Accelerate

This is a post for all the Guiding Coalition alumni.

I’m pleased to announce the launch of John Kotter’s newest book, Accelerate.

Accelerate is our book.  It tells our story.

This is a book about pioneers, for pioneers.” – John Kotter, Accelerate

That is the first line of the book and it says a lot.  In Accelerate, John Kotter shares with the world the pioneering work you’ve done over the last eight years.  In 2010, when he visited our Guiding Coalition, Dr. Kotter said, “The world needs to see this.”  Well, now they can.

The content of the book won’t be a new journey for you, but rather a fond welcome home to the habits you long ago learned and perfected.  In the fond welcome home there are glimpses of a good friend many haven’t seen in a long time.  In the preface, Dr. Kotter thanks Dennis Goin.  You’ll catch reflections of Dennis throughout the text.

I remember vividly the day many years ago when Dennis stopped by my office, sat down quickly, and eyes big and joyful announced that soon he would meet Dr. Kotter and potentially partner with him.  I’m overjoyed to see what success they made of their partnership.  Accelerate should lead to a rethinking of modern organizations, and for that we will all be better off.

I confess; I’m impatiently waiting for more of you to read the book so we can compare our impressions.  My impatience led me to get the Kindle version (only $11.99) so I could read it immediately.  Why not buy it now too?  Because the message will be so wonderfully familiar, you’ll quickly devour the book.

You created positive changes in the Guiding Coalition.  You led when others thought the tasks impossible.  You spread happiness, hope, and joy.

You should be proud of the fact that you’ve helped shape a book that should help reshape the world.  You truly are pioneers.

Believe it, and keep driving your changes. Why not try

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Barriers to Collaboration

What stops someone from collaborating with someone else these days?

Is it physical barriers like locked doors and barred windows, disconnected phone lines or lost internet connections?

Or is it most often a barrier lurking between your ears?

You didn’t call the other person before you sent them a tasking because you say,  “That’s not how it is done.”

Your boss didn’t introduce you to the person who could have helped your project weeks ago because he says, “You didn’t ask.”

Your team lost months repeating the mistakes the last team made because according to that last team’s leader, “When I called to offer help you didn’t return my calls.”

We talk ourselves into believing we’re cut off from others by forces outside our control.  We’re not.

We’re cut off from others because we choose to be.  We can choose to be connected instead.

Drag down the barriers to collaboration.

Set yourself free.

It’s as easy as changing your mind.

—————————-

p.s. Tomorrow we rap up another strong Guiding Coalition year.  The 2012 Guiding Coalition has my unending thanks for taking a fantastic network model that truly drags down (and even eliminates) barriers to collaboration and turning it into win after win after win.  Great job everyone.  You should be proud of all you’ve accomplished.  I’m honored to work with you and call you friends.

 

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#GCDrive Complete

Whew!

What do you get when you merge an organization well practiced in John Kotter’s 8-step method with the emerging complexity theory applications of Dave Snowden?

You get a team start-up timeline leap that saves you three months of team formation time PER TEAM.  Multiply three months by 14 teams and you save almost four years of organizational delays previously lost waiting for the teams to get moving toward their wins.

In years past, teams would start their tenure in the Guiding Coalition on 1 October.  By 1 November they would have rough concrete goals and by 1 December a tentative plan of action and milestones.  Some teams would go faster, some slower, but the bulk of the teams followed this timeline.

Today, we watched as 14 team leads stepped forward to share their first draft of their concrete goal (more a heading than an idealized end state) and the outline of their first (or first five) safe-to-fail experiments.  In years past I wouldn’t have expected a team to be at this stage until mid-to-late November.  See how I calculated the three months savings per team?  They blew me away.

How did they suddenly move so fast?

We focused on our strengths then added something new.  First, our strengths:

  • We’re used to training new Guiding Coalitions, groups of 35-50 people from all levels in the organization who volunteered to get to transform the organization.

Then, we added Cynefin, complexity theory and safe-to-fail experiments. See Cognitive-Edge.com for more information on all three.

Turns out, the new recipe worked.  I thought it might, and I’m overjoyed that it did.

The teams took off like rocket ships after we:

Oh, and we merged in a light version of crews thinking too when we self-limited teams at 7 or 15 people max.

