Liqueed – por un reparto más justo

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El Destino (…) es el nombre que aplicamos a la infinita operación incesante de millares de causas entreveradas
J.L.Borges – Historia universal de la infamia

 

Antonio, Rosa y Carlos se han asociado para desarrollar la aplicación MiTachoEsTuTacho, que permite compartir taxis y ahorrarse unos pesos. En principio Antonio se encargará del diseño, Rosa de la programación y Carlos del aspecto comercial. Su sueño dorado es ser comprados por Uber en varios millones. Los tres han participado de emprendimientos y los tres sintieron que la retribución que recibieron en su momento fue injusta. Esta vez deciden experimentar con liqueed. Veamos en qué consiste…

Primer semana

Terminó la primer semana. El equipo está por comenzar su retrospectiva. MiTachoEsTuTacho imprime 100 acciones por cada uno de sus integrantes. Estos deben entregarlas por completo, en el momento, de forma justificada y transparente. Además, deberán brindar feedback a sus compañeros con vistas al ciclo que viene. En este cuadro podemos ver cómo fue el primer reparto:

Antonio Rosa Carlos
Antonio 40 60
Rosa 25 75
Carlos 20 80
Total 45 120 135

Segunda semana

MiTachoEsTuTacho vuelve a imprimir 100 acciones por cada uno de sus integrantes. Éstos vuelven a repartirlas, esta vez tomando en cuenta lo sucedido durante esta última semana, como vemos en este cuadro:

Antonio Rosa Carlos
Antonio 70 30
Rosa 50 50
Carlos 40 60
Total 95 130 80

¡Las acciones se acumulan! Este cuadro resume cuántas llevan acumuladas hasta ahora nuestros amigos:

Antonio Rosa Carlos
45 + 95 = 135 120 + 130 = 250 135 + 80 = 215

Tercer semana

¡No hay dos sin tres! Esto se repartió:

Antonio Rosa Carlos
Antonio 60 40
Rosa 60 40
Carlos 20 80
Total 80 140 80

Y esto da el total acumulado:

Antonio Rosa Carlos
45 + 95 + 80 = 215 120 + 130 + 140 = 390 135 + 80 + 80 = 295

¿Y si mañana viene Uber?

Pensemos juntos. Hasta el momento hubo tres repartos. En todos los casos se imprimieron 100 acciones por cada uno de los 3 socios. Si en cada reparto se agregan 300 acciones, entonces el total de acciones emitidas hasta ahora es 900. Si dividimos el acumulado hasta el momento por el total emitido, sabremos cuánto le correspondería a cada integrante si mañana llegara el soñado día de la compra:

Antonio Rosa Carlos
215 / 900 = 23.8% 390 / 900 = 43.3% 295 / 900 = 32.7%

¿Y si se agrega un socio?

Si el grupo decide incorporar a Noam, programador autodidacta, a partir de la cuarta semana, el sistema lo permite sin muchas complicaciones. Noam empieza, lógicamente, sin acciones. Eso sí, en los nuevos repartos él también tendrá 100 acciones para repartir. A partir de ahora el total impreso por reparto será de 400. Las acciones se devaluarán más rápido, pero habrá chances de obtener más en cada reparto. Agregar socios en liqueed casi no tiene riesgo. Si Noam no aporta, simplemente no recibirá acciones de sus compañeros.

¿Y si un socio se va?

En principio se soluciona sin mayores inconvenientes, al menos en términos accionarios. Simplemente conserva sus acciones, que lentamente se irán devaluando con el correr de los repartos.

¿Y este sistema funciona?

Honestamente no lo sé. Será un éxito si quienes lo utilizan consideran que el reparto ha sido justo. Hasta el momento se hicieron muy pocas pruebas. Estoy, ante todo, buscando experimentos ¿Algún interesado?

Carta abierta a los que nunca fueron a un open space

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Hoy empieza Ágiles 2015. El sábado empieza lo mejor, el sábado hay open space. Open space es un formato mínimo para armar conferencias. Al comienzo del open space cualquiera tiene derecho a presentar sesiones. Las sesiones no se votan ni se priorizan, todas entran. Parece caótico, pero funciona. Es la oportunidad perfecta para presentar esa sesión que envié al programa principal y no fue aceptada. Qué mejor momento para presentar mi experiencia con la agilidad hasta ahora. No se me ocurre mejor espacio para presentar una sesión que vengo fantaseando hace rato y no me animo a probar. El open space es el momento perfecto para juntarse a inventar y repensar en una sesión de trabajo colaborativo. En el open space puedo perfectamente usar un powerpoint y pedirle a los asistentes que traigan laptops. Y a olvidarse del miedo escénico, que estamos todos en la misma y en cada sesión está solo el que se muere de ganas de estar. En el open space votamos con los pies. Si me gusta, me quedo, si no, busco mi destino en otro lado.

