Tag Archives: collaboration

Beyond HR

This post is a summary of the talk about collaboration and change that Neil Morrison and I gave at Louisiana SHRM 2014 – on April 9th in Baton Rouge.

Preparation

Neil and I used Evernote as the place to store and share ideas as we pulled the threads of our talk together. I’ve used Evernote to share my own stuff between different devices for two years now, but this was the first project where I’ve used it as a tool for collaboration between people. We used it to share stuff at distance and to work on different elements of our talk in the same too together. It works – try it.

Another way we prepped was to get to know something new about each other, it turns out we both like table tennis. We found a table set up in Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar, and spent a great fun couple of hours trying to out ping pong one another. We enjoyed some local Abita beer and the company of a couple of locals who briefly teamed up to take us on. An important part of doing some work together (if you can call what we did, work), is the investment in enjoying each other’s company.

Introductions

The very lovely Robin Schooling introduced us – and then we gave people another chance to see our world famous video. Huge thanks to James Smith for excellent camera and production work. We also briefly introduced each other – and I’ll come back to that later.

Beyond HR

The main thrust of our talk was about collaboration and the importance of relentless, small change. HR and others often plan, invest and obsess about change, and while we recognise the importance of seeing the bigger picture, we think that lots of small change can make a big difference. We also think that HR could be, and indeed sometimes is, best placed to facilitate relentless small change. Small is the new significant, as David Zinger puts it. What’s the least I can do today to make a positive impact? I ask myself this question often, to remind me that change is ongoing, and doesn’t have to be big to matter.

I shared some research on experimentation, collaboration and relationships drawn from The Year Without Pants and Breakpoint and Beyond. I talked about why this stuff is important, and why it doesn’t happen as often as we would like. Neil then shared some fascinating science about how our reptilian, mammalian and human brains work. ‘We don’t have a human brain so we’re using Doug’s as the closest thing we could find’. Nice one Neil!

Neil spoke about the importance of SHED, not as the garden retreat where men scurry to, but rather:

  • Sleep
  • Hydration
  • Exercise
  • Diet

The importance of taking care of yourself cannot be overstated and often when we are operating and leading in periods of change, this vital stuff goes by the wayside – leaving us diminished. Neil acknowledged that even when we are aware of this stuff, and well taken care, of, we can’t perform at our optimum level for long – typically it’s around 90 minutes. I told the tale of The Prisoner, which is about how decisions that can at first seem fair, are often far from it, particularly when we are rushed, and not taking good care of ourselves.

Neil also talked about the SCARF model, key things we think about and react to in life which can enhance or inhibit our ability to collaborate and function effectively.

  • Status: Our relative importance to others
  • Certainty: Our being able to predict the future
  • Autonomy: Our sense of control over events
  • Relatedness: Our sense of safety with others
  • Fairness: Our perception of fair exchanges between people

When you feel that one or more of these things is being threatened, brain wise you are likely to retreat to your mammalian and reptile brains, and become defensive. Can we stop this? Probably not, but we can share this stuff among colleagues and be aware of it. That way we have a frame of reference for when things go wrong. We asked people in the audience to think about stuff that gets in the way of change and collaboration. Here’s what they told us:

Incentives & rewards, power struggles, lack of collaboration, rapid growth, money and people, blame and shame (try looking in the mirror), communication, silos, trust, competing interests, heavy workload.

We shared a couple of examples from our different perspectives of small changes working, and not working and where relevant we threaded the things people told us into our stories.

Neil finished with the story of how Ben Ainslie helped turn around the USA America’s Cup team who were 8-1 down against New Zealand and managed to recover and eventually beat New Zealand by 44 seconds in the final game of the series. The turnaround came as a result of Ainslie’s incredible tactical ability, and the many many small changes he made before, during and after each race. A racing yacht depends on many small things in order to be able to cut the right line through the water, and Ainslie is able to break down the strategy (let’s win this) into its component parts. It was fun being able to close out our session telling an American audience that a Brit helped save their bacon too!

The audience seemed to enjoy the session and we enjoyed putting it together and delivering it too. Teaming up with Neil taught me a lot, particularly around different ways to prepare. After the session people told us they enjoyed our willingness to use some humour (largely at each other’s expense) and they liked the way we reflected on work experiences that had not gone as well as we might have liked. People also told us how they enjoyed the ebb and flow of the session – that feedback was lovely as Neil and I had built a loose framework on which to hang the talk, and intentionally left space, for room to grow.

Reading List

As well as our own experiences, we drew on ideas from the following books as we prepared our talk:

Slides



Thank You

I want to hop back – almost to the beginning when I wrote about introductions. As we prepared our talk we agreed that we would each say a few words about each other by way of introduction. Neil went first and said some very nice things about me, some drawn from his experiences, and some drawn from feedback from others on Twitter. Next it was my turn. It’s no secret that I get very excited and a little nervous before I speak – in fact I was literally jumping around the room before the start. In my excitement, my intro of Neil centred largely around how much I appreciate that fact that we disagree often, and that disagreement is founded on respect. Now that’s all well and good, and I do sincerely appreciate that part of our friendship – and there is more to it than that.

