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!
I procrastinated publishing this post long enough that our organisation’s official purpose changed meanwhile. :-) I still find it valuable to share though, as it expresses a nuance on our work that I enjoy.
Even if as a company, we now speak more generally about “beautiful work” (another blogpost will follow), “encounters for meaningful collaboration” are still the heart of what we produce and what we thrive on. I offer this to you, for inspiration and connection! – Martina
We say: Encounters, as in: meeting of real people: Real humans meeting real humans. In all their complexity. With all the potential for change.
We say: “encounters” rather than “meetings”: Encounters are fierce, intensely personal, piercing. They might start subtly, but they carry immense strength. An encounter will change you, and may change your life.
We say: Collaboration, as in: working together to build something. Solving problems. Doing it together as opposed to doing it alone. With shared ownership and active engagement of all parties.
Collaboration may be structured or free-flowing. Rules and roles may appear, change, and dissolve. Collaboration can be clear and collaboration can be messy. Sometimes it is both at the same time.
We say: Meaningful, as in: with purpose. With depth. With intent. Sinnvoll. Zweckgerichtet. Intentional. We invite depth, feeling, intentionality. We quest into intimate questions of what is important and what not. We care for the personal meaning in what may look to the outside as shared or even collective, large-scale work. Life is short. What is meaningful to you?
Meaningful collaboration is not: random. “For fun”. An “experiment”. It is dedicated effort towards something significant. Fun and lightness come naturally to the process, but they are not goals in themselves. Enjoyment may be: Deep joy arises when meaning is apparent.
As an organisation, Structure & Process creates “encounters for meaningful collaboration”. In our work as a team, with our clients, in our client organisations. We invite you to join us: to co-create, to collaborate, and engage with the world’s, our communities’ and our shared personal challenges.
The Structure & Process Partner Meeting is one of our favourite formats for joyful, meaningful collaboration.
The main ingredients have remained mostly the same for the past few years: an agile agenda, a dedicated meeting facilitator, clarity on work modes, space and time for personal exchange, the pile of success, good food… – you can find details about all these elements here.
More recently, we have been increasingly inviting external guests, which lead to Open Partner Meetings: In these, we collaborate with clients, colleagues, applicants, friends and other interested (and interesting!) people.
The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.
The customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something.
Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it. (Source)
We noticed that the practices at Structure & Process can basically be summarised in three categories: personal organization/productivity, community building and governance.
Our personal productivity practices enable us to do good work in the first place: host yourself first, to make yourself available for collaboration.
Then we come together and form a community: We build personal relationships and discover our shared interests as the basis for co-creation. We refine our purpose as an organisation, grounded in community.
And then, to function smoothly as collaborators, we buildgovernance systems/practices that allow us to orchestrate and focus our efforts.
Here is how some of our practices showed up at the last Open Partner Meeting:
“What do I need?” – Our favourite starting point for solving problems and getting stuff done. Turns out that asking this question is a practice in and of itself. The answers become part of the agenda.
We ask “What do I need?” (or, when facilitated: “what do you need?”), not: “what do we need? What should we do?” We make our work personal.
Capture, process, do – whenever a meeting or session leads to actionable items, the habit is to capture those items, process them to a place that makes sense (personal todo list, shared Trello board) and then do it when the time is right. Things don’t get lost, and action happens at the right place and time.
Knowing that you and your partners run on some version of this system builds trust and allows being present in the moment.
Circles – every morning we check in together as one coherent group of individuals. At the end of the day we check out again, sharing whatever moves us at that particular time.
We prioritize relationships and quality of life – during Partner Meetings there’s plenty of time for food, music and good conversation :-)
Whenever we go into planning mode (“what is the next thing to do now?”) there is no consensus building on the agenda point that everyone wants to do, but rather taking the initiative to host a session and then seeing who shows up (open-space-style).
We are very clear on our individual roles and accountabilities, which makes task assignment easy, efficient and relaxed.
One of our Holacratic Governance Meetings took place during this week. Guests could watch and ask questions about the process afterwards.
Practice with us!
