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The Marshall Plan

I guess most people, when they start a new job or client engagement, have in mind the things they want to do and see happen. Most likely, things they’ve seen or made happen in previous jobs or engagements. Along with, maybe, some things they’ve read or heard about and are minded to try out, given the opportunity. (And what better opportunity than the honeymoon period of a new job or client?)

We might choose to call this an agenda.

My Agenda

I’m no different, excepting perhaps the items that feature on my agenda:

  • Invite participation in discussing “who matters?” (with respect to i.e. the work and the way it works)
  • Empathise with the emergent community of “folks that matter” (not exclusively, but as a priority)
  • Invite folks to listen to each other’s volunteered observations, hear each other’s feelings, and explore each other’s needs.
  • Invite folks to solicit and then begin attending to each other’s requests (explicit and implicit)
  • Offer and provide support to folks and communities in their journeys

Note: I’ve not included on my agenda anything about specific actions that I myself might want to do and see happen, beyond the items listed. Specifically, although I’ve written often about strategies such as Flowchain, Prod•gnosis, Rightshifting, the Marshall Model, self-organising/managing teams, the quality of interpersonal relationships and interactions, etc., I don’t bring these into my agenda. If folks discover these strategies for themselves, they’re much more likely to understand their fundamentals, and maybe come up with even more effective strategies.

The Antimatter Principle is the only strategy I’ve regularly written about that recognisably features on my prospective agenda, and then only by extending invitations to participate in that strategy. (Note: Attentive readers may just notice the tip of the Organisational Psychotherapy iceberg peeking out from the above agenda).

I’ve reached a point in my journey where, keen as my ego is to see all my ideas (strategies) made manifest, my experience tells me that’s not the way to go for the best outcomes for the community as a whole.

As for the Marshall Plan, I believe it’s best, in the longer run, to have the folks involved (in particular, the people that matter) do their own discovery and learning. Discovering for themselves, over time – through means they also discover for themselves – effective strategies for attending to folks’ needs (often including the principles underlying those strategies). I see my role in this Plan as supporting – in whichever ways folks request, or say they need – this collective endeavour. Such support quite possibly to include actively helping the discovery and learning, whenever there’s an explicit (albeit refusable) request for me to do so.

– Bob

Further Reading

The Benefits of Self-directed Learning

The Twelfth Principle

There are four values and twelve principles connected with the Agile Manifesto. As the folks at 12thPrinciple say,

“the four values and eleven of the twelve Agile principles do not address the wider organization at all.”

This is one of the key reasons why so many Agile adoptions (circa 80%) fail to deliver on the Agile promise.

I have this weeks added my name to the list of signatories at 12thprinciple.org.  Not because I totally and wholeheartedly embrace the “Twelfth Principle” in its current form. But because I wish to lend support to the idea that it’s the wider organisational context that utterly determines whether any kind of progressive change effort or initiative succeeds or fails.

The Twelfth Principle (n.b. actually appearing fifth in the list of Principles behind the Agile Manifesto) reads:

“Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.”

I see some basic flaws in this, but it does serve to highlight (at least, implicitly) the role of the wider organisation.

Here’s my take on these “flaws”:

  • Projects. I see little point in using projects to frame development efforts. Personally, I subscribe to #NoProjects, and FlowChain as a practical means to replace the whole idea of projects, in favour of product development flow.
  • Individuals. Yes, teams consist of individuals. But Man is a social animal, and collaborative knowledge work – such as software and product development requires society, not individuals. I get the idea that we’re really taking about a focus on people, here. As opposed to say structure, hierarchy, process, or what have you.
  • Give. Not so much give as in charity or largesse, but give as in make available, enable.
  • Them. Shades of them and us? Unfortunate choice of pronoun.

With a free hand, and the awesome benefit of hindsight, I might represent this principle thusly:

“We accept that collaborative knowledge-work proceeds best when we place people at the core of our focus.
We recognise that people do best within a supportive environment,
where needs are shared and attended to by all.”

How might you rephrase this principle?