El open space es la sección más autoorganizada del Ágiles. El open space es un vacío que puedo o no animarme a llenar. La decisión está en cada uno. Seguir liderazgos o ejercer la ciudadanía, elegimos cada día, cada hora. El sábado puedo cambiar, probar y pasar de objeto a sujeto, aunque más no sea por un rato. Nos vemos el sábado.

The Teal Conspiracy (or Utopia might just as well be around the corner)

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Buurtzorg (or the potential seed?)

Frederic Laloux might have done a thing or two in order to accelerate management (r)evolution with his book Reinventing Organizations. In my humble opinion his main (and timelessly awesome) contribution has been to cast a smart and focused light on some organizations many of us hadn’t (incredibly!) heard of before reading the book.

The one organization I will mostly refer to in this post is Buurtzorg. Buurtzorg, a neighborhood nursing organization I’m planning on seeing first-hand this October, is (or at least seems to be after reading the book) just oh so amazing. With 8000 professionals and counting, Buurtzorg is nothing short of a self-organization marvel, with over 99 percent of its members belonging to completely autonomous teams of no more than 12 people. These teams, composed entirely of nurses, are entitled (and expected) to decide on everything that concerns their daily work. From finance to so-(awfully)called human resources, everything is in their hands.

Buurtzorg not just works. Buurtorzg has grown in less than 10 years to own more than a 60-percent share of the Dutch market and has proved to be way more productive than their competitors according to several studies. Needless to say, patient and employee satisfaction have flown way past the ceiling.

A tiny little sip of Dr. Marx (or a quick reflection on the traditional consultant and software professional organization)

I haven’t directly read any of Karl Marx’s texts. I don’t subscribe to all of his ideas. I dislike most of the so-called implementations of Marxism so far. Nevertheless, there’s undeniably a sizable number of invaluable ideas in his texts. Surplus might be just as well one of those.

Surplus, as I have managed to understand it, is the money the factory owner (to take a common scenario) keeps after selling an industrial product and paying the worker who built it. If the company CarsRUs produces cars, then the owner of the company (let’s call him Mr. Henry) ends up cashing the difference between the value that customers pay for the cars and the salaries the workers get.

After a weekend of introspection, a given worker at CarsRUs (let’s call him Ernest) could perfectly propose to some of his colleagues (let’s call them Rose and Tony) that they should say thank you very much to Mr. Henry and set up their own, worker-owned, car factory (let’s call it CarsOrg). But wait, a slight detail gets right in the way of their dream. In order to set up a car factory one needs capital, a whole lot of it. Dough, moola, dinero. They don’t have it, so back to the factory my friends.

Generally speaking, in order to produce physical goods one needs a substantial amount of capital. But I don’t want to delve too much into the woes of this part of the world of work, specially considering that I have spent all of my professional life in a different neighborhood. I have so far had two different, closely linked professions as yet. I have spent six years as a software developer, and so far ten as a management consultant (mostly for the software industry). Both jobs can be encompassed in the broad category of knowledge work. I have a feeling that designers, marketing professionals, managers, and a plethora of other non-manual workers could easily be added to this group.

What makes knowledge work so special in the context of this discussion? To put it blunt and sweet, the colossal gap in capital that is needed to build a product (e.g. a software application or marketing plan) or provide a service (e.g. give advice to a CEO on how to run her company). In essence all you need to build a software is you. Yeah, you also need a PC (a fairly old one might suffice in many cases), an internet connection (there’s probably free WiFi thanks to your mayor), and an office (if you live under a roof that should be a magnificent start). Capital needed for knowledge work is marginal. I’ll repeat it just in case. Capital needed for knowledge work is marginal. In order to discuss a more concrete example, now let’s dig deeper into the prima donna of what French call the cognitive capitalism: software development.

State of the (dis)union (or why Mondays might still suck big time in our industry)

Software development is in itself a very complex universe. In order to try and comprehend the incommensurable we usually resort to taxonomies. I’ll be no exception this time. After a handful of springs immersed in that universe, I could sketch the following categories:

  • The product guys: These organizations develop and market software one way or the other. Taxonomy boundaries in the real world are always fuzzy, but you can easily think of Google, Microsoft or Gabriele Cirulli.
  • The IT guys: These guys develop software internally for a company whose main business is not software. Think of a particular department inside of McDonald’s or Walmart. More often than not these guys don’t develop software themselves, but rather outsource most of the job to the next group of guys.
  • The services guys: Software factories, software consultancy, we-develop-whatever-you-ask-for, they sport many names. These guys simply develop software for others. Think of Accenture, Kinetica Solutions and even a good deal of what IBM does for a living these days.

