Archive for the ‘Clean Language’ category

The Feedback Loop – Success!

June 22, 2018

June 2018

feedback

I have just received a lovely email from a participant in one of my East Coast workshops earlier this year.  Over the past six years of quietly and gently sharing the gift of Clean questions and mindset, I’ve noticed that the real impact of what I do takes some time to show up. And it is such a joy when it does.  I’ve gotten permission to share the story, although the participant wishes to remain anonymous. I hope you enjoy the story too!

Hi Andrea,

I hope you are well.  I attended your Clean Language workshop last month. I wanted to share with you that applying what I learned in your workshop made a significant difference for my project and has helped enhance our effectiveness with our client.

Technically, I run QA for a small software company outside of [location removed]. But I am also involved in requirements gathering and other areas of client engagement. While meeting with my client, I didn’t ask the series of clean questions verbatim because I didn’t know how my client would feel about that. But I started as best as I could with a clean mind, did a lot of listening, no convincing, and asked a few questions that were, to me, a version of the clean questions you had taught us. The results felt almost magical.
Though a very nice client, the problem we were facing was that the end users of our application are Safety Inspectors for a government agency. They are older gentlemen who had been very successful at what they do, doing things the same way for a very long time. So they didn’t want to transition to using new technology to record and execute their inspections. Thus, they were presenting a lot of resistance in meetings and so forth.
My manager kept telling me that the issue we were facing was age and their related mistrust in technology. But during my last visit to the client site, I was able to discover that the real core issue wasn’t either of those things. The core issue was their fear that they wouldn’t be able to learn how to use the new technology well enough, and that would result in some kind of public safety disaster. It started to click for me when I heard them insist that they would have to hire their teenage grandkids who would know how to press the buttons on the mobile field app for them. Like I said, I didn’t bother trying to convince them otherwise.
Instead, I recommended to my manager that we implement on-the-field UAT testing for the inspectors to conduct while still in the safety net of a pre-production environment. This way, not only can we further minimize potential production issues, but we can also demystify (without a debate) the perceived threat of the new software to the inspectors. Our developers are very talented and the application is easy to use. I felt that the inspectors would realize that and gain in self-confidence as long as their initial try would yield no real world consequences.
This approach worked even better than I had imagined. Everyone on the client side was on board immediately. They even got excited and started planning the ride alongs for the on-field UAT. And there was a wave of great ideas and requirements that started to flow in from the same inspectors. Since we are agile, we are able to accommodate these new requirements.
I wanted to thank you for the workshop and also let you know that I am very inspired and continuing my study of clean language. Also, I wanted to ask if there has been any study on how we can use clean language to help more marginalized or quieter people in a team by providing them with a better platform to be heard. Is there a way that I can get involved with that kind of a study?

Thank you so much! I hope to hear from you soon.

[the author wishes to remain anonymous]

The participants of my short workshop are typically exposed to an hour of demos and exercises, a few slides with content and pictures, some story telling based on questions that come up, and they leave with a handout as well.  What I am inferring was imparted in this case was the clean mindset – listening to understand well while quieting any urge to respond with your own thoughts.  How wonderful that it had a further impact on the participant and the outcome of IT project as well!

I’ve started to collect very brief feedback testimonials on my company page.  You can find more brief testimonials here.

There’s a lot afoot in 2018 with Clean retreats, clean trainings and conference workshops.  I can help you find the best fit for learning, whether online, in person, introductory, or in-depth.

More fundamentally though I would love to connect with you and give you the space to think about whatever is on your mind, to give you an experience of being listened to cleanly and to answer questions you may have.   Email me at andrea@connections-at-work to request a free 1/2 hour conversation.

Connections At Work

June 10, 2018

Diverse TeamRead each question slowly, and journal or reflect on whatever comes to mind:

When you are connecting with others at your best, that’s like what?

When connecting… You are like what? What do you know about yourself? What would you like to have happen?

Who are the others around you? What do you know about them? What would they like to have happen?

What are you collectively working on?  What do you know about that work?  What does that work want to have happen?

When connecting with self, others, and work and when you are all working at your best, then what happens?

