Doing Things Organically

In hierarchies, work is performed within processes and structures that are well defined and often rigid. An “organic” approach to managing is modeled on evolving and dynamic processes that change according to the circumstances and people present. It can be compared to an ecosystem, in that it is shaped by interactions among a community with a common focus. Although there is process and structure, it is a bit looser and evolves with time, according to the dynamics of a group or project.

The advantages of doing things organically include:

• Rather than following one-size-fits-all procedures, you are dealing with real-time events and developments in a project, allowing you to rapidly respond with solutions tailored to the particular situation

• There is more room for innovation, without rigid and confining requirements that do not consider the particulars of your project

• You design your approach according to the team you have and the particulars of the project, increasing your chances of success

How can you test and develop organic managing approaches that work for you? Here are a few things you can start with. If you’d like to go further, make a blog comment and we’ll start a discussion

• When you start a project, bring your team together to discuss how you will manage the project and ask for their constructive input. Topics addressed can include: individual roles and responsibilities, performance goals, communication methods and frequencies, limitations and strengths of the group in meeting the goals of the project and how you will incorporate them in your approach and how you will make space for innovation and course correction.

• Hold periodic “touch base” meetings where your team and you evaluate progress to date and make suggestions for improving performance

• Allow some freedom for team members in how they approach their tasks. The “touch base” meetings can be forums to assess how things should proceed

• Create open space sessions for your team, several times during the project, to foster innovation

Doing things organically is a natural process that works. It provides more freedom and flexibility and fits well with our current business environment of rapid response, tailored solutions and a constant flow of new information.

photo:  smarnad, FreeDigitaPhotos.net

Free Flow Management 4: How Does Collaboration Fit In?

In my previous posts on Free Flow Management we’ve looked at letting go of structure and visioning. With the freedom involved in free flow management, what happens when collaboration is required and team dynamics come into play? Perhaps one team member’s flow is in one direction and another team member’s flow is in the opposite one. For example, one team member needs quiet and open space to create effectively, while another needs group brainstorming.

There are no set answers to how best to integrate free flow management with collaborative projects. One approach is to allow collaboration to slightly trump the free flow. Using a free flow approach, work with the team to create a process for working together. The starting point is honoring the aspects of each person’s free flow. Then, you can move to a team discussion (with no wrong answers) on how to proceed with the project. Even within free flow, there is a need for some structure. The key is to allow the structure to evolve organically, depending on the particulars of each situation.

If there is power in numbers, collaborative free flow management can result in innovative and effective results for you and your team.

photo: supakitmod, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“I Know I Can Do This!”

Is there something beckoning you that would be a stretch to pursue? Sometimes opportunity calls quietly; sometimes it calls louder and louder. To respond effectively, you need to have confidence. Confidence is belief in your ability to handle challenges and to grow.

Take a moment to consider if there is something worthwhile beckoning you now. It could be a new opportunity, the chance to improve a skill or the opportunity to innovate. How are you responding?

Do you have the confidence to go for it? Sometimes you have to take a leap. You may not have all the elements you think you need to feel safe. If you analyze the opportunity carefully and assess your level of readiness, you can identify what you need to get in place and go for it. Sometimes, you may be doing these things after you take the leap. That’s okay. What’s most important is believing in yourself, making a commitment and knowing “I can do this!”.

photo: Salvatore Vuono, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Time For A Team Remix?

A remix is a song that has been edited or completely recreated to sound different from the original version.

Is it time to rethink and remix your team for 2014? Change is a key to innovation and keeps things fresh. A remix must be done wisely – change for change’s sake has no point. A remix that has the intention of improvement and excellence can boost productivity and strengthen your team.

How would you start? The beginning of a new year is a good time to evaluate how the previous year went and what you would like to shift in the new year. What are the areas where your team failed or under-performed in the past year? Where did they shine? What are their strengths that you can build on? Where can your team go that they have not been before? What changes have your team expressed a need for? Where do you want them to go?

Try a team remix this month. Your team’s new sound may a great one.

photo: adamr, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Free Flow Management 3 – Visioning

Free Flow Management (see previous blog post ) creates freedom for your team, encouraging innovation and the flow of ideas. There are times, as a manager, when you want to start from scratch and find completely new approaches and solutions in your work. One of the most effective tools I have found for this is visioning.

Visioning is an intuitive process that lets go of mind chatter and allows your team to innovate.  Say for example, you are looking for a solution to a design problem or are looking to find a new approach for customer service, visioning may be a useful tool for you and your team to get there.

It is best to keep visioning simple.  Bring your team together, for about 30 minutes, in a place where you will not be interrupted. Prior to the meeting, design 3 to 4 general questions relating to what you want to do. For example, how do we solve the water retention issue in our design or what is the best incentive we can give our customers. Open the meeting by saying that the visioning is intended to quiet the mind and access intuitive knowledge. You will be asking a series of questions. The team should trust their intuition and pay attention to the first thing that comes in their mind – it may be a word, a feeling, a picture – they should not judge, just allow it to come. There is no right or wrong. If nothing comes, that’s okay, too. Sometimes, it takes time to acclimate to visioning. Team members can have a notebook, if they want to write.

When ready, ask everyone to center themselves quietly. Suggest they close their eyes. Sometimes team members can be uneasy with this. At a minimum, there should be no conversation during the visioning. Then, ask your questions with a few minutes in between each one. Once the visioning is over, ask team members to share what they have visioned. Look for commonalities and record the ideas that are brought forward.

