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General

The Art of Gathering

I have been asked thousands of times to facilitate small or large gatherings. When I worked on Changing Your Team From The Inside, I wanted to make clear that self-organization is the most powerful way for people to organize, but that based on their history, you will need to help them get there. You will need to create the conditions for self-organization to happen.

Chapter nine of the book is titled Organize because self-organization requires organization. I focused the chapter on meetings because it is something easier to change, to adjust, to experiment on, than to change the whole organization. And I believe it is much more impactful to change the way we meet than to change the reporting structure.

The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker, is a perfect book. The structure brings you gently to think about all the aspects that matter about your gathering.

It starts with the purpose of the gathering. Why do we really gather? And, of course, the answer is not because it is Monday.

Then you cover the uncomfortable question of who should join. And, no, inviting everybody is not an inclusive option. It is even the opposite. Why would someone who attends a meeting on which he or she will bring no value should feel included?

In the role of the host, you have power, and you have to use that power to serve the purpose of the gathering and your guests.

The time of the gathering is a temporary alternative world in which the traditional rules are not necessarily valid. You can, and in fact, you have to create rules that once again will serve the purpose and the guests. The author gives a ton of inspiring examples.

I know that, and even knowing it, I understood reading the chapter that I was not investing smartly enough on the openings of my gatherings.

In conferences or other gatherings, my frustration level grows each minute that passes. Why that? Because people are not true and authentic. Okay, I am over-generalizing. Not all people are manipulative and insincere. And not all people behave all the time the same way. The big idea is that it takes intentional efforts to create conditions for people to be true and authentic.

In meetings, when we stay on the surface of things, we can be very polite and respectful, avoid any potential conflicts and keep the status quo forever. If keeping the status quo is what you need, you probably don’t have to push hard to get to that. If not, then it is on you to organize the controversy so we can really discuss what matters and initiate a change.

We are approaching the end of the post, and you have to know that ends matter a lot. I would like to, once again, thank the author for having created that perfect book. I would like to thank you for reading and sharing this post. I would like to encourage you to read the book, and to share what you learned and how it affects your next gatherings. Working on ending the meeting properly is probably one thing I would change in Chapter 9 of Changing Your Team From The Inside.

And finally, what I would love is to have Priya Parker on Le Podcast to discuss how to apply her expertise and experience to online gatherings. But I guess you will all have to ask for it to happen!

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Le Podcast

When your team is distributed

John Poelstra, Michael Doyle and I talk about how to make distributed teams efficient. We had that conversation while we were spread over 15 timezones: John in Portland, Oregon, Michael in Brisbane, Australia, and me in Boston, Massachusetts.

The conversation is republished from John’s show.

Let me know what you think!

Happy to connect to share remote facilitation approaches!

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General

Time matter for a team

The fact that time matter for a team is not a controversial matter. I think we would all agree on that. The other aspect of time that we will all agree quickly on is that, not all time will matter the same way.

We will not value an hour stuck in a traffic jam the same way as an hour hiking on a trail, or an hour shopping, or an hour playing with friends, and so on…

So when it comes to how an individual contribution could be the most effective, what is the time that matters the most?

When asked, people usually look at three different types of time:

  • Synchronization time,
  • Collaboration time,
  • Focus time.

Synchronization time

Synchronization time is when team members share their progress, challenges, learnings, so they all can stay on the same page, aligned toward the same goal.

During synchronization time, we can identify opportunities for activities that will fall into the two other types of time. It could be an opportunity of collaboration on understanding and solving an issue or a possibility of training in a specific area to take two examples.

Collaboration time

Collaboration time is when two or more people work together to accomplish a specific activity. Activities could be different, like pair or mob programming, writing, designing, reviewing, and so on.

Focus time

Focus time is when team members work alone, ideally without interruptions so that they can work on one thing in an ideal state. Like writing an article to share knowledge (and initiate a feedback loop that will bring more learning opportunities in return).

Why it Matters?

I believe it matters for a team to agree on the practices they will adopt to benefit from the three types of time. Those practices can evolve over time, and as a consequence, their team agreements evolve accordingly.

The practices vary upon the physical organization of the team. Practices have to be different when the team is collocated in the same room, spread over a building, in multiple offices or locations, spread over multiple timezones.