I’ve had fun creating the ‘cleanish’ questions above to reflect on my company mission.  I am curious if these questions are meaningful to you! Did you gain any new insights?

I continue to help spread a ‘clean’ way of deepening connections between the many facets of work: the nodes between people, ideas, the structures, processes and improvement steps that can lead to more joy for both employees and customers.   

I am ready for even more connections in the second half of 2018 – ready to support others who are curious about how Clean Language thinking and questions might improve work and relationships. See here for training opportunities that I am leading and organizing. If those are not suitable, I can either craft something custom for you or connect you to other courses by other leading partners and trainers in the Clean Language community (Baltimore, California, Chicago, Liverpool England, Portsmouth England, Malaysia and online)

Also, I’ve got something new in the works.  I’ve opened up a slack group called Connections At Work. You are welcome to join a community of people who want to foster conversation and connections that are deeper, more curious, tolerant, and resilient than what they have now. It is easy to jump on a call, have private chats, and contribute to the dialogue and connections using this tool!

Let’s see what magic might happen when we connect well in our lives and work!

Welcome!
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For other inquiries, email me at andrea@connections-at-work.com

Learning Patterns – with Clean for Teams

January 30, 2018

One of my favorite Twitter feeds is from @LPatterns – I don’t know who is behind it, but it has the cutest images and the simplest little quips about learning, formulated in a set of patterns that they claim represent a ‘Pattern Language’.  I’ll share a few or their images here.

 

These represent ‘Jump In’ ‘Design Your Learning’, ‘Open Process’ and ‘Effective Questions’ patterns! There are many more!

 
Pattern Languages are near and dear to me – they are sets of practices that been put together to name interrelated themes and topics within a given domain – usually with a lovely metaphor for the pattern title.  I have a few books I love on Pattern Languages.  One of them is simply called ‘A Pattern Language’ – by Christopher Alexander – based on buildings, architecture, city planning and such.  This book inspired many in the software community to develop its own Pattern Languages.  There are books such as ‘Agile Adoption Patterns’, ‘Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development’ and for developers: ‘Design Patterns – Elements of Reusable Object Oriented Software’.  I am sure I’ve missed a few – do leave me a note on any you can add to that.  There’s even a conference to help find new patterns called Pattern Languages for Programs (PLoP conference).
You might not realize that the small set of questions used in ‘Clean Language’ represents (in my mind, at least) another pattern language – in a slightly strange way.  There’s no content (no target audience like architecture, software or organizations) explicit here. The questions are applicable to any domain! For teams, the questions themselves allow us to ‘elicit’ patterns in ourselves (our behavior, thinking, learning and motivation – under the hood) and in others (collectively, or in individuals). The questions also have a few patterns within them – we have ‘developing’ questions, ‘sequence’ questions, ‘intention’ questions, and ‘location’ questions.  Knowing the uses of each set of questions is very useful indeed.

 

Back to learning –  learning is a way of survival. Everything in the world is changing quickly, and there’s much uncertainty. How does one stay on course when the skills of yesterday aren’t the skills of tomorrow? Are you aware of your own learning needs, and do you articulate the support you need to those around you? Do you know what environment you need to work at your best? Do you ask and get the support you need at work or home for your learning needs?

If you want to know your own patterns for learning and how to become an exquisite observer of patterns in others, I have two options.

  • Call or email me for a Clean Language session on ‘Learning At Your Best’ so I can help you discover your ‘learning at your best’ state!  (contact options below)
  • Register to join the training I’m running – called ‘Clean for Teams’  in April in Boston, MA with Caitlin Walker (link below)

Caitlin Walker has devised the simplest possible interventions to promote well being in team and group communication using Clean Language in a set of patterned practices. In learning them, you’ll start to recognize your own patterns and needs and you can take that back to your teams!  The various practices of ‘Clean for Teams’ fit together like a well made puzzle which you’ll come to experience in the training.  She’s tested them out in dozens of organizations over 20 years.

Here is some background info on Clean Language you can listen to on the way to work. All are audio, except as noted.

