M&M Week 7 Workout: April 10, 2017

This week, we’ll go back to the success spectrum, this time applying it to our shared work to the end of 2017 (as opposed to the individual project spectrums we all did in Week 5).

Remember what you learned from previous workouts: To get to a good spectrum, at some point, you have to shift away from just adding, and you have to start editing. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake, and don’t be afraid of editing other people’s work. If there are objections, that opens up opportunities for discussion. And if there are no objections, then you have made someone else’s work better — collaboration at work!

  1. Take one minute to pause and breathe deeply together in silence. (1min)
  2. Do a brief checkin with your partner. (3min)
  3. Warmup: Review Previous Work (10min)
    1. In our shared Google Doc, find your spectrums from Week 5, and take a few minutes to review. How did you do?
    2. Review your spectrums with your partner. Given your experiences, what would you have changed about your spectrums (if anything)? What makes a spectrum valuable?
  4. Workout: Success Spectrum (40min)
    1. Take a few minutes to imagine what our project would look like if it were successful in the timespan you both have chosen.
    2. Go to the Week 7 section in our shared Google Doc. Take five minutes to start capturing the different ranges of what success would look like — from minimum (i.e. must happen to call the project successful) to target (i.e. going for it, but probably won’t hit all of these) to epic (i.e. not going for it, but would be amazing if it happened).
    3. Take five minutes to capture what failure would look like. Review and adjust your minimum success column to make sure it’s consistent with your failure column.
    4. Compare your spectrums with your partner. Discuss what’s similar, what’s different, and how you’d resolve those differences. Now go to our actual success spectrum for 2017 and incorporate your shared work. This not only means adding to the spectrum, but deleting what’s no longer relevant. The shared spectrum should look cleaner after you’re both done than it was before. (20min)
  5. Quickly debrief the exercise:
    • How did the experience feel?
    • What did you learn?
  6. Checkout: Take a minute to share with your partner how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. (5min)
  7. Each of you should post one brief takeaway as a comment to this post. It doesn’t have to be comprehensive or incredibly detailed. I’d strongly encourage you to share your takeaway immediately after your workout. Make it a point to read (and respond to, if so moved) other people’s takeaways every week.

If you’d like to read the generic cards for the exercises above (which include design thoughts and variations), see:

#workout

M&M Week 6 Workout: March 27, 2017

This week, we’ll exercise our systems thinking muscles and will work on surfacing our respective theories of change about the STP work we’re all doing together.

  1. Take one minute to pause and breathe deeply together in silence. (1min)
  2. Do a brief checkin with your partner. (3min)
  3. Warmup: One-Minute Drill — Question Variation (15min)
    1. Take a minute to consider the following: What should be our highest priority goal in 2017 for the work we’re doing together for Wye River (and beyond)? You can pick one of the goals in our planning document, or you can come up with a different one.
    2. Decide who will share first.
    3. Take one minute to share your answer. Your partner should listen quietly and keep strict time. Unlike previous times we’ve done this exercise, I encourage you to take notes in the appropriate section of our shared Google Doc.
    4. Unlike previous exercises, we won’t repeat back yet. First, switch with your partner, so that your partner is answering the question, and you’re taking notes.
    5. Take five minutes to replace your notes in the Google Doc with a series of questions that represent partner’s answer. It should include questions that your partner asked (possibly reframed) and questions that your partner answered without asking. Make sure you delete your previous notes — only the questions should remain.
    6. Compare your notes with each other. Give each other a score between one to five based on how well you think the questions represent what you were trying to say, with five being a perfect reflection. Discuss and revise.
    7. Hold up between one to five fingers based on how well the person reflected back what you said, with five being a perfect reflection.
    8. Correct or improve your partner’s question synthesis. Don’t be afraid to nitpick — nuances are important.
    9. Quickly debrief the exercise. What did you notice? How did you feel? What did you learn?
  4. Workout: Five Whys (30min)
    1. Start with one person’s answer to the warmup question, and ask, “Why?” This is your first Why.
    2. For each of your partner’s answers, ask, “Why?” again. Repeat this until you’ve asked and your partner has answered, “Why?” a total of five times.
    3. Switch.
    4. Quickly debrief the exercise:
      • How did the experience feel?
      • What did you learn?
  5. Checkout: Take a minute to share with your partner how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. (5min)
  6. Each of you should post one brief takeaway as a comment to this post. It doesn’t have to be comprehensive or incredibly detailed. I’d strongly encourage you to share your takeaway immediately after your workout. Make it a point to read (and respond to, if so moved) other people’s takeaways every week.