In order to gain even more focus, in this post I’ll specifically deal with the last guys. The ideas could eventually be extrapolated, but today is not the day that’ll happen. Let’s double click and turn to a new taxonomy (we just can’t have enough of them!). We’ll categorize this series of organizations into the following groups:

  • The Mammoth Hierarchical Multinationals Galaxy (aka The Taylors):Vast masses of developers and the like (testers, ops guys, etc) usually billed by the hour. Here you can find the Capgeminis and the Cognizants. The galaxy also includes zillions of differently sized celestial bodies made up by those small- and middle-sized wannabes, who haven’t reached the status of mammoth, but who would love to join the club. Gazillions of cognitive workers plod through working hours for years, sometimes without ever stopping to reflect on how alienated they feel. This is barren land for our seeds.
  • The Smaller Horizontal Companies System (aka The Tealish):I have encountered many small (tiny in comparison) companies that mostly work in a fully self-organized way, from decision-making all the way to profit sharing. From memory I can name Tecso or 10Pines. Here may lay the seeds I’m longing for!
  • The Freelancers Asteroid Belt (aka The Lone Rangers):This astonishingly sparse mass of free roaming brains, who sometimes migrate for a season or two to other continents, lacks any organization whatsoever. They seldom collaborate among themselves. Wasted pollen perhaps?

The asteroid belt is constantly being monitored (and eventually milked) by a parasitic subclass:

  • The Pimping Satellites (aka The Broadway Danny Roses): Big and small, intermediary firms act as opaque profitable proxies between clients (usually big ones) and freelancers. Except for exceptional cases, a systemic plague.

On the need to conspire (or why simply multiplying the Tealish might not be enough)

Small is beautiful, I agree. Big is usually clunky, uninventive, obscenely bureaucratic and heartless. And yet big has its pros. What makes big sometimes attractive? Why do big clients usually choose to work with big providers? Obviously a plethora of contextual reasons come to mind, but in my experience the constant is what I call staff elasticity (i.e. “I ask them for a 100 guys for tomorrow and they respond”). And why do people choose to join the big? Again your mileage may vary, but again I’ve encountered a constant: job stability (i.e. if the contract with this client gets cancelled I’ll still have a job). I call this private unemployment insurance.

Yeah, I know, I’m oversimplifying here, but can you at least buy that there can also be a plus side to being big? Good. So the next question would now be if there is such a thing as big and beautiful? Well, Buurtzorg anyone?

Wait, why do you keep referring to the color teal? (or a nano-summary of Reinventing Organizations)

I have borrowed the term “teal organization” from Laloux’s book. These organizations represent, according to the author, the highest level in terms of consciousness. They stand on three pillars: self-organization, wholeness and evolutionary purpose. Intrigued? Go read the original then!

I have a dream (or let’s get together and work all right)

My dream is simple. I’d be thrilled if a software development Buurtzorg showed up. Completely self-organized, obscenely productive, and with staggering levels of job and customer satisfaction. The both urgent and poignant question should then be why haven’t we built yet.

Why can’t the freelancers of the world just unite? Why can’t all those Tealish small companies merge into some kind of symbiotically bewitching federation? What is really stopping us?

Here be dragons (or a hypothesis on why the dream hasn’t materialized yet)

Call it confirmation bias if you will, but when asking myself this last question, I have ended listing the same three points I had listed some time ago when drafting the idea of LiquidOrgs. In this case I’ll rephrase them from the following perspective: suppose you belong to either the The Tealish or The Lone Rangers, why haven’t you merged/joined with another/a Tealish organization (respectively)? Being (as usual) overly simplistic, I’d say the answer usually stems from at least one of these fears:

  • Will I get a fair say in the way things are done? This is the realm of decision-making. Fears here include the likes of “Those guys at company X are smart, but they love keeping the last word on important issues.”
  • Will I get a fair compensation for my work? This is the realm of money. Fears here include the likes of “I wonder if those guys at company X value my work the way my friends at company Y do.”
  • Will I get to work with the people I respect? This is the realm of team composition. Fears here include the likes of “I generally respect the guys at company X, but I wouldn’t ever work with either A or B. Gosh, I wonder who opened the door to those schmucks in the first place.”

Strictly speaking the money and team composition realms could be included in the decision-making one, but I find they are so ubiquitous, that I decided it made sense to upgrade them to first-class citizens in this humble model.

Crafting a practical utopia (or what could be the first steps?)

In the aforementioned link I have drafted a very basic proposal to address these three fears. I know, they still need to be harnessed in real life. Buurtzorg and so many others have been showing that full-scale self-organization is not just possible, but it also makes so goddamn sense. What is my proposal? A journey of thousand miles always begins with one single step. If our destination is far away then we’d better start walking now. The Tealish might be the seeds. Let us get together, discuss our Tealish ways, learn from each other, dream up ways of collaborating, and hopefully the software Buurtzorg (or its evolved equivalent) will be born in the most beautifully organic possible way. I will start where I live with the people I know. Buenos Aires (Argentina) and the local Ágiles community. I’ll send a meetup request tonight. Let The Teal Conspiracy begin. Or not. Alea jacta est.

¿Agilidad caritativa o agilidad revolucionaria?