Caitlin’s Ted-X talk
From Contempt to Curiosity – Creating the Conditions for Groups to Collaborate (book)
Radio Interview #1
Radio Interview #2
Recorded webinar on Disruptive People In the Workplace
International Coaching Federation Interactive Keynote (youtube)

Podcast Interview of Antarctic Expedition Scientists using Clean Language to Cope in Stressful Situations

Then, if any of this speaks to you or your company’s needs, sign up for the training here.

As usual, email me at andrea@connections-at-work.com or phone me at +1 (571) 437-4815.
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Note to those going to #mobprogramming conference in Boston, the Clean for Teams training takes place immediately afterwards on April 16-17, 2018.  People who work day in and day out or very frequently in intense programming sessions could well make use of these same Clean Language tools for added cohesion and group development.

Coaching an Agile Coach Using Clean Questions

January 24, 2018

Coaching using Clean Language yesterday, I assisted an agile coach friend who wanted to learn how better to notice the moments (just in time) when the clean language / systemic modeling facilitation skills she is learning are most needed for her teams. She said often she would only realize after the fact that she might have used or taught something like Clean Setup, Clean Feedback to effectively coach the team.  She said she wanted to realize these situations sooner! 

So, I coached her using Clean Language questions to ‘slow down’ what happens in her mind when the example situation (X) she described starts to comes up. The difference is that she now has more self-awareness about the triggers, signals, and internal responses she has so that she can catch herself in the moment next time. 

What sort of Clean Language training or coaching would you like?  One-on-One? Team Facilitation?

Contact me at andrea@connections-at-work.com to set up a free Clean Interview to find out more! 

 

No Elephants in the Room!

December 13, 2017

Systemic Modelers are Clean Language facilitators for teams or organizations that wish to improve in their knowledge sharing, self awareness, sense-making and curiosity; they help teams gain autonomy, self organize while creating networks of useful information. Beyond those lofty and very likely outcomes, I like to say the end result includes: No more elephants in the room! No more having things bother you internally that are undiscussable. If you or your org need that, my contact info is at the bottom of the post!

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Russia, USA, Sweden, Japan, France, England represented – Systemic Modeling is spreading

 

Just back from a three day training, I’ve chosen a few of the principles underpinning Systemic Modeling which really go towards creating a safe learning environment for participants. These are ones which particularly caught my attention this time.  There are others that I will address in subsequent posts.

Preparation

One cannot overemphasize the need to prepare and get in the right state for Systemic Modeling facilitation. The right state means, knowing deeply why you are there doing what you are doing, aware of your attitude about your client, and keeping out of contempt type thinking.  This is very subtle and deeper than I had thought about before – its about being in a state where you absolutely hold no contempt for anyone in the group or about any aspect of the organization. And you also do not hold particular empathy for certain people over others.  This one especially caught my attention as sometimes I show ‘concern’ for others and have (thus far) considered that to be a positive trait. Yet empathy can lead to a perception of preference which can lead to drama, just like feelings of judgement. Even though it may be subtle, Caitlin Walker noticed it a few times and gave me Clean Feedback.  So, what do you need to get in a good state to facilitate:

  1. Set aside 10-15 minutes before the session you are facilitating to access your ‘at best’ state for facilitating. If that requires meditation, do that.
  2. Use Clean Setup with another facilitator. Ideally you have a pair with you during the session too, to keep you straight on areas you need reminders about. If not, still do the Clean Setup interview with another Systemic Modeling coach over the phone or internet.
  3. Let go of thinking you can improve on everything the next time you facilitate. That can be overwhelming. Pick one or two things max to focus on improving. Have a developmental task that you aim to use during your training or workshop and have someone spot you for achieving it during the session.
  4.  Know who you are facilitating. Interview them before hand, by phone or in person. Give them the clean setup type questions, know about about them and begin to discern the patterns. This isn’t always possible, but give it a try.

During the session itself, be an ‘equal opportunity employer of information’, so that they will do the same later. Be a model – you are holding the space at the center of the room where the information unfolds – and helping the participants to do the same, eventually without you there.  Preparation mentally will help you a lot towards that goal.

Let Partipants Experience It before Teaching It

Try not teach a concept or exercise unless or until the ‘thing’ the concept/exercise conveys is needed – as evidenced by something inherent in the schedule or something live happening in the group.

