Archive for the ‘Coaching’ category

How to Acknowledge A New Reality and Move Towards Something New

August 6, 2020

SheepInDublin

There’s a shocking news item for this poor sheep! It is the headline in the Ramsbottom newspaper: 10,000 Sheep to Lose Their Wool Within the Next Week. Now that’s an acknowledgement of a new reality!

I often find myself noticing my own ‘in between states’ – places that spur growth and change. These can be triggered by an internal realization or an external event. Sometimes they are realities presenting more gradually.  I find value in naming this phenomenon and the closest I have found is the term ‘liminal’ or ‘liminality’. I hope by sharing my reflections that I can help others get used to noticing these states, and how to move through them, if desired. For the sheep, they just have to wait a few weeks til sheering – hopefully all else remains intact. Poor sheep.

Definition of Liminal

lim·i·nal
/ˈlimənl/

1.relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
2.Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary 
or threshold.

The word ‘Liminal’ comes from the Latin root ‘limen’ meaning threshold – literally, the bottom of a door. When you welcome someone into your home, they pass over a threshold from the outside to the very different space of your home. While that is a quick transition in physical space, a liminal state can last a lot longer than that. After all, once in someone else’s home, there may be other (cultural) adjustments before one gets comfortable: different norms around eating, wearing shoes, having conversations, use of devices, and hospitality. Their transition may require a new level of self-awareness and possibly self-restraint while observing and then adjusting their expectations and behaviors to their surroundings. This can of course occur upon entry to a new team or a new job as well.

Examples

Here are some examples of other liminal spaces or thresholds that I came up with, some broad in scope and time and some very narrow:

  • Getting very upset and finding calm and peace again
  • Having ongoing pain symptoms, but no diagnosis
  • Learning about a topic, but not yet able to study it properly or apply it
  • Similarly, getting a new device, operating system or program, and not mastering it yet
  • Having a great job interview and waiting for the next step (more broadly, the time between losing a job and starting a new one)
  • Writing software, but not able to have it deployed (writing a book, waiting for publication)
  • Starting contractions to give birth, and waiting to actually give birth (wouldn’t it be nice to rush that one along)…
  • Deciding to go out for a walk, and actually opening the door to do so
  • Getting the keys to your new house, and much later finally settling in fully
  • Leaving one’s country, resettling in the new one (also, being tied up in immigration limbo)
  • Experiencing a loss, moving through stages of grief to acceptance
  • Not knowing who is taking care of whom as in the picture below.
TakingCareComic

I am sure you will start seeing many more. Some of these transition spaces are joyful celebratory ones, where we are striving to attain something new and we are highly resourced. Some are spaces of struggle and frustration where we don’t yet have means to reach our goal.

Others are more representative of the way ‘things just are’ in the world and we have zero agency to reverse course. For example, on the way to the hospital to give birth to my second child, I said to my then husband: ‘I would like to turn around. I’ve decided that I don’t want to go through with it.’ I was in so much pain but I didn’t have much luck with that desired approach!

In all cases of transition, it can be helpful to have a guide, someone who can help you through whether it is a doula, a grief counselor, a personal or career coach, or just a helpful listening ear for encouragement. Even first time home ownership can involve a stressful, even if joyful transition. Asking for help is one of several ways to cope.

Satir Change Model

As I noticed all these various liminal states, I realized that these are natural and normal in life. Another feature is that they won’t last forever. Yet another is that they provoke new experiences and learning. The first family therapist, Virginia Satir, introduced the notion of a process of state change with her now famous Satir Change Model.

Screen Shot 2020-11-02 at 9.08.04 AM

In this model, the liminal space is everything between what she calls the Late Status Quo (the old normal), and the New Status Quo (the new normal). Her ideas helped me explain change to my clients when I first started as a coach and I still find it useful. In my own life, knowing that there would be a better new normal after divorce was a relief. There are many concurrent liminal states – and they coexist and evolve around us. These states are an ironically permanent feature of the complex world we live in.

On Celebrations and Rituals

In anthropology, liminality is “the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage, when participants “no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the rite is complete”. Bar-and Bat-Mitzvahs and Quinceaneras are examples of periods of transition from childhood to adulthood. Rituals to celebrate an engagement (and last moments of celibacy) prior to the wedding are another example. My nephew’s wedding was postponed due to rain, and the anticipation was intense, but all ended well.

weddingChupa

In organizations aspiring to be more agile, we don’t often use rituals to let go of the past way of working, when we embark on a new way of working and I’ve long thought that that acknowledgement might serve as a helpful marker. And while we may not have a definitive border to cross, no final condition that represents arrival, we can still celebrate milestones and markers of progress and improvement. In acknowledging that the liminal space is a challenging and inevitable space of growth and learning, we admit to our vulnerability and humanity. Change may not be easy but others will be there to support (hopefully).

