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SENSEMAKING

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Build this powerful, influential skill to help make sense of change, communicate clearly and engage people in the most challenging situations

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    Entries in productive collaboration (3)

    Wednesday
    Aug312016

    To Hack is the Way

     

    The challenges of the modern workplace aren’t new: low levels of engagement and morale, industry disruption putting pressure on the business, silos and disconnected teams, a slow pace of internal change due to resistance or lack of buy in and general busy-ness overload.

    It could sound a bit dull and depressing :-( yet when you look a little closer, you might find pockets of the business where ‘all is good’.

    For many people, teams and units across a business, a breath of fresh air and a jolt of innovation and inspiration is what’s needed to press ‘reset’ and embark on a new financial year or a new project or kick-off a fresh start. 

    So I’m here to tell ya: the hack is the way. 

    Yes, the hack.

    Not breaking-into-computers hacking, but rather coming-up-with-ingenious-ideas-for-tricky-problems hacking.

    Known as the ‘hack day’ or ‘hackathon’, increasingly clued-up businesses are bringing their teams together to identify top talent, reconnect their people, speed up the identification of ideas and shift up the vibe of the business’ culture.

    This article gives you three reasons why…  this one reckons all businesses should be hacking. 

    Too often in team days or dull planning sessions the loudest voices drown out fresh and upcoming idea makers in a workplace. Or worse, it's a meteor shower of PowerPoint bullet points. And even when ideas are presented, there’s a lack ofaccountability or responsibility or follow through to get things done to see if they’ll actually work. 

    So enter, the hack. A half, one or multi-day hacking event is proving to be a culture shaker, an innovation maker and a rut breaker!

    Full on input… and output

    Through these creative, collaborative, ingenious and full-on sessions, teams work together to design and deliver something; they create solutions to respond to real customer challenges. Whether that's a new strategy, or a new product. With an increasing focus on the customer, businesses of all sizes are seeing this is a sharp and clever angle for competitive advantage.

    The hackathon helps develop prototypes that can be put into practice quick smart.

    Best of all, you get a taste of agile - a taste of agility and of productivity. You get to play with some of the super human approaches and ways of working of leading global businesses who use hacks to their advantage. Think Google, NASA, Facebook, Salesforce, Uber, eBay, Qantas, Atlassian… 

    But hey, hackathons don’t have to be about technology; it’s where they were born, yes, but you can apply hacks to creativity and innovation in almost any aspect of your business, team, unit or industry. 

    I recently facilitated a hack session at a multi-industry conference; more than 100 people all working on individual projects and tasks but their outputs could only have been achieved in that timeframe using hacking techniques. It looks like we could be starting to hack the hack!

    Cool companies hack

    Big and small companies, teams and projects the world over are seeing the benefits of the hack.

    They get teams of people together to work intensively and rapidly to:

    • create new products
    • focus on customers
    • align the team and enterprise
    • create solutions to tricky problems
    • lift innovative thinking and
    • create collaborative environments.


    And wait, there's more. I love how hack events help you see how people work under pressure.  This type of environment helps you identify top talent, high potentials and high performers who may have been previously hidden, stifled or just uninspired!

    Plus it's time to find other ways to break out of those dull ruts and patterns that a team may have fallen victim to over recent times. It's so easy to get comfortable and stay there. 

    Most of all I love seeing teams mixing together - particularly when they're working across silos. People are enjoying the work  (because : happiness!) and they're bringing a competitive and cheeky team spirit to the event. The energy is electric and the solutions are often mind blowing!

    'Wha?! How did they come up with THAT?' is a phrase that's often heard. 

    Customer Focus

    With a customer focus, a hackathon or hack day helps create some big reasons to connect and talk more deeply with customers; to research and gather information, to uncover insights and to map out customer experiences. In these insights are genius solutions and ideas that the team can create during the hack. 

    Practical ... and Keep Going

    Many hackers rave about how practical and productive hackathons are. It's not about talking all day. Yawn! Hack days are about getting sh*t done, doing things. It’s about short sprints of activity over the day or days and teams working rapidly, pushing through doubt or procrastination and experiencing a highly productive environment where delivery is everything.

    And then with the experience of the hack, teams take hacking elements back to their workplace and workspace and find they’re able to generate innovative ideas and work productively by applying same, again and again. 

    One team I worked with recently continued using their 'Hack Pack': it's a bunch of practices I run in a hack day. When they want to re-live the experience of the hackathon in their everyday work, they simply choose a technique from the Hack Pack ... and go!

    7 things

    Now, before you go all crazy and book a venue and invite everyone to hack together, think about these 7 things first: 

    1. Focus: why are we going to hack and what might the theme be? 

    2. Hackers: who's in? Who wants to come, needs to be there or would benefit from the lift of the hack?

    3. Schedule: what's going to happen when on the day? What's the schedule of things? 

    4. Process: how are you going to hack? What will you do when? Who will facilitate it for you (yes of course, let's talk about this!)

    5. Celebrate: how will you cheer on the ideas, outputs and progress the hackers make throughout the day?

    6. Implement: how will you bring the prototypes you create to fruition and put them into practice beyond the hack? 

    7. Integrate: how will you weave the learnings from the event into your culture for ongoing benefits, ROI and overall hacking goodness?

    Your hack plan could look like this...



    Leading companies and businesses across so many industries (beyond technology) are learning that today's challenges need new ways of thinking, acting and working. They're looking for better ways to drive creativity and ingenuity - yet all the while still solving problems and challenges. (Oh and let's maintain or strengthen our competitive advantage at the same time!)