– Bob

 

 

Seven Research-Based Principles for Making Organisations Work

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, written with Nan Silver, renowned clinical psychologist and marriage researcher John Gottman, Ph.D, reveals what successful relationships look like and features valuable activities to help couples strengthen their relationships.

Gottman’s principles are research-based. He and his colleagues studied hundreds of couples (including newlyweds and long-term couples); interviewed couples and videotaped their interactions; even measured their stress levels by checking their heart rate, sweat flow, blood pressure and immune function; and followed couples annually to see how their relationships fared.

He also found that nine months after attending his workshops, 640 couples had relapse rates of 20 percent, while standard marital therapy has a relapse rate of 30 to 50 percent. In the beginning of these workshops, 27 percent of couples were at high risk for divorce. Three months later, 6.7 percent were at risk. Six months later, it was 0 percent.

Below are his seven principles, adapted to organisations, along with a few organisational-health-strengthening activities to try.

1. Enhancing “Love Maps”

Love is in the details. That is, flourishing organisations are very much familiar with their folks’ worlds, and needs. Such companies have “a richly detailed love map” — an informal map interweaving all the relevant information about folks and their lives. People in these companies know many things about each other – everything from their favourite movies to what’s currently stressing them out, from what their needs are to some of their life’s dreams.

2. Nurture Fondness And Admiration

In flourishing organisations people respect each other and have a general positive view of each other. Gottman says that fondness and admiration are two of the most important elements in satisfying and long-term relationships. If these elements are completely missing, relationships degenerate into something purely transactional (and “engagement” goes out the window).

Gottman includes a helpful activity to connect people with the humanity of their colleagues. He calls this “I appreciate”. He suggests folks list three or more of a colleague’s positive characteristics along with an incident that illustrates each quality. Then share these lists with others – including the subjects.

3. Turn Toward Each Other Instead Of Away

Working with others isn’t about a few amazing moments. Rather, positive connections live and thrive in the everyday, little things. Channelling Gottman, “[positive regard] is kept alive each time you let a colleague know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life.”

For instance, positive regard is leaving an encouraging message for a colleague when you know she’s having a bad day. Or we can signal positive regard when we’re really busy but still take a few minutes to listen to a colleague’s anxiety and arrange to discuss it later (instead of dismissing it with something like “I don’t have time”).

This might seem humdrum, but turning toward each other in these ways is the basis for connection and positive regard. Organisations where colleagues turn toward each other have more in their “emotional bank accounts”.  This positive balance distinguishes flourishing from miserable ones. Flourishing organisations have more goodwill and positivity stored in their bank accounts, so when rough times hit, their emotional savings cushion conflicts and stressors.

4. Invite Colleagues To Influence You

Flourishing organisations are places where people consider each other’s perspective and feelings. Folks make decisions together and search out common ground. Letting your colleagues and co-workers influence you isn’t about having someone hold your reins; it’s about honoring and respecting each other.

5. Solve solvable problems

Gottman says that there are two types of problems: conflicts that can be resolved, and perpetual problems that can’t. It’s important for people to determine which ones are which.

Sometimes, though, telling the difference can be tricky. “One way to identify solvable problems is that they seem less painful, gut-wrenching, or intense than perpetual, gridlocked ones.” Solvable problems are situational, and there’s no underlying conflict.

Gottman devised a five-step model for resolving these conflicts:

  1. Soften your startup, which simply means starting the conversation without criticism or contempt.
  2. Make and receive “repair attempts” – any action or statement that deescalates tension.
  3. Soothe yourself and then each other. When you feel yourself getting heated during a conversation, let other folks know that you’re overwhelmed and take a 20-minute break. (That’s how long it takes for your body to calm down.) Then you might try closing your eyes, taking slow, deep breaths, relaxing your muscles and visualising a calm place. After you’ve calmed down, you might help soothe your colleagues. Ask each other what’s most comforting and do that.
  4. Compromise. The above steps prime people for compromise because they create positivity. When conflicts arise, it’s important to take each other’s thoughts and feelings into consideration. Here, Gottman includes a valuable exercise to help people find common ground. He suggests that each person draw two circles: a smaller one inside a larger one. In the smaller circle, people make a list of their nonnegotiable points. In the bigger one, make a list of what you can compromise on. Share these drawing with each other and look for common ground. Consider what you agree on, what your common goals and feelings are and how you can accomplish these goals.
  5. Remember to be tolerant of one other’s faults. Compromise is impossible until you can accept everyone’s flaws and get over the “if onlies.” (You know the ones: “If only he was this” “If only she was that.”)

