Posts tagged ‘Collaboration and teamwork’
A few days ago, we invited representatives from a potential customer over to visit our office. They are seriously considering a transition to Agile but some of the managers had questions with regards to what an Agile work space could look like. The potential customer is a large insurance company and like most insurance companies, people working there are used to a traditional (very traditional) work space. We could see they had some reservations about the open-concept before coming for a visit.
Their visit lead me to wonder what other Agile work spaces could / should look like, so I came up with the idea of launching a friendly contest…
The “Best Agile Work Space” Contest
I invite you to email me a picture of your Agile work space (martin [at] analytical-mind.com). In the spirit of sharing best practices and getting ideas from each other, I will post your pictures and your company’s name for people to get inspired. You can also share with everyone what makes your work place the Best Agile Work Space. We’ll even ask people to vote!
Let the contest begin to determine the “Best Agile Work Space“. Tell your friends to email their pictures.
To launch the contest, here are a few pictures of our work place.
Examples of other Agile Work Spaces found on the web
Windows are often a scarce commodity and are doled out to an organization’s favored employees. One of the nice things about an open workspace is that windows are shared. Even if the view is only of our parking lot and can only be seen across three messy desks, at least I can see the window and some natural light – The Ideal Agile Workspace | Mike Cohn’s Blog – Succeeding With Agile®.
Our New Agile Workspace – Our New Agile Workspace on Flickr – Photo Sharing!.
I started to respond in his comments and then remembered that it would be better to capture our workspace on video to share with others. I am hoping other agile shops will do the same. We are always eager to see how others are doing things so we can continue to improve – Attempting to Achieve the Ideal Agile Workspace | Derek Neighbors.
Ward Cunningham among others was a big influence early on in making it happen. The patterns & practices team workspace is optimized for agile development practices. The workspace features writeable walls, configurable workspace, speaker phones, projectors, focus rooms, and a customer room – Shaping Software » Blog Archive » Microsoft patterns & practices Agile Workspace Tour.
Since my first post on this topic, a few people asked me why I thought communities were a new way to organize and what complexity there was in applying communities to a business setting (i.e. for-profit organizations). I have defined what is a community in a business context and some of the rules they follow. Below are some of the recurring questions and their associated answer.
In a business context, what is a community?
In a business context, communities are similar to functional departments with some fundamental distinctions. In traditional setting, members of a functional department or of a project team work together to achieve a goal. With some exceptions, team members share nothing but their common goal and a common boss. By comparison, in addition to sharing a common goal members within a community also share common values and culture and they operate within agreed upon self-defined norms. I provided a few examples here.
Why are communities in the context of business different from other communities?
Communities that come together to carry out a goal are common but communities that aim to generate revenue to autonomously support themselves are no frequent. In traditional for-profit organizations, shareholders through board members select the management team for the organization. The management team (President, CEO, COO, etc.) become accountable to the board for their performance and as such almost always use a top-down (command-and-control) approach.
By contrast, communities rely on a bottom-up approach to decide their goals and those are seldom oriented toward profit.
Aren’t communities completely disorganized and as such, couldn’t work in a business context?
Communities could be disorganized but they wouldn’t be effective. Communities typically set up rules that will allow them to work efficiently. What may seem like disorganized entities within traditional organizations may actually bring better results.
In certain situation, a larger community may ask sub-communities to run within certain guideline and as such, would cut disorganization.
Why use communities as organizational structure?
Because communities are living cells, they are components of a living organism and are able to adapt to their environment.
A community can be born, live and die. A community arises when 2 people come together around a common goal, and decide to form a community.
A community dies when less than 2 people deploy energy to sustain it.
What rules govern a community?
I already provided an answer in this post but typically, communities work by the rules defined by their members. Some rules are implicit while others are explicit and clearly adapted to the needs of the community. The community may decide to create a space for expression and revision of its rules.
How can someone join a community?
Individuals can join a community by expressing their interest in the community, ensuring they are motivated by the goals the community has set, and by adhering to the rules of that community. Further information on this topic can be found in this post.
Can a community expel a member?
According to the rules under which it operates, the community may choose to expel one of its members. It is important to establish that the decision to evacuate a member is serious and can not be done without the approval of the majority (or unanimity) of group members.
An individual is part of a community if he is active in this community. Being active in the community means to actively and positively contribute to achieving the goals set by the community by working with other members of this community. If an individual is not active in a community, it is not part of that community (even if his name appears in the list of members).
How many communities can an individual belong to?
People can belong to as many communities as they wish. Individuals alone are responsible for setting their limit.
What is the largest number of members in a community?
There is no set limit.
If the number of members is jeopardizing the operational effectiveness of the community (9 members in a team would be a reasonable number), then it is likely that the community will divide itself into 2 communities, each pursuing different sub-objectives.
What is the role of leader of the community?
A leader is appointed only if the community decides to appoint one, and its role is defined by the community. Typically,
- the leader ensures the respect of the common rules that the community has given itself;
- the leader ensures that the community is visible and transparent;
- the leader is the one who will link with other communities.
