McCarthy Bootcamp and The Core Protocols – Experiencing a Team with Shared Vision

Posted June 30, 2015 by Andrea Chiou
Categories: Core Protocols, Teams

Tags: , ,

I attended Jim and Michele McCarthy’s team-building workshop – in April 2015.  It was an amazing experience learning how to create great teams within the span of one week using the The Core Protocols.  If you’ve never read of them before or want to familiarize yourself with them, you can download or print the Protocols here or buy a small printed version here.

I went to Bootcamp because I am tired of workplaces where I cannot see the innate energy, skills and gifts people have.  I see lifeless disengaged employees and I want that to change. I wanted to experience working in a different way, for a week, where people feel connection. I want others to benefit from what I learned is possible.

In this Bootcamp, experimental learning requires an individual commitment to use the protocols, including all of the built in safety features. One of the first instructions to Bootcamp participants is: You are entering a simulation and you must pretend that the Protocols will work during the simulation.  There is no doubting their efficacy during bootcamp. Use them. Experience them. You will see the results.  It’s like entering a new building. You cannot appreciate fully from looking at the floor plans alone.  I believe it is in the doing that we learn how and why.

Before Bootcamp, we had a 100 page pre-bootcamp reading assignment to prepare us for this journey. We came from about 7 different nationalities and continents – we were about 15 people in total including a 13 year old. Below I share just a few salient aspects of Bootcamp and below that some other links for those who are still curious. 

Personal Alignment

During the Bootcamp itself, before working on the product that we were assigned to deliver by the end of the week, team members get to know each other.   The Personal Alignment itself takes the the form of articulating a virtue (love, courage, trust, presence, joy, health/self-care)  – one that if the skies rained down this virtue in abundance, all the ‘blocks’ to your personal achievement would be removed.

This aspect is about individuals discovering what they want, disclosing it, and then asking the team for support in the form of a signal/response pair.   Supporting each other in getting those virtues allows the team to be be strong!

I see a lot of analytical, technical, engineering type problem solvers slaving away at their day jobs. I wonder if they find joy, connection, support, and a sense of being ‘in’ with their team on a daily basis… I wonder if they know that over time, they will burn out from not feeling connected to others at work in a deeper way.  One of the reasons I value the Protocols, specifically Personal Alignment, Check In and Ask For Help so much is that they bring this me a strong sense of being connected to each member of the team.  Work should bring joy, and with the connectedness and safety, people will produce at their best.

At camp we used the Investigate protocol to learn more about each other. It is a time of deepening relationships on the team as the Alignments are explored. One person on the team at my Bootcamp wanted more Courage.  When he shared his signal throughout bootcamp: ‘I want Courage’, anyone present at that moment would yowl like a wolf as that was the response he asked for!  Alignments allow for personal growth.  Folks are encouraged to write down the evidences they will have when they know they are exhibiting more of their virtue. They are encouraged to report those evidences to team members, and ask for help when they need it.  This is incredibly powerful.

Web of Commitments

After personal alignments, the team performs a  web of commitments ceremony in which all the alignments, signals and responses are shared. We also share our desired evidences.  It’s a beautiful creation – coming from the increased bandwidth, self-disclosure, getting to know one another.

Shared Vision

Before making products, we create a shared vision. This is a brief statement about what we want the world to be like as a result of the product we are making. We create the vision before we even know what product we will be making… it is very aspirational, very inspiring as well.  One feels lifted above the dross and worry of procuring the stuff we’ll need…. and we did need stuff – read more about that later in the Managers section.

Making Products

After the Web of Commitments, we go to work producing. Now that we are more deeply connected with one another, we will reflect our best selves in our products.

We continue to use  Ask For Help, Check In, Check Out, Investigate, Intention Check, Decider, Perfection Game, Resolution, Protocol Check liberally as we produce stuff – in addition to to sharing our alignment prompts. We are completely self-organizing using our communication tools and discovering and sharing our talents.