Whew!  It was quite a mix and a ton of fun to cook up.

After three days of #GCDrive I’m spent.  Time to rest up and enjoy the weekend.

[Personal Note: This time last year I was in labor with my daughter.  Tomorrow she won’t be a baby anymore.]

Thanks to everyone who attended #GCDrive this week.

Thanks to Mike Plotts and Jay Johnson (@roguepolymath) for all their help.

Now, on to capturing some wins.  Let’s go!

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Large Group Facilitation

DISCLAIMER: This is a Cognitive Edge methods post.  If you are unfamiliar with Cognitive Edge and Cynefin, you will likely struggle to understand this post.  I encourage you to probe around the Cognitive Edge site and watch the Cynefin videos on You Tube. Now, for the post…

Prompt me with a comment and I shall provide. Thanks Jabe for reminding me to get back to the topic of the Guiding Coalition off-site, also known as a large group facilitation of sense-making using the Cynefin framework.

First, I’ll outline the day. Then, I’ll reflect on the day, talking about what went well and what I would change.

OUTLINE

The purpose of the day was to take almost 100 people representing a diverse set of organizational viewpoints through a sense-making workshop resulting in the selection by attendees of complex topics to pursue on behalf of the organization.  Whew!

The metaphor we used for the day was a roller coaster ride.  Some people love them; some hate them.  All feel a bit bounded around and confused on their first ride, but at the end many will want to go again.  The metaphor worked, with one of the attendees even commenting during open comments at the end of the day that he enjoyed the ride.

We set the structure of the day, a 7.5 hour session, by assigning people to tables according to their main identity (management, support, engineering, production) and then sub-identities.  There were seven management tables with sub-identities of uniformed officers, production, engineering, projects, product lines, line support (e.g, financial, IT) and executive support (e.g., executive director, union presidents).  In total there were 17 different tables, so 17 different, purposefully exaggerated perspectives.

The attendees got an initial set of slides on complexity, complete with Dave Snowden videos and then practiced working with ambiguity via the Butterfly Stamping method.  I enjoyed watching the diversity of responses to the exercise.  Some people didn’t know exactly why they were doing it, but went along.  Others struggled so violently with the “there is no right answer” ambiguity that I worried they would mutiny against me as the lead facilitator.  You know you’ve hit a nerve when you call the exercise to end and you hear a loud, “NOOOO!!” boom from one of the tables.

After a break the participants were instructed in the steps necessary to complete what we called Decision Mapping (aka 4 Points Contextualization).  We could jump right in, without doing an anecdote circle because I and a group of loyal helpers had done the work ahead of time.  I’d asked two probing questions via e-mail, gathered responses, and clustered the responses into 43 themes.  Each theme then got a Wordle to describe it.

After the exercise, we had 17 distinct Cynefin frameworks constructed from making sense of the 43 topics.  The members of each table were allowed to rotate to the other tables within their group (i.e., management, support, engineering, or production) and see:

  1. What was the same?
  2. What was different?
  3. What was surprising?

After they had discussed their answers among their group, we dismissed them for lunch and ordered them to leave the conference room.  This step was essential because they could not “check their work” against the other tables in the other groups.  We wanted to still keep them locked within their perspectives for now.

From there the participants shifted to doing what we called Group Decision Mapping. During the break my facilitation team (2 people for each group) determined which themes (each had a distinct number given to it, 1 to 43) all the tables of the group had placed in the same domain.  Out of 43 themes, the most any group agreed on was eight.  We posted a new piece of paper on the wall, assigning the agreed on topics into the domains and placing the remaining themes into a central disorder clump.  When the participants returned they were counted off into small teams with a representative from each table. Then, those groups were given one theme at a time to adjudicate, i.e., agreeing on which domain the group agreed the theme belonged in.  When all the themes had been removed from disorder, the group map was complete.

When all four group maps were complete, the participants rotated to each of the other groups and answered the three questions again.

  1. What was the same?
  2. What was different?
  3. What was surprising?

During the next break, the facilitation team moved the four group maps to the front wall and again determined which themes had been placed in the same domain on all four maps.  This time 11 topics were unanimous.  The rest were placed into disorder.

