Pack #3

Self Organised Teams

Organisations are made up of teams and the best teams today need to be nimble, benefit of the groups wisdom and be hugely engaged and therefore not be subjected to coercion. These are sometimes called Self Organised Teams and in this pack we're going to look at some of the principles that underpin them and some of the technique they use.

Episodes

Section Introduction - Pack 3

Introduction

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

So far on this course, we’ve covered some context for the world changing and why that requires us to think and organise ourselves differently. Then we’ve looked at more evolved structures that organisations need to shift to. Gradually things are getting more practical and concrete. Now we’ll zoom into our teams and that we’ll be even more the case.

In this part of the course I will share principles and practices that you can absolutely apply to your work but that is up to you and I think it’s important I put an emphasis on this here. It’s important here that I highlight your responsibility in making change happen. I am somebody you read, hear and maybe meet, but I am not in your organisation. I am not the one who will make any of this happen for you. You need to do that. And what I want to explain is that you really can. This isn’t motivational fluff, this is fact. You have to decide what you have influence over and then influence it. This is the agency you have.

Change can feel hard. It can be daunting to kick start something, but the only way really is to try where you can try. Planning for what you will do in some distant fictional future is not the best way of creating change. My philosophy really is to implement what you can in small tiny experiments. Try new things and be relentless with that. Invite others to do the same. Good things will stick. I like using the theory of evolution as a metaphor for this, try to think of it from now on as you are going to run loads of micro-experiments, the successful ones will flourish and have second and even third degree implications, the unsuccessful experiments won’t survive and that’s ok.

Often the process of experimenting itself is the biggest impact you can have on an organisation. To not see things as test and experiments, means that you're somehow seeing them as finite, which is a totally illusory view of reality. Everything is an experiment whether you like it or not. Doing that knowingly is a really liberating thought.

So what I’m really asking you to do from now on in this course, is to take responsibility over the impact you want to have. The only impact my voice recordings can have is to trigger action, but it’s your actions that will create some sort of change. So listen with the ear of a thief. Steal things I say or suggest and test the ones that resonate with you quickly in small ways and see what happens. Then stop, learn and keep going. Everybody has influence over something. For some it might be ownership, or organisational governance. For others it might be how our teams run meetings, or what software we communicate with. We can all influence how we speak to each other. In each an every moment we can decide how we react to others. This perspective is liberating. It is a perspective I have seen trigger huge actions by people I’ve taught and seen them change their attitudes, their organisations, their lives.

So as we now get practical, please keep asking yourself: ‘What can I do with this?’ ‘What can I try?’ ‘What’s the smallest thing I can put into motion without meeting resistance?'

Then a practical journey towards change should start. And that really is up to you. And you have my full support!
Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or need such support. I’d be honoured to hear you and help as much as I can. I hope you're experiments prove fruitful.

Principles of Self Organised Teams

Perspective

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

We will go into the different principles in this episode in far more detail in further packs but here I would like to make a note on them because so we have the as essential background to understand self-organised teams.

There is a often confusion by cynics and pessimists that ’self-organised’ means chaos. I can tell you after working with self-organised teams and even observing children in a democratic school, that self-organisation looks nothing like chaos. It isn’t some mayhem where there are no rules. No no. Self-organised teams are highly highly organised. It’s just that their rules and processes are commonly agreed, transparent, always evolving and highly documented.

So here’s a little bit about these points:

1. Commonly agreed: A self-organised teams makes common agreements in contrast to decisions made by one person. It is therefore governed by the rule of law. I sometimes called this having powerful processes instead of powerful people.

2. Facilitation: To aid the group making common agreements, groups benefit from having a facilitator. A facilitator is somebody who owns the process by which the decision is made but ideally has little to no input on the content of the decision itself. A good facilitator helps the group decide. And the ideal situation is for the role of the facilitator to be passed around from one group member to another so that it doesn’t become a new form of power.

3. Transparent Quality Documentation: Because the rules aren’t invisibly guarded in one person’s head, the rules are very well document as simply and easy to understand as possible. This documentation should be visible to all, ideally with some ability to input into that documentation whether because the role of the documenter is passed around or through some commenting feature that allows all to have input. In this sense, the documentation should be totally transparent in order to: prevent coercion, to allow for learning from other teams, and mainly for the most clarity possible.

