I am currently at the Amplify Your Effectiveness (AYE) conference in Phoenix, AZ. Although I have only participated in one day of sessions it has been an overwhelmingly worthwhile experience. When one gets around this many talented, passionate, and knowledgeable people there seems to be a learning experience around every corner. I thought that I would type some notes from today’s sessions. I am going to be careful not to discuss how the sessions were conducted since I believe it is important to be in the context of these sessions and simulations in order to fully understand any context I would attempt to convey through written word. They are just that powerful in person.
Dynamics of Distributed Teams presented by Esther Derby
Although I work with many distributed teams in my consulting on Agile there seems to always be a bit more to learn. The items below are quick list of ideas:
- Imposing collaboration across team boundaries may create problems. In the simulation, some folks from the main office, including myself, attempted to get together with an off-site team in another location after running separated for a while. The off-site team had gotten used to a certain solidarity which made them feel quite effective in doing their work. The main office team saw an opportunity to be inclusive of the off-site team in planning how we were going to implement the company vision. Taking this opportunity without giving the off-site team options for using their time in this manner, enough notice to discuss and plan, and imposing our main office culture onto them was problematic.
- Aligning on a vision which is understood across office locations helps create more collaboration on how to coordinate the work. We were given less information about the company vision and how the product lines supported that vision at the beginning. It became apparent at one point in time that we needed alignment when one project asked a fundamental question which had huge ramifications based on the answer. Upon hearing the answer to that question and discussion with other groups about their understanding of other information it was clear that we had been running with different objectives in mind across the group.
- Try to get alignment before a separate culture sets in fully is a good preventative measure. If possible, get distributed teams together early on to create a sense of affiliation with the entire team. Also, continually work on keeping that sense of affiliation current throughout the life of the project.
- Getting things done is not necessarily doing the right work. Without a coherent vision that was understood by the teams we found ourselves not fulfilling the needs of the company to keep us in business even though we were allocating ourselves as management had requested. The teams got together with the later acquired vision and decided how we would meet the needs of the company and also our individual aspirations.
- Be careful, even as a team member, that external suggestions of “how” to do the work of another team can create distrust and resentment. There was a message which was passed from the off-site team to the main office which asked for more information on “what” should be built. A message was sent back from the main office which told the team an obvious strategy for “how” to start the work. Later on in the session we debriefed each team and they mentioned this message as a “duh” moment for them.
- “Words can create worlds” – Diana Larsen. Diana participated in the session and made that statement in response to the use of “home office” and how that is perceived within the context of multiple site companies. Most of the group perceived this to mean that all decisions would be made at that location and correspondence from the “home office” was highly scrutinized.
Congruence is the Foundation for All Effectiveness presented by Jerry Weinberg and Dwayne Phillips
The context for having a conversation about congruence seem to stem from this question posed by Jerry Weinberg:
Have you ever thought “I could have handled that better”?
Congruence is described as a balance between self, other, and context which embodies self-esteem. When we are in situations with other people we may be incongruent and therefore ineffective in handling the situation. Here are some ways that incongruence can manifest itself:
- Leaving yourself out; placating – def. tending or intended to pacify by acceding to demands or granting concessions
- Leave others out; blaming – def. a reproach for some lapse or misdeed
- Leaving self and others out; super reasonable – excessive reasoning which does not fully take into account the context and actors of a situation. This behavior could be identified by listening for queues such as usage of “there is” or “it is” instead of “I” and “you”. Reasoning without the context of the people involved.
One interesting note that I took was the thought that asking too many questions of our customer’s requirements could cause customer to feel blamed. Too many questions can seem to indicate a dissatisfaction with the requirements and therefore the person or people delivering them to your team.
Another great quote for me was “90% of the message is not in the words”.
Definition of “self-esteem” and “self-confidence” was good in that it helped put these terms into context with each other. My interpretation of the definitions demonstrated were:
Self-esteem – how one values themselves along with other people
Self-confidence – how you assess your capabilities to take an action
I took away an important lesson overall which is that helping others get congruent when we are working together involves bringing them into the “here and now”. We all have different backgrounds and understanding of the past which could be plaguing our ability to invest in our future. By bringing our awareness to the “hear and now” we can be open to improving our capabilities for the future. But even after we seem to get congruent at the start of an interaction we must continue to cultivate the congruence of the interaction. We can check into the group and see if there are changes in posture, tone, and attention which could make the interaction become incongruent. An example may be the group starts using references to food as analogies which may present an incongruence that people are hungry and need to eat before moving forward.
I recommend anybody who would like to become more self aware and effective come to this conference. I know that I am saying that after only one day but I can already see how much value there is in it.