Archives for posts with tag: collaboration

An interview with Jesse Fewell, author of “Can You Hear Me Now?: Working with Remote Virtual and Distributed Teams”

 

 

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ES: I found reference to your book at the end of Mark Kilby’s wikinotes from Agile Alliance 2014.  He led a session called “Remotely Agile?”  I’m really honored you have time to speak about this. What is the main pain point common to all teams working remotely across the agile space?

 

JF: Preparation.  When you assume you’re set up and can just “hop on the call,” it becomes painfully obvious when you’re not.  We’ve all been there and not followed our own advice. It happens.

 

ES: That’s for sure…my computer overheated once and I had to use frozen pizza as an emergency cooling pad!

 

JF: Hah!  And then of course preparation means much more than gear, although the gear is important.  It’s also more than simply setting an agenda and booking a meeting in Outlook.  Preparation means asking ahead of time: what information needs to flow out of this meeting?  What are the pieces to be unlocked by the exchange?  How are we going to create a collaborative environment?

 

ES: It can be difficult to get anyone to focus on these questions in advance.  How do you do it?

 

JF: I find it helps to have a framework.

 

There’s Innovation Games  “Ideas into Action” model that invites us to choose a format based on the conversation we’re going to have.  There might be a portion of time set aside for ideation where we use sticky notes.  Then we do some shaping of the material, this might be in a shared GoogleDoc which we type  in and look at together.  Then there might be some prioritization which could involve an online poll.  You can actually map a conversation through these different platforms.

 

Innovation Games has taken the effort to productize some useful things for online work, including the Budget Game. The idea here is how do you decide in a consensus in a collaborative environment?  Everyone has monopoly money to spend, and they form alliances.

 

And check this out if you haven’t already: “We’ve Got to START Meeting Like This” by Dana Wright.

She says whenever there’s an event or a meeting, or say for instance an Agile ceremony, you follow this model:

  • Beforehand, anticipate.
  • During, use engagement techniques.
  • Afterward, think about how to extend the dynamics, momentum, the energy.

 

ES: That makes a lot of sense.  How can we equalize the dynamics on teams that have some members co-located and some remote?

 

JF: I like to have everyone dial in.  Whether you’re thirty feet apart or thousands of miles, it’s a great equalizer so everyone can virtually collaborate.

 

When Verizon Wireless wanted to bring different silos together into the product requirements phase setup, not everyone could fly in but they still wanted to be involved.   We achieved a collaborative dynamic with these people through a simulcast – virtual teams were established with a facilitator in the main room.  They broke out then had a debrief at the end with representatives from each virtual team.  It worked!

 

ES: Is there a set of meta-skills needed to arrive at protocols for how teams will operate virtually?

 

JF: Interesting question, facilitation is one.  When you’re face to face, the speaker owns the room. The audience gives the facilitator a huge amount of authority to set up the collaborative energy.  If he or she says, “Stand up and talk to the person next to you,” we do it.

 

In a virtual environment it’s much harder to rely on one single person to facilitate.  Everyone’s distractions are a lot closer at hand, and so everyone has to bring a commitment that “we’re going to make this work.”  Remote facilitation is about connecting people to their sense of purpose and reminding them why it matters.

 

The book Remote by 37 signals talks about this. Working remote is how they recruit the best talent, so getting it right is a badge of honor and a source of pride. You have to reseed that original emotional investment.

 

ES: Okay, facilitation.  Any other meta-skills?

 

JF: Because the peripheral senses are missing in an online environment, we can’t read each other as well.  So introspection becomes important.  We rely on everyone to be a little bit more self aware than usual.  Checking in needs to happen more frequently, not just at the beginning of  a meeting.

 

I’m actually going to be speaking more about this at my keynote at the PMI conference in St. Louis in October.  There is definitely a personal skillnet that is needed for individuals to help bridge the distance on teams.

 

ES: Well, thank you.  Let’s speak again after you give that talk and before I go off and tell stories about remote teamwork at Agile Tour London!

 

There will be a follow up conversation in October 2014.

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Jesse’s book is mentioned on this wiki from Agile Alliance 2014 http://www.agileorlando.com/wiki/doku.php?id=distributedrestrospectives

 

Jesse Fewell spoke with Big Visible about Learning and Engagement at Agile Alliance 2014

http://www.bigvisible.com/2014/07/jessie-fewell-breakthrough-learning-engagement-agile-2014/

 

You can download a free e-copy of Jesse’s book at his website here: http://jessefewell.com/

 

For more Stories of Remote Collaboration, see my article on InfoQ: http://www.infoq.com/articles/stories-collaboration-remote-teams


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On December 16th Arts Interstices hosted a conversation via Google Hangouts among dance and theater improv artists and Agilists from various parts of the US.  The following is a briefing on some essential themes this cross-sector dialogue uncovered regarding the serious interest business is taking today in this art form.

“Yes, And…”

People feel threatened when choices are unduly restricted.  With a narrow set of options, positions become entrenched and even the simplest conversation become difficult.   Saying “Yes, And…” (rather than “Yes, but..”) is widely acknowledged to be the first guideline of improv.  Experienced practitioners emphasize building upon the contributions others have already made, creating an expanded sense of possibility.

“Make Your Partner Look Good”

Imagine going into a meeting with a bad set of nerves anticipating critical scrutiny.  Now imagine going in alongside a colleague, shifting your focus to a total dedication to making that person shine as the most brilliant mind on earth.    Sea Tea Improv recommends practicing this kind of mutual support as a way to instill trust quickly and powerfully.

