Archives for category: E. Slomba Arts Interstices

Too many conversations lately go something like this:

Me to startup leader: are you Agile?

Startup leader to me:  as Agile as our clients let us be.

Image: choreography by Ann Carlson, used with permission.  More at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ann_Carlson

When I speak to various groups on The Agile Mindset, I point out that enlightening clients about the benefits of Agile begins with conversations leading up to the initial agreement.  While it’s less important to negotiate a contract than it is to simply collaborate with the customer, language choices do tend to support certain ways of working.

I was pretty pleased with my last experience using a Scrum-friendly contract.  The client said, “Wow, this is short!”  I replied, “Yep, let’s get to work!”

As always, get legal advice from a qualified attorney when you need it.  This is not legal advice.  I offer these sample blurbs as building blocks for your consideration.

***

The following items shall be presented for acceptance:

  1. Project backlog – revised monthly or as needed

  2. Retrospective report with relevant recommendations for improvement – monthly or as needed

  3. [DELIVERABLES]

The relationship between Client  and the Consultant will be managed and sustained by [NAME OF PRODUCT OWNER], who will be responsible for articulating goals and requirements and formally “accepting” the delivery of the work agreed-upon.

Since projects benefit from regular, purposeful, bi-directional communication, meetings shall be scheduled as follows – [INSERT SCHEDULE OF CEREMONIES].  Consultant will remain available – face to face whenever possible – offering reasonable response times, and shall expect that the Client shall be similarly available and supply all information and data as needed to complete the work to mutual satisfaction.

Consultant is happy to use any tools or processes preferred by Client.  Consultant will follow an Agile framework, which is a proven way of getting things done based on principles of entrepreneurial science.  As an Agile practitioner, the Consultant will help identify strategic opportunities to increase business value for the Client, believing that:

  • People and interactions are more important than processes and tools.

  • Working product is more important than extensive documentation.

  • Close collaboration is more important than contract negotiation.

  • Responding to change is more important than following a plan.

Last four bullet points are from The Manifesto for Agile Software Development http://agilemanifesto.org/

***

Recently I received this note and cheerful query from a colleague who runs a B2B custom software development company.

“Good news!  I think I may have convinced a client to use Scrum methods for their next project.

However I’m not really sure how to draw up the project’s contract.  Most of my contracts have very specific tasks and use change orders every time the spec changes.  This doesn’t seem like it would work with a Scrum project.  Any recommendations?”

So I sent him the above, and added a closing line which applies across the board.  Should you ever need backup helping your clients ‘let’ you be more Agile, be in touch for a consultation!

This article was originally posted in The Whiteboard, a blog serving Connecticut’s entrepreneurial community.  Michael Romano is the editor.  Read more Whiteboard articles here: http://newhiteboard.com/

Elinor Slomba is the founder of E. Slomba Arts Interstices as well as a Whiteboard Community Startup Journalist. In addition to covering the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Connecticut, she has written for The Whiteboard on the Scrum and Agile approaches to collaboration and project management. As a consultant and curator, one of her main concerns is bridging the worlds of art and business, helping artists be more entrepreneurial and businesses more artistic. The exhibition she recently curated, Navigate Complexity, is currently on view at The GroveThe work pictured above, from the exhibition, is “Nebulae #1,” by Jennifer Davies (handmade paper, string, 17” square).

13-007 Jennifer Davies

Monday evening, an exhibition I curated opened at the The Grove in New Haven, showcasing the work of 17 Connecticut-based artist-entrepreneurs and one timely business topic: Navigating Complexity.

The opening reception drew approximately 50 people from the arts and startup worlds, resulting in sales inquiries as well as rich conversation and invitations to participate in future shows.

The exhibition’s theme deliberately addresses a current obsession among the business world’s top-tier thought leaders. Indeed, this year’s Drucker Forum, which just concluded in Vienna, convened under the banner “Managing Complexity.”

The business world is finally catching on to what artists know every time they go into the studio. It isn’t viable to enter a change process with a well-defined plan and expect to follow it. Instead, creative leaders need to trust the emerging solution.

Startup Weekend New Haven Art

Judy Sirota Rosenthal’s “Unfinished Prayer” watches over a StartUp Weekend New Haven team burning the 9pm oil last weekend at The Grove.

As a curator and a connector of the arts and startup worlds, I hope to amplify the role that artists have to play as guideposts and model generators for what complexity theorist Esko Kilpi defines as “the science of uncertainty.”

I was introduced to Kilpi’s work this week by a publisher who was reading the introduction to the “Navigate Complexity” catalogue, a passage of which reads:

“Navigating complexity is all about patterns. Selectively reducing the data we absorb is an act of creative intention. The world has become a fiercely complex competition for headspace, so we must design criteria for engagement. The quality of the paths we find and the sense we make reflect not only trust in our relationships but also our orientation to uncertainty.”