Our team made a lot of cool things. There were sub teams of people creating things like a Gong stand, a robotic proximity sensor with stuff bought at Radio Shack, paintings, a Greatness Manifesto, an emotion/check in cube, a game, music and so forth.  By the end of the week, our goal was to showcase our best product to the ‘Managers’.

Managers 

Jim and Michelle McCarthy who hosted the Bootcamp I attended played the ‘Manager’ role.   They showed up at times, as managers normally do, seeing how things were going, to see if we were using ‘Ask for Help’ protocol.  One of the big things folks get wrong with respect to management is not asking for help enough!  This is true on every Bootcamp they’ve ever run – and I’ve been noticing this a lot as a cultural phenomenon back at work. People who need things are afraid to ask for them! We had several team members who had been to a handful of bootcamps before, and they were not shy – and whatever support we needed (stuff to make our products), we asked for from Jim and Michelle, or just procured the items ourselves. Like some of the other newbies, I fell short of asking for help enough at Bootcamp by my own admission, but I’ve been practicing more since then. For example, I asked for a new laptop at my coaching gig and got it (the desktop I had was horribly outdated and slow, but I hadn’t thought to ask). 

I’ve been observing this lack of asking by others at work. It is a pervasive phenomenon that I had not really noticed much before. 

Closing Ceremony

At the end, we presented our best product to the managers.  We had everything available to see, but getting to unanimity on the product to showcase was HARD work.  Folks had invested a lot in some of the products, but because we had the ‘Decider’, ‘Resolution’ and ‘Intention Check’, ‘Check in’ and ‘Check out’ protocols, as well as our alignments, we were able to get all onboard and the best product out the door on time.  You can see our product, the Greatness Guild, and follow it as it continues to grow as an outcome of our team’s work.

McCarthy Bootcamps  demonstrate that installing ‘software for your head’ (the Protocols) magnifies a team’s capacity by helping people communicate!  See this invitation to the Fall 2015 Bootcamp and sign up now if you want to experience it.  

If you want to dig deeper on your own after reading this post, read Software for Your Head or listen to the McCarthy Show podcasts. A good podcast to start with is an interview with a Bootcamp grad who started using The Core Protocols at Microsoft. 

 