When they returned from break, we counted off the participants into 12 small teams.  Each team had a member from each group.  Each team was given a theme from disorder and asked to reach agreement.  The teams quickly processed through the themes and we had a full-room map.  From 43 undefined themes to 17 table maps to 4 group maps to 1 room map in approximately 6 hours.

Since this was an off-site for our Guiding Coalition, the goal of the day was to agree on complex themes so our networks of Guiding Coalition members could design safe-to-fail experiments to improve those topics.  So, after we had the participants assess each domain and move the themes into the appropriate boundary zones, we asked the participants to look deeply at the complex domain and decide which of the themes they would like to work on during the 2013 Guiding Coalition tenure.  After an exercise in team selection, the day was complete.

REFLECTIONS

Though I had to work with four times as many slides as were in the typical deck from Cognitive Edge, I needed the further process details to keep my audience of very process oriented people from mutinying over lack of instruction.  That said, the day was still not structured-enough or obvious-enough for some.  At first this bothered me, but now I see it as a difference with people’s comfort level with ambiguity.  If you don’t like ambiguity, you won’t like the methods.  Now, your not liking ambiguity doesn’t change the fact that reality is full of ambiguity, so I guess life is going to be rough unless you can dictate that everyone either forcefully hold back ambiguity or lie to you.  Rough.

I used the Cognitive Edge exemplar names (New Age Fluffy Bunny, Tyranny of Experts, Mind Numbing Bureaucracy and True Chaos) once we started the decision mapping instead of using four themes from within our 43.  I did that assuming it was one less step of mediation I would be putting between the participants and their data.  I didn’t imagine that when I said New Age Fluffy Bunny that more than a few people could only picture a fluffy bunny and were a bit confused.  I can’t blame them the error since they would with concrete objects (some figuratively and some literally) each day.  New Age Fluffy Bunny was too new age fluffy bunny for them.  It meant nothing.  I’ll have to come up with a different exemplar title next time.  On a side note though, I received some push back from participants who said they struggled to do a one-for-one translation from Complex to New Age Fluffy Bunny and Complicated to Tyranny of Experts.  They saw this as a bad thing.  I actually think it is a great thing because it kept them sense-making instead of categorizing.

Speaking of categorizing.  I changed the rules of the butterfly stamping a bit from how I’d practiced it a few weeks before.  When I practiced it I made a point to tell the participants that they could not under any circumstances draw on their paper.  They had to make sense of the topics.  They didn’t really though.  I saw plenty of tables thinking up creative ways to draw in the lines with their eyes, or using paper to split the categories (I say categories because when they did this they missed disorder and just drew a 2×2).  Rather than force their categorizing preference underground, I thought it would be interesting to give no direction on marking the paper or not and watch to see how many would automatically draw in the lines before they even put the first butterfly stamping item onto the page.  The results at the off-site were stark.  Almost 75% of the tables immediately or quite quickly drew in the lines, making the paper into a 2×2 matrix.  This information helped me tailor how I presented the steps of decision mapping, where they were directed to not write on the paper and refrain from using the yarn (provided in their mapping packets) until I gave them permission.  Giving them the yarn before they needed it was also an intentional poke. I wanted to see who could resist using it and who found the urge the whole way through.  I only noticed one table that tried to place the yarn early and they were giving the exercise so little of their attention I think they had bored themselves into causing trouble.

The four points contextualization method calls for making sense of the themes, drawing in the boundaries, splitting those on the boundary, then determining the boundary placements.  I chose not to do the boundary placement for the table maps, but did make the participants go through the exercise on the group maps and the room map.  Next time I may just skip the boundary placements if I need more time for other conversations because what we are using the data for likely won’t require that level of placement detail.  If you were going to take the conversation further you would probably want to keep the boundary step since more information is good information (if you can spare the time).

The biggest win from the day, besides getting to the selection of topics for the 2013 Guiding Coalition, was watching the participants discover other people’s perspectives.  The conversations, at the tables, in the groups, and in the teams representing all, were fabulous.  Lots of “How can that be?” and “Is that how it really looks to you?” mixed in with “What is this supposed to mean?” asked as though someone was waiting with the answer but just wouldn’t give it.  I love chances to push people beyond their expectations.  Not everyone liked it, but not everyone will.  The goal isn’t comfort. The goal is to achieve a shared understanding, and reaching that often makes people uncomfortable.  It was terribly fun to watch.