In his 2012 essay titled “Complexity, Patterns, and Links,” Kilpi writes:

“Complexity refers to a pattern, a movement in time that is at the same time predictable and unpredictable, knowable and unknowable. Healthy, ordinary, everyday life is always complex, no matter what the situation is. There is absolutely no linearity in the world of human beings.”

13-007 Jennifer Davies

Jennifer Davies, Nebulae #2, handmade paper, string, 17” square

Helping people visualize new paradigms for organizational design is a service provided by visual artists like Jennifer Davies, whose “Nebulae” series graces the space where Independent Software works to help entrepreneurs build products and companies.

I see in Davies’s work the shift we are making from “the net” to “the mesh,” a concept put forward by author Lisa Gansky describing the way web-based businesses are advancing innovation through shareable goods. Says Gansky: “Every part is connected to every other part, and they move in tandem…. Mesh businesses are knotted to each other, and to the world, in myriad ways.”

Italian-born Giada Crispiels has installed ivy made from upcycled newspaper and magazine pages between the office of Big Bang, an industrial design firm, and a conference room. The effect adds organic energy and a touch of whimsy to the space.

Navigate Complexity may travel to other locations after February. A closing reception is planned for February 13th at The Grove.

Conflict based on personalities is a time drain, wasteful on many levels.  Conflict rooted in differing convictions can be constructive and add value if handled correctly.  Yet doing so takes courage, and that means facing our fears.

company cypher

Openly invite conflict.   People are afraid of disagreement because, in hierarchies, the outcome can be loss of social status.  Invite people to share a multitude of ideas in open forums.  There will be less risk associated with offering the “wrong” opinions, and  communal trust will increase. [1]

Kill the experts.  Any organization that presumes to bring in “experts” is operating in a hierarchical manner.  Call them something else, like “instigators.”  It changes the energy.

Critique ideas, not people.  In the 12-step circles I’ve been fortunate to frequent as a participant-observer, this is known as “putting principles before personalities.”  In a training session on giving feedback, one company I worked with decided to embrace the model of the art critique.  This makes the process of observing what works and what doesn’t fun and engaging rather than scary and full of rejection. [2]

Strictly enforce timeboxes.  When deadlines loom, posturing and jockeying for position simply makes no sense.  [3] Study how theater ensembles manage deadlines: the date for opening night gets published and the public is invited in.  Everyone in the ensemble has a personal, public stake in meeting the deadline [4]

Reinforce goodwill.   Consistent, sustainable quality cannot occur when people treat each other badly.   One company I worked for spelled out its expectation that we would show “respect and candor in all communications.”  Too much candor can descend into brutality.  Overly respectful deference, on the other hand, can put the freeze on important conversations.  So say it, but say it in a nice way.  That’s goodwill.

Be #Flawsome. Show your imperfections and people will automatically feel safer around you.  A group of people doing this will be more united than a team of perfectionists.   Do you believe that awesome imperfection is sufficient to muddle through challenges?  Try it on a small project and see how much anxiety and energy get released for finding creative solutions.

Play with options.  Forum Theater is a way to stop action in a tense or conflicted setting and reinvent new futures.   [5]  The following questions can be posed in writing (to encourage introverts) or in dialogue, or acted out in skits.

  • What would I do if I were brave..?
  • What would I do if I were all-powerful?
  • What would I do if I were in charge?

The Traditions of one worldwide self-organizing group state “So long as the ties that bind us together are stronger than those that would tear us apart, all will be well.”   Here’s hoping that all is well and continues to improve with you and your teams.

REFERENCES

[1] Brindusa Axon, “The Power of Productive Conflict” http://www.scoop.it/t/agile-teams-boosters

[2] Narcotics Anonymous, “Why It Works: The Twelve Traditions of NA” http://www.recovery-world.com/NA-12-TRADITIONS.html

[3] Tom Wujec & Peter Skillman, “The Marshmallow Challenge” http://marshmallowchallenge.com/TED_Talk.html

[4] Lee Devin, “Artful Making” and “The Soul of Design” http://www.sup.org/precart.cgi?id=11662

[5] Sarita Covington, energizing the use of Forum Theater to help organizations and ecosystems http://www.companycypher.com/

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Arthur Fink, for sparking this essay and providing feedback  http://insightandclarity.com/ and http://www.arthurfinkphoto.com/

Michael Romano, for being a trusted and reliable editor

Pictured: Company Cypher, founded by Sarita Covington with another fellow Yale grad.  Coming soon to The Agile Gym (all rights reserved) 

This was a Talkback I prepared for Lisette Sutherland, who could not attend Agile Bill Kreb’s 3D Webinar aired September 18, 2013.  Video at: http://www.agiledimensions.com/blog/video.  Get in touch with me if you’d like a TalkBack prepared for your online event! – ES

wave surger

Speaker Tom Wessel – Davisbase Consulting http://www.davisbase.com/

Interactive Features: Spatial Environment.  Moderator gave lots of voice inflection, made listening engaging. Brought in other senses: made the sound of hands rubbing together, at the questions coming in.  This was a nice moment!

