Sustainable Business Learning Community Conversations, continued

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October 25, 2012 Topic: Leading Change: How to Foster and Encourage Sustainable Change

Leading the way to change!

Comments from last week's conversation on Elizabeth's "Magna Carta:"

Elizabeth on how they interpreted and lived these principles:

  • House was divided into smaller groups of 10 where a more intimate sharing of experiences and stories was possible.
  • People started to trust one another through this continuous sharing which led to the ability to use discretion when different situations arose.
  • This made it more comfortable for some people to share their personal needs (for example, the rule was that everyone shared shampoo, but one woman needed to have her own kind of shampoo) so people, using discretion, permitted this. You begin to feel an accountability to a community so that you will make better discretionary choices.


The cooperative model vs. the competitive model: In the competitive model, someone always has to prevail and win, the other loses. In the cooperative model, however, conflict can be seen as just an opportunity to discover something new. Conflict becomes a problem when we let our ego get in the way of something new; it is based on the fear of losing something, perhaps the fear of losing a piece of one's own identity. There has to be a willingness to let your ego/idea go.

Can rules get in the way? Hannah talked about being part of the Jewish community in which there are people who are there to help apply the foundational principles of Judaism to everyday life and issues. They are trying to articulate core values in a modern context without trying to build up walls by imposing too many rules that, in the end, can make it harder to apply these values to real situations. Sometimes it's easier to have core principles with fewer rules and one should try to use those core principles to solve a problem or deal with a situation, rather than to make a new rule. How do you follow a set of core principles? It will likely change with the situation. You might not need a rule, but simply the knowledge of how to hold to a set of values.

The drawback to having too many laws and regulations is that you diminish discretion; things happen in a context with very specific conditions which requires discretion. See The Death of Common Sense by Philip K. Howard.


The importance of conversation:

If you want to have a healthy community, there should be open and honest communication.

Tom tells the story of the picture board in the GG lobby: This is a board that is meant to display pictures on, and Tom's original idea was that these pictures should be only in black and white. Marvin Shaouni thought that color pictures would be better. Tom continued to talk to other people to see what they thought about it. Then Chad finally came up with the idea of just establishing a color palate for the pictures. Adjudicating the process would not have gotten them to this better solution. Communicating and continuing to widen the conversation helped to open up the discussion and bring them all to the best solution.

Good leadership (with good communication) works on things that might lead to conflict before they actually DO become conflict.


Do we create rules because people don't use discretion, or, do people not use discretion because we have so many rules? (If I'm not breaking a RULE, it must be just fine!)

There may be areas where more rules are better, i.e. driving. Many of us don't have good judgement when we are driving. Driving is a situation where its really easy to do the wrong thing, and to make poor choices. That's why there are so many rules.

Matt (New Solutions Group) - has gained a lot of insight into what it's like to work in community. He offered to share with new residents or anyone interested what it really means to be working in a community like the GG.


Mapping the change process

Topic for Today: Leading Change - How do you foster and encourage sustainable change

This topic came from The Social Club Grooming Company, (Sebastian Jackson)

Sustainability is about changing habits. How does this happen?

Sebastian has 4 stylists who work for him, and he contracts out the remaining chairs. How does he get everyone on board with the changes he wanted to make toward a more sustainable salon?

Sebastian thinks that learning to lead change should happen right at the beginning, although sometimes you have to get into the middle of it before you could understand what this process is really all about. (see change chart):

  • Awareness (that there even is a problem)
  • Understanding (of what the facts are and what the situation is)
  • Trial (people begin to try something new)
  • Adoption (people adopt the new habit and it becomes normal)
  • At the end, continuous improvement - tweaking the new normal

Sebastian notices that people in his salon are in different places on this change curve. He installed a change curve chart on his wall, put the people onto the chart showing them where they are on the curve and what they're working on now. Chart will eventually be moved to the front from the back.

Change is a natural process, and it is natural for people NOT to want to change. Change is hard. How do you deal with people who don't want to go through a process of change?

