17 May 2017

Effective Yet Effortless Meetings, Introducing Better Meetings Canvas!

Have you ever been in a meeting that was a complete waste of time? Have you ever wondered how did that happen? Why did such meeting take place? Have you ever heard that meetings are not effective and we should avoid them? Being in the software world for quite a while, I can assure you that happened a lot for me as well. I have asked why couldn't or wouldn't the meeting facilitator have done a better job several times. Why can't he or she get people more excited and engaged?

But these days we are in the Agile space, you might believe or hear that there are not many meetings need to be facilitated. There is stand up which doesn't count as a meeting, people just need to stand up and talk. There is sprint review which the team will take care of it. There is a refinement meeting which is the role of the Product Owner to run, and it is basically his or her turn to ask questions and answer any ambiguity, so basically it is a Q&A session. There is the retrospective which is different, but the Scrum Master found it easy to run, there is this website you go to and it gives you many ideas on how to run your meeting. Are these resonating with you?

It doesn't matter in what space you are operating. Whether it is a manufacturing company or a leading tech company running state of the art high performing teams. If you want to have a great meeting you need to prepare for that meeting, be present as a neutral facilitator to that meeting and then follow up if needed after that meeting.

Achieving a way to run an effective meeting effortlessly, I have come up with a canvas called Better Meetings Canvas. It is basically a collection of questions. The questions are simple but necessary to be answered for any meeting. There are chores that need to be done before the meeting, during the meeting, and after the meeting. If you are scheduling a meeting, I suggest you think about all the sections of this canvas. After a while, you don't even need to look at it. It becomes a habit of yours.

You can also find a Google Docs version of the Better Meetings Canvas.

6 April 2017

Open Space Technology, The Unconference & Facilitating Solving Complex Problems

Have you ever been part of a coffee break talk at a conference when you missed the planned sessions? And you didn't feel bad about it? You actually were enjoying your talk much more than attending the planned session. You talked and talked until you felt there is no more value you can get out of it and it's time to move on to the next stage. And then, you pull out your phone to look at the agenda and find another topic to attend to. On the way there, you are looking to see if there are interesting talks are happening in the hallways or a familiar face to talk to instead of attending a planned session, which intuitively you feel you would not get much value out of it.

Holding Space

That's basically the idea behind Open Space or the Unconference (or in more general term Holding Space). Open space has no agenda, to begin with. The participants built the agenda the first thing. It has four (or five) principles and one rule.

What is it good for?

You might ask yourself, what this is good for? When to have an Open Space? Open Space helps a lot if you are encountering the following or similar challenges:
  • When there is an urgency and the problem on hand is a complex problem to solve, Open Space can help. 
  • When you want to use your team member's time to their best interest. Instead of having a set agenda, to help them with creating their own, exploring their own and growing the way they see fit.
  • When there are several ways to go about it, there are lots of option to consider, when one unique or small set of solutions won't suffice. 
  • When the outcome is not anticipated, when the light at the end of the tunnel is not yet visible. 
  • ...

How to Initiate Open Space?

At the start of the Open Space, an initiator invites everyone to Open Space and welcomes everyone. Note that it is called an initiator and not a facilitator. Usually, Open Space starts with a round circle with nothing in the middle, a symbol for no agenda planned for the participants. The initiator, usually walking in a circle, will address everyone and in a calm and peaceful manner. This highlights the space ahead and helps people become more present. 

An invitation to an Open Space starts with a circle

The Unconference 

The initiator then invites the participants to step into the center of the circle and build the agenda together. The participants then tell everyone what they want to talk about and fill out the marketplace wall. The marketplace is a wall or a whiteboard with time slots and space names. When one person proposes an idea/topic, they write it on a sticky note and post it on the marketplace wall. The wall then represents the agenda of the Open Space.

The initiator needs to make sure that everyone is aware of the logistics, space names, timing, snack, coffee, breaks, washrooms etc.

A marketplace in making

Let The Unconference Begin

When the building of marketplace is finished, the initiator invites people to start talking, if needed! By this time, there is so much energy in the room that you don't need to invite people to start talking, some of them might have already started talking about the topic they want.

