Malwina Ulrych was a partner at Structure & Process from 2017 until 2019. During that time, she filled roles in consulting and marketing. Nowadays she works as a freelance coach, supporting individual change processes through applied psychology.
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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!
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.
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.