Lean and Agile Stockport - Benjamin P Taylor - five core practices for effective organisation
8:56AM Jul 14, 2021
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Looks like I see that we've started recording. Fantastic. Everyone wants to go on on mute while we get going. And also, if you don't want to be part of the recording you will not to be seen on screen. And please close your camera down. And tonight Welcome to lean agile UK. It's fantastic to have you here. Tonight we've got Benjamin p Taylor, a systems thinker, eminent systems thinking and discussing of systems thinking and complexity. So one who I became aware of through my work at Stockport Council, through my friends there in similar groups alongside Benjamin and you know, adding to all the discourse about public services, public service transformation, and systems thinking so on. Benjamin's a part of public service transformation Academy, got fingers in quite a few pies. systems of complexity theory are his main topics. Part of the good governance Institute, runs a Facebook group and contributes heavily to a Facebook group. I'm a member of the ecology of systems thinking which brings up all sorts of very interesting subjects, and systems community of inquiry. So lots of channels of discourse and research and learning. And you put yourself out all over the places and the boy, which he only just dawned on me very recently was was an anagram of obviously insane, and I did a little, what else could it be could be rancid bile, or tear noblis or noblis. And then I landed on learn to your
that's pretty good. Thank you for not doing rental boy, which is the other alternative.
And so we welcome you today to talk to our community on the five core practices in effective organisations. So thank you.
Brilliant, thanks, man. I didn't know of those collections. That's really that's really nice, nice to hear. And really great summary of stuff that I do. So yeah, I'm going to talk about called leadership practices. And this is really just going I'll make these available in a PDF that no doubt can be shared on the meetup after the session. And this is really just what Matt just talked about, I run a consultancy RedQuadrant mostly in public services, not for profit, social enterprise vsta. And I'm a director of systems and complexity, an organisation which is the UK systems thinking practitioner body and we have now launched the level seven systems thinking apprenticeship, a postgraduate UK, England, and maybe Wales or England apprenticeship. But it's going to gonna start taking people on to various providers in a few months time. So that's, that's pretty exciting. And many other things very happy to connect antler boy, as Matt said. So that's the end of the credentials and links and things. Well, perhaps until the end, I might sneak one in the corner, remember. And so I'm going to talk about five core practices. But I just want to put this up to sort of introduce, and I'm not going to be heavy on systems theory today. And this is kind of this kind of looks a bit fancy, maybe. And it's somewhat theoretical. But it's not really that complicated. You know, it's a, it's a handy thing to work on. And I make no claim that this is the fundamental truth or anything like that. But I've found it to be quite useful and quite reliable, to think about humans having six core needs. And this does come from loads of loads of different sources. And I'll explain some of them. Maybe as I go, but I have to admit, the Tony Robbins, who is is not my guru, but you know, he's a, he's an interesting guy. He seems to have encapsulated this, this version, the best. So you know, I'm not sure if that's exactly where I got it from, or we'd like to admit that but but there it is. But he says that the humans have six core needs. And I say that is a useful way of thinking about it. We need certainty and comfort, sameness, predictability, stability, and we need uncertainty and variety, and stimulation and all of those kinds of things. And I could talk about a lot of systems theory around that I could talk about t boss Gutowski, who wrote this fantastic book, The joy list economy, the psychology of human satisfaction and consumer dissatisfaction. But you know, that balance between certainty and comfort and uncertainty and variety, and I would love to talk about that in Lean and Agile if you want to ask me questions later. And by the way, I'm gonna act tivities to do today. So feel free to chip in maybe in the chat initially with questions, but I'll keep pausing to stop for questions and conversation, then there's the need for love, belonging and connection being part of something, but also the need for significance and uniqueness. on that one, I'll just, I'll just make a note that one great way to meet your needs for love connection and belonging and significance and uniqueness is to join and outside the group, because then you have a group, but you're also defined by the group is different from the from the norm. So I guess we all have a little bit of that if we've all kind of pushed ourselves into these spaces of the kind of work that we do. And then if you if you can meet those, we need it, we have a need for personal growth, and for contribution to the world. So inward and outward, good referencing that inward and outward growth. And I say that because there's a really good amount of systems theory that talks about very similar needs in organisational life. So this table on the right and effectively, you know, organisations need both homogenization need homogenization and stability, they need sameness, they need enough predictability to continue to be an organisation. And that meets the need for certainty and comfort and certain that need contributes to it, if you see what I mean, there's a there's a circular relationship, organisations also need to differentiate and increase their ability to adapt and prospect in the environment.
