New Work – a term originally coined by philosopher Frithjof Bergmann to describe an alternative to the current wage labour system – has become an umbrella term for all things cool and trendy in the business world: from agile teams to flat hierarchies and self-organisation, from digitalisation to focusing on purpose and autonomy.
Obviously, here at Structure & Process we are happy that New Work is becoming more and more popular and “mainstream”. However, this popularity also means that everyone and their mother are trying to jump on the New Work bandwagon, and sometimes the rhetoric around it can seem a little – well… repetitive. I mean, how often can you hear things like “catalysing the emergence of co-creative innovation” without rolling your eyes?!
So, after laughing about this kind of fluffy jargon for the umpteenth time, we decided to offer something constructive to the conversation. And so we proudly present to you… the New Work Buzzword Bingo!
Designed by Lara Listens, it’s meant to be brought along to your next New Work unconference, team retreat, leadership keynote speech, or simply your casual weekly newsletter perusal. First pilot trials show that the resulting fun is directly proportionate to the number of colleagues who jointly participate in the Buzzword Bingo – collectively empowered impact at its finest!
A short work month for me, as I was still on holiday during the first two weeks.
We began in Groningen, working with a team of researchers, building structures to help them coordinate and work efficiently and effectively. I spent an extra day in the city, meeting with an HR executive of the university, discussing organisational development and consulting for university teams.
Travelling back to Dresden, I reconnected with former Structure & Process Partners Annette Mehlhoop (who now works at Bremer Baumwollbörse) and Lynoure Braakman (who works with neuland – Büro für Informatik) in Oldenburg and Bremen.
I spent a week in Dresden catching up on communication, processing a good number of new leads that had come in and running an exploratory call with a potential new client. I prepared a workshop process for our new client in Switzerland who we will see next week. This was the most stressful week.
I am technically on holiday. But as I was browsing business email, I fell into last month’s work notes and noticed: oh, it’s time!
I do enjoy taking this time off. Except for my vacation in December 2017, I haven’t taken a true holiday in a very long time. I feel relaxed, easy and joyful. My brain is producing some creativity that for once does not circle around Structure & Process, Organisational Development or other things close to my usual profession. I like it.
In “Planned obsolescence”, Eugenio Molini speaks about working in such a way, that his client no longer needs his service. He then extends this perspective to his whole career, confronting the fears that come up with it.
I had some difficulty writing these Work Notes. As I looked over my calendar and the outcomes of last month, I thought: “Oh dear! This is not interesting! I was mostly traveling, and involved with my more personal issues; and yes, while we made some important progress with our clients, there is nothing really interesting to say to the world about that…”
When I raised this in our Monday Tactical Meeting, having almost dropped the project, Malwina told me: “Well: write about that. Share your process!” And I think she is right.
One of the aspects most important to beautiful work (our organisation’s purpose), is that I can set my own rhythm. Or tune into what might be the “natural” rhythm, not needing to force anything or raise the speed of development, when things are actually fine. It allows me to take myself seriously, and allow development for myself as a person, rather than just being a role-filler of the organisation.
Welcome, to what may become a new column here on our blog! With these notes, I want to chronicle our work year and provide updates on what we do and how our thinking and practise develops. I start it as an experiment – your feedback is very welcome!
We started this work year very slowly, and, myself, after coming from a solid, long vacation in December. I worked only from home in the first week of January, sorting out emails, cleaning things up, creating good working conditions.
5 days in the most beautiful of places, reconnecting with each other as coworkers and collaborators, and inviting clients to join us. For what? For being together in mindfulness, to breathe, relax, look deeply into things, and see if work might also happen. Which it did. I was fascinated with how well everything went, with the new ideas that came up (one of which went into practise immediately), with the ease of being together.
Week 3 had a final work team meeting at reinblau, our main organisational development client in Berlin. I was glad to wrap up the work for now, and give it over into full responsibility of the client. The rhythm felt right: There is time for consulting and input and change, and a time to let things settle or unfold in new ways, to step away, and come back at another time.
I got stuck in Berlin with the storm and found myself with a gorgeous room at the Lux 11 for the night, looking out on Alexanderplatz. From there, I ran a call with our new clients in Groningen in the next morning, discussing next steps and setting up a new workshop with them. (We started working with a team of researchers from the University of Groningen in November 2017, working with a process based on our strategy workshop. More to come.)
In the final week, I reconnected with Holacracy Club, a Berlin-based community of Holacracy practitioners that I hadn’t been with in many months. I was glad to get updates on what everyone is doing. It turned out that many of us are now consultants! (When I joined in 2016, I was the only one.)