A practice that works well for synchronization when the team is collocated, like a quick 10-minute morning check-in in front of a kanban board, will not work when the team is distributed over 15 timezones. In the latter case, synchronization still matters, but another synchronization practice will have to be defined for the team.

It is the same for the collaboration time and focus time. Practices are different depending on the collocation or distribution of the team. The main aspect is that it has to be defined!

Do you and your team have defined practices for the three types of time? And what are you preferred practices?

As usual, please comment, tweet or direct emails! Thank you!

Categories
Le Podcast

Changing Your Team with John Poelstra

I had the opportunity to have a great conversation about the book, Changing Your Team From The Inside, on John Poelstra’s show.

John proposed the idea to cross-publish our conversation on our respective podcasts. In order to do that, I had to re-listen to the conversation and I really enjoyed it.

Yes, of course, there is some Ego involved in that, and this is one of the topics we covered in the podcast, among the other aspects of what makes a team great and how to get your team to be a great one!

Give it a try! And let us know what you think!

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General

How do we Communicate?

How do we communicate is a really important question to ask when the team is up to define its Team Agreements.

Valve, the game company published its Handbook for New Employees in 2012. The subtitle provides information on how their approach to communication will have to be different: A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when no one’s there telling you what to do.

How communication works when the organization values self-organization and self-management at that level. As you can see based on the illustration below coming from the handbook, the organization relies on individuals taking matters in their own hands.

The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication is another example of clarifying not only how we communicate but also where, why, and when.

Reading the Basecamp Guide, it is obvious that Basecamp values the time of people, and values the time when they are not interrupted.

Those two examples show that the underlying values and principles of the organization condition the way communication happens, its purpose and who has the initiative to initiate or improve the communication.

The one thing I would like to leave you with is: It has to be defined!

As a team member, you cannot rely on the fact that other team members know how to do it if there is no formal agreement on how the team is doing it. The understanding of each team member is probably slightly different leading to bigger misunderstandings.

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General

Team Awards Retrospective

Everything is awesome, everything is cool when you are part of a team!

The LEGO Movie

Even if a lot of people would genuinely like to think that way, not everything is awesome when you are part of a team. The great thing about this is that it leaves room for improvements which a regular retrospective will help you find as a team.

In 2015, the LEGO Movie song: “Everything is Awesome” was nominated for the best song at the Academy Awards (The Oscars). The Directors of the movie ordered the artist Nathan Sawaya to create 20 Lego statuettes to be given while the song was played.

During the winter break, my (young adult) kids and I assemble quite a lot of Legos with the younger ones. That reminded me of the happy face of people during the 2015 Oscar ceremony when they were given the statuettes and of one retrospective format created by my amazing wife Isabel.

I decided that the next retrospective for my team will be a Team Awards Retrospective and that I will give away two Oscar statuettes made of LEGO! I ordered the bricks online and built the statuettes thanks to that article.

How did it work?

We intended to do a quick retrospective at the beginning of our face to face meeting to examine the last period. Our team is widely distributed, so when we have some time with each other, we invest that time for high-bandwidth collaboration.

I asked the team members to consider the last period as a movie.

Using two sticky notes, they had to nominate for two awards:

  • The best failure for the team
  • The best contribution from a team member

All the team members gathered around the whiteboard to display their sticky notes in the dedicated boxes for each award.

Starting with the team award, they took the time to read what was on the notes and then asked clarifying questions. The conversation was focused on what we learned from those failures. I then proposed a silent reordering of the notes as a way of voting. The session was not really silent, but still, they quickly agreed on what should be at the top.

The conversation went on what we learned and what we should adjust in the way our teamwork. The award went to the new team member who proposed the failure.

We moved then to the team member award with the same approach, and in the end, the award went to the other new team member whose mission is to lead our actions to get to more diverse and inclusive teams. The discussion focused on how to best support the mission.

The retrospective was fun and short. We focused on consolidating our culture. And we welcomed our new team members with awards!

They were maybe not as expressive as Oprah but I feel that they were really happy 🙂

Categories
General

Talking to Strangers

Based on a recent recommendation, I read Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell. The book was already on my reading list, as I really enjoyed his previous books.