They also need to integrate, they need we need people to feed and support each other to moderate our behaviours in the service of the whole to subscribe to a bigger a bigger vision, bigger picture. And organisations need human beings to individualise and maximise their autonomy, and huge amount of good systems theory, good, lean, good agile, is all geared to that balance of human needs and organisational needs. And of course, if our organization's are good enough stability, and enough variety, enough integration, and enough individuation, then we also get, you know, lots of rich learning and growth and lots of contributions of value in the world. I say all of this to sort of put into context, some very practical things that I'm about to get onto now. Because, you know, I love the viable system model. I love thinking about patterns in organisation and all the rest. But one of the things that I also like in Lean and Agile, I keep referring to it, maybe we'll get into some deeper conversations, but it depends what you as a group wants is practices. And the actual, you know, what I mean by practice is something that we make a commitment to, that we regularly practice at. And by the nature of a practice. The point is that you're, it's not whether you're good or bad at it, it's that you are practising doing the thing. And that something will arise from that underlying practices are often theories or core principles. But very often you want to focus more on the practice, and getting into working on the practice than you do. Because that's what people can grasp. So, you know, I'm not a big toolhead, as john seven would say, I'm not a big fan of, you know, the tools are the answer. But actually, practices are a way to get people into patterns of behaviour. And that's what you know, organisation is all about. So before I get into the five core practices themselves, I'll pause and say, does that make any sense there any questions, any comments, anything that people want to sort of chip in on that?
that resonates with me around the sort of the idea that you've, you know, if we're looking to learn and growth, you can't think your way into new behaviours, but the practice might help us behave our way into new into growing and learning new ways of thinking. So that sort of maybe after and the fact that you can also then relate to your environment and context by you can do the same thing. But the result can be different depending on your context.
Yes, yes, definitely. Definitely. Cool. Anybody else? All right. And so the practices themselves have been boiled down, over, you know, I've been doing organisational change for most of my career one way or another 24 years so far, I guess mostly in gnarly, complex public services. And we found that these five not necessarily in this order, but possibly in this recommended in this order, as a good starting point. are things that are generous practices, by which I mean that they're really good for beginners. And they're really good for highly sophisticated levels of adult development post conventional kind of people as well. So when we go into organisations and do leadership and organisational development quotes, transformation, we often start with honest conversations. And a lot of this is from people like our Jewish. And you might see under productive conversations, you might see it under difficult conversations. The fundamental point here is that if you are not able to have conversations that try to get a shared truth, and that are capable of surfacing making discussable, fantastic book by Bill noon, and discussing the undiscussables he can ever get your hands on that, or ever do a session with Bill, it's brilliant. And so if you can't surface or make discussable, both the reasoning, but the, the the analytic analytics behind the people's opinions and perspectives, and the emotions that are such a big part of organisational life, then you're not going to get very far, if you can't have honest conversations you can't get very far. But notice, I don't just say honesty, and I make this a practice of honest conversation, because one of the biggest double binds in organisational life is saying we're an honest organisation. And because as soon as you say an honest organisation, you make it undiscoverable if somebody is not being honest in the organisation, and the more you make that and discussable, the more dishonest you're being, the more cognitive dissonance you're generating. So that's one of the reasons why I'm dead against publishing statements of values, behaviours, principles, submit all my favourite violence, still do it. But that's life. So a practice of honest conversations. And by the way, when you introduce honest conversations into an organisation, and I'll just I'll give you some samples of the practices, we actually use data. And you get this form, this kind of little bit of explosion as if there's a match to petrol. Actually, apparently, matches don't like petrol, but you get the idea. And because you know, the stuff that's been under discussable, you suddenly turning over rocks and surfacing things. And it is the same if you introduce really good, rigorous agile practices is the same if you push people into thinking about Lean operations. And an important point is to hold the space to use that kind of corny word that to make people understand that the relationships continue, even if there's conflict is needed in the practice of honest conversations. So and again, making this a practice making this something that you keep coming back to that you have processes for that you have tools for. I'm sure there's lots more I can say about that.
Let me move on. This is so much of my life And so much of the organisation the life of people that I've worked with. Now it says my internet connection is unstable, that's really annoying if I start cussing out my apologies, blame Virgin Media, can put a man near space and all of that, but they can't give me my 350 megabyte broadband. And so, so much of my life And so much of organisational life has been a reaction against constraining micromanagement, or so called command and control. Think command and control is a terrible Boogeyman for people to blame. If you actually think about command and control, what it really means. It's a well worked through leadership management doctrine originated in the US Navy, but it's all about maximising discretion at the front line to act within known boundaries that don't destroy the cohesion of the whole organisation. So you know, I think command and control would be a great thing if any of my clients got close to it, frankly. And what they have is a mishmash of negative constricting micromanagement, and an attempt to react against that, that frees up and, and just makes people unable to have real good clarifying conversations with each other. So clarity practices, is ways to build clarity of relationships, roles, tasks, programmes, all of those kinds of things. And again, when you bring this into an organisation that doesn't have clarity, you get this little mini explosion of kind of frustration and anger and you know, two people were trying to manage the same person and they've never really had it out. And now they have to sort it out and they have to draw some lines. And a lot of this is about giving people freedom within frames discretion within