Sunday, October 30, 2016

Team-Building, or Levels of consciousness/ cognition

The subject this time is Team-Building: how a group of people becomes a team.
(not to be confused with Team-Building-Activity: An awkward meeting of paint-ball or bowling)

The journey of communication, caring and empathy that leads us there.

0. Start with a group of individuals

1. Individuals are presented to a Subject/ Idea/ Goal/ Purpose


- Once the subject is presented, each individual will reach some understanding

The subject should be relevant to the people (they are effected by it), and one that not one of them can tackle end-to-end alone (Thanks Guy!)
Be aware: probably none of them have a perfect understanding, or even the same understanding, and their level of involvement is unknown (some will not care, some will, and no one will know this)

2. Individuals get involved

Or care, start having an opinion.
(This means less cell-phone/ PC time, and more forced-listening time.)
- You can 'force' them to have an opinion by asking the least involved ones what do they think? by challenging them.
- You can usually see who is involved just by looking :)
Note: not everyone will have the same level or direction of involvement.
Some will LOVE it, some will like it, some will Hate it, or be ambivalent...

3. Individuals express their opinion

They want to share their understanding and opinion.
(Note: everyone will probably think they understand perfectly...)
For this you need to provide security, freedom of speech.
After that - you can ask them to Dot-Vote, write their opinion on post-its, etc.
Do Not let them influence each other (not yet...) make people express their opinion before hearing other's opinion!
So everyone can say Everyone Knows my opinion (might not be true, but at least I think it is)

4. Individuals know other's opinion

Everyone can say: I know what's the opinion of the rest of the individuals. and I know who is near me or far away from me.
And opinions start to be exchanged...

Notice that in this process, people's understanding and opinion starts changing,

And also - low and behold! the subject itself starts to change!
Some of it may be irrelevant, new faces of it are discovered, it is linked to other subjects, etc.

But it doesn't stop there!

5. Everyone knows that everyone knows each other's opinion

It is not enough I know your opinion, her opinion and I know you both know mine,
I need to know you know her opinion and she knows yours as well!

And now we can start having a group decision, with levels of involvement, with disagreements, etc.

Conclusions/ thoughts..

1. Dont skip levels... I think that if you skip any of these levels, you may let only the noisy people take decisions, you may get disengagement, and you may get, well... the four letter word ("Politics")

2. No perfection/ No uniformity - everyone will still have their own vision, and their own opinion, but their vision will be more complete (integrating the other's), and their opinion more round (accepting the other's point of view). also - they will be much closer to each other regarding the subject, and more empathetic to each other in general.

3. Biased communication - Nothing can break a team faster than politics, like "He told me his opinion but asked me not to share it with her", this is team-poison! your communication should be team wide (you don't have to say everything, you don't have to say it to everyone, but it is either accessible to all or to none!)

3.1 Indirect communication:
- If you understand me, and someone asks you what I think, you should stress this is only your understanding of of what I think. 
- Otherwise, if you Assume I think something based on hear say, you make an Ass of U and Me!
you will start telling people the inaccurate (/misleading) understanding as the truth, and add your own 'noise'. and people will not ask my opinion since they will think they know it.
- Direct communication over Hear-say is crucial.

4. Team vs Subject - the subject may change due to common understanding and dialogue, but it may also become less important, hence you started out with an important subject and no team, still you wind up with a much less important subject and a great team, that is now ready to tackle a new subject! (just like a snowflake forming around a grain of dust...)

What do you think?

After/ Meta thoughts...
1. Team as incubator - Imagine an amazing team, consisting of exceptional individuals (Beatles, Jobs&Gates, etc.)
- One may think - what a coincidence that such rare people manage to meet.
- But what if Lennon was an above-average bloke, and it's the combination that was a genius,  with trust, communication, and polyvalence.
- Furthermore, when they split, John has some small Ringo, George& Paul in him, as well as a small Beatles.

2. Models (can't live with them, can't live without them) -
- I hate models, they obfuscate and flatten reality.
- The real reality is of course a mix of the above stages can coexist and transform all the time.
- however, just heard a podcast (details TBD), that said this (more or less)...
"models serve to locate a qualitative change, (like water turning cold to lukewarm to warm to hot. you feel it since it has name...