Dream Girls 2015 – refreshed

Posted April 26, 2015 by Andrea Chiou
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,
A year has passed since I wrote the first Dream Girls post. This post is a refresher and also high five to my friend Andrea Ross, who is pursuing dreams of her own, despite many obstacles.
My daughter, Christie, graduated from college a year ago. During this past year, she worked at her first full time job, facilitating and arranging homestays for exchange students with local families, finding suitable cultural activities, and dealing with their logistics and acclimation problems along the way. It was a perfect first job as she re-adjusted to life back in the US – and it made perfect use of her intercultural skills and experiences and her problem solving and leadership skills. During the first part of 2015, she set her goals on finding a new and more challenging job and received two offers. After she ran a successful, professional, sales pitch to a ‘panel of potential gov’t customers and the Bureau of Wildlife and Fisheries’ as part of the IBM interview process, she was offered and has accepted their job offer to join the sales team for IBM’s cloud services. She’ll be working in the federal space.  She also set her eyes on a personal goal – to compete and win in a body fitness competition. She won first place in all three categories she competed in – after months of really grueling discipline both in the gym and in the kitchen.  I’m so proud that she has demonstrated courage, commitment, and consistency in getting what she wants.  This is the girl that dreams with a purpose!  Dream Girls!
Here’s another Dream Girl!  I met Andrea Ross at the Lean Kanban US conference back in 2012. She’s from Richmond, VA.  I include her here, because I think she lives the ‘dream girls’ life, going after what she wants no matter what the barriers.  Andrea works for the Virginia Department of Corrections as an Analyst and Project Manager in their IT department. She is absolutely passionate about Lean and improving the work place.  She has been an influence within the Department of Corrections, helping to train 12,000 employees in the art of dialogue as part of their own cultural transformation. I’ve been very impressed by the initiative undertaken at such a large institution and I’m proud to know Andrea has been a key part of helping to make that happen.  Andrea runs the Capital Kanban Meetup in Richmond which has a very active participant base and interesting programs.  Later this summer she will train and get certified as a Lean Facilitator and as such is continuing to live her dream – despite considerable hardship logistically to do so.  This is so admirable!
My year has gone extremely well too.  I’ve been working at Santeon with a handful of other agile coaches since May 2014.  I’ve loved working with all of the dozen or so coaches on our coaching team (Paul Boos, Mark Grove, Scott Barnes, David Kane, Rich McCabe, Julie Wyman, Ebony Brown, and Kumar Dattatreyan) and with my clients at Caterpillar and at Customs and Border Protection. The Santeon coaches each have unique strengths and interests, and we are really learning to help each other with different perspectives.  We have regular off-sites to reflect on  direction, our needs, our work, learning, and clients. The owner of the company is incredibly dedicated to our well-being, not just the bottom line.  I am so grateful for this.
In 2015 I am checking off two other dreams I’ve had. I’m heading as we speak to Seattle, WA for ‘Core Protocols‘ Boot Camp to spend a week with a dozen or so other coaches learning how to make great teams and therefore also great products.  Its all experiential and I expect a rather cathartic experience.  In June, I’ll join several dozen coaches and IT professionals in Albuquerque for Problem Solving Leadership class led by my favorites mentors: Esther Derby, Johanna Rothman and Jerry Weinberg. If it weren’t for Jerry Weinberg’s books, his Amplify Your Effectiveness Conferences and the fantastic people I’ve met and come to know through those workshops, I would not be where I am today. I can unequivocally say that.  Problem Solving Leadership is a highly sought after experiential workshop – that helps people explore their own patterns and styles when solving problems.  I am super excited for that as well.   I suppose what I love most about both of these experiences is that neither is about ‘agile’ per se.  They are both about awareness, observation, self-reflection, connection, motivation, possibility, change, getting support for what you need to be a fantastic team member and leader.  For anyone one, girls or boys, who want to dream and achieve their dreams, do not hesitate to Ask for Help!
Lastly, in January 2016, I’ll be going to meet James Lawley and Penny Tomkins at a Symbollic Modeling and Personal Discovery retreat. Penny and James are leaders in the field of change and transformation. I’ve written much about Clean Language on my blog – and referred many to their excellent website – a true online museum of all things Clean.  I feel extremely lucky to be able to meet and work with them for 6 days in January 2016.
Close your eyes, and dream big – ask for help, go for what you want!  It truly brings joy to your soul and affects everyone around you in a positive way!

My Clean Learning Journey

Posted February 21, 2015 by Andrea Chiou
Categories: Clean Language

cleanjourney_paper

I’ve been intensely focussed on Clean Language during 2014 and well into this year as well.  I’ve reflected on where I’ve been and what I want to do next below.  It’s a sort of open mini self-retrospective…first I’ll recap what Clean Language is, for those who don’t know.

Clean Language is a mode of inquiry and a way of coaching – from the realm of psychotherapy. Using Clean Language type of inquiry is about fostering/encouraging the ‘conditions’ for change when a client has a goal, an aspiration, or alternatively when they don’t know what they want, they may start with what they don’t want.  When I started looking into it, I was struck with its simplicity and its power, and thought about the many ways it supports other models I have been studying. I was also struck by its power as a mental model, even if it is never overtly used. In fact, there are folks teaching this to very young children with tremendously powerful outcomes.

Clean language is a question only based system, where the questions focus attention on the words and phrases and patterns of symbols (words/thoughts/constructs) used by the client/customer/interlocutor.  In it is ‘clean’ in that it removes injections of one’s own reactions, assumptions, and suggestions and keeps the focus on the person who is doing the thinking. I can think of countless business conversations in which one person is cut short, when in response another person interrupts with their own thinking (sometimes also masquerading as a challenging question).  For this reason, clean has affected 100% how I experience conversations and dialogues.

