Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

What Are You Daring To Do?

August 14, 2017
Miki Kashtan, Non-Violent Communication expert recently posted her evolving thoughts on ‘Why Patriarchy is Not About Men’ and what we can do about.  I posted several years ago my experience report of an all day workshop with Miki and she is not only an amazing facilitator, but an amazing human and writer.
Miki says we need to stop paying exclusive attention to the individual actions (of others) and start to measure the degree to which we take action to change or affect systems we are part of.   We need to act congruently with our espoused and actual values. To change up the patriarchal system we live in we need to push ourselves out of our own comfort zones.  Her writing is about societal systemic issues and more importantly about our personal agency for change, when our values do not align.

Do you have the courage and ability to say, even when you feel uncomfortable:

“No, I won’t participate”
“I need X”
“In this context, this does/doesn’t make sense to me’?
When have you done just that? Does it include times when it meant you could have lost your job?  Or are you more prone to recoil into the safety of your current patterns, and current job with all its perks and advantages?

I am leaving the big-agile organizational transformation coaching business because I do not believe in imposed coaching.  It isn’t that I refuse to coach in a larger organization, but I won’t have a central agile department as well as other placement agencies or prime contractors between me and my client. As long as I can be a participant in a Setup process prior to engagement, I will be able to choose whether I am a good fit for a potential customer.

I have exercised my agency. I have stepped out of my comfort zone to align my values to my work life – and looking forward to new, fresh opportunities for success.

Clean Language for Teams Training Events

January 27, 2016
CleanForTeams training

Marian Way (left of flipchart) Caitlin Walker (right of flipchart)

Before reading the rest of this post about an offer for training, I highly recommend that you listen to this fantastic radio interview about Clean Language. There are so many examples here about how Clean Language is applied in business settings – I imagine you’ll better know why you might want to sign up for Clean Language training after listening to it.

Clean Language for Teams training is going to be offered April 1st and 2nd 2015 in the Pearl district of Portland (close to downtown). The training will be provided by the outstanding Marian Way from the U.K.  If you are in the US, here is your chance to get in person training from a pro. Let’s make Clean Language and Systemic Modelling be a well known toolset for communication in the agile community – starting now!  Clean for Teams will help agile teams adopt a learning, inquisitive mindset quite easily – something that is often missing when processes are adopted without some deep group reflection and group norms. Its not the only way, but its a great way – to instill a great culture. 

The two day course is an outstanding value. For a low price of $550 dollars – anyone who works collaboratively with others can get first hand experience in the proven tools of clean communication.  The word ‘experience’ is the critical one.  This course is not a theoretical powerpoint driven course – instead you will be introduced to the techniques, one by one, and right away be asked to practice them live, with the other group members. 

If you’ve been reading my blog or seen my slide decks on Slide share, you may be interested in Clean already, but not sure where to begin. You may not have had time to read books about Clean Language, but perhaps your interest is piqued enough that you might want to attend an in person workshop.

If you go, you’ll cover all the basic techniques like: Clean Questions, Developmental Tasks, Drama Triangle, Triune Brain, Metaphors for Learning at Your Best, Time Management and Decision Making, Pattern Spotting, among others. Put together, these techniques are incredibly powerful in groups for getting people to pay exquisite attention to each other and create self-supporting systems of learning and inquiry.  Your team members will have another tool to use to diffuse conflict, celebrate different opinions, develop each other’s thinking BEFORE piling on their own opinions.  New self and group awareness will develop as a result.  Essentially this course will give you a way of thinking about communication – and honoring each individual –  that is vastly different from what you or your organization may be used to.   

I highly recommend this course to all my agile colleagues (coaches, developers, analysts, testers, designers – UX folks, managers) in the Portland area (and of course to anyone who would be ok to travel there).  Get started with Clean Language in two days!  If you have a team in need of a better collaboration tools, better listening, more mutual respect, bring the whole team! 

There is also an option for an additional 3 days training after a one day break.  You can access the details for that here.  The second section will be geared towards helping those who are interested to become proficient at facilitating others in learning and using these techniques.   That is, these techniques are best used when your whole team knows them, not just you. So learning how to teach/facilitate others learning them is the next step. 

A similar Clean Language for Teams training will be held by Caitlin Walker in Asheville, N.C. in late April. The price for this two day experiential introduction is also $550 for this one if you book by February 15th.  It goes up to $650 thereafter.  

If you would like to know more, feel feel ask questions in the comments section.  I can help put you in touch with the organizers as well, if you have special needs or questions.

How ‘I’ met Virginia Satir

July 30, 2015

Jerry Weinberg and me (1)When I was recently at Problem Solving Leadership (PSL) workshop run by Jerry Weinberg and Esther Derby, I had the opportunity to eat lunch with Jerry and to ask him how he had come to meet Virginia Satir.  He was very happy to be asked this question.  

He started by explaining to me how when he was first studying psychology, he had read Frogs into Princes, one of the first Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) books, in which Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson were both mentioned. Based on the publication date of that book, 1979, and Virginia’s birth year, 1916, he had mistakenly assumed Virginia was already deceased.  Some time later – perhaps a year or two, by around 1985, he discovered she was still alive and was astonished and thrilled. He made sure to immediately find out where to meet her and some time later, he was able to. This is the recollection Jerry shared of their first meeting.

