What high-performing teams have in common

Aligned with the MIT research indicating that communication patterns are by far the most profound predictor of team performance, there is emerging evidence on the power of psychological safety on teams. 

“There’s no team without trust,” says Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google. He knows the results of the tech giant’s massive two-year study on team performance, which revealed that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. Studies show that psychological safety allows for moderate risk-taking, speaking your mind, creativity, and sticking your neck out without fear of having it cut off — just the types of behavior that lead to market breakthroughs.

This requires shared kindness. Kindness is asking for perspective from others on how helpful we are. It's asking people if they want our perspective before inflicting it on them. It's offering perspective on another's helpfulness and our needs for helpfulness with a future oriention rather than past. It's first saying what we like about an idea and expressing curiosity about it before pointing out downsides. It's talking about what went well first in critiques before talking about what we would like to see differently in the future. It's expressing appreciation for imperfect progress made.

The problems we want to have

Slow teams and organizations are notoriously problem-phobic. They frame work as the elimination of problems. Problems are indicators of failure. It's an approach driven by the old questions of what are our problems today and how can we solve them with maximum speed and minimum costs. The intention is a predictable world of certainty. 

Nimble teams are great reactive solution designers. They are also great proactive problem generators. They are empowered by the new question: What problems do we want to have? This shifts the culture from uncertainty-phobic to uncertainty-inspired. They flourish on problems. Problems are badges of success. They create a future of problems they want to have. Their use of the Agile Canvas makes a proactive relationship to problems possible. 


The diversity illusion

Organizations invest effort into trying to make sure they are diverse. They focus on ethnic, generational and gender diversity. 

What's important is how different ideas, questions and voices are welcomed, how valued people feel for them, and how they help make the good we seek more possible. Simply surrounding meeting tables with dissimilar people is part of the equation. A demographically, even psychographically, diverse group is not enough for people to be smarter and more inventive together. No matter how many hiring and promoting quotas are met, divergent perspectives only count when they are all well engaged.

Knowing how to convene and guide highly engaging converations is a new mindset and skillset for many teams and their leaders. It is business not as usual and very simple and discoverable.

Cobots: team members of the future

MIT is among an emerging field of researchers focused on designing collaborative robots, cobots, to work along their human teammates, doing a variety of physical and mental tasks freeing people up for the more adept and creative sides of work. They're working now on robots that can literally read the minds of their human teammates. 

It doesn't take a wild imagination to consider the implications of work teams composed of people and robots. If we think keeping teams aligned now is a trick, it will become a challenge only nimble teams will be ready for. It's uncertain when this new world will arrive in each profession and industry. Becoming more nimble teams has obvious payoffs in the present, with velocity and alignment, and more to come.

As AI becomes more the norm in work, gaining new skills and habits will be paramount to career mobility and work success. The need for teams to discover how to grow together in a culture of trust and agility will only increase. The future is here.


Source: https://www.economist.com/news/science-and...

Stacking the new hire deck: Hiring for culture

Three easy things increase the odds for good hires: agreements alignment, complementary goodness and evidence of growth mindset. This is the power of hiring for culture.

We ask candidates how they feel about the existing posted team agreements. These are the mutually crafted and tested agreements on what matters most  to us as we work together. 

We ask candidates for examples of abilities and qualities they have that are complementary to those on the team. We show them the list of abilities and qualities on the team currently.

We ask candidates what about this work they want to get better at, work on or develop. We show them examples of growing questions on the team.

Our best candidates are aligned, complementary and dedicated to growth. These simple questions separate those who look good on paper and those who will do well with the team.


The primacy of team culture

The future of work is about the culture of teams. As we radically rethink how organizations can flourish in times of unprecedented uncertainty and complexity, it will be the transformation of culture that will distinguish those that will contribute the greatest beauty to our world.

Culture is how people feel as they interact together. In flourishing team cultures, people feel valued, connected and free to grow. Strategy and structure work when we get culture right.