As the 2013 Guiding Coalition is only just beginning, I can’t offer an outcome reflection stating whether or not this method saved the three months of team building time that I predicted when I sold my leadership on trying it out.  I can’t say for sure, but their are good indications.  And, when I modify the select/off-site/train pattern next year to select/train/off-site, we’ll save a few months more.  Then, we’ll really be flying at light speed! [ Have I mentioned lately how much fun it is to drive change?]

Whew! That’s a lot of reflections.  I’m sure I have more that I could remember if prodded.  For now, I’ll settle with this length of post and send this out as an extra weekend post in honor of Jabe’s poke that I get this written.  This is Labor Day weekend after all.  Why should I rest?

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Celebrating an exciting, better future

I read a story today that touched me.  It read:

After World War II, a group of humanitarians placed orphan boys in tent cities to care for them.  Though they were well cared for, the boys would wake up at night with nightmares.  A psychiatrist surmised that their fear was because they had such an uncertain future.

He decided to feed the boys a big meal each night then give them each a piece of bread.  He instructed them to hold the bread in their hands so it could be their breakfast.  Somehow just holding in their hands a piece of bread helped them sleep all night.

In our large organizations, the bread in our hands is our belief in an exciting, better future.  We create and offer that bread to others through our willingness to step forward and lead transformations that we and others can choose for ourselves.  The Gallup organization found that if employees say they have hope in the future then 70% were engaged with their work.  In contrast, only 1% were engaged with their work if they didn’t have hope.

In our Guiding Coalition, we transform our organization.  We get to make it better together.  From that purpose, our efforts spring forth success after success. We spread hope in a better future.

On Friday, two teams will share how they are spreading into our organization in small and significant ways their version of hope in the future.  I can hardly wait to announce the team leaders and welcome them to share their stories.

Years ago, other teams gave the same type of presentation.  You can watch their passion for transforming the organization spill forth in videos at this link.  You can start with this one.

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On video

Check out this link at Vimeo to see a video of the first five minutes of my presentation at the Theory of Constraints International Certification Organization (TOCICO) conference in New York in June.

I hope the five minute tease will be enough to motivate you to buy the DVD with the full one hour presentation or buy access to the video at TOCTV.

For those readers at PSNS & IMF, I have a copy of the video. Just e-mail me at work to arrange a viewing.

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Starting fresh

It’s always wonderful to watch a group of people passionate about making their organization better come together to choose the course for their change.

Today was that day for my local Guiding Coalition, our annual off-site event.

Now, pointed toward their new course, they can begin to create the changes they want to see.

The soap box presentations that I mentioned last week went wonderfully well, adding heart to the conversation.

The participants were excited and engaged, regularly mentioning their passion for their work and their commitment to the future vision.

All-in-all, it was a lovely day.

Now the work can begin.

I’m so excited to watch them start fresh.

No one knows now what they’ll accomplish during the next year, but I bet it will be a pile of wonderous, marvelous wins.

2012 Guiding Coalition: Let’s get started.

If you can’t participate in our Guiding Coalition, then what can you do with your change?

If you’re feeling stagnant and frustrated, try bringing your remaining passionate people together, assisting them as they plot a new course, and help them start again toward the change.

There is a magic surrounding beginning a new journey, even if it is really just an extension of one you’ve already been on.

Why not try?

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Guiding Coalition Alumni Success

People driving change accomplish a lot but often receive little personal acclaim for their work.

Tonight, the acclaim was monumental.

It was my honor to be among a group of six Guiding Coalition alumni recognized as Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty.  These six were recognized for much more than just their Guiding Coalition work, but notably all were members of and leaders in the Guiding Coalition movement at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility.

Congratulations to Jenna McGrath, Chelsea Grace, Lisa Foster, Maria Finch and Brett Anderson, members of the 2010 KPBJ 40 Under Forty.  You’re making a difference in your community.  You’re truly driving change!

Thanks as well to all the Guiding Coalition Support Team members in attendance at tonight’s recognition ceremony.  It’s your commitment to our work that makes all the difference!