The Limbic Brain

Other cognates (words that share this same Latin root ‘limen’, and have related meanings) include the words ‘limbic’ (pertaining to or characteristic of a border), and subliminal “below the threshold” (of consciousness or sensation).

The Limbic part of the brain regulates emotions and is physically bordering both the neocortex (processor of reason, logic sitting behind your forehead) and the amygdala (regulating survival responses – flight, fight, or freeze at the lower area or the brain near your neck). The limbic brain feels settled when it knows ‘what the rules are around here’ and is unsettled when things are stirred up.

It is in understanding the function of this limbic brain that I have come to understand the way I act or react in certain social situations. Noticing when I am in a liminal situation and not feeling settled, I can take action by getting in touch with what I would like to have happen (my higher brain state). As a coach, I can help others do the same and can help organizations to notice and navigate the liminal spaces they are in, finding their way ‘across the threshold’. It might be as easy as finding out how things are now, eliciting outcomes, and helping people find their own way steadily from one space to the next.

Now What?

You have read this far and may be wondering what, if anything, to do now that you know this term. I don’t really have a specific answer for each person’s particular situation. My best offer of advice, if this interests you, is that you first develop your capacity for noticing liminal states. This can be in your personal life, in your community or at work. Grab a small journal and jot them down as you see them, and ask yourself questions as you sense the opportunity for learning and growing through this space. For example:

  • What is the current state? Where and when does it begin, end?
  • What is your limbic brain noticing (emotions and social aspects)?
  • What would you like to have happen?
  • What support or resources do you have or need to move on?
  • Whom can you call to ask for help?

Lastly, remember that liminal states are perfectly normal and won’t last forever. Ideally, you’ll take advantage of them for the experiences and learning that you can derive. I would be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Jerry Weinberg, Carrying On His Legacy together

August 31, 2018

August 31, 2018 – I had written this post months ago, with an eye to growing a small group of Gerald Weinberg fans eager to read his books, but I had not ever posted it. So now I offer it now in honor of Jerry Weinberg, as he very sadly passed away earlier this month. This has been hard on his whole community of followers and on us in the bookclub too.

JerryWeinberg

We originally started with Volume 3, Congruent Action of the series titled Quality Software Management, because several of the people in the Agendashift community were discussing human dynamics and I had brought up the topic of congruence. They seemed interested, so the bookclub was launched with the Congruent Action book. We are currently on Volume 4, Anticipating Change, and will cycle back to Systems Thinking, and First Order Measurement later on.  You can start anywhere in the series and still learn a lot!

I’ve recruited two fellow consultants, Steven Mackenzie, and Christophe Thibaut, to co-host this bookclub with me and it has been running for the better part of a year.  Even though two of us had read the volumes many years back, we decided that a revisit was well worth our time.  Actually Christophe has read the series twice and run a 3 year book club on this series at his company, Octo Technologies, in Paris, years ago.  Still Christophe states he learns new stuff at each new reading.

What’s in it for you?  If you want to connect with other learners, hone your skills as a manager, understand the systems at play in change work, and/or increase your toolset as a consultant, coach or software developer, do join us.

When: Every Friday morning, at 8 a.m .EDT.  We run a very tight ship with a fairly strict agenda in the way we run it, so that we finish on time.  We read just 1 chapter per week.  The approximate reading time is 20 minutes per chapter. After checking in at the start, we introduce new members, check-in, elicit for our initial high level reactions to the chapter.  Then we display the chapter’s pages from the ebook on the screen annotating it with comments as we go, sharing experiences and our connections to the material.

How: To join the discussion slack group, apply to Agendashift community here: https://www.agendashift.com/slack. Navigate to the #bookclub channel for the Zoom session link and chapter that we are on.   The meeting times are generally 8 a.m. EDT, each Friday and it is posted to the channel each week.