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Hoy
Las sociedades producen más alimentos de los que podrían consumir y sin embargo miles mueren de hambre cada día. Miles son también los que mueren cada hora de enfermedades que sabemos prevenir y curar hace décadas. El mundo es cruel.
La industria de la alimentación es más industria que alimentación. Gallinas hacinadas, ganado obligado a alimentarse contra natura, plantaciones fumigadas con venenos de dudosa salubridad. La industria alimenticia es nefasta.
El mundo laboral rebosa de trabajadores que detestan lo que ocurre de lunes a viernes de 9 a 18. Muchos jefes sienten que sus empleados son inútiles y muchos empleados sienten que sus jefes son inútiles con suerte. Trabajar, para la enorme mayoría de la población, equivale a un sufrimiento necesario.
Sobre cada uno de estos escenarios se ha escrito incansablemente. Existen análisis sesudos y, claro está, muy apasionados. Florecen propuestas y se suceden acciones para, qué tanto, este mundo esté un poco mejor. Hoy simplemente quiero atreverme a clasificar, deporte que tantos solemos practicar y consumir a diario, las iniciativas de cambio en dos grandes grupos.
Caridad
Nadie podría negar que la caridad es humana, empática y, me atrevo a generalizar, hermosa. Ayudar es abrazar, acompañar es abrigar. La limosna, tanto en metálico como en acciones, es un gesto fraternal, que demuestra amor por el prójimo. Eso sí, no nos mintamos, la caridad es, nunca mejor dicho, pan para hoy, hambre para mañana. La caridad no cambia el sistema que creó el problema, apenas lo emparcha. La caridad no se plantea modificar radicalmente la maraña de poderes e intereses que provocó la desigualdad patente que se dibuja cada día en cada rincón de la tierra. Claro está, la caridad es, en todo sentido, mucho más barata.
Tobias Mayer tiene facilidad para muchas cosas, entre ellas la de generar una discusión acalorada, aunque más no sea a través del éter cyberespacial. Tiempo atrás se trenzó con el crecientemente popular Jurgen Appelo, creador e impulsor, entre otros, de la idea del Management 3.0. Si el lector acepta por un momento lo sesgada de mi posición, lo invito a deleitarse con el momento de brillantez que tuvo Tobias al describir la idea un management nuevo, más cercano con los principios ágiles, con la siguiente pregunta, entre metafórica y retórica: ¿cuánto más tiene de moral, respetuoso por el bienestar animal y promotor de la alimentación sana el dueño de un complejo avícola industrial que decide, luego de haber leído un libro sobre Industria Alimenticia 3.0, pasar todas las noches por cada una de las miles de jaulas en donde sus pechugas infladas con plumas engordan artificialmente en unos pocos centimétros cúbicos y darles, oh misericordia, un besito de buenas noches en el pico, antes volver a cerrar la jaula hasta el otro día?
La agilidad caritativa no solo existe, sino que es casi la única que he visto en mi experiencia de campo. Con frases de cabecera del tipo “lo primero son las personas” o “lo importante es mejorar la comunicación y el respeto”, cientos, sino miles a estas alturas, de consultores (autodenominados coaches) en agilidad promueven la buena nueva con odas de amor a un cambio superficial que parece tan pero tan profundo. Aparentemente si los jefes aprendieran, de una buena vez, a ser verdaderos líderes serviles que transmiten con amor y frescura un propósito que todos abrazamos, el mundo del trabajo sería por fin ese idilio armonioso que parecía presagiar el movimiento ágil en sus comienzos.
Revolución
¿Y si en lugar de hacer caridad reformáramos el sistema?¿Y si Piketty tuviera razón y la distribución inequitativa del ingreso estuviera profundizándose exponencialmente a menos que modificáramos el régimen impositivo de manera drástica?¿Y si fuera imposible que nada cambie hasta que no haya, como consecuencia de un claro cambio de prioridades de todos nosotros, más enfermeros que soldados y más médicos que tenientes?
¿Y si industria alimenticia fuera fuera un oxímoron? ¿Y si todos estuviéramos obligados a leer en el colegio El dilema del omnívoro de Michael Pollan y entendiéramos, entre otras cosas, que ahorrar en alimentos para tener un nuevo celular es, como dijo algún maestro olvidado de yoga, cavar nuestra tumba con los dientes?
¿Y si nos dejáramos de eufemismos y empezásemos por derribar los silos funcionales en nuestras organizaciones para abrazar el concepto de equipo autónomo ineludiblemente capaz de entregar valor al usuario final? ¿Y si pusiéramos sobre la mesa que tal vez parte del pus taylorista que vemos cada día en cada charla no es más que el resultado de un sistema de toma de decisiones tan vertical como simplista, caprichoso y paternalista? ¿Y si pusiéramos sobre la mesa que las empresas, supuestas pruebas palpables del espíritu indomablemente libertario y aventurero del hombre, son las instituciones que tal vez mejor reproducen la tan vilipendiada lógica soviética de la toma de decisiones centralizada y a largo plazo?
O tal vez convenga armar menos escándalo y seguir preguntándonos si nuestra comunicación es o no violenta cada vez que ponemos un pie en la oficina.