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Ending and Beginning Again

Tomorrow we wrap up an 18-month run of a 36 member Guiding Coalition.  I’m in a state of contented bliss.  In my work, I watch people drive successful change and I watch them learn how to drive change anywhere in their lives.  It has been an honor to work with all of them, watch them grow, and grow with them.  You know, without them I wouldn’t have started this blog.

Want to know who they are and what they’re working on?  You can check out the link to videos of their mid-term presentations that I posted in April.  Since the presentations were taped in February, the teams have continued to work hard accomplishing either total wins or huge strides toward the win in all 36 of 36 attempts.

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate their wins and hear about the lessons they’ve learned in leadership and driving change. Then we’ll call their work complete.

Recently, I read that ownership is the demonstration of a set of behaviors of personal responsibility.  When someone is exhibiting ownership they will have a passion for their work, express enthusiasm on-the-job, drive for continuous improvement, learn from their mistakes and set the example.  For 18 months, these 36 people have set the example for how you should behave if you believe you own the future and must drive change to get there.

Congratulations to the members of the 2010 Guiding Coalition for all you’ve accomplished.

You’ve truly driven change and I am tremendously grateful.

We start all over again on October 1 when a new group of 36 becomes the next Guiding Coalition.  They’ll have the shoulders of giants to stand on, building on the 2010 Guiding Coalition.  Just imagine what we’ll accomplish in 2011.  I can hardly wait!

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Their stories

This blog is filled with my stories, but today I had the opportunity to post two other people’s stories about working with our Guiding Coalition.  We’re now taking applications for our next cycle and I’d asked them to share what they’ve learned, experienced and gained from their time with the Guiding Coalition.  Cheerfully, as I can’t seem to figure out how to cross link to comments on Facebook, here are their stories copied and re-posted:

Mike’s story:

I applied for the Guiding Coalition for several reasons. The first reason is because the job I have is a direct result of a guiding coalition initiative. I wanted to know more about the group that provided me this opportunity. In addition, I felt I needed an outlet from my day job that, at the time, was pretty mundane. Finally, I just wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be a part of something where I could make a positive contribution.

The guiding coalition has stretched and grown me. It’s great to be part of a diverse team where the end product is greater than any one person could have created. We have revitalized IDP’s for the command by creating an instruction, forms, and training. But what really jazzes me is all of the intangible results. Somewhere at PSNS&IMF, right now, someone is having a conversation about their career development with their supervisor, mentor, or coach because of what our guiding coalition team did. The value of that conversation to the individual, his/her team, and our command is immeasurable.

Mike Plotts
command.university

Reina’s Story: “More than what you see”

Imagine, my first experience here at PSNS & IMF: new to the Navy command structure having never been exposed to the military before, and new to the field of being an industrial marine electrician helper, learning a new trade. I didn’t come here wearing a uniform with stars and bars. I didn’t have a stripe on my hat. Instead my hat’s glossy sheen gave me away as a newbie.
Being a newbie to PSNS & IMF didn’t mean I was a newbie to life and I felt I had so much more to offer.

The Guiding Coalition gave me an opportunity to share my experiences and my passion, allowing me to use and develop other skills that are not required as a mechanic (especially my creative and emotional self, being that I love to work with people and problem solve).

I have come to love working here…the work is a huge challenge, with the command bursting with opportunity and I am excited to be a part of its growth and development. The Guiding Coalition had provided me a way to use my creative energy to help promote a culture that embraces creativity in fostering new ideas for improvements on the job. It has not always been easy.

My number one priority is my job so I can support my 4 yr old daughter. To be able to do my job, and create a place where I can love my job, is amazing. Don’t let others stop your passion because there are many out there who will support you. Link arms and move forward. My Guiding Coalition work has made me a more productive worker because I am energized and excited about being a part of the organization, not just a number, and I love to take back information and new things to share with my workgroup.

I get to meet like minded people from all levels of the organization and learn different perspectives I would never have been exposed to.

The Guiding Coalition is a mutually beneficial experience. I remember starting out feeling like a deer in the headlights, but the leadership and support team, as well as awesome folks you get to work with, help you grow. Its an amazing experience. I have not only gotten to learn, but also share ideas and even get the ideas implemented. I still don’t have bars and stripes, no uniform, no stripe on my hat. I’m just an average gal wanting to make a difference where I work. The Guiding Coalition is an awesome vehicle for change… Don’t let it pass you by…

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