The next Open Partner Meeting will happen on October 24-26 2017, again in Dresden. Our guests typically get more clarity on their questions related to organisational development, collaboration, personal path in business/life and generally have a good time… They explore their own projects, or collaborating with Structure & Process. Some have found jobs and love! ;-)
Martina was asked how she experiences working in an organisation that runs on Holacracy and what makes it stand out from more traditional ways of working. Here are some of her thoughts.
You can do anything you wish. You have a general permission – a completely anarchistic general permission. You can simply act.
Everybody takes on tasks they want to deliver and declares the time of delivery. You cannot assign tasks to anybody. And you cannot tell them how or when to deliver, either. You simply manage your own work. And if it happens that others do not deliver it the time they declared and you cannot wait for them – there is the underlying agreement to move on and do what you believe to be right. All the waiting and delegating falls away. This is extremely liberating. The mental drama of “but we are not ready yet” and “but we still need this and that” becomes obsolete. You just go. And if people do not deliver or no longer fulfil their tasks, they need to make sure they still keep their jobs. In Holacracy, jobs are not described by positions, but by the responsibilities and roles you take on.
It is called “Do and let do”.
When you allow this to be the rule for money too, you show people you really mean it. In Structure & Process anybody can spend up to 300€ for whatever they decide is important, without previously consulting with others. The only rule: it needs to help the organisation fulfil the organisational purpose.
Holacracy gives you a very strong mirror.
When you complain about others being a certain way and not different, at some point you just can no longer make it about them. You realize that it is actually about you. And all change will have to result from within you. This confronts you very strongly with questions like: If I am allowed to do anything, what is it that I truly want to do? What is it that I truly need?
Holacracy brings you back to yourself in yet another way: it offers no space for expecting that others will guess what you need, or what you want. This is quite hard for some. It is not how we are socialised, mostly. So yes, it requires some practice – but this training in self-directedness pays back with a genuine feeling of more freedom and being less burdened.
The self-organisation system is also great for high performers.
Those are people who otherwise often struggle in teams and tend to feel torn between waiting for the others and not living their full potential vs. going their natural pace and feeling like they are a handful. A holacratic working environment allows them to go full throttle.
Have a peek into our own structures and processes:
To support the implementation, maintenance and development of the system there are some software solutions available. Structure & Process uses Glassfrog. You can have a peek at how an up-and-running organisation that operates on Holacracy looks like, see our structures, purpose, tasks and roles here.
Structure & Process’ “Partner Meetings” are bimonthly get-togethers of the team of Structure & Process. From being “internal meetings” originally, they have evolved to include clients, prospects and business partners.
In November 2016, we took the next step and opened up our structure even further, showing what was “internal” to clients, and what was “client-only” to business partners and our wider network. We also invited our community to contribute to and become part of the meeting.
It turned out to be a wonderful format for doing joyful, inspired and effective work – so much so that we’re doing it again this February! View all the details here (in German).
Every Partner Meeting is different, but the rest of this post is meant to give you an idea of what it can look like…
People start to work: Conversation between Rob and Martina about the future of Partner Meetings, their sustainability, probable profitability and their integration into the structure.
Kind of a tradition at Partner Meetings: Lunch at an Asian place.
More people show up, the team is almost complete – setting up the space.
After arriving, settling in and putting up the space, the Open Partner Meeting starts with a check-in round:
Martina calls for a session about Organisational Purpose Shift:
The next session for most people is about Partner Community and Applicant Processes –exploring whether a membership system is an option to develop.
Very closely related is the development of Partner Meetings as a (core) product of Structure & Process:
The first guests arrive: Luca and Julia from Reinblau join our Meeting. They are clients in a consulting project from Martina, Lara and Rainer.
After lunch for some participants and a nice walk along the Elbe for the others – the meeting resumes with a Governance Meeting of the GCC. This is a good observing and learning opportunity for some of our guests. Lara explains procedures and gives background information. The minutes of that meeting can be found right here in our Glassfrog.