boundaries. I go by the Elliot Jack's definition of work. Work is the exercise of discretion. Within boundaries to a purpose. And so, you know, arguably with zero boundaries, it's very hard to know what the what the right work is to do without clarity of purpose, it's really hard as well. And I believe in self organisation. Only in organisational terms if you have incredible rigour and shared understanding. First, when I set up my consultancy, we tried to do what we call total football with Dutch national team in the 1970s, a total football in theory where, you know, everybody adjusted to everybody else, if the left defender was able to lead an attack, he was capable of leading an attack, and the sense of it was capable, capable of dropping into left back, and everybody could rearrange themselves on the pitch. Two things about that. One is, although it was a beautiful game that they played, and they were glorious losers in several World Cups, it's not really true, it was really a team built around a few superstar players, and giving them the flexibility to move around the pitch and boss, the game and so on. And the second thing is that every player trained for years in every position on the pitch more or less, so I don't know if people remember Marco of Ambassador star striker of my childhood, he played for two years as a centre back. And that gave him an advantage as an attacker but made him more of a flexible adaptive player around the pitch. When we started my consultancy RedQuadrant, we said we're going to, we're going to be a total football organisation. We were only able to hire very inexperienced Junior people for our office stuff. We've always used independent experts for the consultancy, but we will hire these bright nice, great people. And it was like school yard football. The ball was there. 22 players were over there, right? Because nobody had the discipline. Nobody had the boundaries. Nobody had the clarity of their role and their their position on the pitch. And so clarity is actually an unnecessary corrective, I think, to a lot of people who take something like adaptive leadership, or complex complexity, and some of its more simplistic phrases and say, Hey, man, we're just going to be self organising. Well, yeah, okay, maybe piracy might heresy might be a good idea. And it might help. And so literally exam, I know, I'll come I'll come to an example when I get into conversations. So you get that explosion, you got to hold the space again. The third thing is learning practices. So learning practices probably should be fairly well known to you all, it's really about trying to generate learning, I would say,
three, triple loop level, learning how to do things better, learning how to think about the situation and choose what to do better, and learning that reframes and rethink our identity. And I hope you can see how it's very hard to have learning without honest conversations. If you're not able to really get at the truth, get at the reasoning get at the emotions, then you're not going to learn very much, you're gonna have weird, crazy learning conversations. But also, if you don't have clarity, if you're like, well, this project failed, let's do some learning, or this project was brilliant, let's do some learning. And he said, Well, we won't be trying to learn what did we try and set out to do in the first place? What was our hypothesis? What was our goal? Well, we weren't really very clear about that. Okay, then what can we really learn, and you're not learning about the whole process of intention through to action, you might learn about what happened to work, what happened to fail in the moment, but and then you don't have any process to recreate that unless you've got some clarity in the first place. So a load of learning in our organisations all the time again, and again, and again, it's very boring is when we weren't really clear what we wanted, or what we were planning to do, or what the boundaries were and all the rest. It's also incredibly disempowering. Just to go back to clarity for a second, if somebody gives you a task, it doesn't tell you what the boundaries of your discretion are. And so you know, if you don't know the boundaries, your discretion, you're highly likely to go away and do loads of work, come back at the deadline, and be told, well, you only did you know, you don't need to look this way. I thought you were a creative person. I thought you were supposed to be innovative, or to say, Why the hell did you do that? I didn't give you authorization to speak to that supplier and that partner and this other bit of the organisation, I just wanted you to do the bloody job, you know. And so, boundaries, clarity are important. If you have all of those three things that generates what I think a Khurram who is, I think it might be shorts. In the Fifth Discipline field book, which I can recommend infinitely more highly than Fifth Discipline itself. talks about shared relationship systems have meaning. So if you have honest conversations, clarity and learning, you start to build actual organisation and you create what I would call a learning system. The other two practices are culture, if you are able to actively shape culture that creates the conditions where people are productive. By that, I mean, people are able and willing to give their full discretionary efforts. And I use a model of culture that's drawn from systems leadership theory, that may talk about that productive culture, as driven by the emotional responses to behaviour of leaders, use of symbolism in the organisation, and the experience of the mode of organisational systems. So it's the core gut response to those three things that drives do I give a toss about turning up, and I'm actually able to freely be myself, and the learning, honest conversations, clarity all contributes to that, as we'll get to, if we have time, but I'm, I'm aware, I'm talking too much. If you have that productive culture, you get a productivity system. The fifth, core practice is intent, having a good and clear intent. And my definition of that is measuring and delivering what matters to citizens or customers. That's all thing that I will do a brief dip into now. And that gives you a purposeful system that can actually achieve things in the world. If you have that. What I what you need to see probably there's a sort of distinction in type between practices for honest conversations, clarity and learning, which are interpersonal, individual group, and culture and intense which are more organizationally focused, let's say, both culture and intent are nice, because they give you self correcting measures. And so you know, this this system, if that's what it is, doesn't dictate what will make a productive culture. it dictates that leaders principally having the responsibility for shaping culture,
