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Thursday Complexity Post
April 24, 2014
  

Structures that Unleash Collaboration and Innovation

   

A vibrant economy needs more organizations where people thrive, and evidence suggests we're far from that ideal. A recent Gallop report finds 70 percent of American workers are disengaged from their jobs, and nearly 20 percent of the disengaged actively resist their employers' goals. Gallop also reports disengagement may cost up to $550 billion a year in lost productivity, and untold losses in employee potential. With only 22 percent of employees committed to their work and thriving, there clearly is an urgent need to plant seeds to grow engagement.

 

In their new book, The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures, Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz, both experienced in business and skilled facilitators, give us an entire seed catalog: 33 Liberating Structures which, used alone or in combination, provide an endless variety of ways to include and engage people in groups of any size.

 

The authors identify the sweet spot where changes are easy to implement and make a big difference: the routine practices that people use to structure how they interact when they meet to plan, learn, solve problems, and make decisions. They call these practices "microstructures" and they have found that nearly everyone uses the same five conventional microstructures over and over: presentations and lectures in the classrooms, managed discussions, status reports, open discussions and brainstorms. Unfortunately, these five conventional structures are designed primarily to direct and control and are inadequate for engaging people. In contrast, Liberating Structures (LS) are designed to make it easy to include and engage everyone regardless of rank or seniority.

 

In introducing LS the authors help us become much more aware of the ubiquitous presence of structures and how they both support and constrain all our activities. They show us how we can configure them to help us achieve surprisingly better outcomes. The conversations we start, the questions we ask, and our listening skills all make a difference. The authors challenge us to observe circumstances and events more closely with attention to what's really important to us and to others. They make it clear that we can all learn to use simple structures that enable any group of people working together to radically improve collaboration, innovation and decision-making.

 

With LS everybody affected by a problem can be included in discovering how to tackle it. The role of leadership is to participate and support but not dictate. The book has a whole chapter on how leaders using LS can learn to contribute at their own highest level, while energizing others to develop and flourish in their work.  

 

Creative icons represent each of these microstructures on the  Liberating Structures website.



LS are easy to learn. For example, in 1,2,4,All, participants get a minute to reflect on an issue and write their thoughts. They get two minutes to share their thoughts in pairs, and two minutes to repeat the process in a group of four. The four person groups each decide on the most important points to share with the whole group. The entire exercise can take three to 15 minutes, and surprising new ideas are likely. All participants, regardless of position, can articulate and test their ideas in a safe space and all have an equal chance to contribute. Good ideas can emerge from anyone. There is no limit on how many people can be included.

 

With TRIZ, inspired in part by a Russian inventor, participants are invited to engage in creative destruction and dispatch sacred cows. They think of an important objective and then list everything they can do to achieve the exact opposite. Some of the suggestions are likely to be hilarious. During the second step their task is to identify anything they currently do that resembles the things on their list. Now they know what they need to creatively destroy in order to make space for innovation. Other LS will help with a deeper dig for solutions.

 

This book is elegantly structured and designed for easily accessible answers to questions. Part One offers a thoughtful discussion of "The Hidden Structures of Engagement," how to see them under the surface, how they work, and how the power of small changes can induce transformations without expensive training and personnel changes at work and without strife at home. In Part Two, the authors share their wisdom on learning and using different LS. They suggest ways to match specific challenges to specific structures. Is your purpose unclear? Try 9 Whys. It works at home just as well. Lipmanowicz recalls a colleague saying she used 9 Whys to help her daughter crystallize ideas for a school paper. Want to analyze progress to date and decide how to proceed? Try What, So What, Now What. That too works in home and career. Mixing LS can refine inquiries and discoveries. The authors suggest ways to string several LS together to work on complex issues. But they stress their examples are not prescriptions. While LS are easy to understand, advanced skill using all of them takes practice. "Learning to customize Liberating Structure designs for the specific purpose of each complex challenge is an art form that can be improved over a life time," the authors declare.

 

An extensive field guide explains each LS, its structural elements, its possibilities, its derivation, and some tips, potential traps and variations.

 

The stories from the field are instructive. Lisa Kimball is an experienced entrepreneur who started using LS in the 1980s. In her work with the U.S. Army, a User Experience Fishbowl allowed soldiers about to deploy to Afghanistan to hear first-hand experiences of soldiers returning from war. That included vital information on how they built trusting relationships with women in rural villages to improve intelligence and discourage Taliban recruitment. Officers reported they learned far more from personal exchanges than from formal summaries. Michael Gardam, MD, medical director of infection prevention at the University Health Network in Toronto, explains the way Social Network Mapping showed new relationships developing across units and diverse disciplines as people collaborated to stop the spread of infections. Simple Ethnography interviews, ranging from housekeeping to executives, then documented the culture changes and differences of habits and behavior brought about by new ways of working together.

 

Liberating Structures may be the seeds to grow engagement in your organization. They may also nurture new thoughts and actions in your communities and personal lives.

 

To learn more, participant in a PlexusCall May 9, in which Henri and others will discuss Liberating Structures. Buy the book, visit the LS website, and attend the Liberating Structures Workshop May 29-30. Read the Gallop State of the American Workplace Report.

 

 

Liberating Structures Workshop   

May 29-30 - Washington, DC 

Register   

 

Smart leaders know that they would greatly increase productivity and innovation if only they could get everyone fully engaged. The challenge is how. Liberating Structures are novel, practical and effective methods to help you accomplish this goal with groups of any size. During this roll-up-your-sleeves immersion workshop, participants will learn and immediately practice 10-12 Liberating Structures while receiving tips on how to implement them in the workplace and traps to avoid. Event flyer (pdf). 1-day, $150. 1 1/2-day, $200. Attendance limited to 100. ebook now available!  