  • As a leader, you let people know what direction you are moving; the direction you are moving is set - how you get there might be negociable.
  • Be open to responses from people going through the change if they have problems and criticisms. This is to be expected. Let them know that they will have questions/concerns/problems, and that this is normal and expected and that you want them to tell you about it.
  • Realize that not everyone will agree with the whole concept of Sustainability. Part of the awareness process can be who you hire, picking people who fit in with your values. Tell people that you want them to be aware that in this business, you are working toward no waste. Do they want to work this way? Are they interested in joining in this process?

How do you communicate to those who you work with the personal benefits of adopting change? They may agree that something isn't good and should be changed, but it might not affect them personally that much, so they seem less enthusiastic.

At the Social Club, not everyone wanted to adopt the new water process (replacing water bottles with glass jugs and compostable cups), mostly because they had never really talked about water bottles before. They had talked about no waste but not specifically about what that would mean for their water use. Problems arose in the little "whats," but once those issues were talked over, things began to run more smoothly.

Might there be a certain percentage of people who require the heavy handed approach - "because I said so?" Is this approach effective?

This conversation to be continued next time!

October 18, 2012 Topic: Strategies for Working in a Community: Elizabeth's Magna Carta

Comments from last week's discussion on Effective Facilitation:

A facilitator should be able to get to the need behind the need, the essence of what you are trying to accomplish.

One technique used to facilitate a meeting: Allow 5 minutes time right before each meeting for reflection or meditation. This allows everyone to clear their minds of the meeting topic, and brings people into a different place.

Do you really have to have a meeting? There are people who accomplish the same work without having to actually arrange a meeting. You want processes, not events. Many facilitators frequently get things done in small meetings between 2 or 3 people, rather than in larger group meetings. If you can build capacity in the everyday organization to make decisions, then a lot of these big meeting events are rendered unnecessary.


Living Together in Italy

Topic for today: Strategies for Working in a Community: Elizabeth's Magna Carta

Background: Elizabeth lived in a house in Italy with about 60 people who were complete strangers and spoke many different languages. The question for them was, how do you get to a healthy living situation with a very diverse group of 60 people? So they developed their "Magna Carta:" (note: translated from the original Italian, so a bit flowery!):

There were 7 aspects involved in what we called our ‘magna carta’, which was meant to “express the radical change this style of life demanded from each individual and collectively all together”. As light can be divided into a spectrum of 7 colors, these principles were organized according to color, with each color recalling a particular aspect of life to be put into practice.

*Red (A communion of goods): We use our material resources with responsibility and detachment, considering the universal destination of goods and our own needs measured against the needs of others. In so doing, we build a culture of giving where there is an open sharing of material, mental and spiritual resources.

*Orange (Openness to dialogue)– We establish and grow friendly and professional relationships based on dialogue that respects the other.

*Yellow (Seeking truth)– We recognize that each person makes a unique, integral contribution to our community. We exercise transparency and honesty in our communications so that we grow in truth.

*Green (physical health and nature)– We are attentive to our physical health, following a balanced way of life in which we act as stewards of our environment. We intervene with concrete help to support the health and well-being of every member of the community.

*Blue (Harmony and the environment) – We work to make all of our surrounding environments ones that are clean, pleasant and welcoming.

*Indigo (Pursuit of wisdom)– We encourage continuous learning, sharing of wisdom and mentorship. We create a space for the expression of creative ideas and fruitful exchanges, encouraging continuous innovation.

*Violet (Unity through continuous communication)– We create structures of communication to ensure the continuous mutual flow of information and learning. We celebrate one another’s successes and learn from one another’s failures.

We also had a simple cube that had 6 ‘calls’ to foster an environment of mutual respect. If someone wanted to focus in on one particular call to action, they could roll this cube and focus on one particular point during the course of the day.

  1. We respect one another
  2. I respect my ‘enemy’
  3. I’m the first to respect, without waiting for the other
  4. I respect the other as myself
  5. I share the other’s hurt or joy
  6. I respect everyone without discrimination''


Comments from the community:

Communication is vital. Knowing that everyone is a unique individual with different values and standards, effective communication skills are very important.

How do you apply the above principles (or any principles you establish for your business)? We may all agree that environment, cleanliness and orderliness is important, but how do you agree on a standard? What if your idea of clean is really different from others' idea of clean?

People have different expectations of themselves and others, so it's good to have things clear right at the beginning.

