Category Archives: Tools and Methods

Open Partner Meeting: What’s Your Practice?

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

  1. The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.
  2. The customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something.
  3. 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.

Scribbles & notes about our practices

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:

Personal Organisation

  • “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.
Capturing the outline of Open Partner Meeting

Community Building

Check-in Circle
  • 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 :-)

Governance:

  • 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!

Successful Projects with Trello

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.

IMG_1616

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:

It’s unlimited

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.

Continue reading Successful Projects with Trello

Links of the Week (Week 2/2016)

LinksoftheWeek

Hello again. Happy New Year! Hope you had wonderful holidays and a good start into the New Year of 2016. Here are our first Links of the Week, curated from our link collection:

Start-ups

Ross Mayfield writes about the right momentum you need to build your start-up or project. The author encourages leaders to especially look out  for internal momentum such as a good team, and take the chance to use that. Momentum.

Another helpful and related advice for start-up founders has Auren Hoffmann on Quora. Deriving from sports, he draws a general distinction between the “Position player” and the “All-Around-Athlete”. Both – the highly specialized employee as well as the multi-talented one – are required in companies, but they are needed in different situations and phases of the company: How do you avoid hiring the wrong people for your startup?

Continue reading Links of the Week (Week 2/2016)

Links of the Week (Week 50/2015)

LinksoftheWeek

Here are our Links of the Week, curated from our link collection:

Business Planning

Are you working on a new product but don’t know yet whether there is enough interest in your solution? Inbound Rocket offers some useful tips how to talk to potential customers and get feedback for your idea: 5 Strategies We Used to Get Over 150 Customer Conversations.

Organisational Development

Aaron Dignet draws an interesting framework to systemise current approaches and experiments for a more open, fluid business organisation: He takes the head count of the company and their specific risk and puts together a helpful matrix for self-assessment: How to choose a model of self-organization that works for you.

Personal Purpose

This is an article that is a bit painful to read when you are a person that loves to make plans and strategic decisions (like me). Chris Clark shares a conversation with Frederic Laloux about the steps that would normally follow a successful book like “Reinventing Orgnizations”. But Laloux keeps to his mindset shared in the book, refuses to make big plans and just has one major advice: Follow your personal answer to the question: “What’s next?” Where Is All This Teal Stuff Going? The Future of Reinventing Organizations.

Holacracy

A report from Dutch organisation Voys who has implemented Holacracy: People are working more, because they like their work,  meetings are better and a boost of productivity ensued: “Is Holacracy our way forward or are we actually just making it harder for ourselves?”

Auf deutsch:

Kilian Kleinschmidt leitete Flüchtlingslager in aller Welt. Im Interview beschreibt er unter anderem, wie Menschen sich in diesen Lagern selbst organisieren, sich ihre individuellen Freiräume und damit ihre Würde selbst schaffen. Das tun sie oft gegen den Widerstand der Organisatoren, die Standardisierung und Kontrolle bevorzugen würden. Heute sagt er: “Es hat bei mir ein bisschen gedauert, bis ich begriffen habe, dass der Mut zum Chaos ein menschlicheres Miteinander ermöglicht.” „Arroganz des Helfens“

Links of the Week (Week 44/2015)

LinksoftheWeek

Here are our Links of the Week, with a special focus on Holacracy this time, curated from our link collection.

Holacracy

In Unlocking the Benefits of Self-Management Without Going All In on Holacracy, Mike Arauz, a Co-Founder of August, describes the lessons they have learned from Holacracy without relying on the system in their new company.

“While many of Holacracy’s underlying principles are incredibly valuable, it is possible to reap the benefits without formally adopting Holacracy.”

 

Ever wondered how to make the transition to a new organization model like Holacracy? In Holacracy at BSL: Moving Forward Denitsa Marinova shares her experience of a workshop with a Holacracy-trained coach as the first step.

“Upon reflection, I see how brilliant this is – Holacracy creates a work space where employees speak out of their functional roles and keep personal feelings at bay – a safe space which rules out power games altogether.”

 

Laura Groten adds a personal assessment to this Holacracy collection. In her article, she focuses on the benefits of Holacracy for her individual development:

“Working with Holacracy, I am empowered to make things better, participate in making decisions and improve my work environment.”

Auf deutsch:

In 10 Dinge, die ich gelernt habe, seitdem ich ein Team führe listet Juliane auf Kleinerdrei einige wichtige Erkenntnisse und Reflektionen über Führung und Teamarbeit auf – als Bonus untermalt mit 10 passenden Gifs. Ein wichtiger Ratschlag einer Freundin: „Never freak out before you have to freak out.”
“Was sie meinte, war: Hole dir alle Informationen, die du brauchst, bevor du glaubst, dass die Katastrophe eingetroffen ist. Spar deine Energie, solange du nicht weißt, ob du Grund zum Ausflippen hast.”

Use your hands!

Handsigns for Meetings

SPblog-handsigns

Have you ever attended a local party meeting? People get off-topic a lot. People argue louder and louder while one person repeats their point for a third time. You have a correction to some recently shared information, but there are 5 people ahead of you on the speaking list… You name it.

In these never ending meetings, I always wished to cut all these situations short. Here comes the answer: Our partner Lara has a method she calls „Use your hands“. She has compiled and illustrated the handy list of signs you can use during meetings.

These signs have their roots in sign language and in different activist movements. For example the Occupy movement uses them, too.
„But you don’t need to be an activist to use them, right?“, points out Lara.

She advises to introduce the signs before using them, and to explain how they make things easier. „I always draw them somewhere visible for the whole group, too“, Lara tells. In her meetings and facilitation situations, she usually introduces only a few of the signs to find out whether people are curious and enthusiastic about the idea.

Maybe I will take the list to my next party meeting and see how curious my fellow party members get.

What are your experiences in meetings? Do you find the signs helpful? Would you try these signs in actual meetings?

5 Steps to Building an Organisation

What are the essential steps to seting up and maintaining coherent, purposeful collaborative work? How do you build an organisation?

Giving a talk to participants of Berlin’s Climate-KIC accelerator program last week helped me clarify my thinking on this. I will attempt to sketch out a systematic way to to get from “a bunch of people wanting to do things together” to a working and evolving organisation. There are many ways to do this – this is one, that, in our experience, has often worked well. It is informed by the work we did with Nenásilná komunikace group and our practise of Holacracy.

This will most likely be incomplete or unclear in places – please do leave questions and comments below so that it can improve!

1) Clarify Purpose

Goal: Arrive at a shared expression of purpose.

Method: Story Circle Conversation with Convergence.

'The Circle Way' Book Cover

Get all founders together and host a circle conversation on purpose.

Continue reading 5 Steps to Building an Organisation

A character to voice fears safely

In coaching and consulting conversations, it is often useful to give space to fears: to express them,  to be able to look deeper, find out what information they are carrying and find solutions when they are blocking action.

However, it can be difficult to express fears openly, especially when in a group situation. And when people do express fear, the situation can easily turn “dark” and gloomy.

Together with colleague Karolina Iwa of Progressive Partners, I came up with the idea of creating a persona to hold the fear. By creating a “fearful character”, it could be easier to express fear safely: We envisioned a humorous situation in which the client could say. “*I* have no fears, but my little friend here…” and then have space to voice even irrational fears that otherwise might stay unvoiced but still be present.

I have been experimenting with this intervention in latest client meeting and found it to be very useful.

Continue reading A character to voice fears safely