believe in, where we have been, and where we are headed. It was an opportunity for the CANA leadership team to talk candidly about our mission and ethos; important topics, but not always easy to fit in with everyone’s varied day-to-day schedules.

During the first day after a two-hour ice breaker of CANA Bingo (who knew one of our team members had met Margaret Thatcher??!) and a series of company presentations, the CANA team broke out into three groups and rotated through three 45 minute break-out sessions, each with a distinct focus. This framework has worked well for us in the past, even during the virtual offsites, allowing for more variety and robust, engaged group dialogue. Session leaders were tasked to generate discussion and activity on several themes: A CANA Talent and Skills Marketplace; Designing a ‘Smart’ Solution; and Exploring CANA’s Branding. We rounded out the workday with a guest speaker who is a vanguard of military technology innovation in the southern California region. His insights into how to connect people and ideas and to drive change, provided some great food for thought.

At the dinner hour, the CANA team broke bread at a fantastic private meal, shared our “favorite songs” playlist created from an earlier team survey, and individually recognized members of our team. You can read more about these special team members and their accomplishments next in this newsletter. On day two, the routine was geared specifically to the needs of CANAers. Individuals and/or teams pre-identified topics for discussion, training, and collaboration and were given the uninterrupted time to address them face-to-face. We are great at virtual work, but this provided a refreshing and productive change of pace. Without a doubt, one of the most rewarding aspects of this offsite was that it brought the new and old together. Not only did we get to hear the CANA origin story from the founding members of CANA, but at least one member of the team had, in fact, literally started the day prior!

Watching the team blend seamlessly together was a testament to our strong foundation and our team’s ability to weather change. We know that, no matter what, we can support one another and always deliver for our clients. We hope 2022 will be somewhat more predictable - fewer surprises and fewer mountains (and molehills!) to climb - but we simply cannot predict the future. We know, however, that CANA’s resiliency, commitment to excellence, and thoughtful teamwork ensures it is very well prepared for anything. But, don’t listen to just me - at the close of our offsite, we asked our team to describe their offsite experience in just one word, and here is our CANA team’s offsite word cloud -

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