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    Entries in culture (15)

    Thursday
    Aug222019

    Start talking about it - new ways of working

    If agility is on your company's agenda, then start talking about it.

    → What does agile mean to you?

    → Why is it important to you?

    → What are your customers expecting?

    → What things can you begin to shift and adjust as you move towards newer ways of working?

    → What older ways of working might need to go?

    Too many organisations impose change that disrupts employees and leaves them wondering ‘why’. So much so that no amount of town hall meetings or ‘ask me anything’ sessions will resolve or temper the uncertainty.

    When agile or agility is on the horizon, or is underway, start talking about it - at all levels across the organisation and with all sorts of people.

    Secretly configuring a change or transformation in the background that will be ‘rolled out’ across the organisation as of x date isn’t agility. It’s prescription and control - sorry, that’s still an old way of working.

    Develop, discuss and explore the need for agility in your business and engage with people on it, talk about it. You might need to be willing to hear some uncomfortable questions and uncertain objections.

    Action: Put agility on the agenda of your next meeting. Kick off with a conversation about it. Find out what people think. 

    Thursday
    Aug222019

    Don’t outsource your culture change

    Adopting new more agile ways of working is on the agenda for businesses - large, small, corporate, not for profit, government - responding to the needs of customers and the changing ways of the world. If a business needs to change how it is working, the culture will need to shift too.

    You can't hope to make changes to the way work is done without looking at what the culture might need to be like. Yet many organisations engage or outsource to a company to 'come in and do it for us'. It's ‘let’s get someone in, they’ll make it happen and we won’t have to do it'.

    Yes it can get messy and complex and tough, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.

    Any cultural shift in your organisation will take time. It’s not a mandate; it’s a conversation, a demonstration, and a commitment to try on whatever new ways of working appeal.

    New cultures are created, meeting by meeting, conversation by conversation, task by task, person by person. They don't switch over like summer time or flick on like a light.

    So start now. It doesn’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to have it all ‘worked out’ first.

    Action: Get your people together and start a conversation on the culture they'd like to work in.

    Monday
    Jun032019

    Minutes are meaningless

    We still use an archaic 18th Century practice of capturing ‘little notes’ or minutes in our meetings ... in our 21st Century workplaces made up of 21st Century people.

    It's crazy. We're still using 18th Century meeting procedures too!

    Tired old structures and systems that slow things down, put us to sleep and carve away at interest and engagement. Those old style meetings don’t make sense. And neither do the minutes from those meetings.

    It’s time to make a cultural change in how you make sense of information in meetings. Taking, making and sharing minutes is an utter waste of time, an activity bottleneck and a momentum killer. In meetings, don't just document decisions - the act of making sense involves more than this.

    Minutes are dead and distract us from the real work. (Ok unless you need them legally e.g. a board meeting or committee that votes or decides and minutes are evidence of that decision, yes fine have them then!) And here's to the poor souls who type them up to circulate them to people who will never read them. This week I'm posting on sensemaking.

    And minutes don't make sense!

    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. 

    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.