need to take on the responsibility for starting to understand that slow complex loop between the behaviours they exhibit the symbolism, and the systems they set up, and the results they get back from the people in the organisation. Similarly, if you measure what actually matters to citizens or customers, and what matters to systems or customers changes, or turns out to be something you hadn't even considered, then if you've got good measures, you started to track that and actually change and do what matters, rather than, you know, pressing on and hitting the target. But missing the point. I talked a little bit about holding the space and Dave Sloan's a particularly big fan of that phrase. And we find that in the in the organisational development practice of introducing this, we use this is called, I'll just pop onto it here, intervention priority sequencing from a woman called Patricia Clarkson, who was a kind of a kind of wacky, psycho analyst and the group, dynamic person from the 70s to 2000. So called intervention priority sequencing. Her point is simply that if there's danger in the system, or confusion or conflict or deficits, then unless you work through them, usually in that order of priority, you will never get to development. And then and then the ability to really do do the work. And, and my point is you don't have to solve the problems. And so to go back to oops, to go back to this, if there's an honest conversation, let me give you an example. We facilitated a leadership team, an Engineering Leadership Team. And basically, one of the team senior team members had taken paid time off, to do something that of citizen service that have been encouraged by the Chief Executive of the organisation. But the director, the direct boss of this guy, and had desperately wanted him to be in a management meeting. And on the day when he took paid time off, and frankly, thought that he was just swinging the lead, taking the opportunity to get paid time off, he kind of got double, double double, by doing this kind of community service thing. And, and the other guy thought that, well, you know, I'm doing community service, the chief executive supported it. So why don't you Anakin Why the hell is the director giving me giving me grief, but they hadn't actually confronted each other over the conversation. So we facilitated them to do a left hand column exercise and more skillfully say what they were thinking and feeling but not saying and there was a big, there was quite a big route, but it was contained, it was managed. And then I took them both for lunch and we went through it there and they never solved it. They didn't fix it. They didn't come to agreement about it, but they processed it. They talked about it. They It surface that it was honest, they weren't holding it in anymore. Things got back to normal. And specifically, when I asked Alan, the senior engineer, but not the director, how he felt about how the way his boss had responded to and taking the time off. He said, Well, you know, normally, I sit in here and work till six, seven o'clock at night to get the job done. But last night, after he said, after he, you know, raised an eyebrow, and was was touching about me taking that pay time off, I thought, fuck him, I'm going home. So you couldn't get a better example of discretionary effort and the withdrawal of discretionary effort when the emotional responses is negative. Okay, and so I will just pause there, when will I post there, let me just show you some examples. So what I thought now is I'd stop and see if we have a chance. And I can go into all of these are any of these unique or original, some of them have a bit of a spin on them. But none of these are truly original. Maybe the three box model is something I can almost more or less claim. But but these are curated practices. So I could go into any of these conversations, honestly, why is that not saying honesty, honesty, practices, clarity practices, or learning practices. And so you know, one by one, I might drop into them. And I can also go into the culture shaping, and the good and clear intent, that sort of measures of purpose. But I'll stop questions, answers, comments, anything else. And then we'll do a request tour, where you can ask me to dip into one of these tools at a time to give you give you an example. How does that sound?
Another I've talked a lot, I've covered a lot of ground, lots of links, in my mind are the throwing yours? Is it making sense? Does it sound practical? Do you have objections to it? That would be my most interesting thing today, if you've got problems with what I'm saying.
All sounds very recognisable to me so far. Although your approaches to them as listed as listed here. I'm not aware of many of these things. As practice that I've employed, often though, in some of the techniques that I use, I find have been the names have been changed, but the
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. If you've ever used them, if you've ever used the liberating structures, you'll be familiar with that. Yep. Absolutely. They're all something else with the name change.
Yes. Yeah. So yeah, and I we um, we've run sessions that when we were back in person, we've run sessions on those things as well. So yeah, cool.
And in Carol's asked for triple loop learning, I can go into that. Oh, and Allah disaster, the ground rules. All right, we've got a nice list. Any other comments, queries, observations on what I've said so far.
And being the one that you said the seems to be original from you three box model would be great, it's
brilliant, brilliant, I'm just gonna make myself a note. Cool, that probably, that'll probably take a bit of time. So in it, alright, so I'll just talk about triple loop learning. Triple loop learning comes to two of my heroes are Julius and Bateson who came to in different ways from from different perspectives. And this, this is based on this is an oversimplified model. And just to be really clear, and that says that the results we get are shaped by our actions, which are shaped by our thinking, which is shaped by our identity. And so there's there's that there's a four level system there. The words of the bottom are important. Again, you know, you don't learn unless you're able to see the pattern. To some extent, you can you can, you can pick up random things, but I think it's not what Andreas would call real learning. And if you innovation requires changing the rules, not just doing something better. And so the point is here that you can learn at three different loops. And we are very bad at practices that build on this but there are there are good reflective practices if you look at it it's a it's a really interesting read was quite a deep book to get this one thing out. But if you look at actually inquiry by Bill Tolbert, and you will see or if you google collaborative developmental action inquiry, which is a an article that he wrote for the cybernetics journal, this there's a good stuff there. And you can just ask people questions that these three levels to engender opportunities for triple loop learning. So the first level of learning is right, we did something wrong, we're going to do it better. Therefore we change our behaviour, we hope we get better results. Hopefully that makes sense, right? You know, change the code, and change the way we run the production line, whatever it may be. And the second thing is change our thinking, reframe our understanding of the problem itself. And so the example I usually use to illustrate this is the fire service. Over the years, the fire service got really, really good. And better and better and better at dragging people out of burning buildings at the mat chose saving people and kind of saving lives. And after a while, somebody thought, wouldn't it be better if the houses didn't go on fire in the first place? and couldn't we think about prevention? Right? So they started to, you know, in the old days, hack down, fire breaks between, between wooden houses and things, things like that. So that's a that's a second loop learning, arguably, these are all arguable. And over time, as fire officers started to do more prevention work, and it became more normal for them to be going into old lady's homes, and testing the battery in the smoke alarm, because that's one of the best things you can do to prevent that in house fires. And they started to change their identity from just the kind of macho heroic saviours literally firefighting, let me just made that point, if that analogy wasn't already obvious, to going upstream, doing the prevention, and their identity began began to be