‘I could take you right now to the exact hotel in Mt Crested Butte, Colorado, into the exact room in that hotel, and point to the exact spot within that room, even which floorboard – where she was greeting people, one at a time, in a sort of ‘receiving’ line.  The reason I can remember this is that Virginia made each and every person she encountered feel like they were the exact focus of the universe for the time they had with her.  And those minutes felt like an eternity. You see, once I had experienced that kind of attention, it was indelibly imprinted on me.  After that, I was determined to become her student and spent many months and years training with her.  Eventually I became one of her favorite students.”

I saw the deep emotion in Jerry’s face as he described that first meeting (he was on the verge of what I’ll call happy memory tears, though I don’t know if they were sad reminiscing tears to him).  I found joy in myself because he was passing along not just the story of how he met her, but the meaning, and feelings he had at that moment.  And it helped me to understand Jerry in a different way – through connecting with emotion, which is something I cherish.

Jerry has passed on Satir’s influence to many people around the world – whether they know it or not. He has done this through his many great books about software development and consulting and also via his famed Amplify Your Effectiveness  and  Problem Solving Leadership experiential workshops.  Hearing Jerry tell his story first hand in this way, after having soaked up all the wisdom from his Satir-influenced books, was like finding the source of the Nile!

It was a great lunch and I’ll never ever forget it – city, hotel, as well as the table we sat at.

Dream Girls 2015 – refreshed

April 26, 2015
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!

Metaphors at work, an interview

October 1, 2014

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: (more…)

Prevention *and* Build Quality In – how can we help stem teen suicide?

March 6, 2014

Last night, over 1000 people gathered in the auditorium of our local high school to learn what it is the school and school system and their partners will be doing to respond to the rash of suicides that has plagued our school as well as surrounding schools in recent years. At our school, we have had three in each of the past two years – two just last week.
This picture shows everyone introducing themselves.

2014-03-05 19.23.08

I was skeptical that this event would meet my needs. The invitation email made it seem like the evening would be a ‘one-way street’ of information to the parents and audience members. Aside from the introductions shown in the picture and some interaction in the cafeteria at the end, that is the way the evening largely played out.

Who came? The media, the Superintendent of Schools, School Board Members, many community mental health service organizations, representatives of several foundations concerned with suicide, and student representatives from a group called Active Minds. The evening started with formal introductions, statements of intent to engage the community, recognitions of the school leadership, staff, and teachers.  This felt like armor.  I was hearing too much left brain analysis/problem solving and needing more that leaders show vulnerability and emotion. I wanted connection from the heart.  I felt alone in this sea of people – surely similar to the way a quiet teen might feel navigating the halls of a 2000 person high school.

To help allay fears of parents, Dr. Panarelli, Director of the Office of Intervention and Prevention, described how the crisis counselors are actively engaging with the students, seeking out and making themselves available all around the school. She asked us to not talk about each incident as being part of a pattern or naming the school as somehow different, as this would make the kids feel bad. [Note to self: this is hard to do]  She asked us: do your kids have 3 adults other than parents that they feel they can talk to if they or others around them are experiencing emotional difficulties? None of this made me feel reassured. I tried to empathize with these presenters. After 6 suicides in two years and many more within the county as a whole, they are visibly taking on a big communication and mobilization effort. The goal is so much bigger than any one person or organization. Kudos to everyone trying.

Jesse Ellis, the County’s ‘Prevention Manager’ (as if this could be managed), said he will leave no gap unfilled. He will be ‘sure’ we will be successful. He will coordinate activities, invite parents to participate.  To me this is exactly the wrong message. We don’t need a false sense of we’re in control now. We need to model that we may not prevent the next one, but it won’t happen without us putting forth our best effort. We need to show our own vulnerability and not be shamed when we fail. Then he cautioned us that while he doesn’t want to use stats, he did want to share that we are on a good track compared to the rest of the state. This statement made my heart sink. It also seemed incongruent and impersonal. I don’t think he meant it that way. He is coping with the aftermath, trying to make sense. This is my most liberal interpretation.

The students from the Active Minds Club spoke next. They have had mental health awareness training. They provide yoga classes to reduce stress after school. They listen non-judgmentally and provide emotional support.

After the representatives spoke, we filled out survey cards with our suggestions, inviting us to share our contact information and ideas. I wrote down that I would help facilitate an open space event to allow more interaction, connection, dialogue and community involvement. We were then invited to visit the cafeteria where we could take fliers and information with us. It was too crowded, but there was a lot of energy. I made sure to visit the Active Minds booth. I was very impressed by the listening skills of the 4 student reps as I stayed to chat with them for a few minutes. I will encourage my son to check out this organization especially as it is largely thus far a college campus organization. I signed up to help them and to attend their meetings in the coming months.

If I could pick an analogy for this whole school effort, it seemed to me like a lot of Quality Control at the back-end of a development process. ‘We know there are depressed kids, let’s make sure we catch them before they commit suicide’. I wanted it this: ‘We imagine the source of suicides is that kids are many times unable to express and share their feelings, their fears and their vulnerabilities. They do not have role models for this. To succeed in raising mentally healthy adults, we need to start in the elementary schools, modeling and teaching empathy, emotional intelligence and resiliency’. I wanted to hear things like: We’ll be introducing Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violdent Communication in elementary school.’  This would be akin to ‘building quality in’, in software terms, not inspecting for failure at the end.

Yet still, I praise everyone who showed up last night. Bless you all.

There is a lot of work ahead. I just pray one or many of us will be there in support, at just the right time, for the next kid who needs it.