Calambre

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Siempre corrí todas y cada una de las pelotas, hasta el tirón. Lo terrible es que el calambre llegaba, casi siempre, apenitas a los diez o quince del primer tiempo. Malo para mí, malo para el equipo. O sea, malo. Y sin embargo, en cuanto escuchaba el pitido inicial, a correrlas todas la próxima. Sacrificio y agotamiento. Del placer al sufrimiento sin escalas.
Hace ya varios años que mi trabajo, por propia elección y caprichosos soplos del viento, consiste en explicar a otros sobre nuevos modelos de estructurar su trabajo, para luego ayudarlos a poner esos modelos en práctica. Con los años me convencí que también por elección propia carezco de un entrenamiento formal en la práctica pedagógica y, por ponerle uno de tantos nombres que circulan por ahí, psicológica. Tengo, eso sí, veinte añitos de terapia como paciente. Firme al pie del cañón, con altos, bajos y algunos llanos. Creo, siento, auguro haber desarrollado la capacidad de escuchar por haber sido escuchado, comprender por haber comprendido, indagar por haber indagado.
Hoy en mi terapia hablé del trabajo. Me pasa, lo elijo, seguido. Hoy hablé de mi cansancio. Agotamiento físico en forma de contracturas zigzagueantes y una migraña que da tregua justo cuando más se la teme. Hoy hablé de mis enojos, tanto en clase como en la consultoría. Enojos intelectuales, enojos que no hacen avanzar ni transformaciones ni conversaciones. Enojos que evocan, al menos desde esta mañana, una rueda atascada en el barro que no para de girar en falso. Esos enojos son, quién lo hubiera dicho, todos muy parecidos. O al menos encontré una clase, un tipo, una categoría de las buenas.
Estos enojos son o han sido, hasta ahora, esquivos a la hora de ser encuadrados. Estos enojos son o han sido “la forma de lidiar con eso”. Estos enojos son hoy y ahora, ni más ni menos, que oro en polvo.
Tolerar es permitir, liberar, admitir. D dice, levantando apenas un hombro como desnudando lo íncomodo que lo pone mentir, que hay gente en esa empresa a la que no le gusta escuchar malas noticias. Yo, simplemente, enfurezco. Contesto, argumento, pregunto y repregunto. D ríe, se sonroja y repite lo que ya sabíamos: que hay gente acá que no tolera la verdad. El único que tolera en ese momento parezco ser yo. No tolero la intolerancia y enciendo mi feroz máquina de desnudar afirmaciones sin fundamento a fuerza de preguntas incisivas a mansalva. D mantiene la risa y la entremezcla con mueca, mientras desciende sobre el resto del grupo un manto de ligera incomodidad. Yo, que estaba agotado justo antes de empezar la batahola de argumentos, siento como renace, oh Fénix muscular de los mil demonios, una nueva contractura en cervicales. Pírrico, ponele.

Retrospectives series: Big event in a team

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Here is a new idea for you, my friend facilitator, to try out in your next retrospectives. The core of format is based in a tool from my ORSC teachers from CRR and Augere, and I added some ideas over it. I have already applied this format a couple of times with success in authentic multidisciplinary teams. A strong commitment and smooth conflict solving were the results of applying it.

 

USE

This format is ideal to help a group finding problems after a big change, any event with a big impact in the team morale. As a facilitator, you would notice that a team requires this exercise when they are stuck, the group is not being able to step front and realize that their circumstances have changed, and this change requires to redefine the rules of their relationship. A possible outcome of this retrospective is a new team agreements collection, or even a whole set of actions to try out, possibly including big radical changes (kaikaku) to their working processes.

 

TIME NEEDED

90-120 minutes for a 7 people team member.

 

SHORT DESCRIPTION

This is a format very much oriented to people and their interactions. The main driver is a conversation where they facilitator will launch some question to the team and will guide them to close the old times and start new ones.

 

MATERIALS

No specific materials are needed for this retrospective, except for the ones you decide to use to collect data, ideas or actions.

 

PROCESS

*** SET THE STAGE

It is a good start for this retrospective to invite the participants to do a short game:

– Choose one team mate, get together and look at your partner’s eyes. During all the time you need to keep eye contact with your partner. Think, what is your favorite characteristic of this person? Think in silence, and later tell him. Change pairs until everyone met everyone.

This intro, if the members follow the facilitator, helps setting a private link between the team members, this intimacy is a very important part of a high performance team. For this retrospective, where we will be dealing with personal problems, it’s a good start to reinforce personal connections.

*** GATHER DATA

Here are the questions that the facilitator should ask:

– What is happening in the team now?

– How is that different from how things used to be?

At this moment, the facilitator should help the team understand (if that’s the case!) that the conflicts they are having are related to the circumstances and conditions changing. It’s the moment to help them realize that it’s a normal situation (again, if that’s the case!) and they need to close a period in their time and start a new one. You can continue throwing questions:

– What needs to be grieved, honored, acknowledged… from the old period?

