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    Entries in agile (16)

    Saturday
    Jul282018

    Ways of working in those collaborative spaces

     New ways of working are sweeping the world - leaders across organisations are slashing organisation charts and structures, installing fresh new collaborative spaces and hoping like heck they can get more people to be more involved, more connected and more engaged in more purposeful, creative, ingenious and agile work.  
     
    Workplaces and work practices of today -- and the future need to be: 

    • Productive
    • Creative
    • Effective
    • Collaborative
.

    It’s easy to let one or more of these to drop or to not get any airtime at all until it’s all 'go push go' and it’s just about productivity.  
     
    There’s a lot going on then with new spaces and new ways of working… but it’s not all shiny and new for us all. Many of us have to make do with old spaces that haven’t changed in decades in buildings that will be occupied for another few centuries. 
     
    Let’s look at these old and new things and see where the advantages are whether you’re a team, project, individual or enterprise. 
     
    New Spaces
    Visiting a company's brand new offices recently, it was refreshing and exciting to see them start again in fresh premises; a clean slate, a chance for a new start. 
     
    They had just peeled the plastic off breakout areas to think in, cafe-diner-style booths to brainstorm in, quiet desks to work quietly at, lounges for relaxed and chilled conversations and meetings, fresh smelling meeting rooms with natural light, natural timbers, big whiteboards and writeable walls, plants, other creeping greenery and hipster-style café lighting of course. 
     
    Designated meeting rooms had cool creative names like ‘Einstein’, ‘Jobs’, 'Da Vinci' and ‘Musk' (because what, no women were ever creative!!?)  Aah clearly they were trying to drive an innovative and disruptive culture and they must have read these innovative ways to innovate your innovation! ðŸ˜‰ 
     
    Even Google moved into new space in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia and wouldn’t you like to work there.

    But imagine if you moved into new spaces and didn’t do anything to change how you were working, meeting, communicating, collaborating and creating? That is, you were in new spaces but continuing to use old ways. Oh what a waste! Leverage it, people!

    Oh I feel a visual coming on....this is what I'm seeing: 


     
    It can be inspiring to try out some new things in a new environment, but often there is little to no support to help the team adopt new, creative behaviours in their meetings, conversations and collaborative gatherings.
     
    People won’t automatically switch things up to new, more collaborative ways of working just because they have a different workplace or environment. It can help… but they need to be resourced, upskilled or supported with practical know-how.  
     
     
    Old Ways 
    Old habits do indeed run deep. As Julia Roberts says in 'Pretty Woman’, ‘it’s just geography’.  Moving your existing activities and old ways of working into a new location or workspace is geography. There is no real change going on there. It might look pretty ... but it’s such a waste when you’re still working in old silos, hitting ‘reply all’ on your emails, hiding all your information and data in your devices and not on the walls, and still sitting down for your meetings
     
    All teams and organisations can benefit from learning some new ways of working that create more collaborative interactions, are more engaging for the team, generate greater input from everyone across the business and deliver better value to customers and clients.
     
     
    Old Spaces
    Ok so not all businesses can afford funky new furniture, Danish influences of hygge or de-cluttering drives so the space is clean, tidy and Marie Kondo perfect. We know that a messy desk is the sign of a highly creative mind!
     
    Plenty of meeting rooms end up as storage spaces for extra chairs, broken furniture or boxes of stationery and event supplies. Damn marketing!!
     
    We can’t all be working in the perfect workplace or workspace; like this team who accept their workplace is a dump.
     
    Even entrepreneurs in start up spaces in shared offices and cool warehouses have space issues. 
     
    Some organisations are tied up in leases and locations, in relationships and arrangements that mean there’s no making anything pretty; it’s just like not being able to move picture hooks around in a rental apartment! Damn landlord!! 
     
    But all is not lost. Even if you’re not in a fresh and clean space, you can still shift things up in the way you work. 
     
    New ways of working
    New ways of working are sweeping through many organisations as they try to get closer to their customers, create cross-functional teams of diverse thought and capability, deliver value sooner and work in smaller batches; a little agile-ish in their approach
     
    Teams are working on shorter sprints of work
 in cross-functional teams, trying out experiments rather than big changes  â€¨and conducting tests of curiosity rather than compliance. Meetings are using visual facilitation rather than a boring rule-clinging chairperson; rapid prototypes and mockups now are replacing ‘finished-but-no-one-wants-it’ products later. There is music, cool chilled out café sounds and time to work... not just meet to talk about it. 
     