Be honest about your tolerance levels. People's tolerance levels vary greatly. What is acceptable to one person may not be acceptable to others. Irritation and frustration can further complicate an issue. Make sure to be aware of yourself and your actions, and considerate of others needs.

Establish a means for communication. Perhaps you have agreed in advance that you will discuss any problems that arise and will speak honestly and respectfully with one another. Then, if a problem does come up, you are both on the same side of the table. Be aware that there are some people for whom frank and honest discussion is sometimes uncomfortable.

Finding one's inner parent! You may not always want to take a leadership role in a situation, but you want to encourage others to have personal leadership (or find their inner parent).

Establishing a set of principles and guidelines:

  • Set up rules, establish principles and guidelines at the beginning. If you start to form a business without having done this first, you may find yourself with people working on the inside who have no wish to follow the rules you set up, who don't share your values. So decide upon your rules at the outset and then find people who will fit into your business. As an example, the Green Garage, functioning as a community work space, is not for everyone. If someone doesn't like working in a community environment, they would immediately recognize that it is not a suitable place for them.
  • Agreed upon principles should be apparent and evident in the community everyday.
  • When you have a set of principles that have been agreed upon ahead of time, your leadership will be different than if you have started with no principles at all. You have something to refer back to if a problem or conflict arises. If there are no apparent standards, you are left with only "because I said so," which is not very effective.
  • Resolving disputes: When a dispute arises, you can refer back to the agreed upon principles and guidelines, and then decide, through the lens of your common values, how to resolve your conflict.
  • If your community is going to be together for only the short term, then it is more important to have the rules established ahead of time. For a group that will be together long term, your fundamental values/principles should be in place, but some of the rules and guidelines can be allowed to evolve over time.


What do you do when people willfully don't abide by the rules? What should the consequences be? Should there be a formal process?

  • If the conflict cannot be resolved by referring back to your original set of guidelines and principles, and this person is breaking their contract with you willfully, then it is probably better that they find another place. There doesn't need to be any animosity between you, but you could say something to the effect of, "Sorry it's not working out, but I hope you find a place that's a better fit for you."
  • Having a formal process does not mean that a problem will necessarily be resolved (think of the court system, for example).
  • It's good to have a flexible system for dealing with problems since people and situations are unique.
  • As a manager, having a toolset for managing conflict is very important. (See previous conversations)

One of the foundational principles of the Green Garage is : "Do what you love." This is a way of working together in a community that has been very effective. When they were transitioning from the construction phase to the operations phase, they had to think about what kind of work needed to be done and how this would be accomplished. Here is what they did:

  • Created a list of every job or task that needed to be done in operations (there were about 70+ items on the list).
  • Passed the list around and each person put a mark next to the job(s) they would enjoy doing.
  • The rule was that you only do what you love to do.
  • In the end, there were only 2 things on the list that no one wanted to do.

Pooling the tasks in the center, and then deciding who likes to do what has worked well. Contribution doesn't have to be the same to be equal.

October 11, 2012 Topic: Tools for Effective Facilitation

Hannah's diagram of tasks

Show and tell: Guilds: Hannah's diagram of tasks:

Hannah developed a diagram of tasks for her massage and wellness business. She identified 2 areas of tasks: 1. front of house - outside the treatment rooms 2. body work - inside treatment rooms

This represents a structured breakdown of which things fit under which categories - the hierarchical relationships between tasks. This is where she can get into all the quality metrics that help define task performance. Hannah notes that every employee will not necessarily engage in all areas on her chart.

Tom's story about group decision making: He was working on a large project with a lot of noise around issues that weren't work related. He got reps from different groups together (about 30 people), asked them what was on their minds and what the issues were and they wrote everything down. He asked each person to put a dot next to the issue that was a priority to them and asked people to volunteer for what they were willing to work on, with the idea that they had to have the problem solved in one week. They met again after one week and the problems were solved. Within a month, tension had been worked out of the system. List issues, prioritize, get volunteers to work on what they are interested in, set a 1 week time limit; this worked really well.


Today's topic: Tools for Effective Facilitation:

Sometimes when groups meet, they get stuck and are unable to move forward. How do you create the right processes for decision making?