harm prevention, rather than firefighting. So then, while they're in old people's homes, checking the smoke alarm, they can look, you know, are they wearing the slippers on dodgy stairs? And is that a tripping slip hazard? Have they got a co2 monitor next to the fire alarm? Do they look like they're in food poverty, or in heat poverty, and you get a different identity coming out? So you know, those are the three loops of learning, if you're going into a system to change a system, just to give you an illustration of how this kind of works. And, you know, if you work in public services, and so if you're trying to combat child poverty, or something like that, you start to understand very quickly that the outcomes come out of complex adaptive systems, not what we deliver, and we spend our money on. And if you then think I tried to get clarity about your identity, in intervening in this system, what are our principles? What are the things we want to do? And then appreciate the system? What's working in the system? What are the strengths and assets? What are the opportunities for improvement, then intervene and try and shape it to get better outcomes, encourage it to get better outcomes, then learn from it? And then you've got triple loop learning for yourself, you know, can we build better interventions? Can we understand and frame the system differently? And can we see our identity in the system differently, and the system has a chance of learning at those triple loop levels as well. So this in practice terms, could be as simple as when you do a retrospective, don't just ask what went well, and what we're in right in our actions? And ask, how will we seeing the situation? Was there some way that we could have re conceptualised the situation? And then ask what does it look? So I'm trying to jump to slides as I'm typing 16 minutes that I want slide 16 on the screen rather than in the chat, and then ask, what does this say about us and who we are and who we need to be in this situation? So in or anybody else does that? Does that satisfy? Does that seem like a good explanation of triple loop learning?
Oh, good in the chat. So I was I was waiting. Great. Great. Great. All right. So ground rules for alatt. So ground rules comes from Schwartz, I think this is listed in the Fifth Discipline field, what was good od thing. Now, this is not your facilitators, ground rules, where the slightly facetious trainer invites you to say things like let's all be honest and open with each other and then writes them on a flip chart, never to be referred to again, this is a set of rules about how to have productive conversations in an organisation ties in with brandy Brown, who will who I'll mention in a minute. So basically, if a leadership team, particularly or any team any productive team team with aspirations to productivity and they might be long routes productivity, is you might be working out some of our personal issues first, but it'll get it'll be worthwhile commits to this, then you're starting to have honest conversations. So this is an honest conversations practice. It says that we commit to testing our assumptions and inferences, not letting wishy washy thinking go by. And not just assuming that we can't challenge somebody else's thinking, I'll come back to that, that we share all the relevant information that we're coming into a decision making meeting or working together in a way where we're sharing relevant information. That means that you, if you've got stinky breath, it's putting me off, that's relevant information. If I think your thinking stinks as well, then that's relevant information. This is not necessarily nicey nicey. This is building a honest, productive kind of conversation. We use specific examples. I'm sorry that John's gone, because John's a great Maven for agreeing what words mean, I think it's very important. We explain our reasoning and intense we focus on we strongly advocate for opposition, but also passionately inquire into other people's positions. And if you do that, as soon as you advocate and you say, I think this I believe we should make this acquisition. But this this and this reason, based on this, this and this data, you're actually opening yourself up to inquiry, because somebody can say, Wait, why are you selecting that data? And not this data? Because my conclusion is this, based on this analysis of different data than you're looking at, then you're into a much more productive conversation. You're all the levels of the ladder of inference, the selection of data, the interpretation of nature and the advocacy of action based on the interpretation. You're not closing yourself off into a closed loop of What's that? What's that? So called mental fallacy thing. Confirmation bias. And so you combine advocacy and inquiry, you jointly design your next steps waste test agreement, you discuss the undiscoverable. And you use a decision making rule that generates the level of commitment needed. So that means paying attention, you don't just get a blanket rule, we're going to go for majority voting, we're going to choose to move only by Concord. What's that? What's that word for that? Where everybody basically agrees Anyway, you know what I mean? You have to pay attention to it have a discussion about what would be the right level of agreement for this decision that we need to make this ties in very much to this model of the traditional versus the learning virtues? Thank you. Mac consensus? Yes, it is. Where traditionally, in organisations, we believe that supporting is approving and praising of other people saying what we think people want to hear and not not expressing any disapproval or blame. and respect means we don't challenge others reasoning processes, because we believe it would be that you know, their reasoning is so crappy, that it would be really embarrassing if we if we challenged them. And team players maintaining the appearance of alignment and not questioning the work of others. So I am going to ask you this question. type in the chat or even better come on the microphone and tell me what what are the benefits of those traditional virtues? And what are some of the costs? And if that rings true, if you've ever been in an organisation where people try to play along with those kinds of rules? avoid conflict. Yes, you avoid conflict like the plague until it snaps and then you have an incredibly unproductive conflict that you then run away from as far as you possibly can and start off with going into avoidance again, yeah. Anybody else?
social norms that dampened creativity.
