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.
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.
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! ;-)
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.
“Organisations thriving, people loving their work, world saved.”
The world probably needs no saving, but until we have that absolutely clear, we’ll go ahead with this. Good enough for now.
For our organisation to thrive and myself to love my work more (and, finally, to save the world), we need a new Consulting Assistant, as Angela is taking new ways (staying with the company, doing new things).
It will be hard to replace her, but maybe you can do it.