There are basically 2 kinds of meetings: 1. divergent - information gathering 2. convergent - funneling down, getting to decision making

Here are some methods for facilitating the decision making process: 1. Write up specific questions on flip charts around the room, questions about topics that are important to the group in order to better understand what their priorities and issues are. Each group has their own color marker, and they rotate around the room, answering the questions on each chart, and then each groups ideas are visible to the larger group. This is simply a means of getting ideas on the table 2. The Amoeba Discussion: You have a set of prepared questions. Pose a question to one person, then have the other people position themselves close to the person if they agree, far way from the person if they disagree. The facilitator then asks someone farther away if they have a better idea, and people position themselves in relation to that person and their response, and so on. 3. Weighted Voting: Write up a list of questions/issues; with a blue dot, mark what you think is most important, with a red dot what you are willing to work on. The important issues and the areas in which real work can be done will become apparent.

Jess's story about Food Lab: Food Lab started out as small group who knew each other and trusted one another. But as the group grew, it began to be populated by people didn't know each other well and didn't know if everyone shared each other's values. The question was how to get out on the table why are people here, and what the terms that they were using meant to everyone. So, they developed World Cafe. They put out sheets of paper on each table with a question on top of each, rotated people through to answer the questions. In reviewing the answers, everyone realized they had more in common in understanding terms than they thought, and where there were differences, they developed a better shared understanding and were able to work through those differences more easily.

Bryce: As a facilitator, his primary goal is to guide the group to help them lead themselves to a productive endpoint. His main focus is relationship building. The first thing they do is to establish values which will become the protocol for engaging the group, interacting and responding to each other. They establish a safe place for people to express their ideas and values. In any group, the facilitator has to come in with a positive, genuine attitude - this gets a great response. Facilitator is there not necessarily to lead, but to inspire leadership in others. Facilitator must also clarify the intent and scope of the group.

Pugh Analysis for Consensus Building: According to Nic's experience at Ford, this is an effective way to get everybody on the same page and deal with everyone's different ideas. Everyone was arguing about whose idea was best for developing a particular program. So before evaluating and making value judgements about any of the ideas, they got everyone together to "chart it out." On a large piece of paper, they put the criteria to meet across the top of the page, and everyone's ideas down the side. It created a visual concept of what they were looking at and talking about. With the whole group together judging everyone's ideas based on the criteria, a mutually agreed upon decision was accomplished more easily. The group judged and arrived at the best solution and then could augment the best idea with elements of other ideas to arrive at an even better solution. This ended the argument and everyone was finally in agreement about how to proceed.

  • Set up a framework for decision making first before you start to discuss specific issues. You have to move slow to move fast.

The passionate listener/learner: In a non-convergent group conversation, the facilitator is there to make it easier for the group to gather information and ideas. He has to be able to hear what is in that group, draw out ideas and get to the "kernels of information" that people are offering up. There is a collective wisdom in the room that needs to be discovered. A good facilitator should be able to do that, and his passion for this conversation and process has to be genuine.

Gradients of agreement: Everyone may not agree in the end, but everyone does have to commit to the solution in the end. Establish a criteria which will allow you to move forward. For example, gradients of agreement: you could decide that if 50% of people are in agreement with something, you will move forward with it. Sometimes people just want to be heard in the process, and even if they don't agree with the solution, they won't block it in the end.

October 4, 2012 Topic: Decision-Making in a Group

Comments from last week's discussion of Decision-Making:

Matt remarked on the idea that more choices leads to less satisfaction

Jess said that it is important to have a system to help you make smaller decisions in order to alleviate stress that comes from having too many decisions to make.

  • Delegate to friends/coworkers so you don't have to decide.
  • Have patience; ask yourself, "do I have to make the decision now? Whats the risk of not making the decision now"?

Hannah points out that body, mind and spirit are not separate, so some decisions are made intuitively rather than rationally.

Questions:

  • Are business decisions easier than personal life decisions? Often in a business you have a vision, but not so in your personal life.
  • Does sensitivity to your environment affect the decisions that you make? Tags in shirts, beauty of surroundings, glares, loud noises etc.
  • Are you sensitive to the opinions of others? Does this affect your decision making?

Intentional about making important decisions during certain, optimal times of the day. Your priority should be to get it right the first time; meeting a schedule comes second. If you don't get it right, then it doesn't matter if you met a deadline.