– What is possible for the team now?

At this moment, the facilitator must decide how to continue. A good option would be helping the team to define their new working agreements, but if the situation is good enough you might even continue with the “heaven and hell” format explained in the last article.

*** GENERATE INSIGHTS

According to the facilitator’s decision.

*** ACTIONS

According to the facilitator’s decision.

 

Previous articles in the series:

1.- Le tour de France

2.- Heaven and Hell

 

Retrospectives series: Heaven and Hell

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This is the second article of the retrospective series, I hope you enjoy it, find it useful and can apply it with your team soon. Please, leave some feedback when this actually happens!

This retrospective is titled “Heaven and Hell”, soon you will learn why…

© ewalled.wordpress.com

USE

This is a good retrospective format for teams who are either about to start a new project or going through the first stages of it. It’s not as powerful in the later stages of a project, but as usual your mileage may vary. Last year, while studying ORSC (Organizational and Relationship Systems Coaching ) I came up with this retrospective format, mixing some concepts from that course and other ideas from my own toolbox.

 

TIME NEEDED

60-90 minutes should be enough for a 7 people team

 

SHORT DESCRIPTION

In this retrospective format, the facilitator guides the team across the best and worst possible future scenario for the team. You will help the team taking actions to reach their heaven and avoid moving towards their hell.

 

MATERIALS

As a facilitator you are encouraged to help the team jump into the metaphor, so any help through visual and auditive channels will help on this purpose. I have tested drawing images from hell and heaven on a whiteboard, but obviously any graphical, auditive, multimedia or even atrezzo you might come up with will be really useful in that sense. Remember that using different channels makes metaphors more powerful, but learn the limits of your team and the depth of the conflict you are dealing with.

 

PROCESS

*SET THE STAGE

This retrospective format will be more useful if you start the session with an exercise of team recognition, it will create a gratefulness environment which will boost the results in the next stages. For instance, every team member is asked to think about what good things his colleagues have done in the last period. Write each thing in a different sticky note. After some thinking and writing time, have each one of them speaking out the rewards he wrote, and show them in any visible board. This board can be kept around the work are during the next sprint.

*GATHER DATA

Tell the team to think for some minutes in silence on the future they aspire to as a team.

– What would be heaven for that team? What elements should be in place? What should we be doing?

Give them some time to think and write.

– What would be this team’s hell? What should be happening so that we notice that we are “burning alive”?

Again, give them some time to think. Needless to say it might help to ask them to think in terms of opposites with what they had proposed in the previous step. At this point you don’t need to offer them so much time, not only because they will come up with counter-examples of dreams, but also because it is more productive to keep them in a “dreaming” mindset than in a “nightmare” one. The feelings that arise when dreaming are positive and boost ideas and creativity,  unlike the ones coming from nightmares.

*GENERATE INSIGHTS

Invite everyone to explain their points, and if you used any physical space for describing heaven and hell, have them post the ideas in the right place.

Then have them cluster the situations they initially described, because some of the concepts might be very concrete and others might be very open. As a facilitator, at this moment you want the team to name their dreams together, so you need to help them bringing all their dreams and nightmares to a common ground.

*ACTIONS

Help them define actions to move to their heaven, and try to guide them as much as possible through the heaven actions. However, lead them to agree in, at least, one action to try to avoid their hell.

 

 

Previous articles in the series:

1.- Le tour de France

Retrospectives series: le Tour de France

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This is the first of a series of articles we will be posting in our blog about retrospectives formats, tips and advices. We will start with one based in “le tour de France”.

Here is a link to the second of the series.

Le Tour de France

USE
This retrospective is specially created to gather data at the middle of a project or any long period of time, when teams have already reached some of the goals they had and still have to fight for new challenges. It’s also a valid format for a post mortem if you only use the elements related to the past. This retrospective was created and facilitated by myself with the management team at King.com Studio 1.

TIME NEEDED
The activities described in this retrospective can be performed in 60-120 minutes, requiring longer time for large groups. Since it is a retrospective for long periods, you might require up to 120 minutes depending on the group size and the time period.

SHORT DESCRIPTION
With this retrospective format, the facilitator will guide the team through a metaphor with a cycling sports team.

MATERIALS
Depending on how you decide to set the stage you will have to work more or less. Apart from that, you will need post-its, without any special attention to their colors.

PROCESS

*SET THE STAGE
The facilitator creates a stage linking the project that has just been finished with “le Tour de France”. For a retrospective after a project milestone, the facilitator can explain that the situation is similar to the end of an important lap in the cyclist race. The facilitator must use any visual or auditive channel to help the team jump into the metaphore. Screens with videos, sounds, music, atrezzo… anything you can think of. The goal is to help the team jump into that scenario.

After creating the introduction, in order to help the team jumping into their memories, you can ask every participant about their physical state at the end of the lap we have just finished. A quick verbal answer per person should be enough to understand everybody’s mood. With this easy exercise you have prepared them to navigate into the metaphor, although any other thing that helps them start remembering is perfectly fine.