Where to get the books:

The 4 QUALITY SOFTWARE MANAGEMENT p-Books can be found as 4 hardbacks

  1. SYSTEMS THINKING                   (corresponds to 1,2 below)
  2. FIRST-ORDER MEASUREMENT  (corresponds to 3,4 below)
  3. CONGRUENT ACTION                 (corresponds to 5, 6 below)
  4. ANTICIPATING CHANGE              (corresponds to 7,8,9 below)

The e-books can be found as a whole set: https://leanpub.com/b/qualitysoftware or individually:

  1. HOW SOFTWARE IS BUILT
  2. WHY SOFTWARE GETS YOU IN TROUBLE
  3. HOW TO OBSERVE SYSTEMS
  4. RESPONDING TO SIGNIFICANT SOFTWARE EVENTS
  5. MANAGING YOURSELF AND OTHERS
  6. MANAGING TEAMS CONGRUENTLY
  7. BECOMING A CHANGE ARTIST
  8. CHANGE PLANNED AND UNPLANNED
  9. CHANGE DONE WELL

Jerry Weinberg has been a true hero and will continue to be an influence in the field software engineering – with many books on topics such as quality, management, testing, human interaction dynamics, systems thinking, mental models, giving and receiving feedback, design, and the psychology of programming.  His books are immensely readable and timeless in their subject matter. We never leave a session without some new insights, or connections made to the work we do or aspire to do. We hope you’ll join us on this journey.

RIP Jerry and thank you for writing these wonderful books for us !!

 

Connections At Work

June 10, 2018

Diverse TeamRead each question slowly, and journal or reflect on whatever comes to mind:

When you are connecting with others at your best, that’s like what?

When connecting… You are like what? What do you know about yourself? What would you like to have happen?

Who are the others around you? What do you know about them? What would they like to have happen?

What are you collectively working on?  What do you know about that work?  What does that work want to have happen?

When connecting with self, others, and work and when you are all working at your best, then what happens?

I’ve had fun creating the ‘cleanish’ questions above to reflect on my company mission.  I am curious if these questions are meaningful to you! Did you gain any new insights?

I continue to help spread a ‘clean’ way of deepening connections between the many facets of work: the nodes between people, ideas, the structures, processes and improvement steps that can lead to more joy for both employees and customers.   

I am ready for even more connections in the second half of 2018 – ready to support others who are curious about how Clean Language thinking and questions might improve work and relationships. See here for training opportunities that I am leading and organizing. If those are not suitable, I can either craft something custom for you or connect you to other courses by other leading partners and trainers in the Clean Language community (Baltimore, California, Chicago, Liverpool England, Portsmouth England, Malaysia and online)

Also, I’ve got something new in the works.  I’ve opened up a slack group called Connections At Work. You are welcome to join a community of people who want to foster conversation and connections that are deeper, more curious, tolerant, and resilient than what they have now. It is easy to jump on a call, have private chats, and contribute to the dialogue and connections using this tool!

Let’s see what magic might happen when we connect well in our lives and work!

Welcome!
LogoSquareAndDots
For other inquiries, email me at andrea@connections-at-work.com

Collaboration Collapse from Power Distance and Hidden Bias in the Workplace

May 6, 2018

Does your team ever experience lapses or collapses in effective collaboration? Are individuals less engaged with each other than they should be at work?  In the last post, we explored how to be intentional in setting up the team for success in collaborative work.  In this post, we’ll explore power distance, hidden biases and their symptoms.

Power distance comes from actual or perceived differences that convey or cause a feeling of superiority to others, often subconsciously resulting in altered behavior. This can arise from structural imbalances, such as economic power, pay differences, access to information, training and education, or biases in promotions at work. It is also caused by biases arising from things like one’s gender, seniority, religion, race, national origin, age, beliefs, appearance, or the way one processes information, sometimes called neuro-diversity.  Can you think of others? At the end of this post you’ll find a link to a Harvard University website that can help you become aware of your propensity towards the various biases.

Symptoms in the Workplace
Power distance can either have a subtle or a very strong influence in the work place. Here are several observable symptoms related to power distance and hidden bias.

  • Interrupting people
  • Mansplaining
  • Ignoring someone when they are speaking
  • Downplaying or even taking credit for the contributions of others
  • Withholding information needed by others to do their work.
  • Belittling people because of what they say or what they ask.
  • Offering to help without asking – inadvertently taking their work and learning opportunity away.

On the receiving end, a person will often clam up, withdraw, become anxious or belligerent, thereby shifting the quality or duration of any required collaborative work.  The training and awareness required to counter these effects is needed to let people know these behaviors are not ok. It takes great personal awareness, knowledge, and maturity to develop the composure to counter and give feedback to the offender.