Getting a group to come to a valid and effective decision can be challenging!

Today's topic: Decision-making in a group

Often in business your objective is to get a group to come to a decision. What does group decision-making look like to you? How does that work?

  • Be honest about what you believe is helpful to the decision-making process.
  • If you're an entrepreneur coming into a community, establish clear parameters of what you want to do and how much participation you can really use from others (too much input and nothing will be decided upon). Be authentic about what you ask for and people will gladly provide it.
  • People take ownership in the result if they see some of their input in it.

What do you do in an emerging group, or any group where the leadership roles, parameters and ideas aren't yet clear? There may be pressure to include everyone in all decisions but this is not necessarily helpful.

  • Divergent/Convergent Conversations:

Some conversations can be divergent in order to create a shared pool of information and understanding. Then there needs to be a convergent conversation to funnel all of that information down into some plan of action. You have to let people know what part of this process they are in: the divergent or convergent phase.

  • Strong leader: Group decision making in a tight knit group with its own culture is very different than in a new and emerging group. Maybe you need a strong leader in the latter group in order to move forward, more so than in the former.
  • Practice making group decisions; develop a process. The more you get to know one another and are able to develop the same vision, the easier decision-making will become.
  • Establish ground rules: There can be very simple principles that can drive the decisions of a group, even for simple decisions.
  • Allow people to write their ideas down in more sensitive situations so they can feel comfortable expressing themselves.

Are you aware when someone is influencing a decision? What is the real motivation behind open and transparent conversation? Are they really asking for your input, or are they just looking for validation for their own ideas?

There are some group cultures can work against decision-making. In this city, there is a lot of mistrust because power has been abused, projects have fallen flat. People then decide that there shouldn't be any leaders at all - non-convergent. But those non-convergent groups often can't manage to agree on anything. There is reluctance to assign leadership roles in this community because power has, in the past, landed in the wrong hands.

It's all in the execution: It sometimes happens that your group has finally come to a decision but then no action is ever taken. There doesn't seem to be any accountability or responsibility. Why not?

The Meeting People: Some people just love to have meetings. They like to be part of a group that really doesn't do anything. Meetings are often called that are simply for information sharing but don't lead to any particular action. Is there value in that? Maybe they can lead to some members following up with each other and getting some work done. Perhaps this is just a group that shares an interest. How useful are these kinds of meetings? Would it be easier and more efficient to just to send out emails to inform?

Size of groups: how big is too big, too small?

  • Decision fatigue: If you feel burdened too often, maybe a small group could help to alleviate some of that burden
  • A group of 3-5 people can easily work together
  • 7 people is about the maximum number you can have in a group in which everyone can participate
  • 12 people is a nice number for a good round table type conversation
  • Beyond about 15 people you have to have a leader or presenter
  • Nested systems of decision-making: (Jess) smaller groups meet, then representatives from those smaller groups meet as a larger group. Unions work that way. This brings things to a more human scale - you can speak and be heard in a small group and know that you will be represented.

Topic for next week: Tools for effective facilitation: How do you get a group that seems to be leaderless to develop a focus and become a functioning entity?

Another topic: Risk

September 27, 2012 Topic: Decision-Making

Comments on last week's discussion of Leadership:

  • Some people find themselves in a position of leadership without any aptitude for it, having landed there through no fault of their own.
  • There is a lot of focus on entrepreneurial training but very little on training for leadership skills these days. Supervisory and management skills in many areas of business are not taught as much as they ought to be.
  • Leadership is so much more complicated than many of us imagined. Human beings are very complex.
  • Some people are competent in a particular area but have no skill in teaching others.

Taking control in a business situation:

  • A client might say, "I want this thing done on this day for this price." If you say yes to this, they become the de facto leader. You are now on his project team and that becomes your world. Do you want to work with that person as leader? Are you comfortable with him being in that leadership role? Are you better off if you take control? Just because that person is paying for it, does that make him the leader? Will you relinquish your leadership role to him?
  • Pick two of three: One suggestion is to let the client pick two of the following three parameters: Time/cost/product. You have control of the third parameter; that way you keep control of the project.

A good leader is someone who supports you. Therefore, it can be helpful to communicate to the leader the best way to lead you: This is what I'm good at, this is what I'm not good at, this is what I need from you in order to complete this work. Be clear and specific - most people will thank you for it.