     
    Some privacy please 
    The results of research by Ethan S. Bernstein and Stephen Turban are filtering through to mainstream media broadcasters, morning talk shows and consumer magazines. It’s not a secret anymore. Those who’ve worked in open plan spaces knew it all along and now everyone else does too: we’re not fans of open space. We communicate less, collaborate less and can’t quite make the meeting rooms work for us either.  
     
    While the strategy may have saved companies buckets of money on office space it hasn't saved us from ourselves. 

     
    What we need...
    We need a variety of spaces at work: to be allowed to be noisy, quiet, alone, together… and everything in between. 

     
    To engage and collaborate in a large group.
    To retreat to a quiet space to recharge. 
    To think in isolation.
    Or to chat with no agenda with a couple of people in a casual environment. 

    But to be forced into one box or another… nope. 

    We need to be able to move through each of these types of spaces -- as the work and our mood requires. 
     
     
    What else could you do about where you are? Try moving seats. 
    We will be more communicative, collaborative and creative if we are packed up and moved somewhere else in the organisation. This might be frustrating and feel disruptive but it’s this very shake up that sets the creative thinking going. Plus it helps make for more happy and unplanned collisions of ideas, thought and diversity. 

    Otherwise we end up in an echo chamber of familiar and comfortable people, hearing the same thinking,  complaints and conversations.
     
    Rather than being all bossy and moving people where they don’t want to go, why not be like Valve, the gaming company, which has put wheels on its workstations so that employees can move wherever their interests and projects take them. Weeeeeeeee! “I’m going over THERE to hangout with THOSE cool people for awhile!”
     


    ‘The idea is to encourage people from different worlds to mix and match ideas so that you come up with the best from both… That boosts both individual and collective performance.’
    - Sunkee Lee, professor at Carnegie Mellon University

     
     
    There are spaces everywhere… when you look
    If we don’t like our open spaces, or our existing space, then this is all the more reason to be able to use any space, any space at all in the organization – and surrounding community - effectively to have that exchange, conversation, brainstorm, dialogue or meeting. 
     
    Whether it is a table and chair in the foyer downstairs, the cafe on the ground floor, or it's a space in the kitchen or near the water cooler or hot water tap or the recycle bins… or it’s the café up the street, the book shop across the road, or a walk to the 7-Eleven 15 minutes away. 
     
    I saw a wonderful space in a workplace recently that was the ‘Pet Wall’. People brought in photos of their pets – scaled up to A4 size (the photos not the pets) and they were plastered all over a wall in a kitchen area where there were just a few seats. If you can’t have real, live workplace dogs then maybe having pictures of them will be just as productive, calming and comfortable as the real thing. It was an area that always seemed abuzz with people and conversations!
     
    Whether it is in the elevator or those seconds before the elevator doors close (rom-com movie-style) or walking up a set of stairs or walking in or out of the building. These are all spaces and we need to be able to engage, listen, communicate and exchange ideas and information.
     
     
    The Wrap
    Old Ways in Old Spaces

    Every day you continue using old ways of working in your old/existing spaces, you’re falling behind culturally, economically and commercially. It's wake up time; time to look and learn. 
     
    Old Ways in New Spaces
    All that design, furniture, accessorising and inconvenience during a move or renovation is wasted unless you do something. Quick. Putting whiteboards on walls doesn’t make people magically feel comfortable or more confident in using them. Just as putting a new oven in my kitchen doesn’t make me a better cook - I have evidence. You’ve got to back up the feature or the change or the environment with some skill and know-how on how to make the most of it. It's time to leverage; it's time to press restart and resource people. 
     
    New Ways in Old Spaces
    This is where it’s happening. Teams who are willing to try new things (and have leaders who invite the experiments) despite their environment remaining the same, are the bomb. They’re risk taking, agile-ish experimenters. Hooray for them! Have a go... explore and experiment. There is opportunity everywhere. 
     