Growing flourishing team cultures is about how we know and engage our goodness in realizing the good we seek, how we define and celebrate progress, how we stay aligned and agile, how we make growing together the point and path of our work, how our work is a craft we practice from the principles of kindness and beauty.

Every team has what it takes to move steadily toward a more flourishing culture. All it takes is doing business as unusual.

Audio podcast: https://anchor.fm/jack46?at=2298962

Is strategy dead?

In a recent piece, "Is the era of management over?" The World Economic Forum raises the vital and timely question of whether strategy is dead.

In a world of unprecedented VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) how much predictability will we have for significant and viable strategies? Strategies are only as valid as their predictive assumptions are reliable. 

We're seeing Teflon talent refusing to stick around, disruptive technologies and robotics and algorithms replacing any kind of work that is repeatable or needs to be supervised.

The churn of new possibilities is dizzying and unpredictable. Nimble teams replace strategy with dreams. Dreams are agile descriptions of what we would love to see possible. They are lenses revealing new possibilities in the present. The farther out we dream, the larger the lenses. The winners will be those who have better lenses to see emergent possibilities of flourishing.

Nimble leader as convener

The transition from slow to nimble teams is smoother with the transition from slow to nimble leaders.

In a slow culture of permissions, slow leaders make sure everything works by approval. As a team discovers how to work in sync with aligned integrity, inclusion and initiative, they make possible the good they seek through the goodness they have. People work more from freedom to do their best than approvals.

Leaders add value as conveners of beautiful conversations. These are conversiations where people are thinking together, not just talking together. Convening is an art and craft. It involves the nuances of question and story sharing that optimizes people being engaged, smarter, faster and better together. People grow together.

This builds capacity more than dependency. Nimble leaders become more free to help the team be proactive, aligned with other teams and partners, mindful of their markets and continously entrepreneurial. 

Teams become more nimble. People feel and act valued, connected and free to grow together.

Can we change the culture of an organization?

Even though we can talk about the culture of an organization, it is the synergy of each team's culture. As many leaders have discovered, culture change doesn't happen at the organizational level. 

Culture is how people interact together at the team level. Culture only shifts when people experiment with interacting differently in how they communicate, coordinate and grow. It is what must be done at the team level, one team at a time.

Why does work need to change?

Why can't we keep doing work as usual? 

It's not as much about how work is a problem to be fixed but how it can become a possible way of enriching our lives and transforming our world. Done differently it can help us better enjoy our lives and bring about a world of good for all. It can be a source of joy and meaning.

This vision is not possible in work as we know it, only in work as we can reimagine it.

Guardians of the status quo

As much as we talk about a future different from the past, there are always guardians of the status quo. They give lip service to change while doing everything to protect the old language. They argue against change in the form of dreams, success, new questions, habits, strengths and stories.

They argue that we have to talk about what’s wrong. They insist that it’s all about the problems, weaknesses, threats and deficiencies. They talk about how talk about new dreams, success, questions, habits, strengths and stories are denials of problems, weaknesses, threats and deficiencies. and in doing so deny the power of new dreams, questions, habits, strengths and stories.

The guardians of the status quo are enemies of the future. Their passion is the repeated past because it represents the certainty of being right. They prefer being right than better. They know better means uncertainty and want to have nothing to do with it. They have little tolerance for uncertainty.

The champions of change prefer the uncertainty of better. They seek a future different from the past. They want to dream larger dreams, make success their teacher, be inspired by new questions, form new habits, engaging strengths and based on new stories.

What’s vital is their knowing that guardians of the status quo have no power to change things to make things better, no matter how much they pretend better is critical to organizational success. They know the guardians are pretenders and in this knowing, realize their power.

Workflow in the commons

Organizing workflow happens best in the commons. Good tools to consider include Trello, Meister  Task, Asana and Planner in Office 365. They are all Kanban boards featuring movable and detailed lists and cards.

Classic boards have four lists: Task Backlog, To Do, Doing and Done. In day to day work, they organize work in 2-week sprints. Backlog is all the known work we gave in front of us. To Do is the work we have dedicated to the current sprint.