The initiator can take part in the discussions but is recommended to sit back and sense the space and help if there is anything needed, any facilitation or negotiation between the presenters, any new spaces to set up, any new initiatives to bring to the attention of others etc. By this point, the Open Space machine started and the initiator just needs to let the people drive it. 

Open Space in Action #1

Open Space in Action #2

Butterflies & Bumblebees

There is two distinct type of participants that can be found in Open Space. One is Bumblebee and the other one is Butterfly. The butterflies are the ones wondering around, most likely standing at a coffee table, talking to someone or even wandering around, they are not necessarily showing interest in the discussions. The Bumblebees, on the other hand, fly from one discussion to others, invisibly taking ideas and spreading the ideas to many groups and sharing the wealth. The Bumblebees and the Butterflies are the ones that are creating action-free-zone, which is completely allowed in the Open Space.

These personalities and any type of them are all welcomed to the Open Space. The whole point of Open Space is about each person maximizing the value they are getting out of and contributing to the session. 

Butterfly at Open Space

Bumblebee at Open Space

Principles & A Rule

Open Space has principles and rules, there are debates on the number of principles ranging from 4 to 5. However, there is one and only one rule to Open Space. 

Open Space Principles
  1. Whoever comes are the right people
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.
  3. When it starts is the right time / When it's over it's over
  4. Wherever it takes place it's the right place
Open Space Principles
The Law of Two Feet
  • If you find yourself in a situation where you are not contributing or learning, move somewhere where you can.
    The Law of Two Feet - Open Space

3 April 2017

Coach Retreat Spring 2017 Edition - Responsibility Process - Simple Coaching Model & Paper Constellation

The 4th version of Coach Retreat took place on March 25th, 2017. I had the privilege to be part of all the past four of them. It feels like a family, after all, the one that cares for you and you can rely on.

The Spring 2017 edition of Coach Retreat started with the Responsibility Process and Christopher Avery. It was a great talk and a great toolkit to have for any coach. However, as Christopher suggested you don't want to tell people where they stand on the responsibility process. The value of the responsibility process comes from internalizing it for yourself and applying it. It is not easy to master, and that's why it is powerful. When you become a master yourself, then it can be taught to others. They have to master themselves, you don't do them any benefit telling them in which stage they are.

Christopher talking about The Responsibility Process
The Coach Retreat then continued on with two tracks. In one track, I presented "The Simple Coaching Model". On the other track, Sue, Peter and Omar presented the paper constellation technique for coaching, which I greatly missed. Both of the tracks included hands-on coaching practices.

The Simple Coaching Model in Action
The afternoon was dedicated to coaching practice. We self-organized into triads. In triads, we tried coaching as a Coach, Coachee, and an Observer and switch every 15 minutes. The immense value in the coach retreat came from a very safe environment where we could practice coaching, and be ok with failing and trying new things. It was even more helpful if the coachee brought a non-resolved issue to the coaching conversation.

I don't forget the first Coach Retreat that I attended. The participants helped me to expand the community I am in, helped me along my path, and I am very thankful to them and the community. After 4 iterations, I get to present at the Coach Retreat. This is the story of a great community that help people within itself grow and promote. I am very much thankful for that.

Some of the favorite moments shared on Twitter, and first and foremost the organizers, big thanks to Mike as, without him, the coach retreat wouldn't be existing today.

10 February 2017

Introducing The Simple Coaching Model

I introduced The Simple Coaching Model publicly for the first time as part of delivering the "Effective Yet Effortless Coaching" session on January 31st, 2017. In this post, I am going to talk about what this session is about and what and how this model can be useful.

The Simple Coaching Model V1.0

What is The Effective yet Effortless Coaching Session About?

This session is focused on providing individuals a very simple tool to have a coach-like conversation. This session is an interactive session where the participants practice coaching, even before then know what coaching is. By going through this session and its exercises, one inherently will understand what coaching is and what is meant for them. Isn't that itself coaching? To help others help themselves?

What is The Simple Coaching Model About?

This is a simplified model, tool or framework; depending on how you look at it and how you use it. It is a simple technique to help coaches, leaders, managers and for anyone having an interaction with other people, to benefit from having a coaching-like conversation. This model helps to focus on the relationship, the person on the other side. It helps to discover the main thing to focus on, to have a conversation that it is important for them, to focus it on them and their desires and at the end to make them understand what is coming up next.