Who chooses the leader of a community?
Unlike traditional businesses where leaders (managers) are selected or appointed by their supervisor, the leader of a community is chosen democratically by the members of the community. Similar to the concept of holacracy, the leader emerges from the group because of its expertise and its commitment to advancing the community towards achieving the goals it has set.
Are all communities are connected?
Maybe, maybe not.
The link between 2 communities may be at least 2 kinds:
- members belonging to more than 1 community;
- a need expressed by a community for the services provided by another.
A community that needs support or resources from another community therefore becomes automatically linked to another community.
Can a community exist independently?
If it apart from other communities, the answer is “yes”: For example, communities of practice are primarily in service to their members, and this is enough.
Is that all communities have financial goals?
No. Basically, communities set their own goals.
As a commercial enterprise, some communities have financial goals to make sure growth and sustainability of the organization.
By contrast, other communities will be directly or indirectly serving communities with financial goals but will not themselves financial targets.
Other communities are communities of interest and have no link with strict financial targets.
This is not an un-usual situation. You call a meeting that you deem important. You invite the right people to have a constructive conversation in the hopes of coming to a decision that will be accepted by most. You planned everything ahead of time in order to maximize your participants’ “Return On Time Invested” (ROTI).
Before the meeting and without further information, your boss tells you that he won’t be attending your meeting. You try to get over the inital disappointment and frustration in order to answer the nagging question that pops in your mind “Why doesn’t my boss show up at my meeting?“.
Assuming for a minute that this is not due to an un-expected situation and that you were told before the start of the meeting – being told during the meeting would add insult to injury by showing a lack of respect.
I can only think of 2 reasons to explain that behavior:
- The decision for which you are meeting has already been taken or will be taken behind closed-door.
- The decision is not important for your boss.
Either way, this demonstrates that your boss doesn’t care about the decision stemming from the meeting. Although that is frustrating and wastes people time and energy, it is not dramatic in itself. This becomes a problem because of the lack of communication around your boss’ decision not to attend the meeting.
You may not be pleased if your boss tells you that the decision has already been taken but at least, you wouldn’t feel like an idiot when you realize this fact after you put your time and energy in the meeting.
Now, let’s give this situation a different spin and imagine receiving the following information from your boss before your meeting:
- My absence to your meeting does not indicate that I do not believe in the value of your meeting;
- I trust the group and their collective intelligence to make an informed decision;
- I am confident that the participants will challenge each other and will have good discussions;
- I want to prevent the debate from revolving around my opinion, which could bias the conversation;
- I prefer to support individuals with my expertise rather than take decisions for them.
Would you still wonder what your boss’ intentions were? Wouldn’t you feel good? Trusted? Motivated??
If you manage people, don’t let them wonder about your intention. Tell them the reason behind your actions.
Joining a Community is Simple
Everyone can ask to join a community if it is open to integrate new members. Once again, the community decides how many members it will allow and which skill set, profile and experience is required to qualify. Assuming the community is accepting new members, anybody who believes they meet the requirements may ask to join the community.
Leaving a Community is Simple
Based on the norms established by the community, people may leave with (or without) advanced notice. Communities are usually fluid and allow for members to join and leave in order to support the emergence of new ideas and new energy to reach the set objectives.
In order not to disrupt significantly the activities of the community, members are usually required to provide advanced notice to the other community members.
The Community May Ask People to Leave
Norms vary for each communities but in our situation there is a fundamental rule that states the “no single individual can have authority over another individual”. As such, community members cannot be expelled or fired based on the decision of a single individual, including the community leader. Community members who fail to comply to the norms and values of their group may be asked to leave if the majority of community members support the decision.
As in the case of a voluntary departure, the community is required to provide advanced notice to the member they wish to expel.
For more content on the topic of communities, you may follow the community tag.
The answer to that question is simple: NONE.
It is not that communities are disorganized and chaotic but Our Communities do not follow rules as they are currently understood and documented. The Merriam-Webster dictionnary defines rules as “a prescribed guide for conduct or action” or “the laws or regulations prescribed by the founder of a religious order for observance by its members“. By that definition, rules are very strict and typically defined by the leading members of the group.
Our communities use norms to organize themselves and ensure common understanding. As per wikipedia, norms “are the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors“.
Each community defines its set of norms under which they wish to operation. To ensure the community is linked to other communities, the group must ensure their norms are inline with the norms of the greater community to which they belong.
Some norms may be identical for all the communities (i.e. freedom of expression) while some communities may have specifics expectations (i.e. specific time commitment).
Typically, more norms are required at the early stages of a community to create a common culture and set of values and to prevent abuse. As the community matures, less norms are required and the community self-regulates. It is critical for the norms to be clearly communicated at the entry point in order to avoid misunderstanding and confusion later in time.
In the end, the level of freedom and the type of structure used by each community is never as important as the results they achieve.