That's good. Yes, exactly. Definitely. Definitely. Definitely.
I put you don't lose your job or sorry, I sort of damnation job and you keep your pension. Yes, yes. But what a miserable existence is for those last 17 years while you're waiting for the pensions governor?
Yeah, he's gonna say that this feels to me Benjamin, like a kind of obsessive in in the context of keygens. thinking this is this is socialised behaviour, you know, it's learning the activity and essentially, it's the diplomat model.
Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Well, and that comes along with a lot of suppression of self. can't cope with post conventional people, they're considered as rebels and kicked out of the organisation. What else? Yeah. All kinds of all kinds of other things like that. You end up with a lot of passive aggression, because that those feelings and that challenge doesn't go away. In fact, when you know, when it's kept in darkness, it festers, and it starts to go off a bit and you don't confront the shadow side, frankly, in terms of personal development, and you end up with people taking pot shots at each other while being extremely poor. On the surface. So one of the rules of honest conversations is that you can never, you can never have a completely dishonest conversation, because it always leaks around the edges and has implications for the framing. Or you come back to a level of disagreements in a more or less productive way. That's your only choice. Do you want productive disagreements or unproductive disagreements? And what we try and give people is a way of creating productive disagreements. an optimum level as a broom, fumble and magic size, saying Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, we demand is rigidly defined areas of clarity and disagreement. That's the secret to a lot of organisational life. And, and so the the actual, the alternative to traditional virtues, is the learning virtues, where I believe I'm supporting you better. If I helped you see gaps in your logical limits to your views and helped me see the unintended consequences of your actions. However embarrassing it is, I'm going to tell you that your baby's ugly, and that your breath smells that you flies are open, or that your plan to acquire that Greenfield site is doomed to failure, for reasons that you're in denial about. And respect is actually assuming that other people can take it, that if I tell you that you're going to take you might be you might have a reaction, but that's okay, we'll survive, you're actually going to learn and improve and become a better person, or better informed, at least as a result. And the team play is expressing your concerns and inquiring into other people's logics. And if you look at the really great, really modern stuff, from Rene Brown, braving you'll see that although this is a little bit different, if you follow boundaries, reliability, accountability, integrity, and non judgement might seem odd, but I'll come to that. And generous. might seem odd, you're building that psychological safety, where people can actually have productive conversations with each other. So non judgement and generosity might seem really strange, because non judgement is saying, I'll be safe if I be myself. And generosity is saying, I think you're is I'm okay, you're okay. generosity is you're okay, right. And I just want to I can't, I can't not talk about it, I just want to draw your attention to a fantastic practice, which is the left hand column exercise from Chris address, where very simply, you take a sheet of paper, and on the right hand side, you write the movie scripts, five or six lines is enough, or three or four of a critical conversation that you're going to have or that you've had that didn't go well, or you don't think it went well, right? They said, I said, they said, I said they said I said, and in the left hand column, you write what you thought and felt, but didn't say in that situation. So there's a nice little example here. Adam, that was an interesting presentation, do you have a minute or two before you take off to the train station? So that's a polite, you know, traditional virtue way of talking to a colleague, right. But can you hear that the hint of passive aggression behind that, right? If somebody came up to you and said, Adam, that was an interesting presentation. Do you have a minute or two before you take off the train station? You might go What a great colleague, though, is going to give me some nice feedback. Or you might go, what do you think what you you know what you what was wrong with my presentation? You bastard.
You get the you get the general kind of idea. And then Adam says, Sure, why not? I'd like to get your thoughts on the presentation anyway. Yes, we were sure you do. Adam, we show you really genuinely wants to get one to get thought he, you know, I'm overdoing the passive aggression. But the point is, if you're thinking on the left hand in the left hand column, and here we go, again, same presentation as the last three, Stan, he doesn't get it. He just talks about how he's going to manage the sites, but it doesn't build up the argument for why we should buy the site in the first place. But what comes out is that was interesting. Do you have a minute, you can see how you're avoiding saying, what's really going on just to see what I mean. And the reason why you're avoiding saying what's really going on is twofold. Right? One is the lack of, of not being non judgmental. You think if I say that, I don't think that was a good presentation. Adam will judge me. And I won't survive. Because it I can't be judged. I can't allow I'm not enough. I'm not. If I put myself out there, I'll be destroyed. Right? And the other side of it is lack of generosity. Right? And if I put it out there, Adam will be destroyed, and I will be the tyrant and destroying him. I'll be the negative one. And then our relationship won't survive, right? So if you have non judgement, I'm enough. And judgement you're enough. You're okay or sorry. And generosity, you're enough. You're okay. You can you can say these things. And by bringing it out of the left hand column and into the right hand column, unskillful at first, but then you as you practice it, you get better at it. And the evil that was in there was thriving in the darkness dissipates. Because as soon as I say something to you, as soon as I say, Adam, that was a really crap presentation, I can't believe you haven't listened to me the last three times this project is going down the drain. He might say, I know you think that, but this audience needed to hear in this way, because of this, this this, you might go Oh, yeah, of course, I didn't think of that Adam, well done. Or you might not, you get you get the you get the point here, right. So that's why the honest conversations are important. So going from one model, I love a model that just has a piece of paper where you draw a line down the middle of it, I mean, what a great practice, and a generous practice, you can you can do, as I say, at the highest levels of adult development. But that can work at lowest. So I'm just going to go on to another one. This one is 50%.
