dear CEO, tear down this wall!

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On the 12.th of June 1987, the then US President Ronald Reagan held a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin near the Berlin-wall. The wall separated to different kinds of ideology, the east and the west, state-directed economy and free market economy, the communism and the capitalism, state control and liberty.

The Berlin Wall, as part of the iron Curtain, was an impressive emblem of the cold war from 1945 to 1990. The Berlin Wall was an emblem, a landmark for separating, for ‘protection’ and for being intransparent.

Today, the Berlin Wall is part of the global history and notwithstanding we have to face the idea of the iron Curtain nearly every day. Almost without recognizing it.

We call it ‘the black Wall’

I’m talking about meetings, particularly business meetings. We all have to attend business meetings almost every day. The appearance of a modern bussiness meeting looks like this, a meeting room with one or more tables, chairs and lots of notebooks and mobiles.

the Black Wall

I experienced such kind of meetings for the half of my life. Being in a meeting and having the feeling that we are all hiding ourselves behind a little computer. Looking in a lot of eyes without being able to see a complete face, most people are busy with themselves, people are typing something in their notebook. Having a notebook or mobile in front of us is a kind of protection, helps us to do something different – if the current speaker is boring or I’m not interested in the topic etc. …

We protect ourselves from being in a real and deep contact and connection with all others. A basic requirement for fruitful conversations and dynamic dialogue.

You might want to say, ‘but I need my notebook – all information I need is available on it’. Ok, if this is the case why do you need a face to face meeting and what is the purpose of your meetings? Why do you attend? Is there a better way to achieve results?

What’s the purpose and what do you want to achieve?

Way too often we attend meetings without being aware of the real purpose of that meeting and if it is really needed. Could we have the same outcome with a different technique, maybe by sending an email, post infos on the intranet or having a Skype-call?

The purpose of a business meeting is about talking and exchanging ideas and opinions to come to a decision. The purpose could be also to strengthen the connection between the participants so that they can work as a team or to solve conflicts. There are thousands of serious purposes for having a meeting. So why do so many people complain about their company culture and how they handle meetings?

Way too often we have the feeling of wasting our time in a meeting. If you experience exactly that please allow me to ask you, who is responsible that the time in a meeting is used effective and efficient? The meeting organizer, your boss or even the whole company? I’m sorry, it is you and everybody else who is in the meeting!

If you are going to a business meeting and have the feeling it’s a waste of time, you need to talk to all others and to the meeting organizer how you can handle your meetings more effective and more efficient. Have you ever done that? If not, please start with it!

What can I do to improve my own meetings?

  • Tear down the wall first – get rid of notebooks and mobiles during a meeting – get rid of everything that can consume attention so tht people are fully present and can focus on what they want to achieve.
  • Agree on some meeting rules like everybody is responsible for the outcome of the meeting, listen carefully and talk with intention etc. (ask your attendees what they think is reasonable.)
  • Retrospect about your meetings. Reserve 10 minutes at the end of your next meeting and talk about how to improve it. Inspect and adapt.
  • Invite a Facilitator to create a setting for your meetings and to moderate it.
  • Try it ‘the Circle Way’ – have a circle of chairs – without tables
  • Get rid of presentations like PowerPoint-slides – visualize important information on a FlipChart or MetaWall.
  • Try serious games (yes, SERIOUS GAMES!) It can be so much fun to discuss or work on topics in a playful way

the Circle Way

I’d like to challenge you to tear down the wall, the black wall. It is the first step to transform the way you work with others. Tear down the wall and find a new way of dialogue. Tear down the wall and experience a new connection with your colleagues. Tear down the wall to find a deeper relationship with your peers. Tear down the wall as a first step for improving your meeting culture. Tear down the wall for success!

Further reading

death by meeting by Patrick M. Lencioni

the Semco System by Ricardo Semler (sorry, no link available)

co-creation of Ewan McGregor

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As a second post about the first Agile Coach Camp in the Netherlands, end of April 2012, I’d like to tell the story how the Ewan McGregor game was born.

elephanjt in the room

The elephant is in the room

One of the most challenging situations for a team coach or even a team itself, is dealing with an ‘elephant’ in the room.  In reality I need to say – avoid dealing with the ‘elephant’ in the room.

What is an elephant in the room, sometimes also known as the pink elephant? In simple words, it’s an obvious situation within a human social structure, nobody wants to talk about and even avoid facing this obvious situation. It’s also a part of teamdynamics. You can read on wikipedia: elephant in the room

I’ve experienced several situations in the past, where there was an elephant in the room – in Teams, in relationships – private and business, even within whole departments or companies. But how do you deal with such situations? Do you confrontate, what can be very hurtful, or do you deal with symptoms? My experience is that you need to be very sensitive when dealing with such crucial topics – and never forget, there is a reason why a problem has reached the level of an elephant in the room!

