Weekly team meetings taking away your lifeforce? Just try this.

Is this the scene at your work when another meeting is called?

Is this the scene at your work when another meeting is called?

Just because team meetings can be a soulless drain of vital lifeforce doesn’t mean they are not important.

For many people, the conditions for work being a satisfying experience is that we are ‘alone together’.  Oxymoron fans are digging it the most, but what I’m getting at is that most of us like some sort of autonomy/authority/control over what we do and how we do it, and at the same time, most of us need some sort of connection to other people to feel OK.

Work lets us do both.

And in most organisations, meetings are the primary forum in which we have the chance to form a connection as a group, meaning the chance to satisfy one of the fundamental conditions for work being OK.  Or better.

Which is why they are important.   And why it’s worth trying something new if your meetings are driving you into the gutter of existential despair.

So try lean coffee!

Lean coffee (which is a trademarked thing) is a ‘structured, but agenda-less meeting‘ in the words you’ll find on the website itself:  http://leancoffee.org/ .  Better yet, check out co-originator Jim Benson (he of personal kanban fame) talking about it for 3:37 on YouTube right here. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Board too risk-averse for innovation? Then bark up this tree…

The first job of a Board is to make sure the organisation continues to be viable.  And if you’ve been good in the ‘Added-Value Domain’ for a while (the work domain that’s about constructing the networks, systems and everything else required to deliver value to customers today and tomorrow)…it’s going to take a lot to start messing with that.

And so it should.  If the magazines Science or Nature allowed any old idea to get published…credibility of the whole science profession takes a nose-dive.  You’ve got to prove yourself before we start changing the laws of nature!

But as we also know, eventually what we produce in the Added-Value Domain is going to have to change as values change….and the connection comes from what we call the Innovation Domain of work.  The point of this work is for values and trends to be revealed in decisions to provide fundamentally new value to possibly new clients.

It’s different to the Added-Value Domain….but ends up in the Added-Value Domain.

(If you’d like to read more on these Domains, check out Luc Hoebeke’s wonderful work Making Work Systems Better)

Here’s the trick – the attributes of good work in the Added-Value Domain are fundamentally different to that in the Innovation Domain.  But if we don’t see this, and in particular, if we present information to Boards using the same criteria for both Domains….we are automatically set up for ‘no’.   Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Eliminate change management

We all know the usual routine – management identifies the need for more productivity and/or quality or a new strategy, the necessary actions are identified (internally, externally or a combination of both), this necessitates change, so now we ‘change manage’.

And it works……at best…..sometimes.

What we’re really doing here is coercing people to like the change we’ve decided on.  We’re doing change to them.

What if instead we did change with them?

As Peter Block says,

when someone states ‘we need to get everyone on board‘, the answer is ‘what makes you think you’re in the boat?

Imagine if, instead of management calling in the external experts, it went the other way around and the frontline team approached management and said

We’re out of ideas.  But if you can find $50k for those improvement consultants we were speaking to last week, we reckon we can work with them and find about $200k per year savings back to the business‘.

Would this require ‘change management’? Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

How to be known as someone who delivers

Want to be known as someone who delivers?  Then start saying this: “I can’t promise that“.

Or here’s an alternate “I can promise that, this is what I need from you“.

When do you say this?  Whenever you are asked to do something that you are not sure you will be able to get done.

Most of us would prefer to be known as someone who keeps promises.   So this requires us to only make promises that we can keep.

Yet we (me included) agree to stuff we can’t get done all the time!

Why?

Because we would rather wear long-term damaging workload stress in order to avoid the short-term anxiety of disappointing someone in authority.

If, however, you want to work in an organisation where people are trusted, people speak the truth, where promises are kept, and where respect is the norm…..someone has to go first.

And this requires bravery….because it might not work out well for you!

But one thing’s for sure…..if you’re waiting for senior or executive management to sort this out…that is not happening.  Because they are just as trapped in this as you.

No change without anxiety.

 

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Behaviours are bulldust

How would you react to this decree from the government:

These are the five ways we expect every citizen to behave.  All people observed not behaving in this way will be sanctioned, at first via discussions, then via bad ratings on the official record, and ultimately removal from the community.  The five behaviours can be found on government issue posters, coffee cups and lanyards which are freely available at your local post office.  You will be rated once per year on your adherence to these behaviours.

Does this sound like a community you want to be a part of?  Does it sound like a community where people are trusted to be adults and serve the best interests of each other?

You get the point.  And it’s full on.   It’s essentially an act of HR and Management sedition to suggest that all of this behaviour stuff might be bulldust.

But it is.

In the words of a better person than me: “Far out”

Dude

 

Well, actually, there’s a situation where behaviours are not bulldust.  If a group of people get together to discuss and agree behaviours for themselves, then fine.  What’s bulldust is the decreeing part.  The mandating.  The ‘we know what behaviours are best for you‘ part.  This is the bit that treats grown adults like they are in child care….which is eventually going to create child care behaviour, which is dependence and rebellion all at once. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

New to management? Not sure what to actually do? Do this.