Economic and Psychological Impact
What is the economic impact of poor interpersonal behaviors and reduced collaboration on existing teams and projects?  Because of the “metoo” movement, we have seen the impact on the careers and lives of so many women and sometimes also men, when people in positions of power have wielded their power to intimidate and control women’s careers, often silencing them with hush money.  When the problems surface fully, the people perpetrating extreme power-over behaviors also pay a price when they lose their jobs and reputation.  Another way of measuring the economic cost, is the amount of money spent on programs to assess, train and coach people in emotional IQ, leadership skills, team IQ, personality, diversity and inclusion. Couple those costs with the psychological toll of the minor infractions that barely get noticed and you begin to sense the magnitude of the issue and its effects on the workplace.

So What Can you Do?
There are several routes to increasing your own awareness about these issues. You can read more about the topic, take an assessment, or go to a workshop on biases and communication.  You can also initially simply take time to journal what you observe such as the number of interruptions you make or how forcefully and frequently you advocate your position over those of others. On the flip side, you  can log how much you pause, listen and ask questions from a genuinely curious stance towards people who are different from you.

Get help
A coach or a facilitator can help you and your team to observe its behaviors and can work systemically to foster better interactions. Personal awareness and development is a requirement for high performance teams. The best team approaches I know of have a very strong personal development component to them.

Be a role model of calm
What should we do when bias directly affects us?   One way is to be  be inspired by how Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg reacted to bias and power distance. In the May 2018 documentary of her career, we learn that even soon after she was appointed to the Supreme Court, she kept calm in the face of the blatant sexism she found in the Court.  She was and still is, at age 85, a pioneer in promotion of equality between men and women, describing her attitude when she first started on the Court: “I simply took the stance of a kindergarten teacher because the judges didn’t believe discrimination existed.” Anger, she knew would not serve her. [Note: You can learn more about the current Supreme Court by reading this article on the observed gender differences in ‘interruptions’]

What can you do if you find yourself responding emotionally to work situations? This is understandable when something about your beliefs, values, or career is being challenged or affected.  You’ll need to learn how to manage your state, and respond when it happens.  Use the power of observation, curiosity and listening first.  Confront, but do so empathically. Seek help, if you need it.  Find teachable moments. Acknowledge to others that these moments exist, catch yourself and others when you see it.

Here are some online tools to help you learn more

Remember, you are not alone.  Together with others you can help to cure these workplace ills. By adding tools and skills for developing awareness and connection, inclusivity and inquiry at work, collaborative work will be joyful.

We can increase the possibility of it succeeding by not shying away from conversations about power distance, hidden biases, and co-lapses.

Do contact me if you need help at andrea@connections-at-work. I can offer a phone consultation, training, facilitation,  personal and team coaching.

Learning Patterns – with Clean for Teams

January 30, 2018

One of my favorite Twitter feeds is from @LPatterns – I don’t know who is behind it, but it has the cutest images and the simplest little quips about learning, formulated in a set of patterns that they claim represent a ‘Pattern Language’.  I’ll share a few or their images here.

 

These represent ‘Jump In’ ‘Design Your Learning’, ‘Open Process’ and ‘Effective Questions’ patterns! There are many more!

 
Pattern Languages are near and dear to me – they are sets of practices that been put together to name interrelated themes and topics within a given domain – usually with a lovely metaphor for the pattern title.  I have a few books I love on Pattern Languages.  One of them is simply called ‘A Pattern Language’ – by Christopher Alexander – based on buildings, architecture, city planning and such.  This book inspired many in the software community to develop its own Pattern Languages.  There are books such as ‘Agile Adoption Patterns’, ‘Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development’ and for developers: ‘Design Patterns – Elements of Reusable Object Oriented Software’.  I am sure I’ve missed a few – do leave me a note on any you can add to that.  There’s even a conference to help find new patterns called Pattern Languages for Programs (PLoP conference).
You might not realize that the small set of questions used in ‘Clean Language’ represents (in my mind, at least) another pattern language – in a slightly strange way.  There’s no content (no target audience like architecture, software or organizations) explicit here. The questions are applicable to any domain! For teams, the questions themselves allow us to ‘elicit’ patterns in ourselves (our behavior, thinking, learning and motivation – under the hood) and in others (collectively, or in individuals). The questions also have a few patterns within them – we have ‘developing’ questions, ‘sequence’ questions, ‘intention’ questions, and ‘location’ questions.  Knowing the uses of each set of questions is very useful indeed.