This week’s homework:

#workout

M&M Week 5 Workout: March 20, 2017

Over the next four weeks, we’re going to take our warmed up synthesis muscles and start applying them toward strategy. We kick things off with an exercise you’re all already very familiar with — the success spectrum. In the workout itself, you’re going to be doing the spectrum for one of your own projects, but the homework will be about our collective spectrum for this project.

For this workout, think of a project you’re working on right now or are about to start. It could be related to the work we’re doing together at STP, but it doesn’t have to be.

Remember what you learned from the previous four workouts and our group checkin. To get to a good spectrum, at some point, you have to shift away from just adding, and you have to start editing. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake, and don’t be afraid of editing other people’s work. If there are objections, that opens up opportunities for discussion. And if there are no objections, then you have made someone else’s work better — collaboration at work!

  1. Take one minute to pause and breathe deeply together in silence. (1min)
  2. Do a brief checkin with your partner. (3min)
  3. Warmup: Question Brainstorm (10min)
    1. In our shared Google Doc, find your section, and take five minutes to write down all of the questions that come to mind about your project. This exercise is about quantity, not quality, so just write, don’t edit.
    2. Take a minute to cluster your questions.
    3. Rewrite your Yes / No questions into non-Yes / No questions. Help your partners with this!
    4. Identify (with your partner’s help) one or two questions that will most help you move forward with your project.
  4. Workout: Success Spectrum (40min)
    1. Take a few minutes to imagine what your project would look like if it were successful?
    2. Go to the appropriate section in our shared Google Doc. Take five minutes to start capturing the different ranges of what success would look like — from minimum (i.e. must happen to call the project successful) to target (i.e. going for it, but probably won’t hit all of these) to epic (i.e. not going for it, but would be amazing if it happened).
    3. Take five minutes to capture what failure would look like. Review and adjust your minimum success column to make sure it’s consistent with your failure column.
    4. Review your success spectrum with your partner. Exchange feedback. (5 min each)
    5. Revise your success spectrum based on your discussion, and quickly share your changes with your partner. (5 min each)
    6. Quickly debrief the exercise:
      • How did the experience feel?
      • What did you learn?
  5. Checkout: Take a minute to share with your partner how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. (5min)
  6. Each of you should post one brief takeaway as a comment to this post. It doesn’t have to be comprehensive or incredibly detailed. I’d strongly encourage you to share your takeaway immediately after your workout. Make it a point to read (and respond to, if so moved) other people’s takeaways every week.

This week’s homework:

  • We currently have a messy, out-of-date success spectrum for our 2017 plan. This week, start cleaning up the original and create a new spectrum here. Do what you can, see what others do, and we’ll see where we are at the end of next week.

If you’d like to read the generic cards for the exercises above (which include design thoughts and variations), see:

#workout

M&M Week 4 Workout: March 6, 2017

We’ll conclude our first set of synthesis and alignment exercises with a repeat of last week’s workout. You’ll need lots of scratch paper and a pen. Have your smartphones ready so that you can photograph and email your work to your partner throughout the workout.

