Three valuable days – How we find time for creativity and new perspectives

by Anke Brandt |
Oct 25, 2018 |

Some of the employees of fme may have wondered why my departments (HR & Finance) are increasingly asking them to take a look at their departments’ work for a day this year. Just like that?

The idea behind these inquiries is our working title “Three Valuable Days”. Within the scope of the target agreements, I have made the experience in the past that we have far too often sacrificed partial goals in terms of creativity, “decluttering” or even “thinking outside the box” to day-to-day business or other apparently more important tasks.

This is certainly the case for many employees and is also usually easy to understand. But is that what we want? Is it really true that creativity and innovation are less important? There is only one clear answer: a no! From the bottom of my heart. We wanted to change this and so that we were not quickly ” overwhelmed ” by daily business again, we put following in the goals for the two departments for the current year:

One day for systematic waste disposal

One day each of us invests in systematic waste disposal to review our daily work and dispose of outdated processes, projects and tasks. The basic idea is based on a recommendation by (Fredmund Malik) , one of the founders of the systematic management of the St. Gallen School. Key questions for every employee are “Why do we actually do this? Does this (still) make sense with regard to our corporate goals or does it belong in the “waste” so that we have more time and energy again to devote to the really important things.

Thinking outside the box for a day

Afterwards, everyone invests one day to get an insight into other departments. This is certainly not really new either, except that it is explicitly arranged so that it is not, as so often, sacrificed to day-to-day business. And those who believe that only the visiting employee will benefit from new and interesting impressions of this day are wrong. Questions like: “Why are you doing this? Why are exactly these people sitting ( or standing 😉 ) in this meeting? What do you want to achieve with it?” are apparently elementary questions, but in our experience they have astonishingly strong effects for everyone involved.

Just fantasizing for a day or watch how the others do it

The third day we invest either on the green meadow, in the garden, in the park or in a place where we simply “stare holes in the air”, as we say in German, meaning spending time without a precise plan or we take a short look over the shoulder of other companies and external professionals. Everyone as he or she likes and what they think makes the most sense for themselves and their work.

Are there any conditions for participating in this project?

The only requirement is that everyone who plans and implements such a day reports about what they have experienced in the next team meeting in about 15 minutes. Without PowerPoint and the like just simple and smart.

Frequently asked questions about this:

  1. What if I can’t find anything essential to declutter and rediscover? Answer: Then this is the way it is. Just thinking about it is worth investing the time.
  2. Can I have a look over the shoulder of the board too? Answer: Yes, of course! (P.S.: …also the board was surprised in the exact case what new insights they could gain from this meeting.)


Lessons Learned after the first pilot phase

1) It is harder than expected to convince some employees how important it is for us to let go and “fantasize.” This requires sustainability and the experience of the first year.

  1. The three days must be planned at the beginning of the year, otherwise at the end of the year the actual realization will be rather difficult.
  2. If we continue to pursue this project sustainably, it will have many positive effects for our teams, however, with the risk that they are often not measurable or cannot be evaluated in Euros. Nevertheless, we are convinced that this investment in time is worth it for all of us.


In the end such an idea and project can of course only really succeed with a large portion of faith in the idea and above all with trust in one’s own potential and trust in the entire team. Thank you, therefore, to all colleagues who have been so helpful to us and who have accepted our experiment without any reservations. That, as so often, makes the big difference.

It’s fme you love to work with.

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