 

Back to learning –  learning is a way of survival. Everything in the world is changing quickly, and there’s much uncertainty. How does one stay on course when the skills of yesterday aren’t the skills of tomorrow? Are you aware of your own learning needs, and do you articulate the support you need to those around you? Do you know what environment you need to work at your best? Do you ask and get the support you need at work or home for your learning needs?

If you want to know your own patterns for learning and how to become an exquisite observer of patterns in others, I have two options.

  • Call or email me for a Clean Language session on ‘Learning At Your Best’ so I can help you discover your ‘learning at your best’ state!  (contact options below)
  • Register to join the training I’m running – called ‘Clean for Teams’  in April in Boston, MA with Caitlin Walker (link below)

Caitlin Walker has devised the simplest possible interventions to promote well being in team and group communication using Clean Language in a set of patterned practices. In learning them, you’ll start to recognize your own patterns and needs and you can take that back to your teams!  The various practices of ‘Clean for Teams’ fit together like a well made puzzle which you’ll come to experience in the training.  She’s tested them out in dozens of organizations over 20 years.

Here is some background info on Clean Language you can listen to on the way to work. All are audio, except as noted.

Caitlin’s Ted-X talk
From Contempt to Curiosity – Creating the Conditions for Groups to Collaborate (book)
Radio Interview #1
Radio Interview #2
Recorded webinar on Disruptive People In the Workplace
International Coaching Federation Interactive Keynote (youtube)

Podcast Interview of Antarctic Expedition Scientists using Clean Language to Cope in Stressful Situations

Then, if any of this speaks to you or your company’s needs, sign up for the training here.

As usual, email me at andrea@connections-at-work.com or phone me at +1 (571) 437-4815.
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Note to those going to #mobprogramming conference in Boston, the Clean for Teams training takes place immediately afterwards on April 16-17, 2018.  People who work day in and day out or very frequently in intense programming sessions could well make use of these same Clean Language tools for added cohesion and group development.

Coaching an Agile Coach Using Clean Questions

January 24, 2018

Coaching using Clean Language yesterday, I assisted an agile coach friend who wanted to learn how better to notice the moments (just in time) when the clean language / systemic modeling facilitation skills she is learning are most needed for her teams. She said often she would only realize after the fact that she might have used or taught something like Clean Setup, Clean Feedback to effectively coach the team.  She said she wanted to realize these situations sooner! 

So, I coached her using Clean Language questions to ‘slow down’ what happens in her mind when the example situation (X) she described starts to comes up. The difference is that she now has more self-awareness about the triggers, signals, and internal responses she has so that she can catch herself in the moment next time. 

What sort of Clean Language training or coaching would you like?  One-on-One? Team Facilitation?

Contact me at andrea@connections-at-work.com to set up a free Clean Interview to find out more! 

 

Systemic Modeling 101

November 22, 2017

What is Systemic Modeling and how can it supplement and improve the conditions for team success?

Topics include:

  • Origin
  • Whom is it for?
  • What are the benefits and observable outcomes?
  • Clean Scoping during pre-contract phase
  • Where can you learn more?
  • Training
  • How to request a Clean Scoping session

ORIGIN 

Caitlin Walker devised a set of exercises and models unique for group work that are based on the work of David Grove, a psychotherapist. David Grove was able to help patients – often PTSD patients – to heal without giving them advice.  Instead, he engaged them by asking questions that helped them model their own internal processes and in doing so they could recognize and reorganize their own patterns and change.

The foundational philosophy is one of deep respect for the individual and his/her own internal processes and therefore it is one of appreciating diversity in groups as well.  Caitlin Walker immediately put it to use and extended it for use in groups evolving into  organizational change work that has had astounding results.

Caitlin Walker’s own definition:  “a set of tools to create intelligent networks of attention across groups, enabling them to make the most of the experience and expertise of each individual present”

My quirky view: One of the coolest, most avant-garde and interesting techniques I’ve ever learned for helping smart people to become aware of and then improve in their interactions and communication. A set of techniques that that allow the team to become self facilitating – and therefore not reliant on a permanent external coach.

Clean for Teams is an alternative reference to what is known as Systemic Modeling.

WHOM IS IT FOR?

Systemic Modeling is domain and experience agnostic. It can work equally well for CIOs, CEOs, as it can for entry level workers. It works for groups in universities and a practice of doctors or lawyers. It has been used with disengaged youth failing in school, as well school administrations and IT teams. It has no boundaries where collaboration is concerned.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS AND OBSERVABLE OUTCOMES?