In reality, I listened to the enhanced audiobook on audible. Enhanced means that you have real interviews, and others played dialogues along with the narration by the author.

The book is excellent. It is about our (in)ability to grasp what strangers are up to because of three aspects:

  • We default to the truth: we think people are telling the truth, and it serves us well because people usually are telling the truth. But, it is not always the case.
  • We believe in transparency: we think we are pretty good at reading people. We believe the behavior we observed is aligned with what people think and say. But, it is not always the case.
  • We don’t believe in coupling. In reality, location or context dictates the behavior of people. Their behavior is not defined by who they are.

The combination of the two first aspects makes us easy to be fooled. By adding the third aspect, we turn it into a society problem. The book is a must-read. And, by the way, the part on Alcohol is a must-read.

Go for it and tell me what you think!

Categories
Le Podcast

Coming to terms with terms – Michael DeLanzo

In this episode of Le Podcast, I had the great pleasure to receive Michael DeLanzo to discuss the importance of coming to terms with terms. Michael and I met at a Boston Spin event when I gave a talk: The Change Starts Here. You can find more about speaking engagement here.

What precipitated the idea to discuss this topic was an email feedback exchange on Le PodcastHow to create great goals?“. As a listener, Michael did not agree with the level of abstraction or scope provided to goals and objectives. The reason turned out to be that we had different meanings of the term goals and objectives. Once he understood the definition I had of these terms, the issues with scope and level of abstraction were no longer there.

Michael ended the recording by asking me a question from Daniel Kahneman “Thinking, Fast and Slow”

  • A bat and ball cost $1.10
  • The bat cost $1.00 more than the ball
  • How much does the ball cost?

Highlights of the episode:

  • Clarify the terms is the starting point for any collaboration
  • Writing or Speaking communication, or synchronous and asynchronous communication
  • Cultural differences, and language struggle (There is a quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw that follows along the lines “Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language”.)
  • Passive Thinking and Critical Thinking
  • From The Basecamp Guide to Internal Communication
    • If your words can be perceived in different ways, they’ll be understood in the way which does the most harm.
    • Meetings are the last resort, not the first option.
    • Five people in a room for an hour isn’t a one-hour meeting, it’s a five-hour meeting. 
  • From CNBC: Jeff Bezos: This is the ‘smartest thing we ever did’ at Amazon
    • Jeff Bezos: “Many, many years ago, we outlawed PowerPoint presentations at Amazon,”“And it’s probably the smartest thing we ever did.”
    • Jack Dorsey: “Most of my meetings are now Google doc-based, starting with 10 minutes of reading and commenting directly in the doc,” Dorsey tweeted in 2018. “This practice makes time for everyone to get on same page, allows us to work from many locations, and gets to truth/critical thinking faster.”
  • I already mentioned the Valve Software New Employee Handbook in this article about the Neuroscience of Trust. I repeat here that it is worth to have a look 🙂

Book recommendations:

Categories
General

Understanding A3 Thinking

Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota’s PDCA Management System is a book by Durward Sobek and Art Smalley enabling you to understand A3 thinking.

The A3 report is a key tool used by Toyota in support of problem resolution. The approach enable them to solve the root causes of the problem and not only to find paliative temporary fixes.

To learn more and before reading the book, I invite you to watch the excellent presentation by Claudio Perrone (@agilesensei). A3 & Kaizen: Here’s How from Claudio Perrone

This post is a translation of my original French post from 2012.

Categories
Le Podcast

How (not) to provide feedback – John Poelstra

In this episode of Le Podcast, I had the great pleasure of having John Poelstra to discuss a very personal experience about providing feedback.

John has a great show. I have been on the show twice. The first time to discuss Changing Your Team From The Inside. The second with Michael Doyle to discuss how to build and lead effective remote teams.

The highlights of the episode are:

  • the difference between the content of the feedback and how it is delivered
  • the place of the ego in the feedback process
  • who is responsible for our experiences
  • how to deal with expectations or needs
  • how the responsibilities are on both ends
  • the dance between people is the relationship
  • how you show up makes a big difference
  • polarization, win/lose mentality makes it worse

Recommended book in the episode: