Tag Archives: Collaboration

Monday Morning Moment – Strengthening Decision-making with Collaborative Conversations

Blog - Collaborative ConversationsPhoto Credit: AJCarlisle.files.wordpress.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

Change is normal, and resisting change is normal as well. You may be part of an organization or company where sweeping changes are being implemented, even this week. Or maybe you are not on the inside loop of these decisions, so you are not privy to the change coming. Whether you are part of that process or not, consider how you might have a role in making change work, in your sphere of influence, among your colleagues.

You may already have read and profited from the book Crucial Conversations. Now consider collaborative conversations. Collaboration, simply defined, is “working together towards shared goals”. Collaborative conversations bring a collective intelligence to bear on the problem to be solved, vision to be defined, or direction to be changed.Blog - Collaborative ConversationsPhoto Credit: ThoughtFarmer.com

David Perkins, a Harvard professor, wrote about collaborative conversations in the workplace, using the metaphor of King Arthur’s round table. He described the beneficial nature of bringing several principal players (or stakeholders) to the table and treating each one with an equal or autonomous voice.

Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table: How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations is a tremendous resource in developing this kind of decision-making work environment. An Executive Book Summary* can help you get started.

“A round table makes it a little easier to pool mental effort. A round table makes a group a little more intelligent…For a group to display intelligence in a sustained way, the members have to value their exchanges and stick together to keep making them. This depends on positive symbolic conduct [side messages sent by our words and behavior]…and collaboration… It’s not ideas, but people with ideas that make things happen.”David Perkins

“One of the simplest ways to immunize a culture against broken trust, corruption, and animosity is to build a common vision.”David Perkins

I personally thrive in such a setting and intuitively understand the value-adding nature of collaborative conversations. In researching this workplace topic, and choosing the links below, I came across a fascinating paper** by Heather Davis, a professor of RMIT University Australia.

Davis presented her paper at the 14th International Conference on Thinking (2009, Malaysia). She discussed how workplace leaders often choose “languages of war” in making and communicating decisions and creating change. Her paper is heady stuff but if you read her thoughts below you will want to read the whole paper. It gives huge support to the role of collaborative conversations.

“In [leadership’s] ‘language of zealous allegiance’, there are expectations of allegiance [in the workplace] that lay a path for uncritical acceptance and passivity. This manifests in an expectation that followers be conscripted wholly to the cause. There is little room for questioning. ‘Conscription means one important thing: there is no questioning of orders, one only executes them; “either you’re with us or you’re against us”.’ “

“Rhetoric plays out in the workplace too and can be tested by how well leaders:

  • hear and acknowledge the ‘other’ point of view,
  • see the ‘other’ as people rather than pawns or simply abstractions,
  • manage the distance, materially and metaphorically, between themselves and the people and sites affected by their decisions.”

“In the corporate world there are many examples of executives living and working in gated communities or otherwise removed by dint of corporate hierarchy or geography from the people and conditions affected by their decisions. Often, these leaders are also surrounded by people who can only agree, leading to little opportunity for double loop learning or deeply reasoned decision making processes. Whether our leaders live in gated communities is their business, but if they think, work and take refuge within a ‘gated’ mindset then we all need to be concerned. These conditions lead to hubris and have been the undoing of many leaders and corporations.”

The role of the organisation is ‘to know its purpose and not be diverted from it’ (Drucker, 1993). This is a timely reminder here – easier said than done in times of flux, complexity and discontinuous change.”

“The main difference between Perkins’ languages of war and peace are that the war metaphor is founded on exclusivity and a preference for limiting discourse to its [leadership’s] own narrowly defined boundaries. Perkins’s peace metaphor is founded on inclusivity and opening up the space for conversations and conflicting views [i.e., collaborative conversations].”

“Oppositional language and the pitting of one deeply held worldview against another will not lead to resolving the underlying problems of the workplace. Rather, space for conversations to surface underlying assumptions is required. Perkins’ language of peace metaphor confirms that that there are always other lenses to view the world through, not just the one that [leadership] prefers.”Heather Davis

Provocative reading from this Australian educator.

Bottom line: Those of us in leadership carry a great burden of responsibility. We at times must make difficult and sometimes painful decisions. Adding voices to that decision-making can generate even more challenging processes to negotiate. However, we will make more sustainable decisions for “better futures” if we bring those most affected (or most experienced or insightful) to the table. Whenever possible. That’s the gain of collaborative conversations – working together toward shared vision and shared ownership.

Stay engaged in your workplace. Don’t entertain indifference. Stay in the conversation. You can make a difference.

*King Arthur’s Round TableHow Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations by David Perkins – an Executive Book Summary

**Troubling Invisible Barriers to Better Futures: Surfacing the “Five Languages of War” in the Workplace – a scholarly paper by Heather Davis, presented at the 14th International Conference on Thinking

Leadership Lessons from King Arthur – a Review of Harvard Professor David Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table

The Five Literacies of Global Leadership – What Authentic Leaders Know and You Need to Find Out – by David Hames – Business Book Summary

The Perils of Indifference – a Speech by Elie Wiesel

How to Lead When Change is the New Normal – Emer Coleman

The Art of Collaboration (Collaborative Behaviors) – by Steve Dale (includes a SlideShare)

Collaboration: What Does It Really Mean? – Carlos Dominguez

What Is a Coaching Conversation? from Opening the Door to Coaching Conversations by Linda Gross Cheliotes and Marceta Fleming Reilly 

Cutting Through the Hype – What “Collaboration” Really Means – ThoughtFarmer.com

5 Choices You’ll Regret Forever – Travis Bradberry

Monday Morning Moment – Social Capital – an Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help

Photo Credit: Screen Shot – Art of Charm

I had an Aha moment recently when I discovered something had shifted in this season of my life. Social capital. To be honest, I didn’t even know what that was until a couple of weeks ago. Now, I can’t stop thinking about it and how to develop it…not for what it would benefit me personally but for what matters to me out there.

Social capital is the willingness of people to help each other. It often replaces money which people would use to buy the same help. Most ways of measuring social capital have to do with trust – people who trust that favors and help will be available when they need it will favor and help others more. Social capital is a lot like real capital. The more money a person or a society has, the easier it is to do things and the better off people are.Simple English Wikipedia

Photo Credit: IResearchNet

There is a significant difference between social capital and human capital. The Difference Between article below gives an excellent contrast. Simply put, human capital is the skillset I bring to a team or organization. Social capital involves networks or groups of people resourcing one another to achieve something they all want.

Difference Between Human Capital and Social Capital

I could be a part of a team that has enormous human capital – brilliant, gifted, visionary people – but our potential for making remarkable change would be hampered if we ignored the social capital we could bring to bear. This is the silo effect in organizations. It’s also the inner circle handicap in other parts of our lives – where we focus on our own benefit and not that of a larger society. I referred to Jeremy Writebol’s article on this here.

My experience throughout life with social capital (before even knowing what it was) has been rich and fruitful. Just a couple of examples follow:

  • Years ago when I worked in a cancer center in East Tennessee, we wanted a vehicle for patient and family support that would endure throughout the experience with cancer (either to cure or death). There were several on our team who brought immense human capital to the table. Fortunately we also brought the resources of many networks alongside – the patients and families themselves, a nearby university, the cancer center’s foundation, the local American Cancer Society, churches and other private benefactors, and volunteer groups. It was an amazing collaborative experience and that support program continues to this day.
  • When we were living in North Africa, and our children were in high school, I was struck by the number of musically gifted young people with no avenue to share their art. In fact, at their school as wonderful as it was, there was no parent group, no booster club of any sort, to drive projects that would benefit neither the school nor the community. This small observation grew into a much larger idea and then, with surprisingly wide-reaching social capital of parents, staff, and the students themselves, a group called Better Together was formed. Out of this group was birthed an annual visual and performing arts festival which continues today. Also out of this group, our group was able to use our social capital (our various social networks) to benefit some of the local charities as well as the overall offerings of the school itself.

Social capital can be a solid foundation for developing a service or product or opportunity that benefits many. However, it can be squandered or diminished if not nurtured over time. Social capital depends on trusting relationships.

Photo Credit: NBS

Because of several factors in my own life – relocating geographically, job changes, and a series of other personal hurdles – I have let some of my social capital go cold. This happened in a season when I’m probably most aware of the enormous potential for deep, broad-reaching networking opportunities.

I just haven’t focused there lately…

Until now.

Recently I discovered Jordan Harbinger online. He writes and podcasts for a website called The Art of Charm. To be honest, the title did not draw me in, but the content did. He invites his readers/listeners to something called a social capital challenge. I signed on.