 

 

Leading Adaptive Change Healthcare Workshop
May 5-7 - Philadelphia, PA
Register 

Please join us on May 5-7 in Philadelphia for a new workshop, Leading Adaptive Change, and leave with approaches for engaging your organization to tackle stubborn challenges in patient safety. Too often, patient safety and quality improvement efforts fail because they focus on technical changes-such as introducing new tools and technologies-without addressing the values, beliefs and attitudes of the group involved in the work. This three-day program provides participants with concrete methods and tools for adaptive change.

 

 

 

Remember PlexusCalls!

    

PlexusCalls

Friday, April 25, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Mentoring Military Women 
Guests: Heather Gunther, Michelle Alderson, and Lisa Kimball

 

The U.S. Army is making more positions gender neutral, but women are still a minority in the rank and file and an even smaller minority in leadership. The new Women's Mentorship Network (WMN) at Fort Hood, Texas, is designed to cultivate capable, resilient and confident women leaders who will enrich the armed forces with their abilities as new leadership opportunities arise.

 

Heather Gunther, one of the creators of the new network, is an active duty Army Signal Corps officer assigned to 3d Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood Texas. She was commissioned from West Point in 2002 and has served with the 1st Infantry Division and the 7th Signal Brigade in Tikrit, Iraq and at Mannheim, Germany. Heather holds a B.S. from the United Stated Military Academy, an M.S. in Information Technology, and is currently working on a doctoral thesis on women in the military. 

 

Michelle Alderson, A WMN colleague, is an active duty Medical Service Corps officer assigned to the 3d Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. Michelle graduated from West Point in 2009, where she earned her commission and a lifelong passion for lifesaving. Michelle served with the 1st Cavalry Division during a yearlong combat tour to Maysan, Iraq. Her experiences with battlefield trauma and emergency medicine have inspired her to become a physician. Michelle will attend medical school starting this August.

 

Lisa Kimball, PhD is an entrepreneur with more than 30 years experience as an organizational consultant with business, government and nonprofit organizations. As CEO of Metasystems Design Group and Executive Producer of Group Jazz, she supported the efforts of teams, task forces, communities and organizations and helps them leverage the power of technology and social media.

 

Before coming to Fort Hood, Major Gunther had been at the Army's general staff college at Fort Leavenworth. While there, she participated in a 2011 leadership development program with Ori Brafman, the author of The Starfish and the Spider. a book about successful organizations that are decentralized and adaptive. She also met Lisa Kimball, and later conferred with Lisa and Ori about the WMN. Heather and her colleagues decided to infuse the new venture with some of the processes and practices that had inspired participants in the groups at Fort Leavenworth.

 

 

PlexusCalls

Friday, May 9, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Creating Change with Liberating Structures 
Guests: Henri Lipmanowicz and Liz Rykert           

 

In their new book, The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures, Keith McCandless and Henri Lipmanowicz, both experienced in business and skilled facilitators, describe what they term "simple rules to unleash a culture of innovation." Skyscrapers, bridges, and the operating policies and principles that organizations have designed for long term use are big durable structures that aren't easily changed. The routines and events in our daily lives-the meetings, seating arrangements, mealtime rituals, conversational exchanges, and the questions we ask are structures too. The authors call them microstructures. Everything we do takes place in some structure, and the Henri and Liz will discuss some quick and easy changes in microstructures that can have a powerful impact.  

 

Henri Lipmanowicz retired from Merck in 1998 after a 30-year career during which he progressed from Managing Director in Finland to President of the Intercontinental Region and Japan (The world minus the US and Western Europe) and a member of Merck Management Committee. In 2000 Henri co-founded the Plexus Institute and served as Chairman of the Board until 2010. Born in Carcassonne, France, Henri holds a MS degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from Columbia University and a MS degree in Chemical Engineering from France. His career gave him the opportunity to live in seven countries and made him a perpetual world traveler. He resides in the US with his Finnish wife; their joy in their seven grandchildren is beyond their wildest expectations. Henri's previous passion was building organizations where people thrived and were successful beyond their wildest expectations. His current passion is the development of Liberating Structures and their dissemination across all five continents. One passion follows naturally the other since Liberating Structures make it possible for people to build organizations where they thrive and are successful beyond their expectations.

 

Liz Rykert is the President of Meta Strategies which she founded in 1997. Her company is a Toronto-based strategy group working in complex organizational change and digital technology. The consulting and technological services include: change work and innovation, large system transformation, coaching and facilitation; web work including strategy, online community, website design and programming; and network development, visualization and analysis. Liz is also an associate with Ignite Consulting Services at University Health Network - Canada's largest teaching hospital network. Liz is a practitioner of engagement methods such as Liberating Structures. She practices Developmental Evaluation on the highly uncertain and emergent projects she works on to carefully track and monitor progress and impact. Liz is a graduate from Ryerson's Social Work program. She works with health systems with a focus on culture change and human interaction as part of large systems change to improve patient safety. Liz was a member of the team for the Canadian research project on Positive Deviance and was a faculty member for the Canadian Patient Safety Institute - Stop Infections Now Collaborative. Liz also coaches four hospitals in the New York State based Bordering on Zero Collaborative sponsored by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Liz is a student of complexity science and a big believer in the power of networks.

 

  
Audio from all PlexusCall series is available by searching the iTunes store for plexuscalls. Or, visit plexusinstitute.org under Resources/Call Series. 

  

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