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.
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:
“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.
The Team at Structure & Process works from multiple locations. And while our online infrastructure (based on Slack and Trello) is great, from time to time we need to get together to figure things out in person, have some fun, and work on current projects in just one place. We call these gatherings Partner Meetings.
What are the defining characteristics of our Partner Meetings?
We have an AgileAgenda: Everyone can add items at any time, and we decide together in which order the items are processed.
The meeting has a facilitator. They are elected in the beginning and help the team to navigate through all agenda items.
There are scheduled unscheduled times during partner meetings: These allow space for personal exchange and fun together.
We work a lot. In those 2-4 days everybody focuses on Structure & Process work intensely, we dive into passionate collaboration.
During the meeting there is good food. Whether it is self-made or our favourite Asian food (when we meet in Düsseldorf), it is always delicious. We take ample time for lunch and other breaks.
Guests are invited. Besides the Team of Structure & Process, we usually have at least one guest at Partner Meetings: these can be external collaboration partners or candidates who are in the process of deciding whether to join us.
The Pile of Success collects all our processed agenda cards – a tangible symbol of our accomplishments in the meeting. We burn the pile ritually to celebrate our successful meeting at the end.
Here are some impressions of our last Partner Meeting in Düsseldorf in September.
We emphasize “organisations” now. This comes from a better understanding of what our work of the last months has been about: we are interested in _organisations_: structures that are transpersonal, sustainable over a long time, in changing circumstances.
Organisations amplify the powers of the individual and provide an interface for the outside world. They are hubs – points of connection – and fields – spaces from which new directions can emerge.
_People_ are key to this: they make the effort that is necessary to sustain organisations.
Why do we, humans, care about organisations? Why make the effort to build, or work in them?
Because work can be meaningful. (Purpose, Meaning.)
Because work can be satisfying. (Effectiveness. Efficiency. Input-Output. Results.)
What happens or needs to happen when an organisation switches to Holacracy?
With this article, I intend to give some clarity for founders or owners of companies that consider using Holacracy. I will outline the steps that need to be taken to move from the existing structure to Holacracy.
Our October email newsletter speaks about people _thriving_ in collaboration (our new company purpose), introduces our new Associate Partner Rob van den Brand, reports from client work and past Holacracy events, and shares inspirations for project work and organisation building.