I first encountered Neil when he was writing anonymously as TheHRD. I met him in a pub and at the time he was known as Theo. It was all very mysterious. Our next virtual encounter came when Neil asked for help for a friend and I responded. Once theHRD was unmasked we began to see each other more often, and developed a friendship that made the humour in our talk come very naturally. We’ve been camping together (separate tents mind you), got drunk together, shared experiences together, and yes – disagreed together. I’ve met Neil’s family, including his Dad, and through that encounter I see a lot of why Neil and I click. Neil’s willingness to team up with me and invest in our session means a lot to me. Thank you Neil, and thank you Louisiana SHRM.

Come As You Are

Aside from being a top tune by Nirvana, Come As You Are for most people means no need to prepare, just turn up. This kind of spontaenous approach works well for parties, maybe less so at work.

A while back I was asked to deliver a three hour session on collaboration, and I agreed in principle. I followed up my agreement with a note:

Before I get stuck in and fully commit to this – can you confirm what my remuneration will be for the design and delivery of this piece of work please? I anticipate this taking two days overall – one to design, one to deliver.

We weren’t able to proceed because the budget on offer was half of our previously agreed one day rate, for what I thought was two days work. It wasn’t so much the fact that I felt the fee was too small, although it was, what surprised me more was the attitude towards preparation time. The company went on to explain:

The idea was for you to come along and provoke their thinking rather than teach or train them anything, as all the content will be covered off by A.N.Other during the main sessions. This session is an added bonus we have thrown in for the client so I’d like to think you could come along and “recycle” something you already have prepared. I appreciate this might not have been made clear to you, so would understand if you chose to decline the piece of work, but we would like you to do it…

I subsequently called to discuss things – just to make sure everyone was clear on how this was supposed to work, or rather, not work. During the conversation I looked for some clarification, asking, ‘Are you really OK with me turning up and working with your client having done no research and preparation?’ It turns out that yes, they were OK with it, at least to the extent that they saw no need to pay for my preparation time. ‘We thought you’d just rock up and give a talk’, was how it was positioned in a subsequent conversation.

We left it there and parted on good terms. No hard feelings but for me to accept this proposal would have been to seriously devalue my own worth and more importantly, that of the team I would have been let loose on.

Preparation Matters

Whether you’re employed or self employed, an integral part of work is the preparation that you invest beforehand. You wouldn’t expect a top flight sports person to turn up for a race, finish in last place and then say, ‘I did no training for this event whatsoever and yet somehow, I finished last. How did that happen?’ in the post race interview. Likewise when you’re working with colleagues you can usually tell if they’re prepared or not – and I may be wrong, but I expect you make judgements on their suitability for future work based partly on their preparedness or lack of it?

We spend time in preparation, in development, so that the delivery is as good as it can be. So why are people sometimes so reluctant to see past that burst of face to face time, and beyond to the hard graft that made the real work, work?

Everyone has a budget, everyone has to make a call on what good value looks like eventually, but I smiled when my friend Gary Franklin shared this on Facebook recently.

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Stop Doing Dumb Things – Available Here

Stop Doing Dumb Things is a deck of cards containing 48 thoughts and ideas designed to help you unlock creativity and make work better. To make it work you simply shuffle the deck, draw a card, then act on it or ignore it.

A set of cards costs just £20 plus £5 P&P and £5 VAT, a total of £30. £2 from the sale of every pack of Stop Doing Dumb Things is donated to the Arts Emergency charity.

Stop Doing Dumb Things is designed by Doug Shaw and inspired by many people, including Joe Gerstandt, Carole Shaw, Meg Peppin, Joe Strummer, Heather Bussing, David Zinger, Keira Shaw, William Tincup and John Sumser.

To order your cards, either visit the Paypal website and send the money using the email address doug[dot]shaw[at]wgalimited[dot]com, or contact me via the same email address with your order and I’ll send you an electronic invoice. In both cases, don’t forget to include a postal address. Cards will be shipped on receipt of cleared funds.

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How Are People Using Stop Doing Dumb Things?

Stop Doing Dumb Things was first designed as an antidote for people who get stuck in their work. Whether it’s writing a research paper, a sales proposal, an HR guide or a presentation – people often need a nudge when their thinking starts to go round in circles. And because of the way many of us work – getting stuck happens often. This also happens when we’re working in teams. For example, team meetings often fail to yield the desired results because people form and follow patterns that, as they repeat and reinforce, tend to exclude more creative, diverse thinking. In those environments – the cards are designed to break the circle by offering an alternative viewpoint, or a suggested action to take.

Since their launch in September 2013 Stop Doing Dumb Things are selling all over the world, to individuals and teams in the UK, Europe, USA, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. These are some of the many things people say they use the cards for:

Coaching
Getting unstuck
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Adaptability
Exchanging ideas
Why not? (The intention is to make acting on the cards a voluntary process. So when people draw a card and don’t wish to act on it – what’s stopping them? This discussion yields interesting results about the way people work together).

People also use them a lot to support exploratory work around creativity and collaboration. The cards are a great aid to problem solving, getting to know one another better, changing perspectives – all kinds of things that people need, and often forget.

Stop Doing Dumb Things are a simple, helpful tool to help make change happen, and to underpin the idea that small things can make a big difference.

Stop Doing Dumb Things