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    Entries in collaboration (46)

    Monday
    Dec032018

    Bad systems beat good people

     

    'A bad system will beat a good person every time' - so said W. Edwards Deming. 

    You've got some great people in your team, on your project, in that meeting, attending the workshop. You really have. Great people.  

    The thing is... the system - whatever system is at play in the project, meeting, workshop -often isn't working to support those great people. It may well be stifling them, stopping them, slowing them down or just slowly breaking their spirit, enthusiasm and sense that they can achieve something. 

    Let those great people give the great ideas, suggestions, hunches, hopes and insights they have. Create a system that leverages the people and doesn't limit them. 

    When you plan your next meeting, workshop, session, project, what systems will support the people to bring their greatness? That's the stuff to fix. Don't blame the people. Remedy the system or structure that's inhibiting them, hindering them or keeping them from doing their best. 

    Sunday
    Dec022018

    Break some patterns.

     

    When you next plan an all-staff meeting, a conference, workshop, strategy session or meeting ... break some patterns.

    The way it’s being done is dull. Starting at 9am; morning tea at 10.30am. Dull side decks from leaders trying to get ‘alignment’ and ‘buy-in’.

    It’s too much presentation, not enough conversation; all monologue, not enough dialogue.

    Darkened theatres and vanilla communications. We are done with it.

    Open the blinds! Ask some questions. Break the routines and expectations that you think are the ‘right way’ to do things.

    The people you serve - not the ‘resources’ or ‘numbers’ or ‘head count’ - the people will thank you for it. 

    Wednesday
    Nov282018

    This is the era of ease

    This is the era of ease.

    The world of work has changed. If you're a leader, you need to be more collaborative, able to help a group of individuals play to their strengths and get great work done.

    You need to be able to make the workplace safe for them to be themselves. And to be able to bring them together, to remove barriers, roadblocks and obstacles to their progress - not create them.

    This is a bigger role than just you and your title, your package, ego or status. You'll need to bring empathy, great listening skills, clever questioning capabilities and the ability to chill the %$#& out - to stop being so driven, anxious and intense.

    'Facilitation' means ease, to make easier. Today's world of work needs you to be a leader who makes things easier. That's making progress, meetings, problem-solving, conversations, influence, starting and finishing things - all easier.

    Help make it all easier. This is the era of ease.

    Wednesday
    Nov282018

    How safe was that meeting or workshop you were just in? 


    Every time we're invited to a meeting or to participate in a workshop or conversation we're either a participant or the convener/leader/facilitator of the session. 

    Levels of engagement continue to drop across workplaces, yet we're increasingly needing to get people 'on board', 'aligned' or 'buying-in' to strategies, plans, directions and programs of work.

    That workshop, meeting, planning session or conversation you most recently attended - or led - may not have been that 'safe'. 

    Safety - in this case, psychological safety - was less than it could have been. 

    It wasn't safe for people to take risks, to speak up and contribute their ideas or to challenge and discuss in ways that help solve problems, resolve conflict or progress a project to deliver great value. 

    At the intersections of engagement and outcomes
    If you've ever felt steamrolled or stifled, shut down or stopped in a meeting or workshop, I call that a 'Hostage Situation'. It's where outcomes over engagement are the priority. 

    Just as awkward and uncomfortable can be the 'Yawn Fest' where it's low engagement, low outcomes. 

    Sure it's all fun and games at the 'High Priced Party' where we're having high engagement but getting zip zero done. 

    Ultimately we're aiming for the sweet spot of 'High Impact', high engagement, high outcomes. 

    It all looks like this...

     



    ...and I don't think you get there by accident or by default. It's achieved via great design, great facilitation, leadership and safety. 

    Work at it from both perspectives
    I’ve been working with a couple of teams in organisations at two levels or ‘fronts’: 

    1. To help the team feel more comfortable to speak up and contribute their thoughts in meetings and workshops. They have great stuff to give but sometimes they feel shy, uncertain, worried, unsure about what they’re thinking and how best to express it... and how it will be received. 

    and

    2. To help the leaders of teams and projects lead better, safer, more effective meetings, workshops and sessions. 

    You might think that the team just needs to ‘lean in’ or ‘toughen up’ or ‘speak up for goodness sake’ or ‘get over it and get into it’, but that’s not how they might see things. It's this impatience or lack of empathy that's got us here. 

    Additionally, you might believe that the leaders are doing the best they can or it’s not their fault, or there’s so much to do in so little time that of course, they just need to just ‘get on with it’. But there is a way where you can make great progress, and do it within the constraints of a well-designed and facilitated process. 

    Plus... it’s not a clean ‘us and them’ because you can be an ‘us’ in one meeting e.g. a participant, and then shuffle out of that meeting room and straight into another where you’re the ‘them’, the leader of the meeting. 
    We can adopt both of these roles at different times, even if we’re simply having a 1:1 or a 1:2 meeting or conversation about progress, status, problem-solving or planning. 


    Work at making it safer
    The topic of psychological safety isn’t new, but the adoption and acknowledgment of it isn't widespread… enough. Amy Edmonson's TEDx Talk on the topic is a must watch. 

    There are meetings, workshops, conversations and interactions going on in workplaces all the time where people aren’t contributing or speaking up or giving their best; because it’s not safe (enough) for them (their level of safety) to do so. 

    In a leader’s efforts to ‘get shit done’ they might also be stomping on people, steamrolling or shutting things down - often without knowing it. Their only hint is 'people aren't engaged' or 'they're not contributing.'

    Contrast that to a leader who’s been given the feedback that they are a little steam-rolly and then they may swing too far the other way; they become hesitant, uncertain, ambiguous, treading on eggshells and not providing enough direction or leadership or enough constraints for people to do great work. 

    In the workshops I lead with clients on both developing better Leader as Facilitator / facilitation skills and being a great participant / speaking up skills, I hear and see the challenges that each group feels and experiences. 

    Check with a tool
    In planning your next workshop, meeting or conversation, check over how safe is it for people to do all of these things I've mapped out in the grid or matrix-ish thing below.

    Or to not do them. Safe for people to not do them. 
    There can also be the expectation that 'you will speak up' or 'you will contribute' (when we do that dreadful 'go around the room' cliched technique - no please, stop it, don't do that anymore!) when in fact, people might not be ready. Some of that stuff simply shouldn't be forced and there are many other tools, techniques and processes that help get contributions rather than 'around the room' in order. 

    So do this...
    1. Print or save and tick off, be aware of and make deliberate efforts on these. 
    2. Let the team know upfront that you're trying to make it safer to do some of these things. Let them know you'll be wanting to hear how it's going. 
    3. During or on conclusion of the session, ask the team how safe it was to do some of these things - depending on the type of meeting or workshop you held. You'll get instant and immediate feedback. 
    4. Plan and think about how you'll incorporate these into the design, the process, the agenda and  the activities (yes, these are all different things: design, process, agenda, activities) of your workshops, meetings and sessions. 

    We all need to consider how we can make it safer for those who've been stomped on, interrupted or shut down w-a-y too many times in the past. We're all carrying scar tissue of times we weren't given the environment to give our best. Ouch... still hurts. 

    You can make the next interactions with the team more productive, creative, collaborative and effective... when they're safer. 

    And that will most certainly feel good, for everyone. Safe and good. 

    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.