You mentioned that you do this practice with with someone before do you get them to write their own pieces of paper?
Yes, yes, yes, separately. Together. Sorry, I didn't mean to stop the whole presentation. We, there's an organisation that we work with most recently, where anytime, I mean, in my organisation, when somebody comes up to me and says, Benjamin, I've got some left hand column I want to share with you, then I know what kind of conversation I'm getting, getting into conversation we work most recently, they, they, they're getting a bit fed up of it, they're gonna start to use the principles instead of the practice. But they're constantly saying, Let's have a left hand conversation about this. And all they're setting those ground rules at the start of their decision making executive meetings. But with the practice was, first of all, bringing people into the room, and having them practice in coaching pairs, or left hand conversations in any part of their life. At any time, Ben in organisational development mode, having them actually have left hand conversations with each other. Sometimes in the circle of a big group of people, sometimes the facilitator, etc, etc. Then they took it into their office and started having more left hand conversations, but also had the permission to come back from a meeting with you know, somebody else to say, that was really unproductive conversation I just had with with Emma, do you mind? If Can we just grab a coffee? And can I just do the left hand column thing with you? And go through it? And then they might go back to me and say, I don't think our conversation went very well. Could you mind if I if I try again? You know? Yeah, yeah. All right. So I'm going to go to 50% more sophisticated model. Now, because it's got two lines on a piece of paper. This is called the three box model. And so anytime you are delegating a task or project programme or anything to anybody else, or this is where this is quite clever, somebody else is delegating to you. It works brilliantly, just take a piece of paper and draw two lines. And in the left hand column, sorry, the left hand, watch the column on the left, and you write the non negotiables, this is just pure information, this is the must have the red lines, the requirements of this task, right. So and the must not, you know, the red lines are the must nodes. So you know, I want you to run this infrastructure project, your budget is this. And that's absolutely fixed. You know, you can't we can't spend money more than this, you must replace this legacy system, you must not touch this legacy system, because Mary will go crazy, it must have the same functionality as this, we need to solve this problem of global requirements. Right? On the right hand side is the freedom for you to act. That's your absolutely delegated authority and discretion. And that's, you know, you run the programme, you take the executive decisions, you have the authority to choose, you know, which which technology use which consultants you work with whatever else. In the middle column is the check with me the wishy washy kind of consultation stuff, where it's like, you know, I know we had that conversation with SAP, but I really wasn't convinced I know you like them. But if you're thinking of going that way, bring it back to me. And let's have a conversation about you know, whether we do that, that or that. So you end up with three columns, just the activity of doing that. Whether you're the giver, or the recipient of the programme or task or whatever it is. clarifies purpose clarifies boundaries, and it starts to give you that freedom within frames. Does that make sense? It's a powerful technique for the underling as it were. And because and it's a powerful technique for product managers, it's powerful technique for Scrum masters because it's humble. You can go back to somebody and say, just wanted to make sure we're really clear about you know what this
epic is all about. I've tried to do these kind of three things. What we free to do, what do we not free to do? Can I have five minutes to run through it with you. It's a very gentle, it's not challenging and abuse authority. It's not confrontational. It's kind of it's collaborative. The big step though, that's incredible, big step in just doing this will generate loads of clarity and more productivity and more freedom and more discretion and more satisfaction and more honesty in your organisation in which you I like it. And the big goal, though, is you work through the middle column, if at all possible, and go, what is it about this thing in the middle column? That means you can't give me complete discretion? And they'll go, Well, I don't want you to do this. Okay, well, that bit goes into the non negotiables. So if I don't do that, this bit in the check with me consultation, can it move into the delegation? The Freedom part? Is it Well, no, because I don't want to do that. Okay, that's another clarity. Now can this can this go? So you're creating clear a firm boundaries, and bigger, clearer space for distraction? I love this tool. I think it's absolutely brilliant. And it's actually derived from a sort of 19, really, really old 20th century Harvard Business Review article called something like reaching and engaging with frontline staff, which has this kind of I don't think it's got the model itself in it. But I think we developed it myself and my former business partner, Dennis burn from from that model. Any questions about that? allods? Talk about the feedback loop point.