Communication Managers

Lots of people become managers for the first time.  Then for training they’re sent to a course on ‘leadership’ which is actually about how to be a decent human in the world.  Which is useful.   But just like there’s more to being an aircraft captain than getting along with your crew, there’s more to being a boss than knowing how to get along with your people.

So here’s an email I sent to an experienced specialist who is a good operator who has recently become a manager.  They mentioned they would appreciate some advice on what to actually do. It’s the stuff we teach in our workshops and our online learning.

Hey there,

OK, this is the stuff that will get your team moving to where it needs to be:

1) Context & Planning – your job here is to make sure the team is clear on their mission Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Developing a Strategy? Read This First

Magpies

You’re in charge of ‘developing a strategy’.  Perhaps you’re a General Manager, where developing and delivering strategy (what work, why that, and why us) is the key part of the job.  Or maybe you’ve been assigned the task because you’ve put your hand up, or you’re an agitator, or someone wants to see what you can do.  Or perhaps you’ve been asked to bring together the ubiquitous ‘cross-functional team’.

So what do you do?

Convene! 

Strategies are developed by convening gatherings of people who want to be there, then having real conversations about possible futures.

They’re not developed by working through a process of identifying the current situation, by doing a SWOT, PESTL….whatever.  These things might be useful to identify things to talk about, but they come at a cost, which is the implication that the process will reveal the strategy.

It won’t, and here’s why.

Real strategy, as in strategy that actually happens, is created by people imagining what might be possible, then making the choice to create a new future.   Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

51% – the brilliantly simple concept to start creating real commitment

Read it on stairs (2)

There’s an element that gets overlooked when you set up your organisation with the right number of levels (yes, there is a right number, but that’s a different post), and when you make sure that the people in the roles will be able to add value at the level that the role requires.  You get a natural feeling of release or ‘that feels better’ as some of the key conditions that create micromanagement or disconnection are now dealt with.

Couple in some training about what the unique value-add of each level is, and we’re well on the way toward an enterprise that can seriously get things done, both today’s work, and tomorrow’s.  If you’d like some research on this, and no less than 50 years’ worth is good enough for you, check out the work of Elliott Jaques.  We use it because it works.

But there’s a darker side.

In the process of defining ‘levels’, the human need for dominance rears it’s head.  I’m talking about the idea that “I’m at a higher ‘level’, therefore I know better than you”.  Don’t get me wrong, most times this isn’t evil, and comes through as genuine caring for ‘your’ people.  But the very act of assuming you know what’s best for someone else….how comfortable are you with being on the receiving end of that?

Yet, we need people who can think in longer timespans so we’re OK in the future.  And we need people who can make things work right now so we’re OK right now.  We need all of these things for a successful business.  Hierarchy is actually natural.

So what do we do?

What we do is move to the mindset described by Peter Block as Partnering not Parenting. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Do you want adult behaviour in your organisation?

Ready to go deep?  OK, here we go.

What’s the first authority relationship you remember in your life?  It’s your parents right?  That’s the model we start with.  Parent-Child.

What’s the next one?  Most likely teachers. So we’ve got Teacher-Student.

Along the way you might have junior sports, music, dance.   This one is Coach-Player.

You might have had jobs as you grew up, so you had Manager-Junior Employee.

All of these models are burned in young, they are familiar, and it’s what we’re used to.  They share the general structure of Authority Figure – Dependent.  And they are not bad, it’s what’s needed to allow us to navigate the confusing paths of the world as we head toward adulthood.

The thing is…we do eventually become adults.  But….and here’s where we get deep….we can inadvertently keep these models going as we progress into our adult organisational lives.  And we do this because it’s safe.  We can accidentally project the Parent-Child relationship onto Manager-Employee, with both parties being complicit! Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

The real reason your roles are not clear

We can almost include as a template ‘clarify roles’ as the next step at the end of any planning day.  Seems to be the perpetual org development activity, along with ‘sort out cross-functional relationships’.

Here’s what’s not addressed: the reason roles aren’t clear is because we like it that way!

How do I know this?  Because you would take a stone out of your shoe if it was hurting.  Because when your friend recommends a certain dish from the menu, you give it a try.  Because, in the end, the world around you is the world you have created, which means you must like it that way.  Otherwise you would change it.

Getting roles clear is no harder than saying either “here’s what I want you to deliver”, or “here’s what I intend to deliver”.  This is the starting point, then discuss.  If you can’t reach agreement, boss makes the call.  Then list them up, and you’ve got yourself a role.  Make sure jobs higher in the hierarchy have longer timespans for what they are delivering so you don’t get compression in the levels, and you’ve got the general idea.

So why isn’t clarifying roles as common as ‘here’s your email address’?  Here are some of the usual reasons:

  • It will stifle creativity” – nope, creativity is stifled by a) unclear outcomes and boundaries b) specifying ‘how’ it needs to be done c) not having a good enough relationship so people can come back with ‘here’s a better outcome we should be doing’ d) people having work that is either under or overwhelming (too short or long in timespan) Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.