3 The importance of Slack
- A level-one exchange is a town-hall meeting. a manager talks and everyone is present (not necessarily listening) - this meeting is used to prove 'formally' that the information was passed (if you will say later you didn't know, someone can cover their ass) , another example is an email sent to you (so the sender can say 'you were informed'), ir requires little time.
- A second level exchange is like the first, but more engaged (a passionate speaker, a video, and activity that gets you involved and not looking at your cell-phone or yawning), it requires more time to prepare, invite the right people, and more time to present
- A level three meeting starts to be time-consuming! , everyone needs to talk, and to listen to be attentive to what others say! the larger the crowd the more time is required!  it also requires a good facilitator - to make people speak up and speak clearly, and to validate they are heard and listened to.
- a Level four/ five meeting requires (you guessed it :) more time, and exponentially so!! since (ideally) everyone needs to validate (to everyone) that they understand everyone (ideally/ naively - in a 7-people team, everyone will say publicly what he understands from the other six)

This deserves a separate post - stating for each level:
- The goal
- The required effort
- The required preparation and facilitation skills
- The outcome
- The danger of skipping the step

When you skip step 2 (or one) you may get something like this (do you want this man in your organization? highly involved and totally mis-informed...)

As Guy said, a team should have a goal no one person can achieve.
Watch this beautiful team!

signing off,
Till nextime!

Yer bear!


  1. Brings to mind Covey's "First seek to understand then to be understood", but more than that, the role of the facilitator in guiding the team, getting everyone heard.
    I think a team becomes a team if that thing they understand together is some goal they all need to accomplish, which none of them can do alone.

    1. I didn't talk about the role of the facilitator much, just about the road a team goes thru.
      The role of the facilitator is indeed to get everyone heard, but Also :
      - Letting everyone's level of involvement & understanding be seen.
      - Helping the team emerge. (see the line around them getting thicker?), saying "hey guys - you are actually a team!" and making them aware they are part of a team.

      Also, the goal may be important to begin with, but after a while the team is functioning even if the goal is not achieved, changed or replaced.
      The target (/product) of the coach is not achieving the goal but creating the team.
      And the goal serves (just) as a focal point to create the team.

      - Makes sense?

    2. I updated the post thx to your remarks :) take a look...

  2. Quite like it ! These days i am using two liberating structures to help me :
    - 124 to start the conversation
    - w3. What , so what , now what , to separate observations from opinion from actions

    1. These both are very relevant!
      As I recall, I did the first one in my prez in Agile France (based on an advice by someone looking suspiciously like you! ;)

      The point is once a certain level is solid you can construct higher levels.

      One the individual is solid, start scaling to groups and bigger groups.

      Once the understanding is solid start the meta (and meta-meta) understanding.

      Don't talk implications before the facts are solid
      Don't talk group decision before everyone has an individual decision

      Just like the brain can't function if the neurons can break and their molecules can disintegrate.

      As always - I love your perspective and insights! (and you ;)

  3. Level 3 and 4 meetings are too long.... in a sequential mode... like token-passing... 124 enables parallel processing, including divergence and convergence.
    This is why it takes 12 mn , regadless of the number of participants...

    Regarding level 4, again the one to one is too expensive (Grows as n! )
    The issue is the method of deciding. Usually it is consesensus or compromise. Switch to consent. (Check on sociocratic consent)

    1. Of course you are right, you don't do these formally,
      My point was to explain that for a team to pass a level is more complex/ hard if not enough time is dedicated!
      - You know I am the first one to scream at formalism! you model-maker you...

    2. Well, IMHO, it is less in modeling than building distinctions. If you cannot distinguish black and white, all is a grey zone. You cannot decide and then act on these grey zone. Confusion comes from lack of distinctions.

      Modeling is about predictive, determinism , disctinction is about clarity ...

      This is why your distinctions between the INTENTIONS in your level 2, 3, 4 are interesting.

      Seing, sharing , deciding (act)
      This is the lean "see together, understand together, act together"

    3. Point well taken, not model but Classification?
      - pleasure doing business with you!

    4. The point is this: the top-guy can say:
      - I already presented it to you for two hours three days ago, why are you discussing this? go back to WORK.
      (S)he should understand an entity is forming around the subject, and the time between a birth of an entity, and the entity reaching a sufficient level of consciousness can't be hastened. a birth place needs a sterile nourishing and supporting environment
      - Voila!