“Suspend Disbelief”

Improvisational scenes progress iteratively.   Starting with mundane circumstances and then taking the audience along on a journey by adjusting their expectations step by step is conducive to fantastic results.

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“Mirroring”

One of the steps towards relaxing in a group is seeing oneself in others. That spark of recognition can be induced through the act of mirroring, used as an icebreaker in Annie Sailer’s movement exercises.

“Spatial Collaboration”

Knowledge workers have few conscious opportunities to read each other and respond nonverbally.  Even though these exchanges happen all the time at work, improvisational movement renders them intentional, slowing down the sequence of sensing, perceiving and choosing how to engage.

Just+at+Work+008Scrum Teams That Harmonize

Robie Wood led this workshop at the Paris Scrum gathering in September 2013 with his brother Jody Wood, a deeply experienced improv actor.  The description in the program reads: How can we positively charge and orient Scrum Team members toward effective participation in the conversations, activities and innovation necessary to deliver business value? Let’s get team members to Harmonize. To maintain team Harmony, we can draw on examples from the Arts where Harmony is sustained by using improvisation to adapt to changing complexity. The “Scrum Team that Harmonizes” workshop employs improvisation exercises from the Acting world that are designed to work on the specific skills needed by team members to perform effectively in each of the four types of Scrum Meetings.

Robie will host the next Hangout scheduled for later this month, and we’ll include international participants.   Further exchange will advance the dialogue and lay groundwork for intelligence-gathering and sharing of effective practices for how improv is being used today in business settings.   Practitioners can plug into this conversation by emailing artsinterstices@gmail.com or rwood@willshowvalue.com.

ADDITIONAL CONTACT INFORMATION

Sea Tea Improv http://seateaimprov.com/

Annie Sailer Dance Company http://anniesailer.com/d-a-n-c-e/statement

ShowVALUE http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=15275730&locale=en_US&trk=tyah2&trkInfo=tas%3ARobie%20Woo%2Cidx%3A1-1-1

JW Actor’s Studio http://www.jwactorstudio.com/

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

Kicking off a series of two-part posts by pairing some of my thoughts about working with artists and a client’s notes about our work together. Look for similar posts here at Artbux every other Monday, and please submit your ideas for paired perspectives on collaboration. – Elinor Slomba, CSM

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CONSULTANT’S PERSPECTIVE: In my administrative career – which began in 1994 – I have chosen to work alongside highly creative people. The ongoing effort to connect their great ideas with the resources needed to help actualize them has been the gist of my professional life so far. Mostly I have done this through the written word.

I LOVE artists! I love their vulnerability and sensitivity, and the strength of their convictions. I love how they see things others don’t. And so, in my case, as Kahlil Gibran says eloquently and with more than a grain of truth, “Work is love made visible.”

When you listen for the spaces between words and help someone who’s struggling with the seed of a new idea capture a coherent structure for his/her thoughts, it’s like having a superpower. So many amazing individuals are contributing their time and talent and intelligence – their very substance – to collective vitality right now…and running experiments using models proven viable in specific fields. I am proud to function as “glue” in the arts world and across sectors among them.

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I appreciate the trust it takes to put your ideas into someone else’s hands and ask for help giving them form and expression. Whether or not it’s true what Daniel Pink says about connectors and synthesizers having a special place in civilization these days, and I like to think it is, helping artists be more successful is a permanently cool gig.

Meanwhile, jumps and twirls. Here’s to every day being different, with some more different than others. This hedge against conformity – respect for difference and celebration of meaning among differences whether stark or sublimely subtle – is the main, most substantive thing artists are expert at conjuring in our midst. It is extremely valuable to business. At this point in history, artists are selling what everyone else desperately needs.

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ARTIST’S PERSPECTIVE: Contributed by Helen N. Hanson

Until recently I had never experienced a truly inspirational collaboration. I took the opportunity to collaborate with Elinor Slomba.

Elinor is a storycraft consultant, and she is excellent at her job. Due to illness I have had to transfer from the medium of Acting to the medium of Collage. Same artist, different disciplines, different form of interpretation.

When I first started working with Elinor, I was a bit all over the place, scattered, and not quite sure how to move forward.

We have now worked together for several months and I am quite clear on the direction of my work, the discipline it requires to produce it, and the structuring of my time so that I work as an artist, I tend to my health, I practice meditation, and I practice Collage. Of course all at the same time, there is my family, our home, our pets, our bills, my dear and wonderful friends near and far. LIFE in big capital letters!

Elinor has introduced ideas that would not have occurred to me, she speaks better than I do, she represents me more articulately than I do and she listens well. She has consistently come up with innovative and unusual combinations that prove to be an excellent avenue of getting work out there.

We check in once a week; and in that meeting, we accomplish quite a lot of very fine work. it has been very interesting to listen to her knowledge of social media and her take on what’s a good combination of social media to drive the customer that is already looking for my work. I have learned the importance of navigating and always staying on task on the World Wide Web.

It took a bit of time to find my online limits.  It was a valuable lesson to learn. While I may have a ton of energy, my body, especially now when I am in a healing crisis, may need nothing more then rest and food/ or sleep.

It is been a true pleasure having Elinor as my storycraft consultant.  If you are an entrepreneur, an artist, a dancer, a blogger, a poet…etc., and want to take what you say and perhaps haven’t said clearly and put it out into the worldwide marketplace for thought and/or goods exchange, Elinor Slomba can assist you.

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Cross-posted on Helen Hanson’s blog  – nontoxicspiritart.wordpress.com

 

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