*GATHER DATA
In the first part of the retrospective, the facilitator helps the team to navigate through the last times, asking them the next questions:

– What were the injuries and accidents the team had? These represent the problems we’ve had.
– What were the highest peaks we reached? These represent the challenges we’ve had.
– What were the prizes we have been rewarded? These are the recognitions the team has to do to their members.

There must be a physical space where the team members can put their post-its with the information required by the facilitator. Please, remember the visual and auditive channels!

The second part of the retrospective is focused in the near future. Now, looking at the rest of the race…
– What are the hardest peaks we have to reach? These are the challenges we are going to face.
– What are the supplies we need to win the race? These represent the team’s needs for the near future.
– What are we fighting for? What is that price we will get when we succeed? This is the main driver the facilitator needs to point out when problems arise during the conversation helping the different people to align.

*GENERATE INSIGHTS
In this stage the facilitator needs to decide where to invest the rest of the time. Ideally the focus should be the future, however the team might need more ventilation or discuss in depth the past. Therefore, you can use any kind of team prioritization ( dot voting? ) to choose what of the many topics raised they want to work on. Any Root Cause Analysis process might be useful when discussing on the injuries/accidents.

*ACTIONS
The team should take actions to prevent the accidents happening again and decide what supplies they are going to prepare for the rest of the race.

Challenges coaching multidisciplinary teams

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It is a great concept this multidisciplinary thing: Create a single team with all the different people required to deliver a service, instead of having different knowledge areas doing their part independently. Make them work at the same pace. Have them focus on the same goal at a given moment. Remove extremely detailed documentation to avoid delays and misunderstandings. Help everyone become a specialist generalist, so at least he can help his team colleagues when bad times come. Break the physical walls, so that they breathe the same air and feel part of the same organism. Tell them to self-organize.
Just break all those barriers that were artificially created with the old school enterprise paradigm. ( BOOM! )
Cool. Every Agile Coach finds this new organizational paradigm is far better ( and more exciting ) than the classic way of working, and we know it brings lots of joy when everyone understands what teamwork means. Most of the pains we used to have with that oldie organization disappear. Yey!!
Oh, wait… What is all that noise? What are these long faces? Why are these guys so mad at each other? Isn’t this new organization supposed to be free of all these old problems?
Some new challenges seem to appear from nowhere when all these different people have to work together. By shaping this multidisciplinary teams we wanted to destroy some of the artificial barriers in our organization, but some of these barriers were created by someone for his/her own protection back in time.
It is obvious that all these different people from different backgrounds also have different interests, different mindsets, different skills sets ( that’s why you want them together, don’t you? ), they approach problems from a different perspective, have different values and live life quite differently. Each different professional tribe embeds an idiosyncrasy to their members, shaping ghetto-like spaces: Sales, Finance, HR, Art, Engineering, IT… Each one is a different culture, with their own practices, symbols, language, leaders… Needless to say, they also share common experiences and myths in their relationship to the rest of tribes.
It is quite difficult to find people from marketing or sales who share personal values with someone from systems engineering or IT support. If the organization didn’t originally follow a strict recruitment process that had in strong consideration the candidate’s personal values, this new multi disciplinary team might even face bigger challenges. Hopefully, at least by chance, their members might share some of those values. But that’s not all of it. We often find organizations choosing candidates based on knowledge, intelligence, education… but what about evaluating their fears, their relationship to other professional tribes or perhaps checking how antisocial they are? Some times we find that extremely smart people, who you usually want around you, are too introvert and find it complicated to interact with other people. Maybe they don’t find it interesting at all! And that is fine, of course. It’s something you can expect from someone who spent lots of his lifetime learning introspectively instead of playing with others. Actually, perhaps other people have caused him pain for this and he has hard feelings. The problem is that in the agile context and without the proper coaching they usually find themselves misunderstood, with other people not being able to accept that they need help on this. Sometimes, they themselves don’t assume they need this help and either resist strongly until the agile transition fails or decide to leave to another company where this agile thing doesn’t bother them. It is sad, losing so much talent because simply nobody helped them in doing something they hadn’t done before.
When a new technology or a new tool comes to the organization, it seems so obvious that everybody who didn’t use it before needs training on it. However it doesn’t seem so obvious that these kind of profiles need help, coaching, support and guidance on these topics. These are the topics we have to overcome in a transition to agile. It’s never just about changing the organizational processes. The main job that needs to be done is way deeper, it’s about bringing together people that eventually have hard feelings to each other.
Communication is now one of the biggest challenges: when trying to be agile people have to dedicate a lot of time to speak, listen and understand each other’s points of view, problems, needs and personal motivations. Not only they will have to align goals but they will also have to help and support each other, which is pretty hard when some team members show no interest for others. Being friends, sharing time and interests outside of the purely work-related is one of the keys to high performance teams. You can’t fake this. You can just create a safe space, bring experts and give time. Friendship needs to be honest, it takes time to generate the safe space required for this to happen and see people recovering from their old wounds. Obviously those deeper feelings were already there before we started with the multi disciplinary teams, but now with all those barriers protecting people gone, the wounds are way more visible and painful.
But while all this happens, companies need to continue with their business, as usual. They need to get things done.
Here is when some organizations realize that they need this new area of expertise, people who can help their teams to work in their relationships. Teams start needing people with the skills and knowledge to work on people relationships, people to water the garden, people who understand human nature and can see over cultural or tribal differences. The more strange the disciplines are to each other in a scrum team, the more complex it is to lead this team. These people have to be organizational leaders, and as leaders in this context need to have a wide range of interests, social skills and knowledge to understand and motivate all the members of the organization.
Each tribe values different things on their leaders, although there is a common ground: honesty, trust, competence, intelligence… Every tribe values these points, but also some specific values arise in each tribe.
Every tribe also has common anti-values for their leaders, like egocentrism, irritability, dictatorship… And again each tribe has some extra rejected values. Now this is when it gets really tricky.
Let’s consider an organization with a unique team, a multidisciplinary team of engineers creating a product, each one with knowledge of a different specific technology, but basically all engineers. It is quite obvious that the kind of leadership they will value should be brought by someone who shares the interests of engineering with them, who is smart because they value intelligence, and with experience in any of their fields of expertise, ideally the most complex one. But also someone who shares their “dark side”: enemies, fears… It’d be great if the leader could help the rest of the team overcome this dark side, but by definition it’s not required to succeed as long as they don’t interact with any other organization.
However, if your multidisciplinary team includes engineers, artists, designers, testers, customer care analysts, business specialists, data scientists… Leadership is now not just about knowledge, but new values arise and even the weight of each value is going to be different. This kind of team requires a cross-tribe leader who values and embodies what each tribe considers important in their leaders. Each tribe has different expectations on their leadership, and this is the most complex aspect of coaching organizations who really bet on multi disciplinary teams. What happens now with enemies and fears? Well, there is not much space here for dark sides. This leader must now understand the nature of those bad feelings, the root cause behind them and help the group overcome them.
The thing gets even trickier when an organization is multi national. This creates a second axis of complexity, because different national cultures also bring along different idiosyncrasies. This also has an impact on how we approach people, how we send messages. Effective leaders avoid ethnocentrism, find shared values across cultures, and embody the common values every culture expects. You can find a starting point to national cultures with Hofstede and his Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, but bear in mind that the dichotomic nature of this dimensions ignore lots of aspects, and you still need to use other approaches with a focus in individuals and their differences instead of Hofstede’s macro-focus.
This is the kind of problems coaches face when they have to work in authentically multidisciplinary teams, or when they have to coach at organizational level, in organizations without wide-ranging multidisciplinary teams. Again, it’s not about size, it’s about how different the team members are. And definitely it’s about what kind of person and what kind of leader you are.

Agilar as Belbin Team Roles Accredited professionals

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Last February 2015, José Ramón Díaz and myself finished our Belbin Roles Accreditation Course. We had already used this technique, helping other accredited professionals to run the exercises with some of the teams we were coaching. After all this period, we can say that we find it a very useful and powerful tool to coach teams and help organizations.

As usual, a tool is just a tool, and the most important is how we use it. A tool can not decide for us, we must use it to lead to interesting conversations with our teams and perhaps finding improvements, but with the Belbin approach we get a systematic approach and very well standardized tools.

The Belbin theory explains the 9 different team roles that a team needs to cover in order to succeed. The belbin team roles study behaviors, not personality. By identifying members to the different roles we help leveraging the strengths of each role and managing the weaknesses the best way possible for the team. As I said before, it is so important to flourish interesting conversations after the report is sent to the team members, because misunderstanding a report can harm. However understanding properly the report and helping for improvement can definitely help a team in their way to become high performant. Obviously, a team that doesn’t want to be challenged is not a good target for this or any other similar tool. Only those who want to do self reflection and grow will find these kind of tools useful.

It´s important to realise that Belbin roles are not neither tags nor classification for people. It´s just an approach to interesting conversations and better understanding among people. Belbin reports might very well be oriented to an old school of thinking, even with reports for your boss. But we can transcend that, and create a tipping point in self-organised teams (where is the boss in Scrum?)

I am not going to bother you, our beloved and respected reader, with the theory of the Belbin team roles because you can find the official documentation in their site ( www.belbin.es in Spanish or www.belbin.com in English ) . However, there is a piece of advice we can offer: The content of the report simply rocks, and guided by great coaches this can be a kick-ass tool to help people grow.

If you are a Scrum Master or Agile Coach, I strongly suggest you dedicate some time to learn about the Belbin Roles. Furthermore, I strongly suggest you run this exercise to yourself. It can be so unveiling to discover that you need to modify some of the behaviors that are important for your job position, or even understanding what strengths and weaknesses others see in you to challenge yourself as a professional.

It was very useful for ourselves, I saw myself completely reflected in my report!