Archive for the ‘Agendashift’ category

How Does Your Organization Invest in Collaborative Work?

May 3, 2018

Does your organization invest in how it might improve its collaborative work – up, down, and across the organization?  Does it expect it to just happen in the course of doing the work?  Do folks talk about it? Do you ask about it? Or do you work individually most of the time, relying on coordination mechanisms to resolve touch points and interfaces between your various outputs?

Getting to high performing organizations, departments, or teams, does not usually happen on its own.  You can luck out and hire folks who are already exhibiting all the necessary traits of EQ, IQ, and collaboration.  It won’t likely happen and if you read about my own early career experiences at the end of this post, you’ll see why. Most organizations I’ve been a part of, even talking about ‘how we work together’ is a rare topic of conversation.  Our focus is busying ourselves getting the work done.

I’ve invested liberally in my own training to learn how improvement in collaborative work might come about.  My current belief and experience is that certain conditions, practices, observational skills and self awareness need to be in place for both collaborative work and learning to happen. I’ll share three such frameworks that I’ve learned about below.  But first, let’s see if we can agree on a few assumptions and definitions I have.

  • A collaborative team exists when its members draw from their own diverse thinking, depend on each other, consider each other’s needs, ask for help, make decisions and resolve conflict well. Without these behaviors, these are just individuals working on a common product, separately.
  • The skills to collaborate were innate to most during childhood. As you progressed through the school system and entered the workforce, institutions (including maybe your parents) emphasized the importance of listening and defering to authority figures. Those figures in turn rewarded individual achievement and created structures that dampened your previously natural inclination to play and create with your buddies, fellow students, and workers.
  • Most people want to be part of an energized, engaged team, even if they have preferences for sometimes working alone.
  • Many organizations are depending on full time external coaches to steer their their ‘team’s and to make sure the ‘teams’ are highly productive – a sure sign that learning has stopped internally and the conditions for success are not being cultivated internally.  A great team doesn’t need an external coach.

If all of that sounds reasonable to you, read on about some ways that you can learn to re-ignite collaboration.

Agendashift. Created by Mike Burrows, who also wrote the book, Kanban from the Inside, Agendashift is a suite of ‘tools’ promoting outcome oriented change and includes an online assessment and facilitated strategy and vision workshops. These will  re-invigorate your company’s vision, strategy, priorities, conversations, and decisions.  I have been part of the Agendashift community for several years, and I can offer you a FREE online assessment and debrief it with you and your team. Pick up Mike’s newly released Agendashift book to learn more and read about and join the community here. Also read about the 15 minute FOTO exercise which I helped Mike to develop. If any of this sounds appealing, email me your interest, and I’ll have you added to our community Slack group.

The Core Protocols. Created by Jim and Michele McCarthy using live weeklong labs to observe and improve teams using communication protocols (see the book Software for Your Head), my friend Richard Kasperowski now trains people in these team protocols.  Learn about characteristics like psychological safety, positive bias, freedom, self-awareness, connection, productivity and yes, error-handling.  I’ve been to Core Protocols Bootcamp with Richard, where our team wrote a Greatness Guild Manifesto after only 1 week together.  Take a look at Richard’s website and consider his online training here.

Systemic Modeling – also known as Clean for Teams.  Brainchild of Caitlin Walker of Training Attention in Liverpool England. Caitlin documented her 20 years of transformational work in mini case studies, one in each chapter of her book, From Contempt to Curiosity, Creating The Conditions for Teams to Collaborate. The easiest way to get some quick upfront exposure is to listen to some of the recordings she has made about Systemic Modeling here.  I have studied Systemic Modeling and now train people in the basics of modeling excellence in teams using these tools. You’ll learn to elicit individual patterns, metaphors for decisions and working at your best, so that you can more likely succeed in getting what you want. This knowledge allows you to support one another, deal with conflict, and give and receive feedback.  Take a look at my upcoming online 4 hour training on May 7th here. If these topics are of interest, sign up for my newsletter on my Clean Agile Coaching page for future alerts on upcoming trainings. Systemic Modeling can be a great supplement to traditional agile coaching – getting at the solution for disengagement, fear, and contempt at work.  Caitlin and I will be co-delivering a talk on this topic at the big Agile Conference. Don’t miss out if you happen to be in San Diego. The Collaboration Culture and Teams track is the largest track of the conference which means to me that those in the software development industry are craving more innovative and proven ideas for collaboration and engagement.

Three models and opportunities for learning are exposed above. So let’s get back to the story from the first half of my career in software development. What was that like?  It was an example of individuals working apart, on a common product.

Looking back, I see that we lacked connection and curiosity about one another as we problem-solved and built software, using the ‘ticket system’ to figure out what was next. (Ah, like modern day JIRA).  It wasn’t all bad, but it certainly wasn’t great. Annual reviews were about individual behavior and we weren’t good at giving and receiving feedback, if we did it at all.  We almost never developed our work product collaboratively. There was no pairing, no mobbing, just lots of meetings discussing, analyzing, coding and coordinating with no thought on magnifying effect of strong connections between all nodes of a team, no grand vision, and little knowledge of real customer outcomes.

I did my learning alone if I had time to at all.  On the technical side, I was often anxious about the pace required to keep up.  After all, as professionals, we ‘should know’!  We produced mediocrity because our interactions, learning, self reflection and disclosure to one another were all mediocre.  Eventually on one big project, we lost the re-compete, because we were just plain unaware and management was not creating the conditions for anything better than that. We were also passive on that score. While we worked hard for our customer, when we lost the re-compete of the contract, it was an existential crisis. It was too late.

If you feel dulled by your work environment, agile or not, take me up on my call for more deliberate thinking about how you currently work. Read or listen to some of the links I’ve shared.

Do occasionally lift your head from your problem solving and solution-ing to really reflect on how you work. Do start to get curious about the eco-systems you are part of (team and beyond). Ask others what they think.  If you don’t look up, some part of the system you work in will become obsolete while your head is down.

If you aren’t sure where to start, but don’t want to delay doing something, email me at andrea@connections-at-work.com. I can quickly learn about your needs and desired outcomes on a scheduled call and give you ideas on a way forward.