6. Overcome Gridlock

The goal with perpetual problems is for people to “move from gridlock to dialogue.” What usually underlies gridlock is unfulfilled needs. “Gridlock is a sign that you have [needs] in your life that aren’t being addressed or respected by each other”. Flourishing organisations believe in the importance of everyone – the organisation included – helping each other attend to their needs.

So the first step in overcoming gridlock is to determine the need or need that are causing a conflict. The next steps include talking to each other about your needs (never easy), taking a break (since some of these talks can get stressful),  airing (and thereby making peace with) the problem, and ultimately sharing a (refusable) request aimed at addressing the need.

“The goal is to ‘declaw’ the issue, to try to remove the hurt [and negative feelings] so the problem stops being a source of great pain,” Gottman writes.

7. Create Shared Meaning

Working together isn’t just about projects, deadlines, cakes and and getting drunk together. It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together — a culture rich with rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you, that lead you to understand what it means to be a part of the community you have become.

And that’s what it means to develop shared meaning. Flourishing organisations create a community culture that attends to everyone’s needs. In being open to each other’s perspectives and opinions, flourishing organisations naturally thrive.

– Bob

Further Reading

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being ~ Martin Seligman
7 Research-Based Principles for Making Marriage Work ~ Margarita Tartakovsky

Taking Wings

In line with my previously announced intention, our fledgling Organisational Psychotherapy community is moving to a new wordpress.com site at noon today (Monday 16 November 2015).

It’s open to read-only access for anyone. For those who would like editing access, you’ll need a) a WordPress login and b) to drop me a line or post a comment to that effect, with your WordPress id.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those fellows who provided advice regarding this move.

I’d also like to thank my regular blog readers for their forbearance over the past few weeks. This blog’s editorial will now resume to something approaching normal. Please do drop in to our new site from time to time and catch up on our progress if you have any interest in the emergence of a self-organising community of principle.

– Bob

 

An Intention Announced

In line with the advice process, I’m posting here my intention to set up a new WordPress.com site to provide us with a dedicated online space for our interactions and archives. This will provide us with a shared home, replacing the use of my blog for this purpose, and is both in response to and anticipation of requests from our fledgling community of principle for such a facility. How long this facility will prove useful before we choose to move on again, I can’t say. I suspect somewhere between several weeks and a year or more.

I intend using the P2 theme on this site.

Would you be willing to provide some advice before I act on this intent? I intend to act on this intention circa: Monday 16 Nov 2015, Noon GMT.

– Bob

 

Discombobulated

Discombobulated

I’m feeling discombobulated. Other emotions, too, of course. Both positive and negative. But for the time being, discombobulation predominates. I’m guessing some of you fellows might be experiencing some of the same sensations. Bruce Tuckman described this as common for groups in the “forming” stage – stage one – of his model.

Knowing it’s common, and even being ready for it, doesn’t seem to lessen its impact much, if at all. I just wanted to share, in case you felt it was just you. You’re not alone.

I’ve been trying to process and arrange folks’ recent comments, and form some responses. Many things are still in motion in my head, and my heart, but here’s the first clutch of thoughts:

Who’s In Charge Of Us Fellows?

I have little inkling as yet as to the kind of mental models fellows have about organising for collaboration. Do those models follow the Rightshifting distribution, or do we have a preponderance of more synergistic thinkers? I don’t know – but I’m looking forward to finding out. I’m assuming at least some folks will be coming from more traditional (Analytic-minded) backgrounds. In which case I guess it’s only natural to think in terms of “who’s in charge”.

Who do you want to be in charge? What does “in charge” mean? And what are the merits and demerits – a.k.a. consequences – of the idea of having one or more people “in charge” in any case?