Benefits:

  • Increased creativity, psychological safety, and engagement – qualities coveted by many knowledge work organizations for contribution to high performing teams (see Google Article here)
  • Reduction in  Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer behaviors (see Karpman Drama video here) – fewer metaphorical elephants left to roam about untended.

You will notice that team members ubiquitously and frequently:

  • listen and pay attention
  • show curiosity and using clean questions,
  • set up for outcome and action oriented work,
  • give each other clean feedback,
  • spot each other’s ‘drama’ (behaviors of persecutor, victim, rescuer)
  • switch the ‘drama’ to outcome/action/evidence orientation
  • set developmental goals and pairing with others to evidence and feed back on the improvements

Other outcomes include:

  • Evidence of more equal levels of  participation in team meetings than prior to training
  • Increased self – advocacy and increased inquiry and learning
  • Utilizing the diversity in thinking for the greater good.
  • Use of modeling exercises to unearth hidden cultural tendencies and assumptions about the ‘way things are’ – thus ensuring continued improvement in culture.

CLEAN SCOPING DURING PRE-CONTRACT PHASE

One way that Clean for Teams sets itself up for success is in the pre-contract phase.  The Clean for Teams facilitator will typically have free phone calls or face to face meetings with both the sponsor advocate and members of the management. They will be led through a Clean Scoping exercise.

The facilitator asks the client what they would like to have happen. She checks for ‘sensory’ detail – not just conceptual words – so the client must share what they expect they’ll notice different once their outcomes are accomplished.  Then she repeats that process for the current state. How is the team working now? And what is the evidence of that? There are some additional probing questions to find out how the leadership expects it will  respond to others’ needs for change. This is to ensure their values around change will mesh with the goals of Clean for Teams training.  If both client and facilitator feel aligned based on what is shared and experienced during Clean Scoping, then the facilitator can draft up expected timelines and outcomes.

WHERE CAN YOU LEARN MORE?

The practices and stories of Clean for Teams in action across the last two decades are described in Caitlin Walker’s book: From Contempt to Curiosity, Creating the Conditions for Groups to Collaborate using Clean Language and Systemic Modeling.  You can listen to some compelling examples of how and why it improves communication in this brief radio interview. Listen to how Caitlin Walker learned about and then devoted her life to Clean Language in this Ted-x.  All links are to audio recordings for your convenience. The paperback of her book does have excellent illustrations that bring to life many of the concepts and models. It is cheapest to buy from the Clean Learning website.

TRAINING

Assuming there has been a set of  Clean Scoping meetings, the training plan would consist of sessions conducted in teams no larger than about 8 people.

The learning is iterative and most models/exercises will be used and addressed more than once during training.

Day 1 – Five Senses , Working at Best
Day 2 – Clean Feedback, Team Metaphor
Day 3 – Drama Triangle , Modeling
Day 4 – Clean Setup, Developmental Tasks
Day 5 – Current Situations, Modeling

Follow up sessions – Usually there is a need for follow up sessions spread out of a period of weeks or months to work on live issues and for deepening the practices.

HOW TO REQUEST A CLEAN SCOPING SESSION

To contact me for a free Clean Scoping session, email me: Andrea Chiou.
Please feel free to comment or interact here on the blog as well. Others might find your questions as well as the answers quite useful.

Contempt meets Curiosity

November 1, 2017

Contempt means thinking that a reaction or an attitude or a person or a group of people are unacceptable as they are.  Curiosity means noticing how things are and wondering how they’ve come to be like this and what we might like to have happen next. – Caitlin Walker

Do you experience some aspects or behaviors of people you interact with as alienating?  I sometimes do. And I am trying to learn how better to deal with that.  Since much of this habit is done under the proverbial hood, I’ve committed to start noticing and catching myself when I am subtly labeling or categorizing others in the back of my mind.

It doesn’t have to be like this.  I can try to be a bit more curious about you and you about me.  The world will surely improve if more of us learn this skill.  Whether at work, at home, or even in the routines of family life connecting, listening, and sharing requires both skills, attention, and time.  Nancy Kline’s book, Time to Think convinced me of that long ago.  Caitlin Walker‘s book, From Contempt to Curiosity, was more icing on the cake for my learning journey.  Recently I started to listen to Caitlin herself as narrator of the Audible recording of the same book. It’s a delightful listen, highly recommended to all my agile coaching friends, former and future colleagues, anyone in the healing, social service, teaching, or organizational culture change domains.  You’ll be amazed by the power of her stories in which more confident individuals and interactions emerge with the simplest of techniques.