A background of such situations is based on fear of conflict and a lack of trust – the two most important issues of dysfunctional teams, as well as fear of loosing status. During a coaching session, while reviewing such an ‘elephant in the room’-situation, I had the idea of creating a game where such a situation will be simulated and players need to deal with it. My intention was to create a safe environment which allows players to explore such sensitive situations and learn how to deal with them for the purpose of creating awareness.

I was thinking about different approaches to achieve that game but unfortunately a promising idea was missing. But hey, this is a perfect topic to explore during an open space session and the Agile Coach Camp Netherlands was just a few weeks ahead.

Agile Coach Camp Netherlands – 2012

So, during creation of the OpenSpace marketplace I offered a session for co-creating an interactive game to deal with an elephant in the room. Fortunately approx 10 people showed up for the session – wow, that was much more than I hoped would come.

What happened now, I don’t know how to describe it best, let’s just say – what happened now was just magic!

The game was evolving out of an empirical process of simulating an ‘elephant in the room’ – in the true sense of the word! We created a huge obstacle with chaotic piled chairs in the room and taped a real tight space around this obstacle.

We then simulated some situations where a team of participants had to deal with daily work while they had to move within the tight taped space around the piled chairs. After simulating some real world examples of team-issues we removed all the chairs so that just the taped space was remaining on the floor. We asked the team to repeat all team situations in the room, imagining that the chairs were still in the room.

As an Agile Coach Camp is an OpenSpace unconference, there were Bumblebees and Butterflies dropping in the session room by chance. You might be able to imagine that this must be a funny situation for an observer who does not know what’s happening in that team, where people move within an empty space and make strange movements like a pantomime.

When we asked the newcomers what they observed, they told us that it is strange, it’s obvious that there is something wrong in the team but that they’ve had no idea what’s going on and why the hell the members move so strange within their teamspace . We then invited the newcomers to start coaching the team. What happened next surprised everybody attending that session. Remember – the team members move around an non-existing chaotic pile of chairs!

When asked by an observer what they are doing there was just a simple answer – ‘we are working’. When asked why they move so strange, the outrage of the team about that question became obvious – we don’t move strange, we’re just doing our work as usual. The team members started to defense and became more or less angry about some questions of the observer/coach. Very interesting emotions and a very dangerous situation for the coach emerged. With one single wrong question you can ‘close the door’ for gaining trust of the team. The coach is an ‘outsider’.
What is very interesteing, each time when I facilitated that game, and as far as I know other Facilitators made some similar experiences, almost the same emotions show up, created virtually. Teams start to defense the way they work, even if it’s obvious that there is a problem. Even if it’s just a role play, participants tell that they feel a need for defending themselves, they feel the ‘hot air’ etc.

It was amazing, we created a virtual ‘elephant in the room’ and were able to discover all the emotions which occur also in real situations of this kind.

We then started to concentrate on coaching such a situation and how this uncomfortable experience can be handled. That’s were the real work starts!
When appropriate facilitated and coached, this game can be a great eye-opener for dysfunctional teams and can create new insights, options and opportunities for dealing with crucial issues in teams.

After all

We haven’t published the game-instructions so far. But we asked via the LinkedIn-group ‘Agile Games’ if somebody wants to try out this new game and lots of people did. Several Coaches all over the world have already tried out the Ewan Mcgregor game and gave us some interesting feedback. In addition, I facilitated the game also several times so far. What we’ve found out is, that this game is very helpful and provides a lot of learning experiences and insights in team-dynamics. It’s not just for teams, also for coaches it is an awesome experience to be in the role of a team member and experience the emotions when an ‘outsider’ starts to coach a team on such a crucial topic…

Feedback

If you’re interested in running that game please give me a ping or have a look at the ‘Agile Games’-group on LinkedIn. Beyond that I will publish the game instructions Facilitation Flash Cards.

If you have already tried out the game I’m very curious to read about your experiences – please leave your comment here!

Postscript

A lot of people are asking why ‘Ewan McGregor’ – isn’t that a famous actor?