4. Always evolving: A self-organised team isn’t set a certain way. Rather it is set a certain way for a certain period of time until that decision is updated. Think of a self-organised team as constantly launching new bug fixes to update it’s operating system. This is why the team will often have feedback loops to update old rules with new ones. The team often jumps up to the meta level to update the rules by which the rules are made. A good self-organised teams will do this according to a rythm which allows constant updating.

These are some of the principles that help a good self-organised teams.
We’ll go into the details of all of them with practical suggestions for each, but for now, ask yourself:
• Which of these do we do well? Doesn’t anybody else know you do that? Perhaps share.
• Which of these could you do more of?
• What could you test? Facilitation? Transparent documentation? A common rule book? A regular rythm?

The Principle of Expiry

Practice

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

Here I would like to share a basic principle that I think is essential to the work you do, the way your team works, and to be honest, to life in general. I’ve heard this principle named ’The Principle of Expiry’, or simply ’Feedback Loops’ or even a ‘Work In Progress or BETA Mindset’. What this principle simply tells us is that these are the rules, for now. With an emphasis for now.

Everything in the world is constantly changing. In Buddhism this principle is know as ‘Annicca’ in Pali, or The Universal Law of Impermanence. Or as the greek philosopher Heraclitus said "change is the only constant”.

The principle of expiry acknowledges this impermanence very pragmatically and helps us avoid two very contrasting mistakes:
1. We never commit to any rules or procedures for fear they will become outdated
2. We commit to rules as if they were final

What the principle of expiry does is say ’this is the rule for now’.

So how can you apply this?

Let’s say you would like to suggest that your team have a new rule, such as implement people having focussed time without email before 10.30am for example. If you applied the principle of expiry, you would give this an expiry date. You might say, this is the rule until the next meeting in 2 weeks time.

What you will find is that rules that work will stick. Those that don’t, won’t. When there is a big external factor forcing change, you will adapt immediately.

So try this. Try to apply a rule for a given time period and then review it. One great benefit is that you decrease almost all risk by doing this, and only the stuff that really works will survive. It also makes it far far easier to try new things for a while and can even inject a new spirit of experimentation into a team.

It's also a great way of changing your personal habits like personal fitness for examples. Doing this in teams allows us to do this in teams without the slowness of consensus.

Give it a go.

Team Wiki Constitution

Tool

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

Now how can you get really tangible with 'The Principle of Expiry’? My suggestion is very simple.

Open a wiki for your team. It can be using a tool like GitHub, GitBook or even just a collaborative text document like Google Docs that you can all edit.

The document starts blank.

Now every team meeting where you decide how you work, document your agreements and give them an expiry date (often the next meeting, but sometimes things need longer to test them). And then accept those rules as the rule of law as decided by the group until the next meeting or the expiry date.

What you have is a kind of Wiki Constitution.

This is something I have softly advocated for country’s in my book Democracy Squared: A digital revolution that’s about to democratise democracy.

It’s also something we do in our family. On the wall we have a family guidelines document where my wife, my son (who’se currently 8 years old) and I agree together on some guidelines. Then every meeting we review the rules. At first there was a lot of negotiation. After a while we seem to have landed on some pretty good ones with some tweaking a long the way and changes particularly as our son grows.

In organisation this is a really common tool to use for self-organised teams. Again, the idea is that 'these are the rules for now'.

So give this a go. Rather than the rules being decided by one person, decide them together and put expiry dates so that we can ensure that our rules serve us rather than us blindly serving rules that don’t serve us.

Give it a go.
Good luck.
And try to start one these wiki constitutions with expiry dates.

Consent Based Decision Making

Tool

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

There are different ways to make decisions in groups but most of us are versed in surprisingly few of them.

Different decision making models

Autocracy
We are almost all brought up on autocratic decision making. This is the model many parents used and certainly that most schools and teachers use. It’s the decision making model where one person decides for all. It might sometimes be quick, but it benefits from very little collective intelligence and is inherently coercive.

Democracy
Many of us know democracy. This is a voting model and it tends to mean that the majority rule. It’s great that everybody gets involved but it’s only as good as the question that is asked. And it’s inherently divisive because you can end up with 52% of a population ruling over 48%.

Consensus
This model looks for where we’re all agreeing and really tries to get input from everybody, but the problem can be that it actually ends up being frustrating. It can be incredibly slow. And we actually end up with a watered down version of the thing we wanted so rather than everybody agreeing it’s almost like nobody does.