  1. Take one minute to pause and breathe deeply together in silence. (1min)
  2. Do a brief checkin with your partner. (3min)
  3. Warmup: One-Minute Drill (10min)
    1. Take a minute to consider the following: Describe a skill that’s taken you a long time (at least a year) to get good at. What was your learning process like?
    2. Decide who will share first.
    3. Take one minute to share your answer. Your partner should listen quietly and keep strict time. Don’t take notes.
    4. Share the same answer again for one minute. You may refine or add to your answer if you’d like.
    5. The listening partner should take one-minute to reflect back what she or he heard.
    6. Hold up between one to five fingers based on how well the person reflected back what you said, with five being a perfect reflection.
    7. Correct whatever your partner may have misheard. Don’t be afraid to nitpick — nuances are important.
    8. The listening partner should take one more minute to reflect your story back again.
    9. Hold up between one-to-five fingers based on how well the person reflected back what you said.
    10. Switch with your partner, and repeat the exercise.
    11. Quickly debrief the exercise. What did you notice? How did you feel? What did you learn?
  4. Workout: Working iteratively (40min)
    1. We’re going to be do the same iterations exercise we did last week. Don’t worry about perfection. Use this as an opportunity to explore and refine lots of different ideas. Part of the point is to experience progress through multiple, rapid iterations and detaching yourself from previous work.
    2. Review our current shared framework for alignment. Give a score between one (being the worst) and five (being the best) for how effective and useful the framework is right now. Be brutally honest.
    3. Individually, take up to five minutes to create a new framework for “alignment” on your scratch paper. Timebox this exercise. It’s not important for it to be complete or perfect, as you’ll have the opportunity to iterate. Email a photograph of your work to your partner, so that she or he can review it.
    4. Once again, consider the questions above, and evaluate your partner’s framework on a 1-5 scale. Quickly explain the reason for your score.
    5. Physically tear up your work, and recycle it. Don’t skip this step.
    6. Do another iteration for up to five minutes, again sharing and scoring your partner’s work. Do as many iterations as you can (at least three total) until you have about 15-minutes left in your workout.
    7. Quickly debrief the exercise:
      • How did the experience feel?
      • What did you learn?
  5. Checkout: Take a minute to share with your partner how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. (5min)
  6. Each of you should post one brief takeaway as a comment to this post. It doesn’t have to be comprehensive or incredibly detailed. I’d strongly encourage you to share your takeaway immediately after your workout. Make it a point to read (and respond to, if so moved) other people’s takeaways every week.

This week’s homework:

  • Based on your work, once again review and refine our shared framework for “alignment” in our shared Google Doc. We’ll go over this together next Monday at our group checkin.

If you’d like to read the generic cards for the exercises above (which include design thoughts and variations), see:

#workout

M&M Week 3 Workout: February 27, 2017

This week, we will once again exercise our synthesis and alignment muscles, this time with a focus on working iteratively. You’ll need lots of scratch paper and a writing implement of some sort. Have your smartphones ready so that you can photograph and email your work to your partner throughout the workout.

  1. Take one minute to pause and breathe deeply together in silence. (1min)
  2. Do a brief checkin with your partner. (3min)
  3. Warmup: Color / Advance. This warmup was contributed by Alison! (10min)
    1. This is an exercise in storytelling as well as giving / receiving feedback. Don’t be a passive listener. Use it as an opportunity to be playful and interactive.
    2. Take a few minutes individually to think about, “What did you do over the weekend?”
    3. Decide who will share first.
    4. Start sharing your answer.
    5. Your partner should instruct you either to “color” or “advance” whenever it feels appropriate. If she or he says, “Color,” slow down and start going into more detail. If she or he says, “Advance,” move on to the next part of the story. Your partner should offer these instructions at least 3-5 times over the course of a 2-3 minute story.
    6. Switch with your partner, and repeat the exercise.
    7. Quickly debrief the exercise. What did you notice? How did you feel? What did you learn?
  4. Workout: Working iteratively (40min)
    1. Again, we’re going to be exercising our muscles in giving / receiving feedback as well as working iteratively. Expect the first few iterations of this exercise to be bad. Part of the point is to experience progress through multiple, rapid iterations and detaching yourself from previous work.
    2. Review our current shared framework for alignment. Remember, the purpose of this framework is to help us know what we’re all talking about when we’re saying we’re trying to “align the leaders.” Following the framework, consider the following questions:
      • What would it look like for the leaders to be aligned around vision? How aligned are they right now?
      • What would it look like for the leaders to be aligned around values? How aligned are they right now?
    3. Based on your answers, give a score between one (being the worst) and five (being the best) for how effective and useful the framework is right now. Be brutally honest.
    4. Individually, take up to five minutes to create a new framework for “alignment” on your scratch paper. Timebox this exercise. It’s not important for it to be complete or perfect, as you’ll have the opportunity to iterate. Email a photograph of your work to your partner, so that she or he can review it.
    5. Once again, consider the questions above, and evaluate your partner’s framework on a 1-5 scale. Explain the reason for your score.
    6. Physically tear up your work, and recycle it. Don’t skip this step.
    7. Do another iteration for up to five minutes, again sharing and scoring your partner’s work. Do as many iterations as you can (at least three total) until you have about 15-minutes left in your workout.
    8. Quickly debrief the exercise:
      • How did the experience feel?
      • What did you learn?
  5. Checkout: Take a minute to share with your partner how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. (5min)
  6. Each of you should post one brief takeaway as a comment to this post. It doesn’t have to be comprehensive or incredibly detailed. I’d strongly encourage you to share your takeaway immediately after your workout. Make it a point to read (and respond to, if so moved) other people’s takeaways every week.