It’s not a fluffy challenge, I can assure you. In fact, it is supposed to be finished in a month, and I’m still stuck on Week 1. However, be assured, I WILL PREVAIL.

The first challenge is settling on a written goal of improving my social capital (and sharing it publicly). Here my personal struggle is deciding which of the many areas of benefiting others I’d like to land. If you are part of my now smaller social networks, you’ll hear more about this in the coming days. I’m going to need your social capital at play…and I’m confident we can accomplish more and Better Together.

What are your experiences with social capital? Your stories? Your thoughts on developing social capital? I would love to hear, in the Comments section below.

Social Capital Challenge – The Art of Charm

Jordan Harbinger – The Art of Charm – Twitter

Social Capital – IResearchNet

Measuring Social Capital – A Systematic Review – Prepared by Moses Acquaah, Kwasi Amoako-Gyampah and Nceku Q. Nyathi 

The Whuffie Factor – Tara Hunt

Photo Credit: Amazon

Hollens Family Christmas, a Music Contest, and a World of Collaboration

Photo Credit: Deseret News

One of the great joys of the long dark month of December (talking Northern Hemisphere here) is the music. There is so much gorgeous Christmas-related music that lights up our lives and warms our hearts – both sacred and secular. One album released this year is especially winsome to me because it incorporates multiple sweet elements. It is Hollens Family Christmas and I wanted to share a few particulars about why I bought it.

I didn’t know Peter Hollens until our son Nathan told us he was submitting a cover of one of Hollens’ songs for a music contest. Still, until his arrangement was published and the competition results were announced, I didn’t pay much attention.

Until yesterday…

Peter Hollens is a YouTuber, an acapella singer, and collaborator. All of things parts of who he is resonate with me. So now, I guess I’m a part of the Hollens Family…more a distant relative compared to being a part of the Beyond the Guitar family…but definitely won by the winsomeness of this other musician, Peter Hollens.

[Sidebar: one more sweet bit of trivia about him is that he is married to Evynne Hollins who was co-founder of the University of Oregon women’s acapella group Divisi. She and the group Divisi are featured in the book and later film Pitch Perfect. Clearly Evynne and Peter make beautiful music together.]

Back to yesterday…I had forgotten about Nathan’s arrangement submission for the music competition. Peter Hollens had sponsored this contest offering the grand prize of a collaboration with him on a future music project. Yesterday the results were announced.

Nathan didn’t win… There were 600 contestants who had submitted covers for Hollens’ composition December Song. Nathan landed in the top 17. We’re proud of him.

Not surprisingly for you who know me/read this blog, I listened to Nathan’s arrangement of December Song before even listening to Peter Hollens’ own version. The melody was so beautiful…wow!Photo Credit: YouTube

Searching on YouTube, I found Peter Hollens’ official version of the song….and we bought the album. Just like that.

A Pentatonix Christmas was our 2016 Christmas album…but now it has to share the spot with Hollens Family Christmas. Acapella and more.

Besides the beauty of Hollens’ music, his inclusion of others and his joyful exuberance are so winsome to me. December Song is a celebration of the Christmas message of “peace on earth, good will toward all”. It also expresses the longing for that to continue past this season…this season of Christmas.

Peter Hollens, in his own way, owns that desire through his many collaborations…lavishing love on and delight in others through the medium of music.

We see that in Nathan with his krue.tv family. No fans here. Family.Photo Credit: Pinterest

“to Silent Nights
Holy Nights
And Angels Singing
Lullabies and
Heaven and Nature
Singing Good Will To All… To All”*

December Song arranged by Nathan Mills

*Lyrics by Peter Hollens and Anna Gilbert (lyric video)

Hollens Family Christmas Album

 

Monday Morning Moment – On Silos and Tribalism – Taking “Us” and “Them” to a Better “We”

Blog - Silos & TribalismPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

“Silos”, as a workplace term, is such a fitting description for what we do to distinguish ourselves from each other. It means compartmentalization based on specialization. Now the term “silos” is less used, replaced by the cooler term “tribes”. Unfortunately, because the workplace woes of old are still in operation, “tribes” have deteriorated into “tribalism” or…[Hello] “silos”.

I began thinking about this again this weekend when a retweet came up in my Twitter feed featuring Gianpiero Petriglieri. So much organizational resource – money and time – is spent on specialization and grooming leaders. It’s a pity when the outcome actually draws down the organization ( to small pockets of “tribal buddies”) instead of honing expertise and relationships across departments, across disciplines.Blog - Silos and Tribalism

What if we could break down silos, and reorient and reenergize tribes? What if workplace tribes incorporated a grand plan that nurtured inclusion – creating “a rising tide that lifts all boats” (Adam Grant)?

Years ago, when I was a young instructor at Yale University, I experienced workplace silos. There were bottlenecks through which I had to maneuver, until I figured out how to win those beyond the bottlenecks. Since then silos have been a part of life for me, as I’m sure they are for us all. Oncology nursing had a different prestige than critical care nursing. Was one better than the other? No.

Working in the Middle East had its own set of challenges different from working in Europe. Does that mean one elicits greater respect or benefits than another? Of course not. Right? Communication between those in the field and those in the home office can also become very much an “us” and “them” transaction.  Even within the home office, one department may seem more the “flavor of the month” than another. What are your silo/tribe challenges?

Brilliant business writers can give us great tools and insight with breaking down silos (see fast reads in the links below). If you are anticipating a major change in your organization (buy-out, down-sizing, shift in focus/product line), it makes for a perfect storm to deal with silos. Of course, if management across the organization leads out with a unifying goal (a “battle-cry”), the possibility for success is heightened. I don’t think, however, that this is the only hope for success.

What if one department, a single silo or tribe, decided to tackle the problem? What would that look like? From my work experience and from learning from great leaders, both celebrity and colleague, here’s a bare-bones minimum how-to-get-started list:

  • What is your common goal as an organization? What is the clear unified rallying cry around which you can collaborate?
  • What are your own silo biases? Do you communicate that you think your department, location, specialization should have some sort of favor? Deal with that. It’s the first barrier that has to come down.
  • If trust has been disrupted or destroyed, who can you partner with to begin to rebuild trust? Name them, and begin the process (if you pray, you might begin praying for their success as a department/division – make it NOT about you).
  • What objectives can you establish as a department to guide you in staying focused on high-value collaboration across-specialties?
  • How will you measure the course of your action toward becoming a non-silo, less tribal department? Set a time. 6 months or across whatever acute crisis you see coming. Be as intentional and broad-reaching as you are able, given your own workload. Remember that silos alter the math in a workplace – 1 + 1 + 1 = 2 when teams aren’t sharing information and working at cross-hairs. We can make the math work better, as we work, against the flow, toward creative collaboration. 

My professional life has had various silo experiences, from teaching in an Ivy League university to working on a highly innovative team (recklessly creating its own brilliant unintentional silo, later with personal regret). Silos and workplace tribes never get us where we want to go collectively. Bring ’em down.

I would love to hear about your work experiences…any struggles, breakthroughs, or victories in this area of breaking down silos and building a culture of “Yes, WE can…together.”

Blog - Organizational CUlture - Lencioni book Silos, Politics & Turf WarsPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars – A Leadership Fable about Destroying the Barriers that Turn Colleagues into Competitors

Silos and Tribes – Think Different

17 Strategies for Improving Collaboration – from the Freiberg’s – Do Not Miss This One.

How to Build Trust and Fight Tribalism to Stimulate Innovation

Breaking Bad – Squash Silos & Tribalism – Breakthrough Personal Branding

Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs by Bill Hybels

Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Adaptability – The Very Human Side of These Business Processes

Blog - Effectiveness vs. Efficiency

Photo Credit: digital-knowledge.nl.dikn/en

I will never forget when an elder statesman in an organization (both dear to me) was “let go”, so to speak, because of a need for more “bang for the buck”. The expression was so toxic then and still carries a deep pain. It speaks to the tension between efficiency and effectiveness, and the pressing need for adaptability as our world rapidly changes. At the same time, we have to remember, in almost all situations, it’s people in the mix of these business processes.

Efficiency is a good thing. However, it must be secondary to effectiveness. Effectiveness is primary always. How best to assure both is to build an organizational culture of adaptability.

Tom Coyne has defined effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability brilliantly in a published 2-page pdf*. Here they are:

“Effectiveness measures the extent to which the results you have achieved match your goals.” Strategy leaders set those goals, and the goals determine who does the work, when, where, and how.

“Efficiency measures the amount of scarce resources used to obtain the results achieved.” His use of the term “scarce resources” is thought-provoking. When we focus on efficiency – getting the most benefit from the least resources – we can lose our objective. Resources are precious. Full-stop. Whether they are people, time, or finances. We must consider how we spend resources always, and especially when they are scarce.  However, if we miss the mark on our objective because we misspent our resources or allocated them unwisely, then we paid for efficiency with effectiveness. A poor transaction.

Gen. McChrystal, speaks to this, in his book Team of Teams (more about this book follows). He puts a captivating twist on it in his challenge: “If I told you that you weren’t going home until we win—what would you do differently?” We can’t focus primarily on efficiency when effectiveness is the outcome we desire. Adaptability is really what will get us to where we want to go.

Adaptability measures the change in Effectiveness and Efficiency for a given level of change in the agent or organization’s environment…One of our great failings as human beings is our reluctance to acknowledge the full implications of living in a world of complex adaptive systems. The causes of yesterday’s success are impossible to fully understand, and unlikely to be replicable to the same extent in the futureWe naturally try to succeed again in the future, using the approach that worked in the past, with frequently disappointing and occasionally fatal results.”

Coyne goes on to write about how to work these processes out toward business and employee/team success in a changing world.

Good stuff to know and implement.

Early on in my career, one of the mantras I heard repeatedly was this:

“The three most important things to learn in your work is flexibility…flexibility…flexibility.”

That later changed, in company vernacular, to “fluidity” x 3. The only problem was the temptation to decide for myself what was fluidity/flexibility and what was not. This is where silos and self-interest evolve when we’re not even aware, until we find ourselves not being successful (effective/efficient). In the very work we’ve immersed ourselves in for years…working hard, but not working as smart as we could have. [I know, that hurts – and it will take more than efficiency gurus to bring us out of such a predicament healthy.]

It is possible to turn the ship around…and it takes a whole crew.

Decentralized, empowered teams. Trust. Transparency and collaboration in decision-making. Broad information-sharing. Ownership in real time not just in philosophy. Bringing down silos and working together to nurture an organizational culture where we expect change and thrive in it.

What focus yields a win-win in our workplace? Both from the human side and the business side of performance and organizational culture. What can we do to enhance our business processes – whether we are in management or on the frontlines of our organization?

The following quotes should help to stir thinking. They are out of the book Team of Teams by retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, currently with The McChrystal Group.

“In complex environments, resilience often spells success, while even the most brilliantly engineered fixed solutions are often insufficient or counterproductive.”  – Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams

“In place of maps, whiteboards began to appear in our headquarters. Soon they were everywhere. Standing around them, markers in hand, we thought out loud, diagramming what we knew, what we suspected, and what we did not know. We covered the bright white surfaces with multicolored words and drawings, erased, and then covered again. We did not draw static geographic features; we drew mutable relationships—the connections between things rather than the things themselves.” – Gen. McChrystal, Team of Teams

[Sidebar: I had the great pleasure of writing for such a team over the last 3 years. It was a privilege to see that level of creativity and collaboration, in a team of equals, birthing a workplace initiative in sync with a changing world. Amazing experience.]

“Specifically, we restructured our force from the ground up on principles of extremely transparent information sharing (what we call “shared consciousness”) and decentralized decision-making authority (“empowered execution”).” – Gen. McChrystal, Team of Teams

“In a resilience paradigm, managers accept the reality that they will inevitably confront unpredicted threats; rather than erecting strong, specialized defenses, they create systems that aim to roll with the punches, or even benefit from them. Resilient systems are those that can encounter unforeseen threats and, when necessary, put themselves back together again.”  – Gen. McChrystal, Team of Teams

View your leadership as being less about giving top-down orders and more about cultivating those who follow you, empowering them to make the right decisions. Many leaders are tempted to lead like a chess master, striving to control every move, when they should be leading like gardeners, creating and maintaining a viable ecosystem in which the organization operates.This is especially applicable to private sector leaders; the world is moving too quickly for those at the top to master every detail and make every decision. Empowering, cultivating, and ultimately serving those who follow you will unlock massive potential within your organization, allowing you to solve for problems in real time.” – Gen. McChrystal, Forbes.com

*Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Adaptability – The Three Keys to Performance Measurement

Effectiveness Before Efficiency

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

The Power of Business Process Improvement: 10 Simple Steps to Increase Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Adaptability by Susan Page

GoodReads Team of Teams Quotes

Stanley McChrystal: What The Army Can Teach You About Leadership

Gen. Stanley McChrystal: Adapt to Win in the 21st Century

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal

Blog - Efficiency and Adaptability - General McChrystalPhoto Credit: Forbes.com