Follow by Email

Friday, April 27, 2012

Team Tips – 9 {Ramble on...}

It's a rainy day here, and I've pretty much caught up on work and administrivia, and since I've already fixed the hole where the rain gets in, my mind isn't kept from wandering...

This random? wandering includes the team challenges:
  • maintaining momentum
  • taking the Core Protocols literally
  • mining the richness of the BootCamp learning
  • why do bees buzz?

Maintaining momentum

As Vickie and I continue to work with groups that have attended the Simple Rules and Tools of Great Teams Immersion (aka BootCamp) inevitably individuals and teams find some aspect of the week long immersion into the delight of being useful – to themselves, and others – waning. Part of that might be running out of the adrenalin that typically is part of the experience. Sometimes it is physically demanding to stick at something. Perhaps we are experiencing enough personal change that our legacy behaviours and training start to push back. There can be disappointment that things didn't work as well on this part of the product as we remember it the last time. Or in the fun of trying many ideas we have lost track of a pattern for success – how we did it last time or how that felt. When we have reached the greener grass on the other side of the fence it can be difficult to remember how dry and withered the original side was.

Sometimes we just need to pause, take a collective deep breath, renew our support for each other, reconfirm our vision and alignments, and remember the wealth of possibility in front of us.

Taking the Core Protocols literally

If a particular Rule or Tool – Commitment or Protocol – is feeling like a burden, then we might be taking it too literally. Consider the problem of attempting to write down the paths to greatness. How I, or the next person, or the Core Protocols document, or the BootCamp Manual describe an experience will be highly variable. My view isn't automatically yours, your insights may not be mine, your words a different choice than in the document. If we are used to working with computing devices in black or white coding we have to remind ourselves that great teamwork is poetry, not bits and bytes. The algorithms of great team behaviour – the Protocols – are the result of years of refinement, including finding the best words. And if English isn't our first language, the difficulty is compounded. Take the example of “Will you ...” in Ask for Help. I've learned that this causes no end of confusion for translators. The intent isn't the future tense of the verb, but agreement to participate. Even the conditional “Would you” doesn't work.

The words are the best we have at the moment; the trick is to comprehend the intent and the spirit in the rules and tools, and keep practicing.

Mining the richness of the BootCamp learning

And if we digest each word in the Core, and read the BootCamp Manual many times, and think deeply about our week of immersion in the Simple Rules and Tools are we finished? I know for myself after 10 years of daily use and helping to instruct over 25 teams that I still learn something every time I read the words. And it is always fun to read some new book, a blog, a technique, a study that speaks to one single idea that is part of the thousands in the BootCamp experience as if that one alone was the answer. We live in a world looking for the seven habits, the four dashboard quadrants, the four agreements, the ten commandments, etc. Naturally authors and publishers are going to try to attract our attention to the silver bullets that make our lives wonderful. I just wonder how they would react to finding the wealth and depth and richness of BootCamp learning.

There is just so much there to explore, to try, and play with when one is dealing with the foundations of team communication and behaviour, the science of human systems dynamics.

Why do bees buzz?

Because they don't know the words. However, that doesn't stop them. I don't perceive that they analyze, I think they just get on with it. They do what works for them. When that flower doesn't work today they try another one. When a field or garden does provide pollen they repeat what works.

That's also what we have seen. Successful teams just get on with it. If this commitment or another helps, or this protocol or another adds value, then use it again. Or not. Try something else. Just get into the garden and smell the roses. And enjoy the honey.

Ramble on!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Team Tips - 8 {Stop the bus!}

The challenge for teams discussed in Team Tips - 3 was how to find members for a great team. But, sometimes, teams experience the opposite challenge:
How to DE-select members for a great team?
Some years ago Vickie and I assisted Toyota Technical Field Operations in the US with improving their processes towards providing more consistency and hence higher value. The boss, David J., was appreciative enough of our work to not only pay our invoice (always important), treat us with thoughtfulness and respect (a wonderful bonus), but to also provide a gift of a book (a special thank you).

The book was Good To Great by Jim Collins. Not only did this selection indicate his state of mind – the desire to transform his organization – it also became very important to me personally.

I've always been fascinated with this differentiation: Good vs. Great. While I'm fussy about precise definitions and clarity these terms are wide open. They can mean almost anything to anyone; however, they still easily allow us to distinguish companies, organizations, workgroups. Given a choice, we would at least want to work with Good ones, even better if we can find Great ones.

But what makes the difference between Good and Great organizations?

That is exactly the quest Jim Collins took on. One of the differentiators Collins and his research team found was this concept: Transformative executives
... first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) then figured out where to drive it.
The Simple Rules and Tools Great Teams Immersion (aka BootCamp) demonstrates the same principle: Have the team self select its members, then have them determine their shared vision of their future.

For me this is an instance where universal truths are determined by the connection of ideas from separate sources that provide us a fundamental insight.

Team Tips - 3 tackled the challenge of getting the right people on the team:
And just as the great teams work with a bias toward action instead of discussion, and incrementally building prototypes, and perfecting them, they can do the same thing in confirming new members. That is, work with them over a probationary period for everyone to confirm that the newly expanded team is functioning as well or better, and similarly the team is a good fit for the new member.
But what if someone isn't sure they're on the right bus, or decide it is the wrong bus for them? Or, the boss or the team decide someone should get off the bus? Just as being in a mediocre organization or workgroup isn't comfortable for some people, some aren't interested in being in workgroup striving for Great. And, a Shared Vision doesn't meet its potential if it is not truly shared.

Happily, the Core Protocols – the Simple Tools – provide lots of techniques to develop the desired synergy: Check In, Ask for Help, Personal Alignment, Investigate, Perfection Game, the Intentional Development Protocol for example. These all enable the high-bandwidth communication to explore ideas and develop a shared vision.

But this isn't mind control. We may just agree to disagree.

In the ideal situation, the team works with and supports the diversity of thought and dreams of each of its members. In fact that diversity – explicitly shared and explored – is the team's strength. All the intellectual diversity, aspirations, dreams, visions of greatness combine to produce a shared vision that is far beyond the sum or the multiplication of its parts. And each member's share of results towards that vision needs opportunity for hearing, investigating, support, and perfecting.

If one member of the team isn't aligned with that vision, then he or she needs room to explore that difference, work on their own, promote their alternative to the rest of the team. That may lead to a new product feature, a different development technique, a supporting element which still delivers team success.

Or not.

Perhaps that member is simply on the wrong bus. He or she then needs to take responsibility for themselves – part of the Core Commitments – to get off the bus. And the analogy works: this is not grabbing the steering wheel and yanking the bus off the road into the ditch. This is calmly, and with good intent, dealing with the difference which may lead to getting off. A quick stop, planned and controlled, that lets one off to catch a different vehicle.

And the team's responsibilities include being open to those differences, and where they aren't resolved, facing up to the fact that this is the wrong bus for that individual. If an adjustment can be made that makes the bus and its direction attractive to all, then make it. Otherwise, agree and accept that the bus needs to let someone off.

In the least ideal case, the boss has to recognize this situation and initiate the bus stopping. Here we can turn the slogan “The buck stops here” to “The bus stops here”. (Sorry; that really is bad!) The point is that we all have a responsibility to each other's success and well being, including helping them make a tough decision to leave us and join a different team.

This isn't about being right or wrong; it is about making a good decision. Having someone leave, then having to replace them and make up for lost opportunity is expensive in many ways. What a shame not to have, or use, the Simple Rules and Tools to get the best from each team member and make that bus trip Great.

How's your bus doing?