Clean Language also draws  on the power of metaphor – intuitive, subconscious knowledge. In business settings where it is used, it may not go so deep as in therapy, but the metaphors can bridge gaps in understanding in an incredibly dense, efficient way. In addition, clean questions/clean coaching can help reveal intentions, assumptions, desired outcomes, resources and so forth. It can be a powerful addition to any process, especially when taught to groups who then used among themselves. This has been demonstrated by Caitlin Walker’s adaptation of Clean Language – called Systemic Modeling.

Here are the 5 things I’ve done to engage myself in the process of learning more about Clean Language:

1.) In the hopes I might find some interested people in the software and facilitation fields,  I spent a lot of time presenting at numerous workshop during the past year including Agile2014, AgileDC, the Mid-Atlantic Facilitators Network, IIBA-DC, and the Coaching Special Interest Group of the Chesapeake Bay Organizational Development Network. I found quite a few people who found it fascinating and got some really interesting feedback each time.

2.) During the past year I worked with a Clean Language professional Sharon Small, owner of the Clean Language Institute, to produce a book compilation of interviews of people who use Clean Language professionally in some fashion. That was tremendously illuminating because we found deliberate usage in a variety of quite disparate fields, and we have not uncovered them all.  So a goal we have will be to increase the number of interviewees in the book in the coming years. The book is called ‘Who is Using Clean, Anyway?

3.) I’ve enjoyed participating in monthly Skype calls of enthusiasts from around the world in the IT/Clean Language space – where we collaboratively share our knowledge, learnings, successes, and questions.

4.) There are numerous Youtube postings, and several Facebook groups that also have kept me actively learning in the Clean Language space.

5.) I recently finished reading all the major books on Clean Language that I felt were important for a serious practitioner.  Many of these books and resources are listed right here on my blog.

Now, in the present , I am trying to imagine answers to some of these questions:

  • What would I like to have happen next?
  • How does Clean Language really affect how I listen to conversations, interact with people, understand them?
  • Do others notice?
  • Do I remember what I was like before I knew about Clean?
  • How does it (and Caitlin Walker’s Systemic Modeling) bear resemblance to other means of inquiry and rich, dense information exchange between people, such as The Core Protocols of Michele and Jim McCarthy?
  • How will I apply what I have learned more systematically down the road in work settings?
  • What inhibits me from trying?
  • Do I want to delve deeper in practice, or step back for a while?
  • Do I want to stop delivering workshops?
  • Do I want more formal in person training in Systemic Modeling? or Symbolic Modeling?
  • If I get more training, what happens next?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a much older wish coming true this year: I am going to go to Jerry Weinberg’s Problem Solving Leadership retreat in June. I’ve wanted to do that for some time. And Jerry’s work has been heavily influenced by Virginia Satir, who was a key influence in the development of NLP – Neuro Linguistic Programming – from which  Clean Language emerged. So I’ll be experiencing a week’s worth of immersion on a ‘cousin’ branch of Satir’s influence… and I’ve been told by many that PSL offers a lifetime’s worth of learning. I hope so.

My future learning about Clean Language is in my hands, yet to be sculpted, revealed.  I’ve imagined a few possibilities.

  • I may revive the notion of hosting a Clean Language practice group, but I’ll need to find a place to host it where folks might be willing to come.
  • I definitely will try to connect with Caitlin for Systemic Modeling training in the coming year or two.
  • I will hold open the possibility of hosting Clean Language explorations on-line, if there is interest.
  • And, what might help a whole lot will be to attend a Personal Journey Retreat given by James Lawley, Penny Tomkins – who will be offering that in the US –  West Coast – in January 2016.

Penny and James wrote the seminal book on Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling, It is called Metaphors in Mind – Transformation through Symbolic Modelling. They codified the way that David Grove used Clean Language in therapy by observing him in his therapy sessions, as David Grove didn’t want to stop his work to write! 