Tom Wessell is founder of Southern Fried Agile Conference…http://southernfriedagile.com/ Regional flavors of Agile can complement and strengthen each other.   Enjoy the chicken, celebrate our thought leaders.  Attendance has gone from 75 to north of 300.  Five different tracks total 20 sessions.  5 PDUs  are like PMP crack!  We do it on a Friday – this year it’s October 18, 2013.  Take the day off and hang out with geeks and freaks and have a good time.

Virtual world graphics used to express metaphors for Agile:

Surfing

It’s a pure sport – a simplistic framework in which you have just a few elements to work with and you must navigate a very complex system.  Execute on the wave, you have to adapt to the motions of that wave.  That’s Agile, applying simple tools to an ever-changing environment.  Otherwise, you end up in the drink!

Pile of Stones

The stones relate to release planning.  There’s a sequential flow of fulfilling requirements that have to be met by a specific date.  Iterations are fixed bucket sizes, requirements are different sized stones.  We arrange them into buckets based on needs of organizations.  Sustainable pace – small pebbles fill in the empty space around big rocks to even the flow.  Takes negotiation between teams and product owner.  There is a logical order to what takes place.

Fossil of Dinosaur Bones

Agile is more than software development and teams.  We as an organization need to evolve and adapt.  Challenges rise as you move up the food chain, it takes more energy to break down the silos and move toward an agile enterprise.  If you do not evolve to be competitive, you will end up extinct.  We are knowledge workers so learning is the bulk of what we do.  If you’re not upgrading skills every two years or so you’re probably falling behind.

Seed

Seeds sprouting in different stages relate to a paradigm shift we are experiencing from command and control structures to allowing for emergent design based on intrinsic strengths.  Project managers have many chances to grow in their development and understanding.  Agile is not a fad.  This is something that has value.  It is growing strong.

Watchmaking versus the Weather

Complicated system versus a complex system.  In the systems we work in, there is too much variability to mindlessly follow a fixed set of plans.  We must inspect and adapt and use whatever we’re learning.  Incorporate a replanning perspective.

Trends are Emerging Patterns.  Here are some:

Pairing a PM with an SM – team focused paired with externally focused.  Scrum Master job is full time, external requirements like compliance takes research and time that a partner can support, esp in a regulated environment.  PM will help navigate that.  Plus this helps agile transitions at enterprise scale by giving a legitimate role for the PM.  SM takes certain skills, empathetic/nanny/psychologist/motivator…not all PMs can make that transition.

SAFe structure -you’re addressing the things that we want to spend money on that fit into a business strategy – end to end system, whole organism – structure will help us evolve

Soft is the new hard.  People skills matter incredibly much.  We are imperfect creatures and hard to work with.  Servant leaders ask: how do I take this group of talented individuals and get them moving in a common direction and becoming high performing?  Then how do we take that to the next level, to the whole organization?

Focus on communication/negotiation/mutual respect – different parts of the organism flexibly say “sure – we’ll reconsider what we were going to do in light of what we are learning about how to make happy customers”  This can be internal or external…making the product owners happy is great.  Barbara Fredrickson’s books tell us that three to one positive to stressful events keep your brain operating at peak efficiency.  http://www.amazon.com/Love-2-0-Supreme-Emotion-Everything/dp/1594630992/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379555688&sr=8-1&keywords=Barbara+Fredrickson

Chief product owner with sub product owners   Complex systems have multiple subsystems.  The voice of the customer includes competing needs and priorities.

Managing your personal WIP so you’re more productive and less stressed.  Our work in progress as thought workers isn’t visible, then at the end of the day we wonder why we’re so tired…what are all the things that are work in progress – make them visible so you can visualize them and understand why you’re so tired. Limit our WIP because we think we want as much work going on at once as possible, but we as humans are not as good at multitasking as we think. Chunking and conquering can be applied to anything in life, that’s what’s great about Agile principles, not just software

Goldilocks Approach to Process: focus on “what is the right level of process to support the flow through the system?”  Not too much, not too little, has to be just right to avoid disconnect without overcommunicating.  This is sophisticated stuff – Agile is evolving, and so are organizations.