I explored three new incoming work requests from potential clients and produced proposals for all of them.
Our work feels easy and calm and purposeful at the moment. The work load is just right. Occasional feelings of overwhelm point me to better personal organisation, rather than to changes in the company.
We basically function as a team of 2 people now. While last year this has given me some worry about not having enough capacity or not being interesting enough, I now appreciate the ease of coordination and the sense of personal responsibility that this gives us. As we keep the number of concurrent projects low (and are making conscious effort to reduce work-in-progress where we can), we can stay focused and make good progress in all places that need attention.
Last month, we started 2018 with a residential Partner Retreat. We (and our guests) liked it so much that we’re already planning the next one for May.
We know that some of our clients, colleagues and readers organise their own team retreats regularly, so we thought we’d share with you which ingredients helped us most to make it such a rewarding and inspiring experience.
1. A Beautiful Place
We know that space matters. We know it well enough to have a designated role that takes care of it. And yet, we were once again surprised to see how very much it matters.
Eibenhof, which hosted us for the five days of the Partner Retreat, was absolutely lovely. A cozy house on a family estate right by the lake, with our own fire place, a spacious country kitchen, various naptime spots and lovely walking routes right outside the door.
Over the years that Structure & Process has existed, our purpose has changed many times. We have moved between “large”, “high”, more abstract goals or visions, and more down-to-earth manifestations of what our company intends to bring into the world.
We are looking for words that inspire and guide us: They tell us what to put attention to and what to work on. They should also be inviting for others to engage with us. We are looking for a quality that “opens” – that invites new conversations about things that matter – and that “closes” – moves to action – at the same time.
We phrase Purpose positively, as an outcome that we want to see in the world: At the same time, we acknowledge the flipside of every positive statement: A sentiment of pain or suffering, something that is “wrong” or less than ideal for us, and calls for improving, fixing, bettering.
Over two Partner Meetings this summer, we changed our company purpose again. It became, short and simple: “Beautiful Work.”
Our current company purpose: “Beautiful Work”
When we started out with Structure & Process in 2012, we noticed that many people around us were dissatisfied with their work: They disliked their work environments, their bosses, their coworkers or their staff. Some questioned the meaning of their work fundamentally, being disillusioned with capitalism and looking for more depth in their work.
Then I noticed that I was not happy myself: I loved my freedom and autonomy as a self-employed person, but missed the deep connectedness and shared meaning that I had experienced living as a Buddhist Monastic.
While staying at the Obenaus Community in Southern Styria this week, I tracked my day: I wanted to observe how I spend my time, so that I can harvest insights on a balanced work day structure.
I share it here for inspiration and exchange: I am curious how others structure their day to find balance, health and productivity in their work day.
“Work” for me was office work on this day – mostly on the computer.
0700 Meditation & self-care
0800 Breakfast (about 45 minutes, then set up for work)
0900 Work (online meeting with the team of Structure & Process)
1030 Break / personal social time (spent in the garden, speaking on the phone with a friend)
1100 Break / Community time
1125 Work continues (computer, phone, paper)
1415 Nap & self-care
1900 End Work
This schedule felt just right for me, except for the last work period, which was too long. If this became my proper schedule, I would experiment ending work at 1830.
This would net three work periods of 1.5 hours and one of 1 hour: 5.5 net work hours (which seems plenty). I could see the work periods dedicated for other purposes (community time, study, outside travels, more rest) depending on situational need.
My personal highlights:
Early wakeup. I enjoy waking up early. I often go to bed late though, which then impacts on everything else. On this day, I had committed to a shared meditation at 0700, so I knew I would get up at a fixed time.
Dedicated meditation time.
Regular meals. Early-ish breakfast. Long lunch break.
Dedicated time for personal connections and community during the day (not pushed aside by work, not pushed into the evening)
Scheduled Nap Time! Every day becomes better with a nap for me. I have never regretted a single nap I took, ever. Note to self: take more naps.
Dedicated personal care time during the day (while I am awake and energetic, not pushed into the evening when I am often tired)
Work periods have 90 minutes max, then a break follows.
I have yet to see how I can apply this in my daily life, which often involves travels and changes in location. I could see an expansion for the week too, using this from Monday to Thursday, relaxing on Friday and taking a break on Saturday and Sunday.
What structures do you use to go through your day? What has worked for you and what not? I am curious to hear about others’ schedules or interesting pieces of structure that help you find balance, health, productivity and peace of mind during your work day!