    New Ways in New Spaces
    This is the ultimate in having an advantage in business. A fresh start or a chance at a new Day #1. Cultural change is possible as you clean the slate and introduce new ways of working in shiny new spaces… because it feels like a whole new world. Back it up with the skills and resources and you're all onto a winner. 
     
    There’s more reading below if you wish….


    So this is the new world of work.
    At times it is spontaneous and it's happening in spaces that are less structured than they used to be ... or we might like them to be. 
     
    We have to be able to flex our style to what’s available. 

    Saturday
    Jan132018

    Retrospective: Look back with some structure and process

    The end of a project, calendar year or quarter and there can be lots to wrap up, finish up and look back at. 

    For some of us, things just keep on keeping on. The calendar or end of project may be irrelevant; perhaps there's not even a whiff of time to slow down to review anything. 

    When you do have a moment to pause, reflect, gather some thoughts or input or review in readiness for what's ahead, here's a little something for you. It's for you or for your team, unit, project, organisation...

     

    A Template for a Retrospective

    Retrospective. It's a word that comes from Latin roots meaning 'I look back at.'

    So get together and start looking back. That is, have a conversation or meeting to talk about what went well and what didn't go so well and how you can make the best of all of that. You don't need to dwell on it all for hours and hours; in fact this tool helps you take what happened and shift it forward for change. 

    Rather than a dull meeting based on vague questions or a meeting where loud mouths reign and interrupt quieter members of the team... here's a tool for you to lead the conversation with. 

     

    A Visual Focus

    The power of visuals in meetings, conversations and communication are undeniable. They help people hear each other, they help us focus, they help us stay on track because we can actually see the work to be done.

    Use this template to not only lead the meeting or conversation, but to capture some of the content that's contributed by the team.

    I've put together some instructions if you need 'em in a PDF here or a little video here

     

    Alone or together

    Whether you do it alone, in a team (or a family, yeah that's a great idea), with the project team or across units and divisions, spend just a little valuable time looking back and reviewing with a more formalised structure and process.

    A retrospective view helps give people the opportunity to contribute, to participate and voice their thoughts. Plus it gives you a rich trove of insights and sensemaking from which to do more or to make some changes and adapt for what's up next. 

    Monday
    Jun262017

    Are you tinkering or transforming? 

    The need for change in organisations and sectors all over the world created a whole field of expertise and a category of employee - The Change Manager, the Change Leader, the Change Consultant.  They live and breathe this stuff; they know what it’s about, how to do it and the impact a change initiative can have on people and the way organisations operate. They’re all about helping us get from here … to there. 

    Yet some change leaders don’t just deal with change anymore, they deal with even bigger stuff … transformation.

    Yes, change has grown bigger and become even more chang-ey; change that is more significant and more widespread and interconnected and ongoing is transformation. 

    (Possible cliche alert regarding 'transformation' : please don’t use a picture of a caterpillar and a butterfly to show how you are transforming a project, system or people. Yikes. Cliche alert. Woop! Woop!)

     

    Change : to make or become different. 

    In one of my earlier careers as an awards judge for communication projects, the panel would review submissions where entrants would declare that their goals were to ‘change the community’s perception of….’ or ‘change the customer’s behaviour’ or ‘change the way that…’- yet few of these declarations of change seemed to also declare by what amount or percent or scale they would change, to make or become different. 

    It seemed that a little bit of change was still change and for many in the field, that was enough. Tick. Done. Change has occurred. Next project!

    Change often seems to have a defined and finite scope. 

    But to transform is something else. It's often seen as something different

     

    Transformation means ‘marked change’.

    Is transformation a change you can see? Is it obvious, noticeable, significant, ongoing and interconnected? Could you perhaps keep track of it or mark it on something: “A year ago we were there, last month we were there and now ...we are here! Look! Transformation."

    Do you remember the pencil marks on the kitchen wall? As you grew in height you could see that transformation had occurred, and a marked change had taken place. You might have done this for your own kids, or pets or plants or even your unread book collection. 

    Transformation is change. But I fear that while we're all so involved and committed to a piece of change, it’s actually just … a tinkering. 

    Tinker. Tinker. Tinker. 

    A tinkerer was somewhat of a gypsy; they’d travel from place to place and make a living by fixing and mending metal pots and pans and tools. The noise was a ‘tinker’. 

