WIESBADEN, Germany-USAG Wiesbaden’s annual strategic planning conference was held virtually using the Teams platform Nov. 9 and 10 due to COVID-19 concerns. “We were able to leverage technology to meet the strategic goals of the conference,” said Scott Mowry, deputy garrison commander.
Esther Otis, plans specialist, said the in-person conference was cancelled just one week prior. “We had contingencies,” she said. “It was in the back of our minds that we’d have to do this because of COVID.”
Sabine Schindler, Plans, Analysis and Integration officer, said “Before COVID, we would never have considered a virtual platform.”
Modifications to the conference included reducing the number of attendees and size of working groups. In years past, as many as 100 people participated in the annual planning conference. Including leaders, 51 garrison personnel attended the virtual gatherings over the two days.
“We scaled back the overall conference because of it being on Teams,” Schindler said. Instead of nine working groups, there were six, including two that met outside the conference schedule and reported their progress during the last Teams sessions.
As with previous virtual events, participants were successful with overall goals, but missed the social engagement and team-building aspects of in-person meetings. To help mitigate the loss of in-person interaction, Schindler said, “Normally we discouraged the use of cameras; for this one we recommended them being on to interact and that worked really well.”
Schindler, Otis and the command team rotated in and out of the virtual meetings. “I was able to float between the working groups on Teams; it is the role I would have held if we did it in person,” Otis said.
Working groups were tasked with developing action plans for five lines of effort handed down by IMCOM, according to Otis. “Action plans appear to be well fleshed out.”
She added, “Groups were able to move at their own pace; they were able to use the days the way that fit them.”
Schindler also saw the virtual conference as a success, especially the back briefs provided at the end. “All the teams came back with great goals, objectives and action plans with milestones,” she said.
“For something like a conference, face to face is preferable,” Otis added. “Overall I was happy with Teams and that we made it work.”
Mowry echoed Otis with praise. “Our team did an amazing job setting this up and executing in a 100% virtual setting,” he said.