James and Penny also maintain the most exhaustive on-line resource involving Clean Language. It is like a museum gallery – which you can see here.  And, for those not in psychotherapy, there is still much to be gained here – articles about Clean Language used in research, business coaching, and facilitation and so forth. It will be a museum visit – and if you start reading there, after a time, you’ll ask yourself – ‘What? Is it really time to close already, where did all the time go?!’  I have much left to explore here as well.

That’s it for Past, Present, Future – at least for today. Oh – and if YOU are interested in connecting with me to practice or learn more, please do. You can find me on twitter at @andreachiou or email me at andrea.chiou@santeon.com

Self-Retrospection (or my own Clean Feedback) on the 3 Techniques workshop at AgileDC 2014

Posted November 13, 2014 by Andrea Chiou
Categories: Clean Language, Conference, Listening

2014-10-21 16.10.11

Participants at work!

On October 21, 2014, I held a workshop at Agile DC conference titled ‘3 Techniques to Raise the Communication Bar on your Agile Team’. I had an hour to convey the three techniques that I had proposed in the workshop summary to a room of close to 50 people.  I introduced the audience briefly to Clean Language and we practiced listening skills using the basic questions.  Then we learned two techniques from the Systemic Modeling work of Caitlin Walker.  Clean Setup and Clean Feedback.

I’ve compiled all the Clean Feedback forms from the participants and posted them here.  I’ve also compiled and posted on my blog a full list of followup books and other internet content that will help participants if you wish to continue your journey learning Clean Language.  [As a side note, in the intervening month, my conference interview on Clean Language with Todd Charron at Agile 2014 conference was released and that can be found here at InfoQ website.]

Here are my key takeaways from presenting at AgileDC.  Each bullet has my observation, the meaning, and the impact – which is the general format for giving Clean Feedback.

1.)  I had a strict 1 hour limit.  I must be crazy to even attempt my ambitions in such a short time, and the impact is that I probably will not do an hour long intro again in the same way. I would probably pare down the number of exercises and keep it really simple, as suggested by George Dinwiddie in a post-conference twitter conversation. Even though I had a lot of great feedback, the pace was too fast.

2.) The room was full and the feedback reflected that participants were grateful to have interactive exercises as a format at the end of the day.  Exercises are very effective and energizing and really help to engage the ‘what’ of the session better than slides.  I will continue to hone the exercise rhythm for future workshops so there is enough time to debrief each time as well as to do short live-demos in front of the larger group.  I may also try to do workshops with fewer people where there is more opportunity to interact with everyone during the exercises.

3.) A number of people expressed that they enjoyed the workshop – in person – afterwards. Even my boss came and asked for a session for the other coaches back at headquarters.  I wanted nothing more than for folks to have a great memory and enough exposure to know that Clean Language techniques exist and that team communication can be enhanced by questions, curiosity, intentionality, and feedback.  The impact for me – knowing that some got what I intended – means that I will continue to find ways to teach and share these techniques and to practice them in smaller groups. I currently have a three hour workshop planned with the Mid-Atlantic Facilitator’s group on January 30th, in Washington DC. You can register here if you are local to DC.

4.)  Longer term follow up with participants is rare, though I have no doubt that some were stirred by just this brief exposure. I may add a field on the feedback form in the future to optionally collect emails from participants that want to receive more information.

Lastly, a few people were interested not just in the how – which they got from practicing, but the wider context of why. I’ve included some of the key points taken from Caitlin Walker’s book, From Contempt to Curiosity, in this poster, which I had hanging in the workshop space. I don’t think many had a chance to really look at the posters I prepared.  The points on this particular one are a great way to close this post – giving you more food for thought (and me too).2014-10-23 07.17.46

Metaphors at work, an interview

Posted October 1, 2014 by Andrea Chiou
Categories: Clean Language, Organizational Change, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

I recently interviewed another IT coach about metaphors because I wanted a better way of speaking about the relationship between business and IT.