    You can hear it - when someone is working on an old car under the hood, or they are rattling around in the utensils drawer in the kitchen looking for a potato masher or a pot lid or the spoon that completes that set of salad servers. Rattle rattle clank clang and tinker. Yes that noise. 

    Tinkering was about improving, to try to mend, to fix it up or improve. A little. 

    Of all the effort that goes into change and transformation programs in workplaces, this is what I see: lots of effort. To improve. Hours and days, weeks and months of time and effort. So many meetings, information packs, version control of the information packs, flow charts and arrows, more meetings, working groups, town halls and whole-of-staff gatherings, more meetings and presentations and packs. 

    But not enough of decisions, actions, experiments and results. As a recent Harvard Business Review suggested, many of our changes aren’t ambitious enough. 

    Many changes or shifts are too delicate, bite size - just a morsel or a crumb. The end result : tinkering. Little changes. Petit. Picolo.  Over a l-o-n-g period of time.

     

    We’re not really changing that much... are we?

    We might be aiming to change a lot of processes or systems and structures, or hell yes, let’s change people, even just a few degrees would be great. And yet that is hard work. To get everyone - all of them - to shift. A little. All the teams, units and departments to all shift one or two degrees. That’s a big deal

    Rather than tinkering on a little something with everyone, why not look at how you can truly transform a pocket, a division, a team, a squad or a unit. And dramatically. Markedly. 

     

    Pockets of transformation

    Internal hubs, accelerators and pockets of innovative joy are popping up everywhere in cities, communities and businesses. Some companies are setting them up off-site in a cool warehouse-style environment, others are cordoning off a meeting room and labelling it ‘The Innovation Lab’ or ‘hub’ or ‘foundry’ or ‘garage’ or other mechanical-workshoppy-sounding noun where things are being furiously made. 

    Whatever you call your transformation pocket - and your business doesn’t need to be large to do this - be sure that you actually transform something... rather than tinkering with everything. Start there. 

     

    Do you major in minor or minor in major?

    Jim Rohn’s advice to avoid ‘majoring in minor things’ perhaps suggests we could avoid the large, unweildy and lengthy change we're trying to make to somethin' little. That can turn out to be a big mess. 

    There is a more helpful (diagonal) opposite. It’s smarter, more lean and more agile to start with ‘minoring in major things’. That is, carry out little experiments on some of the bigger things. 

    Then you can move step by step towards the big deal of majoring on those major transformative things. 

    (And the other distraction, that's minoring in minor things - ooh, it’s all a bit scary so we don’t do very much of anything at all. It's an area of big fear. We distract and procrastinate and confabulate and obfuscate.)

    Too often the default change initiative is majoring in the minor. I think you need to keep a look out, and then get outta there. 

    It could look like this: 

     

    Where agility happens 

    So go ahead and 'have a crack' at radically changing something. This is where transformation is born. This is where success and learned failure live. It's way more experimental, experiential and insightful. 

    With some experiments launched, you can see how they go. Then you can experiment faster, and get results faster and these will be results that are noticeable and reportable, applicable ... formidable. You'll be playing a leaner game (a-la The Lean Start-up) with yes, perhaps a low-fidelity version of that something, but with insights and data that pour back to you way sooner than a long drawn-out change effort involving a cast of many and a calendar of many months... or years. 

    This approach schools us so the next one we launch - if it turns out that it’s actually worth launching another one or "rolling" anything out to anyone - will be more efficient, more valuable and simply work better.

    Leave those little barely-there ‘just noticeable differences’ for the marketing world and their product packaging on supermarket shelves. They don't belong in change and transformation. 

    Don’t fall into the safety of a too subtle, too gentle or too soft change - it keeps you busy but... it will do that for years. Yawn!

    Too many people, projects, teams, units, industries and organisations are tinkering. 

    You can keep tapping away on a little bit of metal somewhere - tinker tinker - gently and fearfully at the edges of what could be great, hoping to make a few indents ... or you can melt the thing down, change it markedly (transform it) and see what new there is to work with.

    It’s minoring in major things, in transforming some. This will help get you ready for bigger transformations up ahead. This is marked change and this is the type of transformation the world requires us to make today. 