More guests have arrived: Tobias already joined our last Partner Meeting. He was a coaching client of Martina’s for a while and is interested in our work. Nora is a consultant and knows Rainer and Martina. She came all the way from Bratislava to join.
Rainer and Nora catching up:
Lara prepares the check-out round for the day:
New guests have arrived: We welcome Anja and Gregor. The third day starts with planning mode again. Most of the people decide on an introduction to Teal from Nora.
The next session is hosted by Rainer who has a business idea he wants to develop. His basic assumption is that there is not enough consulting competence in clients’ companies. They are consulted by us, but they need to consult with their clients as well. This is enforced when transformation processes within the company affect their clients, too.
In a second session in the afternoon interested people start to get into operational details for a consulting workshop offer that would increase consulting competences with clients.
Later, Rainer offers a session in Action Learning:
I visited Obenaus Community in Styria this month. The community there is currently reflecting its decision making process and ask me to briefly introduce them to Holacracy.
As I was speaking, Viola Tschendel – Graphic Harvester, and one of the residents at Obenaus – created this visual of my talk.
A brief outline:
Holacracy is based on Purpose. It organises the work, the “stuff”, not the people.
First Rule is: You can do anything. (Unless it is forbidden.) Go for it.
Second step: Assign Roles: Capture what is already happening, make it transparent. (So that it can be discussed more easily, and changed if necessary.)
A Role has a Name, a Purpose, and Accountabilities. It might have a Domain: Property that it controls. (“Don’t touch the cook’s knives without permission.”)
It helps to have a stable process facilitator, to help the community have the conversation about role building, domains, control.
Holacracy defines a process for the conversation about power. It opens up stable, safe space for constructive disagreement. It allows people to show up fully, with all of their concerns, worries or wishes for change, and process these inputs (called “tensions”) into useful output.
The Holacracy Governance Process brings clarity and efficiency in creating and processing proposals for structural change
The Holacracy Tactical Process asks “what do you need?”, thereby keeps tension with the tension holder, creating safe space for others.
“Lead Link” is a Role that assigns Roles to people. People can always give roles back: nobody can be forced to do work or hold a Role they don’t want.
Subcircles can be formed as the structure gets more complicated
I left very inspired from my stay, having joined Social Presencing Theatre (with Dirk Bräuninger) and Systemic Constellations (with Rainer von Leoprechting, who is also a Partner in Structure & Process). I was glad to work with Viola (you will see more of us coming up), and with Vihra Dincheva, an excellent Online Host and Partner in Enlivening Edge. All the best for your next steps!
Earlier this year, Lara and I were part of co-creating a new book on healing psychological trauma (recently published in Dutch, English translation coming up).
What started with the dream of one person, became a reality through collaboration of a group that involved over 100 people.
The short version of the story? The one person having the dream was Ybe, traumatherapist and Lara’s mother. She started writing the book. Then Lara and Jill added illustrations and poetry. Then, Rob and 20 more people joined in organising a marketing and social media campaign. Finally, close to 150 crowdfunders made the first print of the book a reality!
At Structure & Process we value a good online infrastructure for collaboration. Since we often work together virtually, the online environment is important for us. We need good tools that help us get stuff done and are enjoyable to use at the same time.
We think we’ve got this figured out pretty well and we always like to share our practices. And so today we’ll show you how we use Trello as our main tool for online collaboration on projects and how it serves as our digital office.
The goal? To show you how to use Trello to make your project successful!
What is Trello?
Trello is an online tool, which you can use in your browser or as an app for mobile devices. It’s main purpose is organising information in a visual and flexible way. It can be used for organising stuff individually and organising work as a team or company. In this blogpost we’ll focus on using Trello for collaboration.
What’s so great about it?
There are probably a few hundred applications and tools out there that can be used to organise and coordinate work. Here are some of the reasons why we are sticking to Trello:
Working with Trello is like having a huge office with a lot of walls, unlimited sticky notes, coloured pens, markers and everything else you need to create organised overviews.
Once your project or business gets bigger, moving to a new office is a lot of work. Opening a new board in Trello, however, is a breeze. As you grow, Trello can grow alongside of you.