Staff and youth from The Future Project http://www.thefutureproject.org/ joined E. Slomba Arts Interstices for the program “Opening Your Curatorial Eye”  (see Juicy Programs tab!) at City Wide Open Studios, an annual event produced by Art Space Gallery http://cwos.org/.  The Future Project helps local teens discover their passions and turn them into projects.  Dedicated staff members are called Dream Directors.

WP_000604

A former Erector Set factory known as Erector Square http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erector_Square houses the personal studios of hundreds of local artists in New Haven, Connecticut.  This high-density of creators made it an especially exciting place to be during City Wide Open Studios.

WP_000613

Participating teens visited the studios, met with artists and selected works for an upcoming exhibit, Navigate Complexity, to open at The Grove on November 18, 2013.

WP_000620

Artwork pictured above (middle photo) by Jaime Kriksciun.  Studio pictured above (lower photo) is Daniel Eugene’s.

You can also see this piece on the Self Management Institute blogroll at http://self-managementinstitute.org/

Over Labor Day weekend an extraordinary event took place in the world of self organized groups.  Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, hosted the World Convention of one of the largest and most respected 12-Step recovery programs, known as Narcotics Anonymous.  Over 18,000 recovering addicts were in attendance, from over 100 countries.

journey

Twelve-step programs are a massive worldwide movement of various, self-organized groups  – each aligned to address a common, life-threatening problem (alcoholism, addiction, overeating, etc.).  Their power is based on face-to-face meetings in which people identify with one another and share openly and honestly on a regular basis.

This month, twenty years ago, I began studying Narcotics Anonymous as a participant observer for my senior thesis in Cultural Anthropology at the College of William and Mary.  Using Victor Turner’s ideas as a theoretical framework, I titled the thesis “Betwixt and Between: Communitas as Cure in the Lives of Recovering Addicts.”  I have been privileged to spend time sitting inside the circle at NA meetings, discovering how principles like “anonymity,” “humility,” and “surrender” make it possible for men and women whose lives had been controlled by drugs to live clean one day at a time, with each other’s help.

Organic openness is the essence of “Communitas” as outlined by Victor Turner (an underrated genius!  Please read his anthropology essays if you’re at all interested in contemporary organizational culture.  I have recommended them to many Agile coaches and colleagues working to improve the workplace.)

Examples of Communitas throughout history:

  • the monastic tradition established by St. Francis

  • women in Paris in the 1920s

  • performance artists in New York City in the 1970s (the scene fed by collaborations like Merce Cunningham/John Cage)

These groups stepped away from old forms and took for themselves the freedom to experiment with new ones.  Eventually, their ideas fed back into the mainstream where society as a whole could profit from them.  In the end, everyone had more creative options.

Narcotics Anonymous was founded in 1953 in California.  NA describes iteslf as “a global, community-based organization with a multi-lingual and multicultural membership.”   Its message, often referred to as the Promise of Freedom is: that any addict can stop using, lose the desire to use and find a new way to live. http://www.na.org/?ID=bulletins-bull25

This message – shared spontaneously in every meeting by members and read aloud from NA literature – is clear, consistent and reliable.  There is not one single culture for which the message is designed or in which it can be heard and understood.  There is unlimited potential in its simplicity.

Since NA has been fully self-supporting and growing worldwide as a multicultural phenomenon of Self-Organization for sixty years, perhaps we should listen to the wisdom it espouses.

The following is a GAME OF ASSOCIATION.  I start with a principle of Self-Organization, and follow it with a 12-step slogan from Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Opting in.  “You are a member when you say you are.”

Collaboration.  “I can’t.  We can.”

Simplicity.  “KISS – keep it simple, stupid”

Continuous self-improvement: “Progress not perfection.”  “The journey continues.”

Incremental development. “It’s a process.”  “One step at a time.”

Faith in the emergent solution.  “Trust the process.”  “Act as if.”

Servant-leadership. “Our leaders are but trusted servants.  They do not govern.”

Persistence.  “Stay in the solution.” “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle.”

In Narcotics Anonymous, the stakes are the highest possible: people’s lives.  In order to have credibility and be able to attract newcomers as well as retain experienced members, it is essential that the organization be able to deliver on its Promise of Freedom.

They cannot achieve this through coercion.  It is only through Self-Organization that recovering addicts have been able to adopt this program of change and incorporate its sustaining habits into their lives.

There is a joke in NA that goes “How many recovering addicts does it take to change a lightbulb?  None!  The lightbulb has to be willing to change itself.”

Therefore, based on everything I have learned in Cultural Anthropology and can offer the workplace improvement movement, culture is more like a liquid than a solid.   It cannot be effectively hacked.  Instead, it flows like a river, carrying various messages along in its fluidity.