    When you need to get all of that done, they know - and you do too - that where there’s a hack ... there’s a way!
    Thursday
    Jan282016

    When your meeting culture sucks: 8 ways to refresh

    The meeting culture in many companies sucks. It’s no surprise given how last century some of our meeting behaviours are. We have meetings that are too many, too long, too little achieved, too much talk, too frustrating… it’s all too much!

    The culture of how we meet can be deeply ingrained in an organisation. There are plenty of unwritten and unspoken rules that get followed simply because that’s how it’s been done for years.

    And because we expect (or hope?) that so much will get done in our meetings, we owe it to our schedules, customers, colleagues (and families) to get as productive as we can.

    Here’s how to inject some fresh thinking and behaviour into your workplace meetings for this week, month, year:

     

    1. Have less: Say ‘no’

    This is a classic piece of advice. Start fresh this year. Don’t meet if you don’t need to and if you do need to...

     

    2. Have shorter: Time box it

    Ok yes, you’re going to meet but keep the duration shorter. Use the technique of time-boxing; set a timer on your phone and go for the surprise of a seven, 16 or 23-minute meeting. I like to use a humorous ringtone for the alarm like zombie noises, spaceships or the theme from a well-known sit-com. It always gets a laugh, breaks the tension and inspires people to refocus for the next topic.

     

    3. Go visual: Show me

    Help people cut through all the blah-blah. When people can see what you mean, they’ll understand quicker and you’ll make faster progress. Everyday I work with leaders and teams and use sensemaking or mapping techniques with them. You don’t need to be able to draw. Pick up a marker and capture the key points, those ‘in-a-nutshell’ comments on a flip chart, whiteboard, tablet or note pad. What shape is their idea? Map that. The meeting will be 25% shorter once people can see what they’re talking about.  

     

    4. Follow a process: This then that

    Too many meetings follow an agenda - if you’re lucky - but no process. A process outlines how you’re going to handle each agenda item.

    The default tends to be ‘let’s all talk about it’. Here the whole group of the meeting talk (or interrupt each other) to put their views forward. But it’s so challenging to move from the talking about your opinion, to the brainstorming solutions part and then try and get to making a decision – all in the one breath. 

    Borrowed from the world of professional facilitators, a process will help you confirm the facts or background, then hear opinions, then generate ideas and finally, agree to actionsHere’s my advice on an Accelerated Meeting Framework that just works and how to do it. 

     

    5. Stay creative: Yes and…

    Aim to include more creative techniques in your meetings, workshops and sessions. I’m not talking about ‘Pass the Orange’ or ‘Bust the Balloon’ party games by the way! I love to borrow from the world of improvisation. The Improv Encyclopedia is a rich trove of creative loot for groups and teams to be more innovative, ingenious and collaborative when they get together.

     

    6. Get inspiration: good better best

    It’s practical to aspire towards ‘better practice’ if you can’t quite get to best practice yet. Do this by learning from other fields and businesses that nail their meeting productivity and culture 

    There is a lot to learn about productive collaboration from the Scrum methodology used by many software and tech companies, and increasingly other industries and businesses. This is thanks Jeff Sutherland – one of the inventors of Scrum and his practical book ‘Scrum’. 

     

    7. Stand up sometimes: No chairs required

    A popular scrum approach is to have a daily standup meeting. Simply start by removing the chairs and tables from your meeting; you’ll have shorter, more focused and productive meetings right away. You don’t even need a meeting room for this! Stand up in your workspace. I saw a Zara retail team having their morning standup huddle between the shorts and the shoes!

     

    8. Change your environment: Love thy neighbour

    Break your habits and patterns of same/same; the same rooms for the same meetings. In workplaces where it’s challenging to find a meeting room, why not go outside? Try walking meetings, go to a cafe or other unusual and inspiring venue like sports courts, community colleges, bowling alleys, community theatres, swimming pools, the beach or lake, local park or other recreation facility. Take a deep breath while you’re there!

    A client recently hunted out some meeting room locations in the businesses that were next door or nearby. Now they have some inspiring collaborative ventures up and running that started just by finding out who was in the neighborhood and whether they might have some meeting space available.

     

    9. Bonus tip: Stay open

    If someone else in the team brings along some creative and cultural shifts to the way you meet, collaborate or communicate this year, take it… stay open. Say ‘yes’. Experiment, test and try.

     

    Try hitting ‘refresh’ on your meetings, workplace, collaboration and communication habits. Test and experiment with things to find what works and keep at it. Avoid falling back into lazy meeting habits or you’ll have the same things, creating the same outcomes and getting the same results. That’s so last century!

    Friday
    Jan302015

    A P.S. to the Standup

    Good news! The team I talked about in my recent post The best meeting : 10 minutes, no water bottles, no chairs, no tables, has now had four stand up meetings... FOUR.... and they're hooked!

    Yes there was uncertainty. There was doubt. There was disbelief.

    But there was also focus, clarity and progress.

    They laughed. They even applauded spontaneously at the end of the first meeting.

    And then off they went and started... doing! Hooray.

    I'm still standing by them as they stand up, mainly to guide the leader with some facilitation skills. Of course, that leader already has some great facilitation skills, but you know what it's like when you're working with PEOPLE! :-)

    We're all human and so the human leader just needs to deliver some more human to the humans in the stand up.

    So a little coaching, guidance and debriefing for the leader on the fine art of 'handling the sh*t that goes down in groups' is what we've be doing after each of the stand ups.

    I'll keep standing by their stand ups and look forward to seeing them getting on with great progress and celebrating - whether they stumble, fall, get up, fail, or go wildly beyond what they were expecting.

    Are you standing up yet?