There is less cognitive dissonance when things are taught as needed, just in time, in context.  Here are several examples:

  1. Clean Language is based on outcome orientation and giving the clients maximum control/agency over their outcomes. When teaching the related models used for teams – (a.k.a. Systemic Modeling) – instead of teaching about ‘outcome orientation’ as a concept first using conceptual words, we instead start trainings and workshops with, WWYLTKBWB (What would you like to know before we begin?).  It is a way of putting in to action the belief that members in a group are capable of being their own agents of learning outcomes. This may be a first experience – some people find the question strange, as they have come for you to ‘teach’ them. If you were to do this in every meeting, you will develop a sense if folks are in the right room, know something about the meeting, or have needs that need to be addressed elsewhere…. And it isn’t that you necessarily answer all the questions they bring, but you’ve name them, gotten any clarifications, written them on a flip chart and thereby honored each person’s needs and sense of curiosity. You will refer back to it and answer them as appropriate now or later.
  2. Clean Setup questions are asked at the start of a day, as it will help launch a training, meeting, or other event cleanly.  You don’t need to teach the model using the words ‘Clean Setup’, just use the clean setup questions naturally. Later on you can name it as ‘Clean Setup’.
  3. Five Senses can be trained in response to some possibly incorrect assumptions or inferences that have been made during the course of normal conversations happening during the training. 
  4. Drama Triangle can be picked up when someone in the group starts to rescue, blame, or defend themselves
  5. And interestingly the Clean Questions aren’t taught per se, until after the facilitator has used them in the course of these other models.  Everything builds up very naturally this way during the training.
  6. These are examples of how to keep the agenda fluid. It doesn’t preclude you from introducing them outside of some ‘live’ context, but it is more effective to do it the other way around. For example, Five Senses comes quite early on, even if the opportunity about ‘assumptions’ doesn’t arise first, because it is very foundational to learning about communication foibles, assumptions and inferences about what other people say.

Adjacency

Almost everything in Systemic Modeling is about exposing thinking and doing it in a way that is respectful to people in the moment.  Adjacency reduces cognitive load, and in that way seems a very humane way to introduce concepts and maintain attention. Any organization that is steeped in knowledge work and wants alignment should cherish this principle. Yet, I hadn’t really thought of adjacency before learning about System Modeling.  Here are some ways in which the idea of adjacency comes up in Systemic Modeling.

  1. We ask for clarification using clean questions, not inserting our own ideas – which are more ‘distant’ from what has just been said.
  2. We ask the same question of others – accepting the last answer and extending the question to another person. We often do this with ‘Who’s got something different?’ because we are looking to surface diversity of thinking. Everyone gets a voice.
  3. We teach things when they are relevant (see prior section for more on this)
  4. We teach members to select Developmental Tasks (personal improvement actions) that are relevant to what we need right now to improve.
  5. We bring awareness in a natural progression – first to an individual’s internal sense making, their physical senses, their thinking process, then to notice what’s going on around them with others, and then to what the facilitator is doing. Starting at the core of self, moving outwards to the group is an adjacent process.
  6. If you are adhering to Systemic Modelling, and have done due diligence with Clean Scoping interviews with managers and higher ups before you take on a contract, and you’ve insisted that they undergo the training as well, you will also be demonstrating adjacency organizationally. Teaching a team in isolation doesn’t build safety in the larger system.

Does any of this pique your curiosity about Clean Language and Systemic Modeling facilitation?  Do you think your company, department, and team could benefit? As always, I am willing to do a FREE  interview with you about what you are looking for. It will give you the experience of being asked some Clean Scoping questions. You will likely come away with some new information unpacked.  Email me at andrea@connections-at-work.com or call me at +1 571-437-4815.

 

Contempt meets Curiosity

November 1, 2017

Contempt means thinking that a reaction or an attitude or a person or a group of people are unacceptable as they are.  Curiosity means noticing how things are and wondering how they’ve come to be like this and what we might like to have happen next. – Caitlin Walker

Do you experience some aspects or behaviors of people you interact with as alienating?  I sometimes do. And I am trying to learn how better to deal with that.  Since much of this habit is done under the proverbial hood, I’ve committed to start noticing and catching myself when I am subtly labeling or categorizing others in the back of my mind.

