Archive for the ‘Clean Language’ category

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.

England – oh Clean England!!

October 6, 2017

cleanjourney_paperI am just back from a whirlwind trip to England where I attended three different Clean Language related trainings. It was a fantastic trip, and proves without a doubt that England is a hub of excellence and activity for what goes on in the Clean Community. Besides providing brief descriptions of the training, if you want to keep up with me on this Clean learning journey, I am inviting you to come to my newly formed Reston Clean Language Practice Group, running 2x per month starting next week.

Clean for Teams

The Clean for Teams taster is a two day introduction to the elements and principles of Clean Language for Teams.  This approach to group facilitation holds at its very center the idea of curiosity in order to allow its participants to work at their best and be in support of each other. Team members become more self aware of their behavior patterns and needs while learning to be curious with each other.  Caitlin Walker took the Clean Language tools of David Grove including especially his eliciting of metaphors and brilliantly adapted its use to groups.  Do watch the TedX link above for a taste of what that’s like. The approach Caitlin created is called Systemic Modeling (aka Clean for Teams) because it teaches a group (a network or system of individuals) how to work in support of each other’s development. Because the skills are easy to learn,  the process is highly generative (meaning, not dependent on the facilitator over time) and promotes high degrees of personal and interpersonal awareness.  

If you are interested, as a facilitator, or as a group member, in processes that:

  • reduce friction
  • generate individual and insights
  • foster respect
  • celebrate diversity
  • establish an equality of attention in a group
  • shift the culture to a more productive one
  • and be relatively cheap to to acquire and use compared to an embedded coach or facilitator

then you should explore the possibility of learning these tools.  

A great description can be found here along with the dates for future courses.   

At the end this two day event, Caitlin said: ‘You have everything we need to go forward and practice’.  I am now looking for teams interested in working with me to learn the techniques.  I will become a certified Clean for Teams facilitator in the coming year.  And, to do so, I will need to find teams that are willing to be recorded, so that I can be evaluated and get feedback from my trainers.  Given that there are no trainers in the US (yet), you could become one of the first teams to adopt if you decide to work with me in support of my certification process. Contact me via my website at http://www.connections-at-work.com or call me at 571-437-4815.

 

Symbolic Modeling Rolling Program 

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Penny Tompkins, me, and Marian Way

If you are interested in personal change work using Clean language, you must learn Symbolic Modeling. Now also widely adapted to business, life and executive coaching, Symbolic Modeling originated in its therapeutic use with trauma patients. Invented by David Grove, Symbolic Modeling uses Clean Questions (a language of inquiry) to help focus the client’s attention on their own desired outcomes, resources, and experiences.  James Lawley and Penny Tompkins wrote the definitive book on this subject after observing David Grove’s therapy sessions for 4 years, codifying what they observed him doing.  The book is called Metaphors in Mind.  I was very lucky to be in this three day practice session with both Marian Way and Penny Tompkins facilitating!

 

Learning the basic Clean Language questions alone, without any insights into the Symbolic Modeling principles and processes is a bit like learning to write letters, without learning how to form words or sentences.  Symbolic Modeling and Clean Language questions are by the way, also at the core of the philosophy behind both Systemic Modeling and  Clean Space (see below).  

So, I highly recommend taking the Clean Language Core Skills Course (which is pre-requisite) and then using the Rolling Programme modules to deepen and practice the skills to become a Symbolic Modeling facilitator, if that’s where you are headed.  There is also a fantastic California based introduction to Symbolic Modeling in January 5-7 2018, called Symbolic Modeling Lite. Sign up here.

Clean Space

Marian Way and James Lawley have recently codified the essential aspects (process and principles) of the Clean Space practices of David Grove in a new book called Insights in Space, How to Use Clean Space to Generate Ideas and Spark Creativity. The two day training is based on the process described in the book. As you experience and facilitate the process, you are able to put it in action right.    

If you are interested as a facilitator, an individual, or even a group in processes that would:

  • spark creativity,
  • utilize space to gain perspective
  • create connections between those perspectives
  • generate new insights on any topic
  • be adaptable to many situations (we can create new processes from these principles)
  • be unlike anything you’ve likely experienced before

then this would be the class for you.   If you’ve ever gotten new insights from taking a walk, or taking a shower, you’ll discover a way to do this sort of thing in a facilitated session in ANY location.  Do note that all David Grove’s work was meant to get the facilitator out of the way, so that even with this, the facilitation is light touch – but heavily informed by spatial metaphor – one of the predominant ways we make sense of the world.

A more detailed description of Clean Space can be found here.  If you are interested in experiencing Clean Space with me, I am available to facilitate sessions with you in the coming months.   

Additionally, as mentioned above, if you want to practice Clean Language  locally in 1.5 hour practice group sessions in Reston, VA, I’ve just launched the Reston Clean Language Practice Group.  Again, for any additional information you would like on any of these topics, contact me at 571-437-4815.



My next adventure with my Clean learning journey will be in California for the Clean Convergence events January, 2018.  In September 2018, I will likely return to England to attend one or all of these events.

 

Adventures in Clean

Friday 7th September, 2.30pm to Monday 10th September, 2pm 2018
West Kirby, Merseyside, United Kingdom
With Caitlin Walker, James Lawley, Penny Tompkins, Marian Way, Shaun Hotchkiss, Phil Swallow

Systemic Modelling Level 1 Rolling Programme

17-19 September 2018
West Kirby, Merseyside, United Kingdom
With Caitlin Walker

Northern Taste of Clean 2018

29-30 September 2018
West Kirby, Merseyside, United Kingdom
With Caitlin Walker, Shaun Hotchkiss

Listening for Metaphors in Interviews

April 12, 2017

Here’s what I listen for when I interview: metaphors.  I use metaphor-listening to draw some tentative conclusions about a person’s thinking. I do this out of habit from the skills I’ve developed as a Clean Language coach.

Here are some metaphors used by a recruiter in a recent interview:

‘raw shootout’ to describe the competitive coaches market,   

                      literal meaning of shootout: “a decisive gun battle”

‘running you through the gauntlet’ to describe the customer interview process 

literal meaning:  “a former punishment, chiefly military, in which the offender was made to run between two rows of men who struck at him with switches or weapons as he passed”  

‘put in a pipeline’ to describe what happens to me next

literal meaning of pipeline: “a long pipe, typically underground, for conveying oil, gas, etc., over long distances” 

I soon developed an image of a big filter entering the ground, where I and other ‘resources’ who had survived duking it out, and harsh interrogations would be dumped into the delivery mechanism to fuel that Big Agile industrial complex.

These metaphors do not align with my values.  The interviewer was clearly not aware of his own metaphors.  There were no other metaphors that described an alternate reality or an alternate mental model in that interview. I do not judge, but I do notice how I feel and react. 

I am learning the realities of big placement companies with big revenue numbers that lack focus on what really matters:  the connections that people make with each other to gain trust, build alliances, create great products, and instill humanity back in the work force.

Agility is harder than you might think without this.  Connections do matter. And so do contractual relationships which need to be built on a foundation of trust, transparency, and a healthy does of shared values.

What do you listen for in interviews?
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If you are interested in forging stronger bonds, safety, trust, engagement, authenticity at work, do check out my upcoming one day (very small) retreat on the weekend of May 6th.  Accepting up to 6 people on a pay-as-you-can basis.