Cultural change is driven by those considered to be outsiders or rebels, individuals driven by courage and/or desperation to admit that standard ways of doing things simply DO NOT WORK.   These individuals gravitate toward the margins of organized groups, the interstices, the spaces in-between.   There, they have a better chance of finding each other, learning from one another, and together, eventually, making creative contributions.

  • What is your Self-Organizing group’s primary purpose?  
  • How do its members gather and share this message?
  • Have they experienced enough pain to truly want to change?

For more background on Outsider Wisdom, Cultural Anthropology, Narrative Intelligence and finding the right creative metaphor to spirit forward your self-organizing transformations, please contact Elinor Slomba at artsinterstices@gmail.com.

unfinished prayerpurple240w

On the face of it, running a company with no human bosses sounds like an implausible fantasy or a short-lived experiment. For more than two decades, Doug Kirkpatrick, formerly of The Morning Star Company in Sacramento, California, has been arguing otherwise, stating the case for self-management as a viable alternative to the traditional, hierarchical organization.

Even for creative minds, this can be somewhat hard to visualize. The Industrial Revolution and its legacy of Taylorism have left us with the prevailing notion that organizations are shaped like pyramids, and that structure is set in stone. However, visionaries across many sectors are networking to amend this paradigm.

First, a few stats. Morning Star is the largest tomato processing operation in the world.  It transacts over $700 million per year and employs over 2,400 people (400 year-round). Its products, primarily industrial tomato paste and diced tomatoes, are ingredients in ketchup, taco sauce, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, steak sauce and a myriad of other products. Virtually every American has eaten Morning Star product. It also exports globally. It is a highly successful company. And it has no human bosses.

This growth has come about steadily since founder Chris Rufer purchased land for his newly-conceived Morning Star facility in the late 1980s. He had an interesting concept ready to incubate on his initial 500+ acres of dirt near the town of Los Banos, California.  He had acquired a great deal of business intelligence and was ready to apply it to the new start-up.

Doug, who started off as Morning Star Packing’s first financial controller, had worked with Chris before running another manufacturing company. As he tells it, “I’d put a stack of checks on his desk to sign, and Chris began asking all sorts of questions: ‘Is my judgment really required here?  Don’t these checks represent legal liabilities which simply must be taken care of, no ifs, ands or buts?  What value am I really adding to this process?’”

Chris’ takeaway was that management time and attention often appeared to contribute zero to the bottom line. The conclusion had dawned that hierarchical management might be an unnecessary cost.

In his new leadership role, the founder posed a whole new set of questions as his team brainstormed in a temporary trailer pitched on Morning Star’s construction site.  Assuming management is too costly to afford, how can we maintain ourselves as a company? Could a set of common principles, instead of managers, serve to guide us in day-to-day decision-making?

Two principles in particular, clicked together side-by-side, seemed to create their own internal logic and establish a commonly-understood basis for maintaining proper oversight and equilibrium in all of the company’s operations.  1. People should not use force or coercion against other people or their property.  2.  People should keep the commitments they make to others.

One of the time-tested mechanisms the company has used over the years to help people make clean agreements and stick to these principles is the Colleague Letter of Understanding, or “CLOU” (as in helping to solve a mystery!). Individuals draft CLOUs in order to come to shared understandings about their “portfolio of roles” within the company.  “Every individual in the company is treated as a professional,” Doug emphashizes.  “And everyone is allowed to learn new skills so that they can take on new roles. Job descriptions are only a starting point. They can always be negotiated.”

Decisions of all kinds, including capital investments, vendors and equipment maintenance belong to identified decision-makers, who agree to communicate and collaborate with relevant stakeholders. Morning Star wants to help individuals maintain their ability to get things done without going through layers of management or having to make a case up the chain of command.

“This sounds great, especially to someone who grew up in the sixties,“ says Debra Cash, a Boston-based organizational consultant.  “But what about things like regulatory compliance?”

According to Doug, those issues, while real, haven’t been daunting enough to compromise the company‘s self-managed stance.  “If we need to have 35 names on the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association) certificate because of the principle of equivalency, that everyone is equally responsible for occupational safety, then we list 35 names on the certificate.  We want to be compliant, and we strive to fulfill all of our corporate and fiduciary responsibilities.”

However, it is also true that for Morning Star, “the terms ‘blue collar’ and ‘white collar’ have absolutely no meaning. We’ve paid serious legal fees to defend our self-management philosophy. Overall, self management works for us, as it can work for others. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Doug Kirkpatrick is now traveling worldwide and speaking on behalf of this extraordinary company, its story and self management principles. June will see him jetting off to Copenhagen, London and Denver to attempt to satisfy a recent explosion of interest.

