What All Great Teams Practice [Fogelson]

I came across

What All Great Team Practice

by Mackenzie Fogelson a few weeks back and immediately knew that it’d merit a blog post. But also that it’d take a bit of work to unpack. Below is my summary of the piece, which required some rejiggering of content in a way that’s hopefully still in-line with the author’s original intent.

The piece kicks-off with an important distinction between:

  • Ways of doing — actions teams and organizations operationalize in order to work in new, adaptive ways.
  • Ways of being — mindsets and behaviors that are integral to changing the ways of doing.

The key thesis in the piece is that teams and organizations often run off to change the ways of doing, ignoring the needs to change the underlying ways of being. If the current ways of being include learned helplessness, retaliation, shame, blame, and fear — no material change will be accomplished.

Specific practices can be used to address the emotional (ways of being) side first and cultivate the critical mindsets and behaviors:

  • Self-awareness — through the use of structured personal self-reflection exercises (what’s one strength you bring? what do people misunderstand about you? what needs acknowledging? what behaviors served or have not been serving this team?) and regular team check-ins.
  • Psychological safety — through the use of daily reminders of the commitment that each individual makes on the way they’re going to show up when engaging others, and the collective environment that they want to create.
  • Curiosity — through the use of more Socratic questioning instead of being “the person with all the answers”, and, mixed-up with strengthening self-awareness, the use of above/below the line reflections.

With more productive “ways of being” in place, the focus can start shifting towards better “ways of doing” starting off with a comprehensive team chartering exercise, which is detailed in the remainder of the and covering the following questions:

  • Mission + Purpose — Who do we serve? Who is our customer? How do we contribute to the organization’s success? What’s our outcome and how do we know we’ve reached it?
  • Values + Guiding principles — How do we want to show up every day? How do we want to get our work done? What will remind us to stay true to ourselves, our values, and our purpose?
  • Meetings — What is the purpose of each of our meetings? How often and how long do we meet? What meetings are missing and which ones do we need to stop having?
  • Communications — How do we collaborate? What technology do we use? When and why? What methods will we use for feedback and conflict?
  • Guardrails and norms — What guardrails will allow us to be autonomous in pursuing our purpose? What idiosyncrasies are important for us to name so we can do our work? When will we revisit our commitment to each other?
What All Great Teams Practice [Fogelson]

Decomposing Management: Stewardship [Loomio]

Source: Enspiral

Stewarding at Loomio

Out of the many organizations doing innovative exploration of the future of work, Enspiral, and its ventures (such as: Loomio) are most certainly at the leading forefront of some of the most radical experiments.

Flatter, more egalitarian working environments are a big part of their organizational vision and as a critical milestone towards accomplishing it, they are working to minimize the natural power dynamic that exists in the way the role of managers is traditionally defined.

Rather than simply “eliminating managers” and suffer the consequences of the gaping organizational hole that is left (a common anti-pattern), they’ve set out to deliberately identify the critical functions that managers play and unbundle them into several roles, that are then spread more evenly across the entire community.

One of those roles is “Stewarding”, which is defined as follows:

When you have an issue, you can’t approach a group; you need a specific person you know you can turn to. This is what your steward is for. They won’t solve every problem, but they are your point of contact to make sure the problem gets solved. If you don’t know who to go to, you can always go to them.

Stewarding is not about managing your daily work. Its about you as an individual, and your relationship to the co-op. They can be your mentor, or your guide, or your sounding board. If you ever get into a conflict situation, they’ll be by your side making sure you are well supported to a resolution.

They also provide a few concrete use cases that you’ll typically use your manager for but at Loomio, should be addressed by your Steward:

*) Be the ones you talk to if your coworker is being a jerk

*) Support you to meet your personal development goals

*) Help make sure you do the things you said you were going to do

*) Put a human face on talking to ‘the organisation’

Almost everyone at Loomio has a Steward, and almost everyone is someone else’s Steward (the illustration at the top of the post demonstrates that well), with a couple of edge cases that are spelled out in detail in the Stewardship policy.

While this solution is not without its shortcomings, for example, it works best when Stewarding needs, capabilities and motivations are homogeneous (which is hardly ever the case), it is, by all means, a viable alternative solution to the way these responsibilities are handled using the traditional management approach. Which is more that can be said for several other proposed alternatives out there. I’m excited to see how this organizational experiment pans out as both Enspiral and Loomio scale and looking forward to having them share their learnings with the broader community.

Decomposing Management: Stewardship [Loomio]

NOBL’s Org Design Principles [NOBL]

NOBL’s What Is Organizational Design? page is a trove a trove of useful frameworks and tools for anyone interested in playing an active role in shaping the future of work.

Today, I want to call out their list of “Org Design Principles” in particular (full descriptions are available on the NOBL website):

  1. Serve.
  2. Anticipate change.
  3. Surrender the past.
  4. Chase fit, not fads.
  5. Do no harm.
  6. Design by doing.
  7. Play your zone.
  8. Advocate for the individual. 
  9. Delay drawing boxes.
  10. Keep work simple. 
  11. Make change a habit. 
NOBL’s Org Design Principles [NOBL]

The Comp Transparency Spectrum [McKinney Blount]

Source: First Round Review

Just finish reading this weekend the First Round Review article featuring bethanye McKinney Blount’s work:

Opening Up About Comp Isn’t Easy — Here’s How to Get More Transparent

As its title suggests, is an extensive “how to” guide on how companies can start taking steps towards making compensation more transparent. A loaded topic that I’ll probably come back to and analyze in more detail in the future.

It covers the whole gamut from the initial motivation that push companies to be more transparent about their comp, through the critical milestones, all the way to the important minutiae of delivering the right messages by managers and the key points in the company all hands.

The most useful thing that I took away from the article is the “comp transparency spectrum” featured above. It presents pay transparency more as a polarity than a dichotomous either/or problem, and offers multiple notches in between the poles. Comp transparency is not simply going, step-by-step from the far left side of the spectrum to the far right side of the spectrum. It’s choosing where you should be on that spectrum (according to the kind of culture you want to create), identifying where you are now, and then taking the gradual steps to go from point A to point B.

The Comp Transparency Spectrum [McKinney Blount]