    Wednesday
    Feb082017

    Planning is a waste. Spur of the moment is often good enough. 

    ‘The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.’ - Walt Disney

    There’s a message here from the Director of Your Life; don’t wait for the script to arrive. Get on with it.

    Everyday life is the biggest improvisation of all. No script. No rehearsal. Get straight out onto the stage of life and start performing! 

    Ray Bradbury, the science fiction, horror and fantasy writer, said, ‘First you jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down’. And although some believe the quote attributable to Kurt Vonnegut, another equally interesting and creative author, the message is the same: leap and the net will appear, you will adapt, you’ll work it out and you’ll be moving!

    Spur of the moment is often good enough 

    For many planners, strategists and forward thinking folks, planning is a part of their everyday life. They plan their morning; they plan their lunch; they plan their afternoon; and they plan family holidays, expeditions and adventures. But to deal with the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous life which is how the world is now operating, to plan can sometimes be too slow.

    Start before you're ready

    How about the idea of starting before you're ready and making things up as we go along?

    I joke with friends and family that there are some cities and towns in the world, that if I had the opportunity to visit them again, you could take me to the airport right now. With nothing more than my phone with a payment app + my passport in my back pocket, I would work it all out as I went. 

    That idea can freak some people out. But I really would be willing to do that.

    Starting before you're ready is a response based on a theory around improvisation. Step into a community or public theatre in almost any city around the world and you will be able to discover the talents and prowess of improvisers. They step onto stages, performing for paying public and they are able to create and deliver an incredible performance almost every time.

    At the end of an improvised show, many theatergoers ask, ‘can we come back tomorrow night and see this performance again?’ Some audiences don’t realise that the show they just saw was fully improvised. Perhaps, a suggestion was given from someone in the audience to start a scene for the performance. Perhaps, one of the performers has added their own ideas. In fact, this is what improvisation is. It’s cutting loose your censor and setting free the inhibitions in your mind to deliver creativity.

    When I first learned the skills of improvisation with Impro Melbourne and was encouraged to step onto the stage as a performer, I always felt that I needed to rehearse a bit more or prepare in my mind what I was going to do or take some notes. Just as improvisers step onto a stage without a script -- so must we in workplaces today. 

    The idea that we can start before we are ready, gives us permission to just have a go, to not have a plan, to not have a script, to not have a structure and to not have any clue where this might go!

    What?! This can be terrifying for those who like to plan, for those who like certainty, for those who like unambiguous situations and for those who like to keep it all under control, known, certain and sorted. Trying to keep it all steady and calm. This is a little different to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that are now in full swing in most industries across the globe.

    If you are 80% ready to go, then go.

    Start before you're ready says don't worry about planning... well, not fully anyway. Not down to the final point.

    If you are 80% ready to go, then go.

    If you are 40% ready to go, then go with something.

    If you are 20% ready to go, then go with that.

    If you continue to plan out every single step of your idea, of your business opportunity, of your entrepreneurial thoughts or of your team's actions, your capacity to respond to that uncertainty and those changes are minimized. By the time you've finished planning, the landscape has changed! To be able to start at anytime - particularly before you're ready - gives you the opportunity to respond, to adapt, to be agile and to be flexible.

    Over the longer term starting before you're ready helps reduce your inhibitions, your structures, your limitations and your beliefs about what can be possible, what you can create and what you can do.

    Get momentum and get something 'out there'

     

    And for the procrastinators among us (yes, me too), starting before you're ready is a very cool way to get some momentum, to get something 'out there' and get over your need for it to be finished, perfect or better before you put it out there.

    Have a crack. Try it out. Start before you're ready and then document what happens. You could be on to something truly life changing for you and those you impact with your thinking, creativity and work.

    Improvisation maestro and master, guru and god, Keith Johnstone suggests that spur of the moment thoughts and actions are as good -- or better -- than the ones we try too hard at.

    Stop trying so hard. 

    Tuesday
    Oct042016

    The Visual Agile Manifesto - refreshed

    A few years ago I created a visual representation of the written Agile Manifesto.

    It seemed to resonate with people; it got printed out, pinned up on walls and was shared and talked about in workplaces all over the world.

    I've updated the visual - with the same elements - but looking a little more refreshed.

    Here it is...