This week’s homework:

  • Based on your work, once again review and refine our shared framework for “alignment” in our shared Google Doc.

If you’d like to read the generic cards for the exercises above (which include design thoughts and variations), see:

#workout

Bucketing and Synthesis

bucketing

When we’re synthesizing, a lot of what we’re doing is putting things into buckets. The hope is that the buckets help us make sense of things. For this to hold true, we need to make sure we’re using the right buckets for the right reasons… and the right people. Figuring this out is hard and takes lots of tries. For this reason, good synthesis usually includes lots of iterations where different bucketing schemes are validated with the people who will use them. Bad synthesis usually stops at one or a few iterations, with little to no testing.

One important thing to remember about bucketing is that there doesn’t have to be just one scheme for everything. Different bucketing schemes might work better in different circumstances. Be conscious of the different levels and intentions.

#design

Our #AskAndMaybeReceive experiment is live…

Our #AskandMaybeReceive experiment is live and we have yet to receive a response from folks. I am going to a message today to prod people one last time. I’m super curious if people don’t have unfulfilled needs, or if they are just too busy, or?

#ask

M&M Week 2 Workout: February 21, 2017

This week, we will once again exercise our synthesis and alignment muscles, this time on the word, “framework.”

  1. Take one minute to pause and breathe deeply together in silence. You’ll be starting each of your workouts off this way. (1min)
  2. Do a brief checkin with your partner. (3min)
  3. Warmup: One-Minute Drill (10min)
    1. Take a minute to think about the quality you most admire in Eden as a colleague. Eden, you can answer the question for Ide. Kristin, you an answer the question for anyone you’d like to choose.
    2. Decide who will share first.
    3. Take one minute to share your answer. Your partner should listen quietly and keep strict time. Don’t take notes.
    4. Share the same answer again for one minute. You may refine or add to your answer if you’d like.
    5. The listening partner should take one-minute to reflect back what she or he heard.
    6. Hold up between one to five fingers based on how well the person reflected back what you said, with five being a perfect reflection.
    7. Correct whatever your partner may have misheard. Don’t be afraid to nitpick — nuances are important.
    8. The listening partner should take one more minute to reflect your story back again.
    9. Hold up between one-to-five fingers based on how well the person reflected back what you said.
    10. Switch with your partner, and repeat the exercise.
    11. Quickly debrief the exercise. What did you notice? How did you feel? What did you learn?
  4. Workout: What makes a framework useful? (40min)
    1. This will be similar to last week’s person-on-the-street exercise, but we’re not going to talk to others this week. (You’re always welcome to if you’d like. Take one minute in silence to think about the following: “Describe a framework that you have found valuable in your work or in your life.”
    2. Take five minutes each to share your answers with each other. If you’d like to take notes while your partner talks, you can capture them in the shared Google Doc.
    3. In the Google Doc, take 10-15 minutes to draft an answer based on your personal stories to the following questions:
      • What is a “framework”?
      • What makes a framework useful?
    4. Based on your “framework” framework, revisit the shared framework we developed last week for “alignment.” Discuss whether it meets your criteria, and what you could change to make it more useful. Make note of these in the shared Google Doc, then actually make the changes to the “alignment” framework! (10min)
  5. Checkout: Take a minute to share with your partner how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. (5min)
  6. Each of you should post one brief takeaway as a comment to this post. It doesn’t have to be comprehensive or incredibly detailed. I’d strongly encourage you to share your takeaway immediately after your workout. Make it a point to read (and respond to, if so moved) other people’s takeaways every week.