Yes, that’s true – he is an actor and I need to say that his name has no direct connection to the purpose of the game! During the co-creation session we found out, that when running this simulation with a team which has to deal with such a real ‘elephant’ issue, it might be not a good starting point to introduce a session called ‘the elephant in the room’ – it just could influence the outcome or behaviour of individuals. So we just called it ‘exercise without a name’. And as this naming did not sound appropriate to us, we had the idea to just use a shortcut of it, so we ended up with EWAN. And as somebody called instinctively cool, let’s call it Ewan McGregor… that’s it… =:-)

Play4Agile – #p4a

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What is the most attractive, easiest way to promote learning, create valuable meeting outcomes, motivate and boost teams, raise commitment and just get the best out of every involved person? Right: through play!

Dr. Brian Sutton Smith – Professor Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania and leading proponent of play theory explained in his book ‘Ambiguity of Play’ that the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression!

Pat Kane, writer, musician, consultant, player, theorist and activist states in his book ‘the play ethic’ that play will be to the 21st century what work was to the industrial age – our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value!

Play4AgileLogo

In May 2010, Olaf Lewitz did a StrategicPlay® session at Agile Coach Camp Germany. Inspired by this session Martin Heider had the idea to create an unconference concentrated solely on the topic of serious games for agile teams. Organizers for such an unconference were quickly found – it turned out that a lot of coaches had already discovered the value and fun of games played in a serious context, and used them regularly.

A first in-person meeting of organizers to create an unconference for serious games took place in summer 2010. For 2 exciting days we created our first joint vision for Play4Agile and started planning. Not surprisingly that these two days were tremendous fun, as we created our vision and planned using StrategicPlay® facilitation, powered by LEGO® SeriousPlay™!

play planet drawingAgile conferences and unconferences are popular meeting places where coaches, trainers, and all people interested in agile topics, learn from the experiences of like-minded people and exchange knowledge. Play4Agile sets itself apart from other agile un-/conferences in a couple of ways. Not just that participants are having fun and learning from each other by exchanging serious games for 3 days in a cozy hotel in the country. Also, every evening participants enjoy playing games in the bar. This is not a must, but each participant likes to do it! At the bar it’s ok to play games just for fun, without any serious context.

FLUXX at the BarThis whole mood of playing games together for 3 days leads to irrepressible spirits and gives the unconference the character of a magical, familial event.
Furthermore, there are no keynotes, no lectures, mostly interactive sessions and the OpenSpace is facilitated by participants on a daily rotation.

It’s not only a perfect place to learn how to practice and use serious games for agile teams, it’s also the perfect place to create new games, as all participants are passionate about testing and experimenting with new game ideas and prototypes! For example, Fearless Journey, Nobody’s Perfct, Towering Options and Lean Procrastination – the last reponsible moment game are all games invented at Play4Agile.
Moreover, we have lots of other activities like theatre games, learn how to design and make a game or how to create games to solve problems. The whole event transforms into a huge playground!

Open Space Marketplace

The Play4Agile unconference is completely based on Open Space technology and took place for the first time in February 2011 with the theme ‘Serious Games for Agile Teams’. In 2012 the motto was ‘High Playformance for Agile Teams’ and 70 participants from all over the world enjoyed this special unconference. As Play4Agile 2012 was already booked after nine hours, you should mark your calenders, because the date for Play4Agile 2013 is already fixed!

To put the Play4Agile spirit in a nutshell: Play, have fun & learn!
www.play4agile.org

2 great TED talks about the importance of play:

Stuart Brown’s TED talk – play is more than fun
Tim Brown’s TED talk – creativity and play

I’ve written this article for the ‘whoisagile’ project by Yves Hanoulle and it’s published in the 13th version of the ‘whoisagile’ book. Thanks to Deb and Martin for proofreading end editing!

Dragon Lady

Discover your inner Planet (at) Play4Agile 2012

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Play4Agile Logo

Last weekend, the Play4Agile 2012 took place at Seminarzentrum Rückersbach, a beautiful venue near Frankfurt. Our theme this year was ‘High Playformance for Agile Teams’ and as the first Play4Agile in 2011 it was a great success again. The event is reinvented itself and that makes the unique power – quote of Christine Neidhardt.

On the 2nd day of the Open Space event, Jenny Jepsen, Martin Heider and I did the session ‘Discover your inner Planet‘. The idea was to run a session with a technique from CoActive® Coaching combined with StrategicPlay® powered by LEGO® SeriousPlay™. Jenny, Martin and I are all StrategicPlay® Facilitators. Moreover, Martin and I are currently doing our vocational training for becoming a CoActive® Coach.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - towerWe designed the session during a lunch break and ran it in the afternoon with 20 participants. We started the session with skills building exercises. Skills building are exercises for becoming familiar with LEGO® and reaching a metaphorical flow.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - tower - storytelling

First, participants were asked to build a tower, share what’s special about their tower with all other participants, the storytelling, and then adapt the tower to an agile tower. Again, participants had to share what makes their tower agile with all other participants.

To reach the next metaphorical level, we then asked the participants to build a model which describes they’re passion about attending the Play4Agile Unconference.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - passion about p4a12 - 1Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - passion about p4a12

These two pictures are models which were built by participants, showing their passion for attending the Play4Agile Unconference 2012.

Again, each participant had to share their model through storytelling.

Now, everybody was in the right mood and flow to start their journey to their inner planet. This journey is a mental one and a technique from CoActive® Coaching, which is used as a tool for discovering individual fulfillment.

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - journeyWe asked all participants to close their eyes and relax. We turned on some chilling out music and started the mental journey to the inner planet by telling an inspiring and visionary story for the mental journey. This took about 5 minutes.

At the end of this mental journey, we asked the participants ‘how does it feel to live on your inner planet’, open your eyes and build a model which describes this feeling.

You may ask youself now, hm, how can you build a feeling with LEGO® bricks. Indeed, this is challenging. But if you once have the chance to attend a StrategicPlay® session, you’ll discover how this works and I’m pretty sure you will be surprised and amazed!

Here is a picture of such a model which was build by one of the participants:

Play4Agile - discover your inner planet - how does your planet look like, how does it feelThis model was a rotating one, turning on it’s own axis!

As we just had 60 minutes for our session, we had to stop after this exercise. You can build up to this by start to extract individual guiding principals, fulfillment goals or start to discover your personal inner team which lives with you on your inner planet and guides you through life…

Scrum Simulation – the Scrum LEGO® Airport

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you’ll find the download link for the manual at the bottom of the page

The Idea of a Scrum Simulation with LEGO®

Scrum LEGO Airport at Global Scrum Gathering SeattleIn the beginning of the year 2011 I had the idea for a Scrum Simulation with LEGO®. A Scrum Simulation which needs to be scalable. Scalable for Teams with different stages of knowledge about Scrum. Useful for Beginners as well as Advanced. Usable as a Simulation for ‘easy’ Scrum as well as a Simulation for Scrum of Scrums. Feasible to run with 1 to x Teams. Interesting especially for Software Developers and technical Freaks. In addition, people should learn the Scrum Workflow, it’s Artefacts and Meetings by having a lot of fun.

the Airport Team ILEGO® is a plaything everybody knows, all around the world. As I’m a StrategicPlay® Facilitator, a creative Problem solving Solution with LEGO® based on LEGO® Serious Play, I know how to use LEGO® in a serious context with a joshing course.

ambulanceAn Airport is a complex enterprise system with lots of complex dependencies and lots of technical interfaces. Nearly everybody knows how an Airport works or rather the workflow starting by leaving the car at the parking lot, check in the luggage, receiving a boarding-card till having a seat in a plane. And when arriving at the destination, you want to have your luggage back at the baggage claim.

Hence the idea of a Scrum Simulation with LEGO® in a context of an airport seemed for me an interesting challenge to cover my demand of a scalable approach.

Scrum LEGO® Airport @ Scrum Safari, Cape Town, 2011

Thus I created the Scrum Simulation, Scrum LEGO®Airport with the following scalable stages:

—>

1,5h Appetizer – conference format

Prerequisites: some Scrum Basics

Participants: 5 to 50 ppl + n Observer

4h stand alone Economic Simulation with Focus on Scrum Basics

Prerequisites: no background required

Participants: 5 to 50 ppl + n Observer

8h Beginners combined with a basic Scrum Training

Prerequisites: no background required

Participants: 5 to 21 ppl

8h Advanced combined with a Team Visioning Session with StrategicPlay®

Prerequisites: experience with Scrum

Participants: 1 Team

What do People learn in the Scrum LEGO® Airport Simulation?

Team Story BoardPragmatic understanding that Scrum is about self-organizing Teams, Cooperation, Communication, Understanding, Respecting People, Teamwork, Creativity and Productivity.

Understanding the Scrum Workflow by building valuable products for the customer in each Sprint Sprint demowhich can be delivered after every iteration. Understand what needs to be build first so that the customer can start transporting people after the first sprint and add value from Sprint to Sprint so that the enterprise ‘Airport’ can grow constantly and the customer can grow her business.

I ran the Scrum LEGO® Airport at

different Company’s

Global Scrum Gathering Seattle, May 2011

Scrum Gathering South Africa, September 2011

Agile Prague, September 2011

Download the manual:  Manual the password for the file is vinylbaustein