Consent
But there is one model that is superior most of the time and yet not that well known and this is consent based decision making. This is where we make a proposal and then ask the group ‘Do you have any paramount objection?’. We’re asking ‘do you disagree?’ rather than ‘do you agree?’. It can look something like this:
1. Share proposal
2. Get input from everybody
3. Articulate final proposal
4. As the group: “Do you have any paramount objection?”; “Is it safe to try?”

Rarely does a group have a paramount objection. And if it does, then normally it’s because there is some risk involved and we should be happy that this process has reduced that. Finally, another benefit is that it offers us the opportunity to seek input and then still run and take responsibility and ownership over our proposal. Coming back with a  review after an agreed amount of time.

So give it a go.

Next time you have an idea, share it with your team and ask them one by one if they have any paramount objection.

Work Sheet

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Team Heartbeat

Practice

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

In the same way that an orchestra follows the same rhythm or an elite sports team can enter some incredible states of harmony and flow, almost like they are in tune, it is important for an organisational team to do the same. Achieving this requires a lot. It needs a commitment to achieving this together, a commitment to each other, to developing as individuals together. This is largely a human journey, and a good step to starting that journey is to set a basic rhythm for the team to work too. Think of it as the bottom layer of a song, the basic drum beat perhaps. We also like calling this a team’s heartbeat.

Here are some things I think a team could include in their regular rhythm. I have given them super simple titles to make them easier to apply and take out jargon. We’ll look into how to run these meetings in other episodes, but for now let’s talk about the different types that may help:
• Work meetings: these are meetings about what you do. I sometimes call them work meetings because these meetings are focussed on the work you’re all here to do.
• Team meetings: these are meetings about how you work together. You might be looking at the rules or roles in your teams and whether they’re fit for the job you’re trying to do, you might seek to improve some of your processes.
• Feedback meetings: these are meetings which explicitly focus on the relationships in the room. This means you understand that a team is a group of human beings and relationships and that these need ongoing work. You may focus on giving each other feedback, or look honestly at your groups dynamics. These meetings are here for the group to connect as people and grow together.
• Planning meetings: these are meetings focussed on your plan as a team. They look at your goals, and design the next cycle of work that you hope will get you closer to them.

These are I think the broad categories of meetings. I’ve labelled in such a way that we know what the focus of the meeting is. Essentially, I’m asking you to ask yourself, are you here to talk about:
• the work you do (work meetings)
• how you do the work (team meetings)
• who you work with (feedback meetings)
• why you work (planning meetings)

Knowing what the reason for the meeting is pretty key and yet we rarely know.

Now how often to do them? What is your rhythm?

This is of course up to you, but I would suggest something along the lines of:
• Work meeting every week
• Team meetings every two weeks or every month
• Feedback meetings every month
• Planning meetings every 6 weeks

Add to this weekly stand-ups (which can be done through a group chat). And a weekly retrospective and you should be in good order. Indeed, these stand-ups and retrospectives are the heartbeat. They are the compression and depression of the pump.
In following episodes we’ll look at some of these meeting categories in more details and even some specific sessions.

Are you separating these meeting types? Have you allocated any time to your work relationships?

Work Sheet

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Roles over Titles

Practice

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

Most of us are used to having job titles. In fact we often define who we are by them. This is an often unquestioned norm in organisations. Here I ask us to not only question it but consider an alternative: roles.

A title is fixed. A role is fluid. A title often is one person. But a person can have many roles.

Tangibly this can look like this. You might be let’s say ‘a Marketing Director’. This is your title, your job, and this also means that the other jobs are not your jobs. It even means that psychologically, this is not just your job, but your identity. When somebody asks you ‘what do you do?’ You don’t say I’m do marketing, you say “I AM a Marketing Director”. This is an example of how trapping language can be. And in reality, this means that you only take responsibility over this and that the rest 'isn't my business'.

In contrast, you might hold several roles according to your skills and interests and simply what is needed right now in your group. You might hold the role of ’Social Media Scheduling’ and ‘Press Release Copywriting’ and ‘Facilitating Team Meetings’. Now you are doing several things, according to what is needed and what you can do.

If you ARE a marketing director that feels unlikely to change. Whereas with roles, you may swap roles as needed. When you go on holiday you may temporarily pass your roles to different colleagues. This is easier to evolve.