This week’s homework:

  • As people share their notes from their workouts and this homework, draft and continuously refine a shared (among the whole Miles River team) definition and framework for “framework” in our shared Google Doc — what it means, how to create it, what it looks like when we have it.
  • By Wednesday of next week, our goal is to align around a solid, draft framework for “framework” and to have an improved framework for “alignment”!

If you’d like to read the generic cards for the exercises above (which include design thoughts and variations), see:

#workout

“Knowing how to do this” + Open Space

Wanted to share some followup thoughts from our solid kickoff last Thursday.

First, when it comes to understanding how to have and support a group of any kind or size in working through long-term strategy and culture, I want to ban, “We don’t know how to do this,” from Miles River’s vocabulary and eventually from Wye’s as well. At a high-level, we definitely know how to do it. The devil is in the details, but we can (and will) figure those out.

The main obstacle is commitment. It’s like training for a marathon. We know how to do it at a high-level, but the details will vary. The main thing is recognizing that it’s going to be hard and painful and hopefully enjoyable too. If folks are committed to doing the strategic equivalent of running every day, then they can do it, and they’ll have a high probability of success. Until we all recognize and acknowledge that commitment, we are not going to succeed.

Second, how are we going to pull off this April meeting? First, kudos to Eden for quickly landing on the later date, which buys us two weeks. It’s not a whole lot, but it makes a big difference.

In order to figure out the support time needed to design and facilitate a meeting, I take the number of meeting days (in our case, three) and multiply it by a number between one and three, depending on the complexity of the meeting. So a minimally complex meeting would require six days total (1 x 3 for design time + 3 for the meeting itself, not including followup). A very complex meeting would require 12 days total (3 x 3 for design time + 3 for the meeting itself, again not including followup). This is all per support team member, so the numbers pile up quickly.

There are several assumptions that go into these numbers. First, the meeting itself will be participatory (and awesome). Second, in order for that to happen, the design process should also be participatory. Third, at least half of the design time is spent aligning around goals and success. The more complex the meeting, the harder that is, hence the need for more time. Aligning around clear goals and success requires participant time. Once you have that, the support team has more agency in designing the meeting itself.

Our April meeting will not be minimally complex. You could make a strong argument that it’s actually maximally complex, since it’s meant to be the start of a larger process with lots of unanswered questions and a currently flawed container. I would typically want at least four months to design for such a meeting. We will have about two months… and that’s on top of a whole lot of other work we’ll be doing over the next few months.

So how on earth can we make this work?

If the goals were clearer, we could make the design process less participatory. That’s not our situation, so that’s out.

There’s a fine balance between design and facilitation. A well-designed meeting is less reliant on the skill of the facilitator. If you eliminate design time, you are more reliant on the skill of the facilitator for success. That was our situation for our November meeting. It wasn’t optimal, but you can make it work. We can do this for April, but I’m reluctant to do so, because it’s riskier, it repeats a reactive, rushed pattern we’re trying to break, and it won’t build the capacity of Miles River.

So what’s left?

Open Space. Open Space is optimized for self-organization and emergence. It provides just enough structure to support the participants, but ultimately, they’re responsible for their own success. If they’re good (and we know our participants are), they’ll be successful. The basic design is more or less a template, so it doesn’t require a lot of time to design the days themselves. Facilitation is very light touch as well.

The best Open Space meetings have a strong invitation and at least three days. (Most people make the mistake of constraining their Open Space to one day or even less, which doesn’t leave enough time for shared understanding to develop.) We have three days, and we can use the design time we have to develop a strong invitation.