Personally, the sooner we get to some effective, functioning self-organisation, the happier I’ll be. I have ideas, sure, but I’m betting everyone does. I have some notions of what we could be doing first (priorities). Again, I’m sure everyone does. Can I act on that? Discombobulation.

Who do you go convince that you have a good idea worth consideration? Who will give the green light to your suggestion and put things in motion?

And, above all perhaps, how does this question of “who’s in charge?” play into the bigger picture of Organisational Psychotherapy? For example, how might the answer impact our relationships with clients (I’m using Carl Rogers’ term here). Who’s in charge of that?

 

And further, who’s in charge of the various stakeholders, and the emerging “business” itself?

Aside: I use the term “business” loosely, as it could emerge that we can best serve the needs of our various stakeholders as a charity, foundation, loose or tight network of affiliates, or any number of other forms of association. And although our emergent “association” might be essentially commercial, I’d like to explore all our options about how we might feed and water our association.

Enough for now. Looking forward to your responses. More next time.

– Bob

Further Reading

Reinventing Organizations ~ Frederic Laloux

 

A Deliberate Approach

“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.”

~ Napoleon Bonaparte

In response to your kind questions and comments regarding my previous post, I mentioned that I would be writing a post to address some of those questions and comments. This is not that post (I’m still in the middle of that).

In the meantime, and hopefully to preserve some sense of momentum, might I invite you to advise me on your feelings about approaching the journey ahead (e.g. building a thing we may come to refer to as a community of principle) with a modicum of deliberate intention? Specifically, it has been my habit to follow an approach evolved over many years for this sort of thing. Presently this bears the name “Javelin”. There’s a paper on Javelin which you might care to read. Please accept my apologies in advance for labelling it a process, and for its anachronisms.

In a nutshell, the approach entails, at its heart:

  • Choosing a name, for easy referencing of “this thing which we have come together to build/grow” (Name).
  • Discussing our various perspectives re: our (common) purpose, leading to a Statement of Purpose.
  • Listing key stakeholders and their respective needs (what they say they need, not what we’d like them to need).

The approach aims to address a bunch of risks inherent in this kind of endeavour, including the risk of spending precious time and effort on building the wrong thing(s).

Put another way, what’s the minimum amount of structure that will serve us in approaching our joint endeavour?

How does this sit with you? What advice can you offer me? Upon receipt of this advice I will be better placed to decide whether this kind of  approach might fly, and what else to do instead or in addition.

– Bob

Further Reading

Our Javelin Process ~ Bob Marshall

 

An Invitation To Contribute And Share

Invitation

I would like to invite you all to join with me in creating a new global intervention and treatment specialty. I’m presently naming this specialty “Organisational Psychotherapy” – although I see this as a working title, and like most else in prospect, open for discussion.

The Pitch

Organisations of every kind are struggling to cope with the many challenges thrust upon them – by rapid technological and social change, changing markets, and changing stakeholder demands. Organisations which better engage their staff, suppliers and others in meeting these challenges will do better than those which do not.

Crucial to creating better engagement are the assumptions, ideas and expectations by which these organisations operate. How might organisations better adjust their prevailing assumptions, ideas and expectations – their collective mindset – to create conditions in which e.g. innovation can thrive and folks can better contribute – even unto the utmost of their abilities, enthusiasms and potentials?

Few organisations are well-served, in themselves, in regard to making these kinds of adjustment to their collective assumptions, ideas and expectations. Unless and until they grow their internal capabilities, external partners can serve to provide the necessary skills and expertise.

The Invitation

Are your needs for effective workplaces going unmet? Are you frustrated and dispirited by the kinds of workplaces we so often see – and suffer – today? Are you feeling concerned, outraged, even, by the things people have to tolerate at work?Do you want to contribute in a meaningful and positive way, with the support and encouragement of a community of other like-minded souls, towards doing something about it?

Can we together get something inspiring and worthwhile off the ground? I have some ideas, knowledge and experiences to bring to the party, and I’m sure many of you out there do too. Would you be willing to play an active role in a community dedicated to learning and sharing and to making this happen?

