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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.
So… what was it like?
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.
Good to be writing again. Hello, world.
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.
How our Organisation’s Purpose guides what we do.
Structure & Process uses an explicit company purpose statement to guide its work. I recently wrote about encounters for meaningful collaboration – our company purpose until July 2017. I have also written about Purposeful Organisations in which people love to work in February 2015.
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!
(Originally posted on the (closed) Obenaus Facebook Group on August 2nd 2017, expanded and edited for this blog.)
Obenaus is an international residential community exploring healthy and sustainable ways of living in community. It was co-founded by Rainer von Leoprechting, who is a partner in Structure & Process.
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.
We are looking forward to meeting you.
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.
During the last Open Partner Meeting (Feb 27 – March 2) in Dresden, another element emerged in the form of a question:
What is our practice?
practice /ˈpraktɪs/ noun
- 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 build governance 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! ;-)
You are most welcome! (Sign up to our newsletter to receive an invite in time!)
Now we’d like to hear from you…
- What is the practice that informs your work?
- What do you find yourself doing again and again?
- How do you apply the ideas and theories that guide your work in practice?
Let us know in the comments!
Some weeks ago Martina Röll, the founder of Structure & Process, was interviewed by Karolina Iwa, in the context of Leadership Festival which will take place this summer in Poland. There is a recording of an online session that followed this interview available on Facebook.
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.
Want more? Check out our list of upcoming Holacracy Events in Europe!
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.