Psychologically this more or less matches what Carol Dweck termed ‘Fixed and Growth Mindset’. In a fixed mindset you are stuck. In a growth one, well you can grow. There is more potential for you to use your potential.

With titles often come hierarchies and focus is on the person’s identity. With roles the focus is on the work that needs doing now. And as we know, the work that needs doing may change.

Titles are nouns typically, whereas roles are verbs and I tend to even ask teams to end roles with '-ing'.

The fact that the world is changing all the time requires us to have organisations and therefore roles that are always changing. We need to move from nouns to verbs and titles to roles.

It also means you can have a role in several teams and break down silos. The roles can update on an ongoing basis.

Try seeing yourself not as a title but a list of roles, for now.

Work Sheet

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Mini-Workshop: Roles over titles

Mini-Workshop

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

So how do you try moving towards roles. Well here’s a set of guidelines for a workshop. I think it may help you get a team to give this a go. Let’s take a small group of say 5 people. I’ll take you through some steps that you may want to do in one go, let’s say a half day workshop, or over several sessions. Start by splitting a landscape sheet of paper into columns. And then fill in this sheet column by column.

Step 1 and column 1: Team Purpose: Ask your group to agree on a sentence which describes the groups purpose. Why does it exist? The copywriting needn’t be detailed and crafted so don’t let the conversation stop there. But broadly, why does this group exist? What's the point? What's it trying to achieve?

Step 2 and column 2: Team Goals: Now get the group to make a list of objectives and goals for the group. These could be financial goals, or analytics measurements. And I’d recommend some more human ones around the teams culture, or customer satisfaction or perhaps some fun achievements like new ideas or prototypes…etc. It depends on you. Make a list of the teams goals, crowdsourced by the team.

Step 3: and column 3 Jobs: Now in order to achieve your goals. Ask the group what jobs need doing. Make a list of all these jobs. There will probably be many.

Step 4: and column 4 Cluster the jobs: You will probably find that some jobs are similar or require the same skill or are done together. Cluster these jobs into groups just to make the list smaller.

Step 5: and column 5 Roles: You’d probably guessed this. Each cluster is a ‘Role’. Now write down the role name for each cluster, and make sure that it is a verb, basically, make sure that it ends in ‘-ing’ for instance: ’Social Media Scheduling’ ‘Financial Reporting’…etc. This keeps the focus on the job that needs doing. ‘-ing’ keeps it a moving thing.

Step 6: and column 6: Allocating roles: Now that you have the roles. Ask team members to assign themselves roles. Discuss this as a group. Likely people will take several roles. What's interesting is that we start to see our workload differently and own things better.

Here you are. You now all have roles. These are the jobs you are accountable for, for now. These roles will change but for now are a good starting point.

Try this for a couple of weeks at least before revisiting the roles and their allocation and then iterate and iterate.

Work Sheet
Roles Workshop

This template is one to fill in from right to left to let you go from the macro (the orgs purpose) down to creating new roles that get the jobs done and even allocate those roles.

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Basic Meeting Format

Practice

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

The way we run meetings is vital. It defines the outcome of the work we do and the time we spend together.

It really defines the quality of the interactions that we have.

We've all been in meetings that feel endlessly frustrating.

Here I'm going to give you a basic meeting format that makes sense and that can help to improve your meets.

Here's a format:

Roles:
1. Facilitator: Running the process of the meeting
2. Secretary: Taking notes, particularly of agreements made

Process:

1. Check-In / Opening Round: Ask how everybody how they're feeling because how we're doing as people really impacts the quality of our interactions and of our decisions
2. Update: Let each role give a very short update
3. Crowdsource Agenda: Ask everybody to add elements or tensions to solve to the meeting agenda
4. Run through each agenda item: Work through each topic by asking the proposer for a description and what they need from the group; then help them make this decision with the groups input and 'consent'
5. Check-Out: "How did that meeting go for you?"

When meetings are dictated by one person as they normally are, it means that not everybody in the room is having a conversation that is useful to them. This format allows a process where everybody is talking about the most relevant thing to them.

Work Sheet

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Related PODCAST Episodes

#5 How might we grow through deliberation?

#5 How might we grow through deliberation?

with
Richard Bartlett

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Interested in helping your organisation to work differently? Not sure where to start? Drop me a note here. I'd be happy to chat.

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