Community Based

I’ve see too many transaction-oriented initiatives fail to want to make “finding work” the foundation of this endeavour. On the contrary, in the early days I predict there will be lots in the way of work to be done, and little in the way of (monetary) recompense. If you’re looking for another revenue channel to backfill your spare capacity, this is very likely not for you. Maybe one day we can look to become self-funding – God knows there’s enough value in the proposition – but I’d suggest that choosing to regard this as a calling or vocation is much more in keeping with our implicit ethos of helping people.

Note: The word “community”, for me, means things like self-organisation, equality, diversity, joy, shared purpose, fellowship and the paramountcy of social connections. Forging and maintaining meaningful social connections can be hard in an online world without e. g frequent face to face meetings. Yet without the social dimension, I foresee an early bath. Maybe we can cross that hurdle when and if we get to it?

Aside: The notion of Communities of Practice seems widely understood. I propose our community might better serve our needs – individually and collectively – as a Community of Principle. Just which principle(s) we choose to adopt I invite you to consider, and share.

Ethos

I have learned over the years that proposing solutions to people – with or without understanding their needs – offers little in the way of benefit. Better by far to hold a space and invite them to explore their own needs and (maybe, in time) find their own solutions. In this vein, I see our new specialty not as a solution to anything, but as a kind of social service. I accept this may not be popular until understood.

Open To All

For those of you that decide you’d like to contribute, learn and share in bringing a gloriously bright new specialism into the world, please join us. I’m willing to handle the limited admin of keeping track of fellows (non gender-specific term) – at least until it needs more time than I have available. Maybe some others might like to share in that.

I propose that the only criterion for joining our community is that you subscribe to the idea, and are in principle willing to put some non-negligible effort into making it happen.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

~ Alan Kay

To get started, for those of you wanting to know more, to share ideas, and to put your hat in the ring, simply post a comment, below. And please, please tell your friends.

Stakeholders

I presently envisage three kinds of participants in this endeavour: Fellows, Sponsors, and Clients. More may come later.

Community Members

Community members, also known as fellows, are you and me. We contribute ideas and efforts into the community, with the aim of establishing our new specialty as a viable and beneficial option for clients, and an attractive proposition for sponsors.

Sponsors

Sponsors, whether individuals or organisations, may wish to contribute to our aims, in the manner of a charitable trust or similar. I anticipate we have some work to do to understand such sponsors’ needs – and attend to them.

Clients

Clients are those organisations, or more exactly people in organisations, that wish to benefit from our capabilities to help them better get their own needs – collective and individual – met. With a nod to Lean Startup, I propose there is NO MANIFEST DEMAND for our new specialty at this time. I personally have no doubt as to the latent need for our new specialty, so anticipate much work ahead in seeing that demand become manifest.

Don’t Worry

No matter whether you’re feeling intrigued, puzzled, casually interested or enthusiastic, don’t worry about making a commitment. I hope our community can thrive on the ideas of ‘do nothing that is not play’, and non-violence. I for one will not be obliging fellows to do anything beyond the things we freely choose to do.

And don’t worry about choosing to get involved and wanting to start doing things right off the bat. I can coordinate, and maybe act as a tie-breaker on occasion, but I propose we take advantage of the Advice Process, and adopt a motto, from the wonderful Grace Hopper, that i learned during my time at Sun Microsystems:

“it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

~ Grace Hopper

I look forward to us all creating, sharing, learning and playing together – and making an amazing difference to the world of work. How about you?

– Bob

Next Steps

My next post will summarise your feedback and set out some common themes and next steps to get this show on the road.

Afterword

Following on from my previous post “I Have Nothing Left To Say”, I am resolved to abjure saying anything more here on this blog – and in life – in favour of actually doing something. And that something is the bringing of a new thing into the world – the specialty of Organisational Psychotherapy. Look to this mission to be the common theme of future posts.

Further Reading

The Advantage ~ Patrick Lencioni
Joy, Inc. ~ Richard Sheridan
Reinventing Organizations ~ Frederic Laloux

 

 

A Second Open Letter to the Project Management Community

Since my first open letter to the Project Management community, some three years ago now, not much has changed. Not that I expected a single blog post to have much impact.

After Agile. What now?