We also use the boards as dashboards for the Agile Canvas process, with lists: 20 year dreams, 2 year progess indicators and 2 quarter projects. This feeds the sprint boards.

These keep everyone collaborating, aligned and agile in ways that no amount of emails and meetings could make possible.

The latest science on motivation

In a recent piece, "There's a Scientific Reason Some People are More Motivated," John Rampton describes how highly motivated people have more active dopamine in their brains as they take on everyday tasks and challenges. One way is identifying what they look forward to. This releases the reward chemical dopamine sometimes more strongly than the actual achievement. It's also celebrating progress. Anyone can become more motivated.

A team culture of helping

Teams are more nimble when anyone can ask for and offer help that is completely unconstrained by the assumptions of fixed roles. Velocity occurs when all work is everyone's work. Freedom to do what needs to be done gets things done without delays, postponements, blame and excuses. Alignment happens when we decide together how and when help best occurs. 

High performance habits

From the Blinkest piece on "High Performance Habits":

"Author, Brendon Burchard, has conducted one of the biggest studies on high performance in history, examining people from over 190 countries to understand exactly how they achieve their long-term success.

He concluded that gender, race, age and personality traits have very little to do with high performance. What really matters are certain key habits, like keeping yourself physically fit.

In other words, it’s not who you are, but rather what you do that’s important. The author also discovered that these habits didn’t form by accident. High performers took them on deliberately.

Now, don’t confuse these habits with “life hacks” or some simple, magical changes that take zero effort to implement. High performers outperform their peers because they consciously and consistently practice these habits.

Another common trait is their confidence in being able to master even difficult tasks, like big new projects at work or learning new languages. Again, this isn’t an inherent trait; it’s an earned confidence achieved through diligent practice."

This is the growth mindset that supports our growing together in work. It makes us more nimble as a team.

How radically different does the future of work need to be?

People on slow teams, without viable known alternatives, continue to hope for a new future in their performance by doing better at business as usual. This is the myth of improvement. Improving the status quo doesn't lead to different outcomes. 

People on nimble teams are radically reimagining work without the industrial age sacred cows of meetings and emails, goals and roles, permissions and performance reviews. They are taking a whole different approach and seeing a world of difference.

Can any team become more nimble?

Whatever the industry or profession, every team can transition from slow to more nimble. Each team has what it takes. Each has the goodness required. 

The transition happens in phases and iterations. It's an evolution more than revolution. It's more about experimenting than implementing. 

We migrate some kinds of internal emails to the commons. We turn a meeting or two into beautiful converations instead. We create a couple agreements on how people can take more initiative. We create space for people to ask for and offer perspectives on the growth they're working on. In progess, all manner of good becomes possible.

Source: http://www.jackricchiuto.com/

Compliance is not alignment; alignment is alignment

When people on a team are aligned, it's because they decide together on the good they seek and the path they take. Acting in alignment grows trust. Trust accelerates performance and growing together. 

When people work from, compliance to permissions, they act out of alignment. They are slower, more fragmented and reactive together. Deadlines are missed, things slip through the cracks, work drains rather than creates energy.

When we guide teams in forming alignment, it takes no special training. People discover by doing. The results are immediate and observable. We don't have to measure for anything. Growth is obvious.

The focus of this blog

Since August 2002 this blog has always been about the future. Now more than ever, the work that has inspired me over the past 40 years inspires this blog and the latest book that emerged from it.

The future of the world can be transformed by the future of work. We can do work in ways that makes our world better for all, in a future different from the past.

I will be exploring how the conversations are shifting, highlighted by the latest research and practice.


Announcing "The Growth Imperative: Reimagining the Future of Work"

In this latest work, I bring together the more salient and significant themes in my past 10 years of blog and book writing, inspired by my now 40 years of practice. The message is simple. Nimble teams in organizations outperform slow teams because they make growing together the point and path of their work. My wish is that it sparks new conversations that get us completely reimagining how work can be, a beautiful place in which we can become richer human beings.

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