It doesn’t have to be like this.  I can try to be a bit more curious about you and you about me.  The world will surely improve if more of us learn this skill.  Whether at work, at home, or even in the routines of family life connecting, listening, and sharing requires both skills, attention, and time.  Nancy Kline’s book, Time to Think convinced me of that long ago.  Caitlin Walker‘s book, From Contempt to Curiosity, was more icing on the cake for my learning journey.  Recently I started to listen to Caitlin herself as narrator of the Audible recording of the same book. It’s a delightful listen, highly recommended to all my agile coaching friends, former and future colleagues, anyone in the healing, social service, teaching, or organizational culture change domains.  You’ll be amazed by the power of her stories in which more confident individuals and interactions emerge with the simplest of techniques.

I yearn for more interaction where mutual curiosity is nurtured, connections are strengthened, creativity fostered, and productive activity and friendships are born.  This is why I started the Clean Language Practice Group in Reston, VA. We practice skills that lead to better, more resilient interactions, and happier selves.

What is your experience of contempt and curiosity and the connection between the two?

Come join us there if you would like to learn and practice with a small group every other Thursday evening.

 

My Company is Seeking a Team to Train in Clean Language

October 23, 2017

My company’s name is Connections At Work.   My mission is to promote connections between people and ideas.  And I don’t know a better tool to do this with than Clean Language.

Clean for Teams Paris

Training a Team of 12 – Paris , Sept ’17

I am urgently looking for one or more teams to train in Clean Language and the body of work called Clean for Teams.  I will be cross posting similar appeals on various groups in LinkedIn.   Apologies if you see this in duplicate.  Will you help me find a team?  Here’s what I need and why:

My ideal team(s)  would desire a huge increase in performance and/or increased mutual understanding and general engagement with each other. To help me find such teams, consider a few of the following contexts that might apply:

  • You or a team you know of is working in a competitive landscape and you just want your company to outperform all the others for the next 20 years! (Hint: there’s several small companies that have done just that for years using Clean Language)
  • Maybe you are working with a team or know of one where  members participate unevenly or with uneven results due to communication foibles?
  • Perhaps you’ve seen or heard of some drama in a group or team you know of such as blame, secretiveness, inability to say no or to give each other useful feedback.

Maybe its a bit of all of the above… The team can be a team of managers, programmers, service professionals or any other sort of group or small business, agile or otherwise.  It can also be executives. Clean knows no boundaries.

So, why do I need such groups now? Why urgently?

The reason is that I am pursuing a Certification in Systemic Modeling more familiarly  known as Clean for Teams. I need to train one or more teams as part of the certification. More importantly,  I want to see the results I know are possible from these tools. Lastly, I enjoy helping teams get into a state of mutual support, inquiry, and self-development. Here are some benefits of Clean Language:  

– helps groups/teams/leaders strive towards autonomy and mutual support;
– is simple to learn and practice after a few days of training;
– does not require constant coach presence, and is therefore very affordable
– is an efficient way to surface creativity, eliminate assumptions and misunderstandings;
– incorporates a very effective feedback model that can be used frequently and easily

While simple enough to learn , it will take commitment from team members towards creating a higher level of personal and team self-awareness than what they are used to.  It will happen over time, while the team and members learn to drop habits, sometimes unconscious ones and replace them with  introspection and very big dose of curiosity. It isn’t hard, but the will must be there. Don’t worry if you’re a bit scared, I’m there to guide you and it’ll be a very, very pleasant ride.

Initial contact time: 4 sessions of 2-4 hours each depending on group size.  Ongoing monthly refreshers as needed.  

For more background on how Clean Language gets such amazing results when used by teams, do listen to this excellent radio interview with Caitlin Walker, the inventor of Clean for Teams.

Please contact me  at andrea@connections-at-work.com or call me at (571) 437-4815 if you want to learn more and especially if you have leads on a team that is willing to invest in learning this amazing technique.