Yeah, I was just just wondering, well, really, do you not need that? Check with me really, as part of that feedback? From an agile approach here, you know, your feedback, yeah, you can get improving. It just feels like if you're, if you're really looking to reduce or remove that you may be losing that of it
as well, that you bring, this is a really powerful point. You're absolutely right. And and it would be. So I want to sort of talk about this, then which is which, but there's a horizontal boundary of discretion. And there's a vertical boundary of discretion. Let's since the lines are down this way, in the three box model, let's call this the vertical one, right? This is the clarification of the task boundaries. But you're drawing attention to the vertical time boundaries, time box, kind of feedback loop? And the answer is you need both, or you should, in an ideal world have both right. And I often think that Scrum is almost like trying to force clarity. But partly by giving up on having good planning, it's like, well, you know, we're not, we're not really going to know what what what possible plan we can have in this chaotic world. And so we're just going to work out what's not going to do any damage and might do a hell of a lot of good in the next two weeks, then we're going to clear everything out, get on with it, deliver something. And then if it was disastrous, we haven't lost a lot. But we've learned a lot and we can move forward. It's not a bad approach. But it is abdicating a certain degree of potential clarity and planning, just to see what I mean. Whereas waterfall is trying to do this, the three box type of thing, and usually not with that great deal of clarity, because you've got your governance, things messed up as complex messy feedback loops. But with an assumption that you can plan all the way to through to the end. So I don't think either of them is sufficient. And I would prefer this than a scrum model. If I had to, if I had to make a choice. But this is, you know, the greater the clarity you have in your kind of vertical boundaries, the more effective it's going to be. And if you build in, then you know what I'm calling vertical boundaries or horizontal boundaries. And you you do a check back and say, does this is this still accurate? Is this three box model still accurate? I mean, we've done we use a fair amount of active version of Scrum, not in it at all, but in service change. And we often have this as a revisit as part of the typically the epic type type of overall goal, if that makes sense. Does that make sense?
Yeah, yeah. No, it does not. I do like the, the, the non negotiable particularly I think that's, that's missed out. Because, you know, I'm, I'm a scrum master. I work in Scrum generally. And I think, right, actually having, knowing, you know, what the what, what the shape of the box you're working in is, I think a lot. So, yeah,
yeah, yeah. And you know, there's a lot of Scrum practices, it just really good clarity practices, basically. So it's not like I'm saying this is something new or different or radically different. It's just about the value of clarity and the and the need to invest in it. And a lot of people when they get into, as I say, some versions of agile, some versions of Scrum, some versions of adaptive leadership, some versions of complexity, they think that it's that total football thing of well if we give up all the controls, and thing will self organise beautifully. And, and, you know, good luck with that. Unfortunately, that isn't my experience. Well, over a long time it will self organise beautifully and it will self organise by creating hierarchies, clarity, purpose, and all those kinds of things. Why not evolve those as you go?
Can I ask a general question? Benjamin, once again, appearing to me all the way through this is the extent to which having in in a client organisation having passed on these practices? Yeah, to what extent do they quickly stick on? To what extent do you find there is a requirement for an ongoing facilitated facilitative intervention? I can't say that was
when it works. It's really bad news for us as consultants.
Yeah, exactly. And then it doesn't mean they feel very practical. Yeah, grab that and use it tomorrow. Yeah. Is that really true?
I mean, it depends. It all depends, doesn't it? Unfortunately, you know, if you have a fairly receptive or no, if you have enough people who are receptive in an organisation, and usually an internal team, with very top level backing, who can push it, and then over about two to three years, you might get this marble throughout the entire organisation. If you have a very directive top down leader, one of my frustrations in life is that a half decent, very directive top down leader can be incredibly effective, particularly in creating self organisation, Aha. And then it can happen in a year, you know? Because it just becomes mandated. And if it's mandated in a reasonably developmental way, that that can work quite well, as well. But we, you know, I've been preaching this around organisations for many, many years. And there's very few it's fully stuck in because they've all got different focus and different priorities. But how are we doing for time? Oh, we're at the top of the hour, sitting at almost as if it was fun. I'm having to carry on for a few minutes if people want to, but I think that is our official time. As
far as our allies official time any more any more questions, I'll keep them coming in, we can we can sit down for a little while longer. But if you have any. I personally saw fantastic a fantastic introduction to some, you know, some different techniques and so on and, and sort of talking about, you know, how we relate to one another how we can enhance and grow our relations with others in organisations. And epistemic ology, epistemology? How do we know that we know things is always to be able to share with people like and some of those techniques, you talk with them, the triple loop learning and all of that sort of techniques you had on that long list that, like, try to distinguish, and have people talk about, well, what what is our opinion or our our strongly held beliefs? But how do we know that they're right or not? Yeah, how might we not cut corners off each other's opinions? It's always very useful. And so it's nice and smart. And that that last thing about, you know, something that I believe is that as a consultant, and so on, we shouldn't be making ourselves redundant. As we walk through the door, how can make ourselves you're going to leave, leaving people behind you who are confident and generally because, generally, but nice. If you've managed to do that, we'll have you back solving other problems at some point. So there's nothing to worry about.
Now. That's right. That's right. Absolutely.
So yeah, we got any more in the chat. Now. Anyone wants shouts up? I think of all the techniques described in the PDF.
Most of them, yeah, yeah.
Well, I think that only leaves us to say, Thank you very, very much Benjamin, for coming, sharing this with us. It's been a pleasure. And I know you put a lot of this content out on social media and so on. So everyone who's gathered here should absolutely follow Benjamin, and and be on the on the receiving end of all of this knowledge that he shares. It's absolutely fantastic. So yeah, thank you very much. And just to all the rest of the community, I don't think we've got anything planned. For the coming weeks, it might be a nice time to take a bit of a break for summer. And we all have a bit of time off. But as you all know, keep an eye on social media. And we'll we'll share whatever's coming next and we'll hollow and get you all back. Well, thank you again very much to Benjamin.
Everyone. been really fun. Again. Thank you. Thank you very much.