I am looking to kill the notion and reality of ‘silos’ in the organizations I work in. I believe that a change in the language we use and specifically, the metaphors we use, can change the mood of a conversation to that end.  There are some really useful thoughts in here about the role of conversation and dialogue, practicing when it is easy, etc.  Have a read and let me know what you think.
Here is the interview: Read the rest of this post »

The Gift of Time, the Relative Rule, and Clean

Posted August 1, 2014 by Andrea Chiou
Categories: Clean Language, Conference

I bought The Gift of Time at Agile 2014 conference. It is a nifty tribute to Gerald Weinberg written by many of his admirers (Fiona Charles, James Bach, Michael Bolton, Esther Derby, Bob Glass, Naomi Karten, Tim Lister, Johanna Rothman, and Dani Weinberg) for his 75th birthday a few years back.

I read Michael Bolton’s chapter, called ‘It’s all Relative’ on the flight home and was amused to find here several references to Jerry famously using the reply ‘Compared to what?’ to search for more information from his interlocutors (to their great surprise).

Michael Bolton who at first was really surprised by this question, then came to realize its incredible usefulness, and created the aptly named Relative Rule:

A description of something intangible, as ‘X’, really means ‘X to some person at some time’.

In software, that rule can be applied to so many concepts; quality, purpose, done, tested, etc.

Having just presented on Clean Language at the Agile2014 conference, I mused that Jerry’s ‘compared to what?’ was a relatively ‘clean’ question – one extremely useful to software development field that can be used along with the standard clean questions from David Grove that I taught in my workshop.  In clean questions, we have the core questions  ‘(and) that’s X… like what?’  to get more information about a word. We also have ‘(and) what kind of… X is that X?’  Additionally, we have, ‘(and) is there anything else about X?’  There are other questions about size, location, resource, time, significance.  [X is a word or phrase, taken verbatim]

The notion in Clean Language is that you cannot assume to know the meaning someone else prescribes to a word, phrase or fact. Only the person who uses the word has the context/meaning of their word precisely.

The underpinning of the clean language mindset is that we don’t interpret words using the ‘generally accepted’ definitions of words in daily use, but rather inquire further using clean questions as to the nature of the meaning for the person using the word.  Of course in a software development setting, we couldn’t do this all the time nor to every word we encounter, but we can strategically apply it when there is ambiguity. (In the case of clean language therapy, the whole session would consist in fact of clean questions)

Next time I present this topic to a software development group, I will add Jerry’s question to the arsenal as a special clean question of Jerry’s.  And I’ll spend a bit more time talking about Jerry’s life work – summarized so nicely in ‘The Gift of Time’.

I did ask my audience at Agile2014 how many of the 60 attendees were /NOT/ familiar with Jerry Weinberg. I was stunned and really sad to see about 3/4 of the audience raise their hands.

Hopefully I gave my audience not only the gift of clean questions and listening, but an avenue to more exploration via my very brief mention of Jerry’s influence on me.  I certainly think sharing more about Jerry’s life and work could benefit the software development community greatly.  And I will certainly attempt next time – incorporating some clean questioning exercises for scenarios one might encounter at work.

P.S. And it isn’t altogether surprising, btw, that both Jerry Weinberg and David Grove (discoverer of Clean Questions) studied with Virginia Satir…. that line of influence still intrigues me.

Do you have 18 second team members on your software development project?

Posted July 24, 2014 by Andrea Chiou
Categories: Clean Language

I am presenting a workshop on Clean Language questions and listening at the Agile2014 conference coming up next week.  Why might you want to come? Well, because an 18 second team member might not be the best team member.

Management guru Tom Peters says, if you are 18 second manager, you’ll need to focus on strategic listening so your business doesn’t fail.  The 18 seconds refers to a study done of doctors who are there to diagnose your ailments – and that is the average amount of time doctors let the patient explain what’s going on, before they give a diagnosis.  We all know how many software projects fail for hidden assumptions, and imperfect interpretations. One could say: if you are an 18 second team member, you’ll need to focus on ‘clean listening’ so your software release doesn’t fail.  So let’s get better at that on our agile teams. Read the rest of this post »


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