I yearn for more interaction where mutual curiosity is nurtured, connections are strengthened, creativity fostered, and productive activity and friendships are born.  This is why I started the Clean Language Practice Group in Reston, VA. We practice skills that lead to better, more resilient interactions, and happier selves.

What is your experience of contempt and curiosity and the connection between the two?

Come join us there if you would like to learn and practice with a small group every other Thursday evening.

 

England – oh Clean England!!

October 6, 2017

cleanjourney_paperI am just back from a whirlwind trip to England where I attended three different Clean Language related trainings. It was a fantastic trip, and proves without a doubt that England is a hub of excellence and activity for what goes on in the Clean Community. Besides providing brief descriptions of the training, if you want to keep up with me on this Clean learning journey, I am inviting you to come to my newly formed Reston Clean Language Practice Group, running 2x per month starting next week.

Clean for Teams

The Clean for Teams taster is a two day introduction to the elements and principles of Clean Language for Teams.  This approach to group facilitation holds at its very center the idea of curiosity in order to allow its participants to work at their best and be in support of each other. Team members become more self aware of their behavior patterns and needs while learning to be curious with each other.  Caitlin Walker took the Clean Language tools of David Grove including especially his eliciting of metaphors and brilliantly adapted its use to groups.  Do watch the TedX link above for a taste of what that’s like. The approach Caitlin created is called Systemic Modeling (aka Clean for Teams) because it teaches a group (a network or system of individuals) how to work in support of each other’s development. Because the skills are easy to learn,  the process is highly generative (meaning, not dependent on the facilitator over time) and promotes high degrees of personal and interpersonal awareness.  

If you are interested, as a facilitator, or as a group member, in processes that:

  • reduce friction
  • generate individual and insights
  • foster respect
  • celebrate diversity
  • establish an equality of attention in a group
  • shift the culture to a more productive one
  • and be relatively cheap to to acquire and use compared to an embedded coach or facilitator

then you should explore the possibility of learning these tools.  

A great description can be found here along with the dates for future courses.   

At the end this two day event, Caitlin said: ‘You have everything we need to go forward and practice’.  I am now looking for teams interested in working with me to learn the techniques.  I will become a certified Clean for Teams facilitator in the coming year.  And, to do so, I will need to find teams that are willing to be recorded, so that I can be evaluated and get feedback from my trainers.  Given that there are no trainers in the US (yet), you could become one of the first teams to adopt if you decide to work with me in support of my certification process. Contact me via my website at http://www.connections-at-work.com or call me at 571-437-4815.

 

Symbolic Modeling Rolling Program 

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Penny Tompkins, me, and Marian Way

If you are interested in personal change work using Clean language, you must learn Symbolic Modeling. Now also widely adapted to business, life and executive coaching, Symbolic Modeling originated in its therapeutic use with trauma patients. Invented by David Grove, Symbolic Modeling uses Clean Questions (a language of inquiry) to help focus the client’s attention on their own desired outcomes, resources, and experiences.  James Lawley and Penny Tompkins wrote the definitive book on this subject after observing David Grove’s therapy sessions for 4 years, codifying what they observed him doing.  The book is called Metaphors in Mind.  I was very lucky to be in this three day practice session with both Marian Way and Penny Tompkins facilitating!

 

Learning the basic Clean Language questions alone, without any insights into the Symbolic Modeling principles and processes is a bit like learning to write letters, without learning how to form words or sentences.  Symbolic Modeling and Clean Language questions are by the way, also at the core of the philosophy behind both Systemic Modeling and  Clean Space (see below).  

So, I highly recommend taking the Clean Language Core Skills Course (which is pre-requisite) and then using the Rolling Programme modules to deepen and practice the skills to become a Symbolic Modeling facilitator, if that’s where you are headed.  There is also a fantastic California based introduction to Symbolic Modeling in January 5-7 2018, called Symbolic Modeling Lite. Sign up here.

Clean Space

Marian Way and James Lawley have recently codified the essential aspects (process and principles) of the Clean Space practices of David Grove in a new book called Insights in Space, How to Use Clean Space to Generate Ideas and Spark Creativity. The two day training is based on the process described in the book. As you experience and facilitate the process, you are able to put it in action right.    

If you are interested as a facilitator, an individual, or even a group in processes that would:

  • spark creativity,
  • utilize space to gain perspective
  • create connections between those perspectives
  • generate new insights on any topic
  • be adaptable to many situations (we can create new processes from these principles)
  • be unlike anything you’ve likely experienced before

then this would be the class for you.   If you’ve ever gotten new insights from taking a walk, or taking a shower, you’ll discover a way to do this sort of thing in a facilitated session in ANY location.  Do note that all David Grove’s work was meant to get the facilitator out of the way, so that even with this, the facilitation is light touch – but heavily informed by spatial metaphor – one of the predominant ways we make sense of the world.

A more detailed description of Clean Space can be found here.  If you are interested in experiencing Clean Space with me, I am available to facilitate sessions with you in the coming months.   

Additionally, as mentioned above, if you want to practice Clean Language  locally in 1.5 hour practice group sessions in Reston, VA, I’ve just launched the Reston Clean Language Practice Group.  Again, for any additional information you would like on any of these topics, contact me at 571-437-4815.



My next adventure with my Clean learning journey will be in California for the Clean Convergence events January, 2018.  In September 2018, I will likely return to England to attend one or all of these events.

 

Adventures in Clean

Friday 7th September, 2.30pm to Monday 10th September, 2pm 2018
West Kirby, Merseyside, United Kingdom
With Caitlin Walker, James Lawley, Penny Tompkins, Marian Way, Shaun Hotchkiss, Phil Swallow

Systemic Modelling Level 1 Rolling Programme

17-19 September 2018
West Kirby, Merseyside, United Kingdom
With Caitlin Walker

Northern Taste of Clean 2018

29-30 September 2018
West Kirby, Merseyside, United Kingdom
With Caitlin Walker, Shaun Hotchkiss

The Long Term View – Systems Thinking and Beyond

October 4, 2017
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CDG -> IAD

At the user end of a systemic failure

Waking at 4:30 a.m. from the effects of jet-lag this morning, I tackled some admin work which led me to this unexpected result – a little systems story to frame my passion around what I teach in workshops: communication and systems thinking.

I am an independent contractor with my own business. I HAVE to buy ‘Affordable’ Health Care Act insurance.   I am required also to report address changes  – but not directly to the insurance company – no.  I found that was not possible. I had to report via the healthcare.gov website, and had anticipated it would be a quick ‘address change’.  A day before my departure for a trip to Europe, I embarked on this fascinating address change journey.   What I discovered to my shock and horror was that I was going to be REQUIRED to change health plans mid-year.  Why?  Because apparently the high end plan I had bought at my old address 10 miles south would NOT be available at my new address.  Why? No one could say initially – the guy on the end of the phone line at the old health plan put me on hold to go do some research. He found that only a small carved out geographic area near my old home had access to that plan.   My head started spinning. I had JUST reached my deductible for the year, meaning higher per visit coverage (less out-of-pocket expense) for the rest of the year.  Wait!!! Change plans?  Yes: Return to Go.   Start over.  From scratch.  Sadly, what’s available at the new address are plans with much higher deductibles. So, I am back to square one.  At least I live in a geographic area that HAS plans, I suppose. I see the silver lining, yet muse about how broken the system is. I feel momentarily powerless.

Just now back from my trip abroad and tackling the admin work early this morning, I look for any sign of mail that has my new health plan ID cards. None.  Searching emails. Ok, here it is in Junk mail.  Click on links – ah – yes, I will create a new account.  And then Wham!  I am stuck with an incredible FLAW in the registration process.  No matter what I put into the field for username I get the same error.   I can’t register for an account.  The system says: if you can’t register, ‘just’ call.   Well, it is too early for that.  I pause the task at hand and start writing in frustration.
This is a different sort of systems issue.  Surely I can’t be the first one to report this… Yet, Aetna has taken no action.

My part in fixing the larger mess

I can imagine that both the policy flaw that was surfaced by my address change, and the error in my registration – although vastly different in their origination – might have been avoided with good systems thinking and communication. These are precedents and prerequisites for agile success.

We no longer need problem solvers who only see their accomplishments as  check marks on the issue directly  ahead of them. We need workers who can question everything and say no with integrity and congruence when pressured unreasonably to deliver crappy policies, regulations, and software .  We need to create safe environments where people can speak up their truths without fear.  We need folks who can see both the details and the big picture, work collaboratively and creatively to solve immediate problems with a long term view.

Organizations are under pressure to rapidly create new systems (policies, programs, applications, websites), and to learn rapidly changing technologies, so they sometimes neglect to understand that the starting point of failure is a lack of systems thinking and excellence in communication.