It was Irene that came up with this conclusion, thinking out loud. The reality check of her statement was an eye opener: “All these projects have one thing in common, that they promise a second chance!” That is the major realization that came out of the workshop done with the people leading each one of the projects, done in September 2015.
Let’s go back a moment and play from the start, so is clear what we are doing … LEGO Serious Play is a method that prompts the players to focus on one aspect of the scene while extracting content from another perspective. The idea was to get the project leads connected in such a way that we could understand the landscape of the project portfolio within the umbrella of the foundation. The result is that while the players were busy discussing how their projects interface, the very fundamental reasons why some of these projects exist came afloat. We also learned the expected timelines, the worries and the uncertainties of each project. The collateral benefit is that now we can reflect over this meaningful conversation and use it as starting point to renew the foundation’s communication plan.
The workshop was done in the inspiring setting of the Idea2quare building of CERN in Geneva. Time was challenging; we had to compress the technique into simplified versions of each phase, mainly because it was difficult to commit to a schedule.
The location is less than optimal due to echo from the metal walls of the containers, small tables, and is if that was not sufficient perturbation we also introduced external observers in the second half, putting extra pressure on the players. There are a few lessons learned here but we moved forward.
Luckily the first part, where the players meet each other and define their personality, is still done in a safe and private environment. The purposes of the warm up, also called “skill training” disconnects people from their daily problems, makes evident the profile of each player, and generates empathy within the group. In this specific workshop we asked for his or her “superpower” to focus first on the personality because they had never met before. Interesting to observe in this exercise is to discover the talents within the group. Here comes the “Eclectic Man”, the “Path Finder”, the “Diver” (but not because she dives), the “Core”, the “Sensor”, the “Fabricator” and “the one you use once only”. This exercise completes the process of profiling the characters, knowing each other and lowers the threshold for inter-cooperation and collaboration.
What was in it for us in this initial phase? Understand their personalities enables the foundation to craft the image we want to deliver to the outside world when we use their profiles in blog entries, and reiterate the old communication plan with the new information. The old ideas about communication are transformed into something else, preparing to show the world what we have.
The next part was the vision of success, the ultimate goal of the project itself or the “intention” of each player in regards of his/her project: what is important for them is also important for us to know so we can use that to give an “identity” in the communication about the projects.
And the projects came out, emerging from the hands of those scientists and visionaries, each one with an interpreted nickname or description, beginning with the “Creation of Venice” bridging them all into a complete project portfolio management. But, this post is about the workshop and we cannot include here the explanation or details of each project, otherwise it would become too long.
We will have a separate blog post per project soon.
Due to the timing we had to leave the project models on a table overnight and come back the next morning. The next phase of the script was to build a shared/merged landscape with the project models. It is a guided group construction/discussion and this one was entirely recorded on audio. I will mention here only some highlights to understand the dynamics of the exercise.
When the players begin the phase of merging/connecting their visions of success, all possible conflicts arise. That is exactly the purpose of the joint construction exercise, to ventilate all possible elements, discuss, converge/diverge, dive as much as possible into each situation until the frustration and the dreaming are overcome and simplified by system thinking.
One item that was very hot was that “Resuscitation” and “More Happiness with Green Jobs” projects, who apparently understood each other perfectly in a previous meet up and even agreed to collaborate, discover how the personal motivation or intention of the projects poses a big difference in approach. After the two project leads cleared out that they can work together to learn from each other, then things became smoother.
Still it took about about one hour of very animated discussion to get the flow re-established and gain speed towards a shared model. In these cases, unless there is a new external development that requires parking, a way out is to let them ventilate and go through the complete reasoning together until the landscape takes shape. And that is exactly what happened. There followed the “Human Brain Development”, “Minimal Path”, “3D®” and “SoundSight” projects, all completing the scene.
The major outcome for the foundation during the shared model exercise is to identify non-obvious links and dependencies between projects but also to observe the evolving image of the foundation through an emotional intelligence lens. Assessing the organization’s profile from the point of view of the interacting projects is important to transmit a clear image that reflects the identity and intention as a whole.
Equally important are the simple guiding principles coming from this experience; the whole workshop points at extracting the key success factors or actions/decision rules, building strategic guideline. This concept is completely different from the traditional “strategy by planning”, is actually called “real-time strategy” … and the explanation of that is topic for another conversation.
Here the simple guiding principles from this particular workshop:
– Observe the waters and winds, to make sure what you do is in harmony and supported by the universe around.
– Stay factual and pragmatic, avoid drifting into illusions.
– Keep the end goal in mind, be ready to adjust the course if needed.
– Make sure you can do it! that you have what it takes to do what you want to do.
– Whatever you do, make it visible! Don’t work in a vacuum and communicate.
– Be aware of the consequences, when you take a decision keep in mind the impact of the project.
– Harmonize the full and the empty, leverage between strengths and weaknesses.
After several hours the workshop ends, it has been tiring but engaging and enlightening.
We have now a starting point for communications from the empathic and emotional perspective, that would not come from reading a standard project documentation.
And finally, the simple guiding principles rated with pink bricks, building a second chance one brick at a time.