If this tool appeals to you, you may want to start on a volunteer basis with a small group. I have found, over the years, that visioning is a creative, powerful and productive tool that leads to good solutions and positive team engagement. If you have any questions about visioning, please let me know. I’d enjoy hearing about any visioning sessions you have with your team and how they go!

photo: by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ten Ways To Make The Most Of Uncertainty

Uncertainty is not a stranger to those of us who manage. Although you may prefer certainty, when uncertainty rises, you can use it to your advantage. Here are ten ways to make the most of uncertainty.

1. Examine where you and your team feel most vulnerable. Take that information and make a plan to shore up areas of vulnerability for the future.

2. Foster creativity and innovation as you and your team deal with the uncertainty. When things are shaken up, the environment can be just right for innovation.

3. Use the time to build team cohesiveness. Listen to your team’s concerns, insights and ideas.

4. Explore the source of the uncertainty and let it inform how you go forward and deal with it when it comes again.

5. Create a new approach for your team that acknowledges the presence of uncertainty.

6. Create some assumptions within the uncertainty, to guide how you will go forward.

7. Identify a series of what – next scenarios and decide if any preparations are warranted.

8. Use the time to practice stress and anxiety reduction methods and see which work best for you and your team.

9. Let the uncertainty inform you by what it reveals concerning your organization.

10. Accept that uncertainty is almost always present in managing and find continuing ways to deal with it effectively.

 

photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Team Outliers

Teams need diversity to innovate, excel and succeed. Inherent in diversity are differences. As a manager, how do you handle differences and incompatibilities among team members and maintain diversity?

Diversity has many forms – among them personalities, culture, work styles. Differences do not lead inevitably to disagreement, but do need to be acknowledged and observed. Some teams have people who are outliers. They stand apart in skills, by choice, or otherwise and the distance can be significant.

Managing a team with one or more outliers calls first for assessing the value and origin of the outliers’ distance. Do their differences contribute or detract from the team? If they detract, challenges lie ahead for you – to minimize the detraction if the team member is worth keeping on. If the differences contribute, a good challenge lies ahead – to manage your team by honoring each individual and creating an environment for each team member to do the same. Malcolm Forbes offered this positive definition of diversity: Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.

Team outliers can make the difference between excellence and the commonplace. Inherent in diversity is difference, which makes it so valuable. Value your outliers. If you do not have one, bring some in and manage them well.

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Open Communication

To move forward, open communication is a necessity. In reality, however, open communication is rare. By open communication, I mean conditions where each person has the opportunity to speak their truth in a calm, considered way, without retribution.

Many things inhibit open communication – hidden agendas, strong emotions or lack of emotional intelligence, fear, organizational dysfunction or a desire to control, for example. You could decide that you will communicate openly, but there are risks. Until a safe space for open communication exists, you can employ some elements of open communication by allowing others to speak to you in an open manner, developing your own emotional intelligence and not reacting to poor communicators, unless one of your boundaries are crossed. You also can become more knowledgeable on open communication and, when you can, foster its development.

Without open communication, progress is slowed. With open communication, progress gets on a fast track along with innovation, harmony and collaboration.

 

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

DreamSpace

 

“We need time to dream, time to remember, and time to reach the infinite. Time to be.” ― Gladys Taber

Dreaming is practical. Where are vision, leadership and innovation without dreaming? Creating DreamSpace for yourself will further your career and your happiness. Some of the features of DreamSpace are:                                                                                                             

a free space to do whatever you please

enough time to detach from “life”

relaxation

focus for your dreaming (although, daydreaming works too and can open up a new focus for you)

Try creating some DreamSpace for yourself this month. Unleash your creativity and vision.

 

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Getting Started On A Project

There are many checklists for getting a project started – goals, time, measures, resources, task definition are on many of them. What do these checklists miss in assuring a successful project start?

Here are some things to reflect on as you initiate a project.

Open Space and Blue Sky

In your plan, have you made provision for open space that will foster creativity and innovation? You can do this by building in open space opportunities for the team to consider the project and what may be possible.

Handling The Unexpected

Many good project management plans build contingencies into their timelines and budgets. Do you have a process for handling disruptions and unforeseen events? You can create a process by which you and your team can identify and respond to the unexpected in an effective way.

Balance

Have you considered means to keep your project in balance for its duration? Think of a wheel – you align it so that it does not wobble. Balance is dynamic as opposed to static. You can address balance by setting, at the start of the project, the elements of balance (for example, not burning out, communication, problem solving) that you want to maintain and creating a way of periodically checking in on the project’s level of balance.

Problem and Weakness Ascension

Many team members are reluctant to identify problems and weaknesses until they reach the point where they are showing up on project timelines or budgets. At the start of a project, team members should know that early identification of problems and weaknesses is encouraged and contributes to success. You can do this by creating a “judgment-free” process for raising problems and weaknesses, as soon as they are identified.

Space for The Unknown

Beyond handling the unexpected, it is good to have a healthy respect for the unknown. You cannot anticipate all that will happen during a project. You can address the unknown by acknowledging its presence at the start. In doing this, team members will not feel pressure to stay on a planned course, even when circumstances have changed. By making space for the unknown, accommodation can be made to reset the course, when needed, in a timely and efficient way.

In future posts, I will go further in each of these areas. I’d enjoy hearing from readers if you are addressing any of these project elements and what you are finding about their usefulness.

 

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net