Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 4: After Action Review & X-Teams

Roger introduced the idea of after action reviews.  The purpose of an after action review is to gain insight into what was valuable and/or could be done differently.  In essence, the after action review serves as a "learning loop" that involves the collective.  With respect to the organizational learning theories of Argyris and Schon, I believe it would be considered the second learning loop, with the first learning loop being the direct information that you receive, like a thermostat provides information about the temperature. The second loop involves collective, critical inquiry into what was apparently learned.

Roger laid out a generic view of the conversation (or any process, really) of last week.  What we immediately see and experience is the content and process (on the right). But these occur inside of a context which is created by a number of invisible forces:

He asserted that these forces, the mental models, assumptions, values and beliefs are usually hidden beneath the context.  The clues to their existence are paradox, emotional content, ambiguity and conflict in the process and its content. 

For me, it looks a little more like this, where everything that happens is occurring inside an invisible sea of mental models, assumptions, values, and beliefs and therefore deeply influenced by them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 3: Food

I will be brief, since I see that we are going to do an after action review in the coming session.

Lynn and Nina hosted the last workshop with the principle of food.  There is a theory that providing food satisfies the reptilian core of the brain that would otherwise be occupied.  People would then (in theory) be able to be more present to what is happening in the teamwork.  I am grossly paraphrasing this idea, and I apologize if I'm misrepresenting it.

Joy was unable to find research that supported the idea, but her brief search was neither exhaustive nor conclusive, so we don't know that the research doesn't exist. But I suppose it is the case that research is only really conclusive about a particular biased view of things, often built into the way in which the research is being conducted.

In any case, the time unfolded by Lynn and Nina inviting us to partake of the treats and then requesting that each of us take 3 minutes to tell a story in which food has powerfully influenced our lives.  The process they established was to debrief on the process after we had completed sharing our stories.

People told stories of fond family remembrances, of rich heritage and relationship with land, of amusement and tradition. There were also stories of betrayal, denial, humiliation and violence.

Monday, January 24, 2011

After Action Reviews

Hi all. I would like to start the practice of after action reviews for our presentations. This simply means taking the time to reflect on how it went and what we learned. What worked for you? What did not work or might have been better? What would you keep the same? What would you change or amplify? What did you/we learn? How can you tell you learned that? Does anything change as a result of learning it? Etc.

In addition, what are the assumptions, assertions, and models being suggested? What is the context for the subject? What process is used or was described?

When possible perhaps we can engage in a bit of deconstruction and reflection. Were there emotional dynamics involved? What did the talk or presentation take as a given starting place and what are the the implications of that? Are there consequences? What dynamics of inclusion, exclusion, etc. are implied, if any? Does this still hold if we imagine a different starting place or context? What are the biggest risks associated with the model or area? What problem is it trying to solve, if it is trying to solve a problem? What are the consequences of the model if it fails? What are the consequences of the model if it works? What are the dynamics of interdependence and systemic relations implied or necessary for the model? What is the use orientation? Is it necessary to ignore anything for the model to work? Is it necessary to amplify something, perhaps even artificially?

I would like to start this weeks session with some reflection on this before we engage the second presentation, if possible and acceptable.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 2: Setting the course

After the check-in, Roger guided us through a process of creating the structure for the course.  He brought a "sticky wall" to aid us. This item, sold by the Institute of Cultural Affairs , is a roughly 1.5 meter by 2.5 meter sheet of parachute cloth taped to a wall. It is coated with a polymer adhesive so that we can place and rearrange 5" x 8" cards on the wall.  By grouping the ideas that emerge from a question posed to small groups, we will, in theory, be able to see the collective conversation taking place in the room.

Roger asserted that normal conversations more or less occur like the making of popcorn. One person says something.  In response to that persons' statements, each person has a set of associations that occur in their minds. They feel an urgency to say the things that pop (corn) into their minds. They then speak in response to their own associations. Their speaking causes another round of associative thoughts within others. The thoughts come with a sense of urgency or necessity to speak them by the thinkers of the thoughts.  In this way, the conversations proceeds like corn popping...somewhat randomly.

Sometimes one can suspend the popcorn response or even suspend the sense of urgency to say what they are thinking. But normally, a group conversation proceeds in a somewhat random, linear fashion by this associative stream of ideas.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 1: Introduction to teaming and collaboration

Disclaimer: The following is a re-presentation of our time together. I've learned that I have a habit of deleting information, distorting it and making generalizations. I do this often without noticing that I'm doing it. So, I humbly offer this filtered account in the hope that some of it will be useful.

As part of the "check in" ritual, Roger asked us to state what our expectations were for the class. People gave a wide range of expectations that included nothing on one end of the spectrum and feeding our souls on the other end (this part is a slight hyperbole, if there is such a thing as "slight hyperbole"). He asserted that he didn't believe us when we say we don't have expectations. We will see that we do indeed have them in the moment that they are violated and we are disappointed.

Incidentally, for those who are new to the "check in," it is simply a way to enable people to set down anything that might be "holding" their attention. Each person can say anything they would like, or not say anything at all. The intent is to free the attention from whatever is gripping; to allow each to be present to what is taking place in the room.

During the check in, several people stated their desire to learn something about teaming and collaboration. Roger asserted that we often have a model of learning which equivalent to passively absorbing what an authority or expert tells us. This will not be the model of learning in this workshop. In fact, peoples' asserted that they "learned so much from Roger" in the last workshop is incorrect, in Roger's model. He believes that the nature of the workshop will be governed by the quality of attention that we all bring to the workshop.