The rising dissatisfaction with the Agile approach – even amongst the Agile community – and the rumblings around the question “After Agile. What now?”, leads me to update my earlier letter, and broaden its scope to address the Agile Community, too.

Dear All

Dear Project Managers and Agilists everywhere,

I hear you continue to have mixed views about the ongoing, er, “developments”, in the field of Software Development. I won’t call them “advances” as we may not be able to agree that they are, in fact, advancing anything. Incidentally, I share some of your likely skepticism on that front.

I am writing to you today to share some opinions and observations about the changes in train in the software development field, globally. Whilst patchy in their uptake, with many a mis-step, changes are afoot. I can relate to your professional concerns that we retain the best of what we have learned from decades of successful project management (this also, we have to admit, being very patchy, too).

Many who look to advance the field of software development also have concerns. Concerns that some of the received wisdom of project management professionals has been rendered redundant or even dysfunctional by recent advances in fields such as psychology, neuroscience, sociology and evidence-based management.

These bilateral concerns have lead to understandable, yet vexing, tensions and misunderstandings between the various communities. Nowhere have these been more evident, perhaps, than between ‘traditional’ project managers and the Agile crowd.

And now, a third faction has also entered the debate. I’ll call these the After Agilists.

I find it helpful to characterise this conflict as a clash of world-views. In a nutshell, a clash between what McGregor has called “Theory X” and “Theory Y”, compounded by the clash between those who believe Agile is all we need for success, and those who recognise the flaws in both “traditional” project management and “conventional Agile” and wish to move on, correcting them as we go

I hope I’m right in thinking that we all share a common objective – a desire to see better outcomes for everyone involved, to see the needs of all stakeholders much better met than has been the case to date. Oh, and maybe improving the levels effectiveness of the organisations within which we work, too (another need, for many).

Whilst it may appear the arguments and contentions arise from our different ways and means for achieving this objective, I’d like to suggest that the conflict – as a product of conflicting world-views – is more deep-seated, and all the more pernicious for that. We can hardly expect folks, of any persuasion, to change their world-views overnight, if at all. Nor blame them for that aspect of their humanity.

And given the fundamental differences between these various world-views, it seems overly optimistic to expect these world-views ever to coexist peacefully and productively.

All we might hope for is a little more understanding, a little less fractiousness, and a future where we can all at least agree to disagree.

More optimistically, we might also realise that everyone has much to learn – and unlearn – from each other. That, perhaps, is something we can all work on together.

Thanks for listening,

– Bob

Further Reading

Power And Love ~ Adam Kahane
Power and Love – RSA video

On Becoming An Organisational Psychotherapist

People occasionally ask me what it would take for them to become an organisational psychotherapist. Eager to help, I might jump at the chance to answer the question. And that would be a mistake. How could anyone provide an answer to that question in a way that would be useful? Socrates spent a long life eschewing answers in favour of questions. Socratic questions. Questions intended to help those, that wished it, to know themselves a little better.

How Well Doth Thou Know Thyself?

Even in Ancient Greece, the maxim “Know Thyself” was accepted as long-established wisdom. Plato suggested that understanding oneself would enable thyself to have an understanding of others as a result.

“People make themselves appear ridiculous when they are trying to know obscure things before they know themselves.”

~ Socrates, via Plato

For The Love Of It

I choose to describe myself – in part, at least – as an organisational psychotherapist because I see the joy that can follow when organisations become more whole (in a spiritual or community sense of the term). For me, that defines the purpose of organisational psychotherapy. In short, I love what can happen. Might you love it? Or might you find other needs of thyself that a role as an organisational psychotherapist could serve?

Personal Transformation

Here’s the questions from the Antimatter Transformation Model, recast just slightly in an attempt to pique some curiosity in those interested in the kind of personal transformation I see integral to organisational psychotherapy:

  1. What would I like to have happen?
  2. How do I feel about the spiritual and mental health of organisations, and the people in them?
  3. What are my needs, personally – and in relation to others?
  4. In what ways do I relate to people and groups presently, and would other ways of relating better help meet my – and their – needs?
  5. What do I believe about the nature and purpose of communities of work, generally – and would other beliefs serve me better?

– Bob

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