Meanwhile, Inc.com just named Morning Star among the Top 25 Audacious Companies.  When asked if the label applies, Doug responds in characteristically down-to-earth fashion. “Now I want a dictionary to look up the word, but certainly, if it means being bold and innovative, then I wouldn’t contest that description.”

What’s changed in the environment that leads people to be more curious right now?  Doug cites three factors: global competition, the availability of live, liquid data and the lighting speed at which business must move to keep pace.

What advice would Doug give to start-ups in 2013?  “To the up-and-coming entrepreneurs, I would pose this invitation. Recognize the opportunity in your hands to start from scratch building a governance structure. Without explicitly considering the question while you’re still a blank slate, there’s a tendency to default to the pyramid.  There are alternatives. And from what we‘ve seen, there is no set of business circumstances, no industry which presents an inherent barrier to the viability of self-management as an operating structure.“

Of course, even among alternatives, there are alternatives. Dynamic Governance, AKA Sociocracy, is one formalized system catching on in the English speaking business world via the work of John Buck, who brought it from the Netherlands (see http://www.socionet.us). In selecting the right level of openness versus formality to suit a particular enterprise, Dan Mezick, author of The Culture Game, advises, “Make sure you ask the right question. Are you working for the structure, or is the structure working for you?”

Artists are thinking along parallel lines. Debbie Hesse, Program Coordinator at Connecticut’s Greater New Haven Arts Council, is interested in these alternative organizational structures. The Council’s Visual Artists Advisory Group discussed the topic Friday, May 17 at a newly expanded co-workspace on New Haven’s thriving Ninth Square, a state-designated hub of innovation (www.grovenewhaven.com).

Artist Judy Rosenthal, known mostly for her ethnographic photography documenting cultural identity in places like Bali, created the body of paintings like the one above while thinking about what is common to all human systems. In her view, “Every individual entering a group does best asking: ‘What am I bringing to this circle?  What can I contribute?’”

Among the best places to step into a circle of professionals from many sectors who espouse self-management principles is the annual Symposium sponsored by the Morning Star Self-Management Institute. This year’s symposium took place on Sunday, June 2nd through Tuesday, June 4th in Sacramento, California, and featured participants from across the United States, Russia, China, Brazil, Australia and Canada. Information about the symposium can be found at http://self-managementinstitute.org/symposia/.

This year’s speakers focused on the networked organization as a source of discovery and innovation. Gabe Fasolino facilitated a half-day Open Space retreat for practitioners to explore how such insights apply to their respective leadership and organizational plans.

Since 2008, Morning Star has maintained a community of practice known as the Self-Management Institute. Its mission is to develop superior principles and systems of organizing people, and to promulgate those principles and systems in the minds of client colleagues.

Documents and data from the Morning Star Self-Management Institute are available to artists who wish to explore these ideas further.  One goal is to develop an art exhibition delving into alternative organizational structures impacting today’s workplace.  Interested artists may contact E. Slomba at artsinterstices@gmail.com and review source materials at http://self-managementinstitute.org/about-us/ .

MANY THANKS to Doug Kirkpatrick for the generous interview he gave by phone on May 8, 2013 from his home base in Sacramento, California.

student chalk art2

Chalkville, a city-wide collaboration attempting to break the world record for Largest Chalk Pavement Art in West Haven, Connecticut, this summer may be the first public art project to use Scrum as its project management framework.  Joining a Core Team comprised of Courtney Tracy (Design), Mitchell Gallignano (City Relations), Gwyneth Evans (Registration), Pat Libero (School Relations), and Richard Kasperowski (Agile Coach/Tech) are now two Student-Artist Co-Chairs, Carlos Andino and Mary Antoinette Canieso.

Carlos and Mary Antoinette very kindly took a break from their responsibilities as students during a busy spring of the academic year to answer a few questions.  Valuing people and interactions above tools and processes, the Chalkville team welcomes a chance to get to know more about who they are and introduce them to the broader community.

waves

 

My name is CARLOS ANDINO and I am a junior at West Haven High School. I moved here last year from Puerto Rico. I’ve been a member of the art department ever since I got into the school and have taken classes such as 2D design, Cartooning and Commercial Art.

 

I’ve always been interested in art. Ever since I can remember, I used to draw on anything and everything that I could (just ask my parents!). I would spend every Saturday morning eating cereal and watching cartoons, and after I’d grab some paper and pencils and draw out my own characters and stories. This has stayed with me throughout my life, and I’m very thankful for that. I love being able to think of interesting and compelling characters and stories, even if I’m the only one that will see them.

Moving here from Puerto Rico has been a big blessing. Back in my old school, the only non-academic classes were P.E. and Computer Science. Even though I am very much into computers, I felt like I was missing out. I would see American high schools on television and movies, where students had a range of classes to choose from, where they could go after school to a club that they enjoyed and wanted to be a part of. I envied that and now I’m very happy that I get to have that life.