Sometimes the person who is thrust into a leadership role isn't really a natural leader and then those working for him begin to take some over some areas of leadership. They lead from behind, in a way.

Jess (Food Lab): When working with new staff, Jess asks them to come up with a list of what they need from her and she has found this very helpful.

Find out what are the best qualities in each person, and then arrange work tasks around that in order to get the best result and the best work out of each person.


How do we make decisions?

Topic for today: Decision-Making

We are all faced with a variety of decisions every day. You can only accomplish so many tasks and make so many decisions in a single day. So how much time can you really devote to decision-making? How much does it tax you emotionally to keep making decisions?

The Paradox of Choice: This is the idea that in western society we have an abundance of choices which, instead of freeing us, paralyzes us, and causes us to become more dissatisfied rather than happier. The more choices you have, the less satisfied you are with the choice you finally make.

Do you prefer just doing a task that doesn't require a lot of thought or do you prefer thinking about things? Does thinking about too many things cause you worry and anxiety?

How does modern technology affect our ability to make good decisions?

  • Mike takes regular breaks w/o computer/phones. He is in the habit of having down time, whether he thinks he needs it or not.
  • The amount of time we spend not looking at a computer, phone, or TV has gone down drastically in recent years. We have very little uninterrupted quiet time to allow our brain to slow down, process, think, relax.

Take stress out of decision making:

  1. Make sure the business has a strong shared vision. Make sure people can make their own decisions, based on the shared vision. When vision is strong, decision is easy, everything flows into the vision of your business. Clear vision = clear decision.
  2. Set up decision matrices, a series of smaller decisions that can help lead you to that larger decision.

Working on your business should be intentional, spend time on it each week.

Benefit of closing doors (metaphorically speaking) helps you to clear space, to not get distracted by shiny things around you. Closing one door can open the door to other, better opportunities.

Thoughtful decision-making:

  1. Are you missing some information you can get access to? Some information that you need? What is that piece of information? Get it and decide.
  2. Would you know a good answer if you saw it? What's your perfect answer? Do you have one? How can you decide if you don't know what your answer is?
  3. Figure out what kinds of decisions you are not willing to make in 24 hours. Allow yourself the time to think, reflect, on your more sensitive issues.

Other things to think about:

  • You may not have all the information you'd like to have to make this decision, but you have all the information you're GOING to have. Make your decision based on the best information available to you.
  • Rely on your gut feelings: If you hesitate, don't do it.
  • Think about the risk involved and evaluate that risk. Don't spend mental energy on decisions with no or low risk, because it just doesn't matter. Spend time on decisions with higher risk.
  • You may have some values/principles that are more important than others. Think about the factors involved in a decision that are most important to you. Job may pay you lots of money, but you have to move your family and don't want to do that.
  • Inaction: what is lost from NOT making a decision? What is the cost of not deciding?
  • Surround yourself with community - groups make better decisions than individuals. Take your thoughts to the group - helps to view the complexity of the decision you're trying to make, makes it clearer for you. Don't make any significant decisions on your own.
  • Identify the big decisions. Create a system for dealing with trivial decisions. If you are left with fewer decisions to make, then the quality of your decisions will be improved.
  • Try to build up leadership capacity in your business so that it becomes habit for the people working with you. Habits are automatic decisions.
  • Whatever decision you make, it has to have integrity. Will your decision involve other people? How? Believing in yourself and your decision is important, even if you get a bad outcome. If you fail "forward", you will learn something from it.
  • When you decide to do something, execute it well. That can make all the difference. Perhaps your decision turned out wrong because you didn't execute it well.
  • Break larger decisions into smaller, more discrete manageable decisions that you can deal with right now. What's the smallest decision that I can make at this moment?
  • Define what your choices are in a decision and let clients know what their response choices are. For example, "yes", "no", and "I'll get back to you within 24 hours" may be acceptable response choices. "I'll think about it and get back with you eventually" is not a choice option.


Next week's topic: Decision-Making in a Group

See Also

Earlier Conversations:

Sustainable Business Learning Community Conversations, cont'd.

Sustainable Business - Learning Community Conversations

Sustainable Business Learning Community Conversations