Who is The Effective yet Effortless Coaching Session For?

This session is intended for anyone interested in learning about coaching. If you know nothing about coaching, or if you are a professional coach, this session will help you learn something new. For beginners, understanding what coaching is and what is meant to be a coach and coachee. For the more experienced coaches, to reemphasize the very basics of coaching by providing a very simple technique. This technique help them get out of the coaching challenges by following a simple coaching model! And we know that coaching challenges do happen frequently.

What is The Simple Coaching Model Based Upon?

The Simple Coaching Model is based on my knowledge, practices and constant learnings through all aspects of my personal and professional life, as a coach and a coachee! (Everyone needs a coach!).

What is The Simple Coaching Model Good For?

If you watched a coach in action or read about coaching before, you might find resemblances between The Simple Coaching Model and other techniques, tools, ideas, models, frameworks, arcs etc. I am simplifying Coaching as much as possible without losing the core values! Some might disagree with me. However, if you get good at The Simple Coaching Model, you can easily build on that and expand on your skillsets as a coach. The sky is the limit!

What's The Story Behind The Simple Coaching Model?

This is a practical model built by me to help myself practice coaching. This helped me to easily focus on mastering skills needed for coaching without losing the focus on coaching itself.

How Can I Use The Simple Coaching Model?

This can be the very first step for you. Start with The Simple Coaching Model and build on top of it, practice a lot at any chance you get. Look back at what you've achieved and what you've missed and built on top of that! Ask for help, it is easier and more effective than you imagine!

19 January 2017

The Art of Asking for Feedback - How to Avoid Feedback Failure Modes?

I was asking for feedback. It is a habit of mine. Maybe I am doing it too much. I learned much from feedback that I can not live without it! It was for a session I taught and facilitated. I asked for feedback in different ways.


The outcome was very interesting. Some of the feedback I received was useful, some were not at all. What has happened there? What could I have done differently? Why did I receive productive feedback in one situation and not in the other one? I was open to receive feedback, I was asking for feedback and eager to hear. I have called this situation "Feedback Failure Modes". Let's together explore them.

Feedback Failure Modes

There are many failure modes when asking for feedback. I categorized them into five.

Figure 1 - Feedback Failure Modes

18 January 2017

My Learnings from a Session I Taught, Myself (XP, Feedback + Notes)

I facilitated a session to simulate planning, development, feedback and iteration in an Agile fashion. I used a simulation called XP Game. This game originated based on the concepts introduced in eXtreme Programming book by Kent Beck. It provides a visual and interactive way to understand the values of XP, and to a wider extent Agile.

I am not going to elaborate on how I did run the session and what I learned. It is a very lengthy process to talk about. I want to talk about my observation facilitating the session.

I am very eager to receive feedbacks from the audience at the end of my sessions. Every time I am running a session, I am asking for feedback. I learned and improved myself a lot based on them. I strongly suggest you give it a try.

Let me give you a little background. I ran the XP Game session as a substitute for another facilitator that usually runs them. Let's call him Chocolate King, as he loves chocolate a lot. Some of the participants in my session had taken part in the same session ran by Chocolate King earlier.

At the end of the session, I asked everyone to rate the session they've been part of from 1 to 5, with 5 the highest and write a comment if they want. The session got an average of 4.5 out of 5. There is still room for improvement. I would consider this as a session that provided value for the attendees.

Feedback Wall

6 January 2017

A More Effective Decision-Making Framework: Cynefin, A Domain Driven One!

Let me introduce you to the Cynefin framework. If you are having a hard time pronouncing it, you are not alone. It is Welsh and is pronounced as /kun-ev-in/. It is a decision-making framework. Cynefin helps you to make better decisions based on the domain you are in.

Cynefin Decision Making Framework

Let me start by talking about four major categories, one minor common area and one dangerous edge in Cynefin framework. The Cynefin framework categorizes domains into Simple, Complicated, Complex, Chaotic and Disorder ones.

Figure 1 - Cynefin Framework