The Art Department at West Haven High School has helped me so much with expressing myself through my art. It helped me harness my own style, and not be afraid to express myself, even if thought of as unusual to others. It is very important to me to be proud of my style of art because I hope to be an animator for movies, television shows or commercials. I want to be able to flip through the channels and spot something that I created or helped create rolling on air for the world to see.

In the Chalkville project I hope to contribute my skills as an artist, but also contribute my love for West Haven by making this chalk art the best that it can be. Whether that means being part of the design team or serving people cold water, I want to help any way that I can in this great opportunity that we all have to come together as a community and break the world record for largest chalk art!

IMG_0232 2

NETTIE CANIESO: I’m a senior at West Haven High School and have participated in the Art department for all four years. I have also been a part of the theater program since my sophomore year. I like to write (and sing) my own songs, stories and poetry. 

 

I’ve always been interested in art. Tooting my own horn, I’d say it was a natural talent. But I learned to hone my skills as student under the three art teachers at the high school and I had the honor of being taught by all three at one point or another. 

 

As a student, art classes, namely Studio Art Honors, have taught me to think outside the box and never stick to what I am comfortable with. Throughout my years, starting from Studio Art I and taking Studio Art II this year, I have learned the importance of deadlines and being able to produce works of art that I can be happy with while still being able to hand them in on time (being much easier said than done!)  Art is a reflection of what’s important to me as a person. Every work I create (that I am happy with and/or simply complete) is an extension of who I am and what influences me. Art has taught me to give reason to why I do what I do and why I create what I create.

 

Art will always be a part of my life and I hope to further my art education and eventually become an animator of a cartoon of my own creation. 

 

I hope that by participating in Chalkville, artists and non-artists alike will get an understanding of what is needed to create a successful work of art.  I hope this hands-on experience shows the community that art is more than just drawing a flower on a piece of paper. It’s a statement louder than words.  We all know a picture says a thousand words.  I hope what we create will leave viewers with at least this one: amazing.

IMG_2579

Heading up the Design Squad, Courtney Tracy, a West Haven resident and alumna of the West Haven High School art department, will meet regularly with the students and other New Haven-area based artists including Giada Crispiels to create a unified image for a site-specific 100,000 square foot drawing.  All are welcome to participate in the world record attempt but must pre-register at www.facebook.com/Chalkville.  Meanwhile, principles of Scrum are keeping the development team on track: timeboxed (2-week) sprints leading up to a fixed release date, urgent and enthusiastic goal-driven communication, frequent inspection and adaptation, clear alignment of purpose in the form of user stories, and a commitment to demonstrate awesome results.

student chalk art1

Chalkville, a large-scale public arts event for civic pride, is funded in part by the Awesome Foundation, Connecticut Chapter.  Donations for chalk and other supplies are fully tax-deductible and may be sent to Chalkville, c/o West Haven Council on the Arts, PO Box 16513 West Haven, CT 06516.  SPECIAL THANKS to Ann Nyberg at WTNH Channel 8 for her recent interview which may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1F-k29KYOw

Today for Monday/Collaborate, Artbux interviews Stefanie Lynx Weber, an action-based artist based in Pittsfield, MA who specializes in dance, movement and performance.

hooping_1

Stefanie is presently developing with collaborating artist Monika Pizzichemi, They Dance For Rain which is an on-going Tap Dance (and Hoop Dance) project in Nairobi, Kenya. Exhibitions of photo work from the project (see above) are slated for various Tap Festivals through the US.

We spoke about an article The Washington Post published in August 2012 claiming that dance is the most successful category on Kickstarter.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/kickstarter-for-dance-choreographers-could-be-a-gold-mine/2012/08/23/62329816-ea6c-11e1-a80b-9f898562d010_story.html

AB: What experience do you have using Kickstarter for dance?

SLW: I have used Kickstarter for dance projects twice. The first campaign was to complete a 50-minute live performance piece, habitat (de)fragmentation, and be able to pay the performers for the many hours of rehearsal time needed in order to make something ready for a premiere. I also needed some funding for costumes, props, and video editing. I made it a little beyond my goal of about $2000 with much help from my community and many hours plugging away at it. The second time I used Kickstarter was for bringing that same piece eight months later to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. I needed to cover expenses of travel, hotels, and performance fees. I reached that goal as well.

I also did two more crowd-funding campaigns on another site, Indiegogo, for my dance project They Dance For Rain in Nairobi, Kenya. (For more info on this and other current projects, please visit Stefanie’s blog: http://fertileuniverse.com/about )

AB: What skills do dance artists practice all the time that might make them more successful than others in this space..?

