When I was asked if I could write some blogs for the Synergy website, I jumped at the opportunity excitedly...after all, I love writing in my journal, pride myself on being a grammarista and have written the occasional restaurant reviews. But when I got down to thinking of just the topics, it was a different ball game altogether.
Having been away from the corporate world for almost 10 years and working in a small city at my own pace, I was back in a ‘proper’ office set-up - and I couldn't have asked for a better platform than Synergy to get reintroduced to this world that I love.
At first glance Synergy Corporate Interiors Pvt.Ltd. is what the name suggests, a major player in providing turnkey design solutions for corporate offices. However, as one delves deeper, there are so many more layers to it, some of which I would like to present to you.
Unlike a hierarchical pyramid-like structure, Synergy thrives on a non-hierarchical approach where it is not about “leaders” at the top and “followers” at the bottom. Instead, authority and responsibility are distributed across the organization in a more goal-centered way. The roles are defined around the work and not around titles. Of course, the founders of the firm are looked up to for mentorship and guidance and have a broader scope of authority and decision making over the others but they ensure that a holacratic spirit is followed where each of the team members shares the responsibility for outcomes and specific elements of projects are delegated according to experience and expertise. This makes the whole system fluid, responsive and efficient.
The office is a cohesive and ever expanding family of architects, designers, interns, supervisors, administrators and consultants and of course the quintessential “Jeeves” who is heavily relied upon for everything ranging from coffee to xeroxes.
A typical day at Synergy starts at sharp 9:30am and goes on till 6:30 pm, although each member of the team has stayed up as long as 10 pm and even beyond when a deadline is looming. In the words of Nancy Koehn of Harvard Business School, “everyone pitches in, everyone is responsible for solving the next problem or putting out the next bonfire”, simply out of a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the project.The day that a client has to visit, say for sampling, sees everyone a-flutter, organizing, sorting and placing things systematically. One can set one’s watch on most days at sharp 1:30 when there is almost an exodus towards the common room for lunch! Even this sought after highlight of the day is forgotten during the buzz of a visiting client or a submission.
Leaving aside the long list of prestigious projects, awards and achievements (which can be glanced at, on the Synergy website), let me tell you the interesting part- the bit that is unique and makes Synergy stand apart from other architectural firms.
The company is a truly value-driven firm with well-defined vision and principles. What’s so unique about that, you may ask? Well, the ‘experiential learning method’ has been adopted here where these values are ‘taught’ practically, through seminars, encouraging independent site visits even for the interns and through group activities and movie shows. There is a bi-annual or annual movie session wherein a movie is selected based on the theme and reviews and the whole team is taken out for the show. This is followed by a group discussion and brainstorming session to discuss what the takeaway from the movie has been. The morale or the lesson of the story is talked about to see how it can be implemented in daily life and the office culture. In the past, Bawarchi (for Building Positive Relations), Bridge on the River Kwai (for Karma Yoga), Ocean's Eleven (for Coordination), Karate Kid (for Excellence), Chak-de India (for teamwork) etc. have been shown, all with effective lessons that were implemented.
Frankly, I did not take this concept seriously and went along for my first movie with Synergy - ‘Mission Mangal’ - majorly in team spirit and of course for the popcorn! However, post the movie and after just a brief interaction with the team, I noticed a subtle internal shift in my thinking. The movie, on the surface, might be about hard work and putting in 16-18 hours of work daily, but all that would not have happened had the protagonists not had a common goal. It was the well-defined and single goal that the whole team shared that made them so motivated to work out solutions to achieve it- be it personal, time or finance management.
In the past, there have also been a series of very intensive ‘explorer workshops’ where groups of employees were assigned a myriad of topics ranging from colours to materials to art and sculpture. Each topic was presented and discussed and it was an eye-opening exercise in terms of research and learning, cataloguing data for ready referencing.
Another major learning was how creative thinking was applied to create breakthrough innovation that delivered results which initially looked impossible.There were other little lessons also and each of us pooled in our views- how inspiration can be found in routine things, how important it is to be passionate towards your work, the solidarity and bond that develops when you work together for a common purpose.
Besides these stimulating sessions, the office participates in group marathons, photography and nature walks and celebrates birthdays together.
Each of these values that Synergy believes in - ‘ integrity and professionalism in work, ‘ego-less teamwork’, ‘relentlessly strive for excellence’, ‘pursue ever higher goals’ - are not just words but are qualities that have been imbibed and incorporated in the work ethos of Synergy over time. True to the meaning of its name, ‘Synergy’ produces a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects, it is a whole within a greater whole, or something that is simultaneously a part and a whole.