Because it’s light touch, the participants recognize that they are fully in charge of this ship. Not only does it force them to take responsibility, but when they see that it’s successful, they will be more motivated and empowered to replicate it on their own. Ultimately, we want to break them of this notion that highly skilled facilitators are required for them to be successful. (It always helps, but it shouldn’t be required in every situation.) Open Space will help us do that.

That won’t mean that they won’t be supported. There is an art to facilitating Open Space meetings effectively, and on top of that, we’ll be providing knowledge support. We’ll use artifacts to help facilitate sessions, and we’ll make meaning of those artifacts together at the end of each day. Those artifacts will help the conversations themselves be more productive (see the Tic-Tac-Toe exercise from Thursday), and they will also serve as the basis for sharing what happens with those who couldn’t make it. It will also be great practice opportunities for all of us.

We’ll also create some real-time dashboards to help them see themselves and prioritize. For example, we might put up an Eisenhower Matrix, and at the end of each day, cluster the sessions that happened in the corresponding quadrant. That will help the participants themselves see where they’re spending their time and whether or not they need to make an adjustment.

There’s still some stuff to think through, and enrollment will likely be a challenge, but I think this is the right direction overall. Feedback and pushback encouraged!

#design

M&M Week 1 Workout: February 13, 2017

Hello, Miles River! Our Muscles & Mindsets pair workouts kick off this week. Make sure you have a (preferably standing) one-hour call set up with your workout partner this week. Here is your first workout.

  1. Start your workout by taking one minute to pause and breathe deeply together in silence. You’ll be starting each of your workouts off this way. (1min)
  2. Do a brief checkin with your partner. (3min)
  3. Warmup: Take a minute individually to reflect on what you think of when you hear the word, “alignment.” Write down five words that come up for you when you hear the word, “alignment.” Do it in your own document or on your own paper so that your partner can’t see your words. When you’ve both written down five words, copy them into the appropriate section of our shared workout Google Doc. (5min)
  4. Workout: Person on the Street (50min)
    1. The big question you’ll be answering together is, “What is ‘alignment’?” But we’re going to start with a more personal, experiential question to help us answer this bigger question. Take one minute in silence to think about the following: “Describe a recent personal experience where you felt in strong alignment with someone else. What enabled you to feel that way?”
    2. Take five minutes each to share your answers with each other. If you’d like to take notes while your partner talks, you can capture them in the shared Google Doc.
    3. In the Google Doc, take 10-15 minutes to draft an answer based on your personal stories to: “What is ‘alignment’?”
    4. Identify one person to interview together. It could be a stranger or someone you know. Call them, ask them for five minutes of their time, and ask them the same experiential question as above: “Describe a recent personal experience where you felt in strong alignment with someone else. What enabled you to feel that way?”
    5. Revisit the bigger question about alignment with your partner. Revise your answer based on what you learned from your interview. (10min)
  5. Checkout: Take a minute to share with your partner how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. (5min)
  6. Each of you should post one brief takeaway as a comment to this post. It doesn’t have to be comprehensive or incredibly detailed. I’d strongly encourage you to share your takeaway immediately after your workout. Make it a point to read (and respond to, if so moved) other people’s takeaways every week.

In addition to the pair workouts, we will all do some practice both individually and collectively in the form of weekly homework. We’ll use the shared Google Doc to capture our homework assignments and Slack to discuss them, although I’d strongly encourage sharing thinking as new blog posts here as well. This week’s homework:

  • In addition to the shared person you interviewed with your partner for the workout, each of you should interview one more person for the “person on the street” interview. Capture your notes in the shared Google Doc.
  • As people share their notes from their workouts and this homework, draft and continuously refine a shared (among the whole Miles River team) definition and framework for “alignment” in our shared Google Doc — what it means, how to create it, what it looks like when we have it.
  • By the end of the week, our goal is to align around a solid, draft framework for “alignment”!

If you’d like to read the generic cards for the exercises above (which include design thoughts and variations), see:

#workout