SLW: There are three things that come to mind. One is that dance artists are often not strangers to taking risks. Launching an online campaign to raise money for your vision as an artist is risky business. To those of us used to falling on the floor and getting back up it becomes just another necessary part of the process.

The next thing that comes to mind is that dancers are used to grinding away at something till it flows. Practicing something over and over. Finding what is working and what is not. Crowd-funding can be a grueling and time-consuming process. Again, we are used to trying again and again to get something just right. And that is what you have to do with something like Kickstarter. You have to show up everyday and be willing to try another way to reach that next person.

Most importantly, many dance artists have to be able to really connect and reach others in order to make their work.  If you have other performers in your work, you find out quickly what makes this a different situation from other art forms. Paint does not talk back or have children to feed or need health insurance. Clay is not injured and then not available for 2 weeks or more. I think that dance artists, especially individually-based ones, develop an empathy, understanding and deep view into the human condition make it easier to reach out to others.  This makes it more likely that you would even try something like Kickstarter because you have to really appeal to your audience for their support.

nairobi

You have to create an audience, not only a dance. You have to understand that most people funding you through Kickstarter are going to be people you know, or people they know, and so being connected to them as humans and not just a profile on a screen or a hand with money is invaluable. Most of the people that donated to my campaigns were people who not only believed in my ability to do the work, but worked hard for their living also and saw themselves as becoming a part of the creative process.

Generally speaking, dance artists already have the skills needed to bring people together to make something unique happen.

AB: Does word that dance kicks butt on Kickstarter seem like “news” to you? Why or why not?

SLW: I have not done a lot searching around on Kickstarter so I was not aware of what is working and what is not. I did see a lot of videos, movies, and film-type campaigns being featured often when I was using Kickstarter. I am not surprised at all that individual dance artists (especially), companies and organizations would use a source like this and be successful at it.

Dance is not generally funded broadly and dance artists often use other people to make their art. People need to be paid for their time, skill and energy.  And today’s dance artists are often on the edge, coming up with new perspectives and ways to say something that needs to said. Much of this goes over the heads of larger funding sources or doesn’t fit into their antiquated and limiting funding structures.  Also, dance artists often don’t want or have the ability to wait for long grant cycles, gain “permission” to carry on, or cater their work to a theme or criteria that does not really support their unique or complex process and vision.

Platforms like Kickstarter give more power and visibility to the many kinds of dance-making processes that exist. Dance art is cutting edge because it always involves bodies. Bodies are and always have been radical forms of expression. It’s nice to hear that individual dance artists (especially) are getting what they need from this community-based source because they certainly are not getting it from any corporate, government or nationally structured funding source. Maybe Kickstarter is helping to make the value of this need in our culture more visible.

AB: What message would you like people to take away from the article?

SLW: Sources like Kickstarter (and Indiegogo, etc) are making it possible for dance artists to bypass the worn out roads to funding their valuable and unique visions by providing a concise template and well-organized platform for reaching out and finding financial support. Dance artists therefore have more of an opportunity to successfully blaze their own trails. This is not a walk in the park, it is hard work! Most dance artists who are actively and consistently putting work out are used to that and will step up to the plate.

MORE BIO ON STEFANIE:

Stefanie Weber has worked with many organizations: Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Opera Company, Simon’s Rock, Williams College, Berkshire Community College, Terpsichore Dance Studio, Lenox Community Center, Hudsons’ Operation Unite, East Harlem Union Settlement Association,  Somerville’s ArtBeat, and Cambridge River Festival; as an artist, educator, performer, or choreographer.  Presently she is on faculty with Community Access to the Arts, Berkshire Dance Theater, and Kinesphere Movement Arts Studio.

Stefanie is the founder and artistic director of the Creatures Of Habitat Physical Poetry Public Performance Project and Pittsfield City Hoopla. She is a performer and co-director of the performance ensemble Silver Swimmers (USA) , was in the Commonwealth Tap Collective based in Boston and is a performer with Nutshell Playhouse. A dancer with Caryn Heilman’s LiquidBody Dance for six years, Stefanie immersed herself in the the work of movement pioneer Emily Conrad. She collaborates frequently with various local and international artists, musicians and community development enthusiasts. Her work and development has been supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Stefanie is a certified Gyrotonic instructor, former Americorps Member, graduate of UMASS Amherst with a degree in Environmental Sciences (focus on toxicology), and has taken artistic residency with The Storefront Artist Project (02-06) and Dana Bixby Architecture (07).  She is a former board member of Topia Arts Center in Adams, MA.

In Spring of 2007, Stefanie was recognized as a “Young Woman Moving the Berkshires Forward” by the Berkshire Eagle newspaper and awarded certificate as an asset to the community by State Senator Benjamin Downing.

%d bloggers like this: