Posts Tagged 'deBono'

Part 2 on herding cats: diving into using Six Hat thinking

Six_Hats_For_Evaluation_Feedback_Session_Agenda_Generic

Six Hats Thinking agenda for feedback

Six Hats Thinking agenda for feedback

Most brainstorming sessions I have participated in frustrate me because it seems that people are so inclined to jump into the part where you solve the problem before you have enough data or information. In an earlier post, I mentioned how useful Edward deBono’s Six Hat Thinking is for herding those proverbial cats in the workplace.  What I really appreciate about the deBono model of facilitation is that it helps bring thoughtful order to collaborative work without forcing participants to use a highly constrictive process. If facilitated smoothly, it allows the group to separate their egos from objective sharing while still giving a voice to intuition and feelings.

Also, most importantly, Six Hat Thinking allows other voices to come into play in discussions other than just those four to five loud ones that typically are most heard the most vocal in many larger group discussions.

Recently, I held a project wrap-up and feedback session built around deBono’s Six Hats. We had a very limited amount of time and we were all pressed to providing meaningful contributions to a discussion after a heavy lunch.   I did find four things most helpful for the discussion’s success.

  • Allow people to gather their thoughts in accordance to the Six Hats thinking model prior to the meeting. I provided an optional worksheet or prompts for the discussion. At least people could frame their thoughts prior to the session rather than feeling as if they had to respond on the spot.
  • Keep the explanation about deBono’s theories and the Six Hats to a minimum while restating the main objective of the feedback session which is to gather information to improve the project management process going forward.
  • Gather the information ahead of time about the project charter (Blue hat thinking) and an initial set of project facts and stats (White hat thinking).
  • Take the colored hats reference out of the agenda but share it later or as part of a handout.

The last piece of advice, I applied last minute to my presentation because I didn’t want to focus primarily on the process of using the hats but on our main objective to gather information to improve our process for future initiatives. The discussion was rushed, however being able to shift between the positive (Yellow hat) and negative aspects (Black hat) of the project before diving into the solution space (Green hat) allowed us come up with a more exhaustive list of areas for improvement.  I was also careful to make sure to include time for the Red hat at the end to express our intuition and emotions about the project because it gave us an opportunity not to achieve some closure, but to express the emotions or thinking that are often pent up during a project as well as to celebrate our feelings of accomplishment and even relief as an end note.

I actually, wished that we had done this more regularly, but upon reflection, if the context and some guidelines (rules) aren’t provided around sharing of emotion and assumptions, discussions might not be as productive as you’d like. This is the part of meeting facilitation that I want to improve at going forward.

You can view the templates and slides I used for my feedback session here:

Slides used (pptx format)

Six_Hats_For_Evaluation_Feedback_Session_Agenda_Generic_Ex

Pre-work template

SixHats_Feedback_Input

Hire more oddballs and learn how to herd cats with different colored headwear

In a previous post I posed three questions that one should ask before trying to make change happen in an organization:

“1) Who is successful or who thrives? Who fails?”

But beyond making change happens, what happens if a group’s make up becomes dominated by the same kinds of people? When a culture starts to dominate a group’s thinking, people in the group start to echo each other. Groups start hiring more people that think or behave just like they do. Whether they form a culture of doers and followers or a culture of collaboration, the impulse to regularly hire for fit can result in homogeneity or sameness. It’s been argued that highly uniform cultures can lead to stagnation. Diverse cultures on the other hand  potentially promote sharing of ideas, innovation, and change.

Has your workplaced hired itself into a "Stepford" culture?

Has your workplace hired itself into a “Stepford” culture?

According to Martin Davidson, companies need to break this habit of building cultures of sameness and hire more “weirdos.” His chief argument is that it’s the odd-duck who potentially contributes to finding the best innovative ideas or solutions. But it’s the manager’s role to ‘harness’ that weirdness and creativity to provide or bring value to the company’s goals.  As he notes:

The key for leaders is to figure out how to support weird people so that they create—not destroy—value for the company. Some of these people have stifled their offbeat creativity out of social fear, camouflaging their true selves because they think it’s not appropriate at work to be as they really are.

Hiring the right kind of weirdos is harder that it seems. Obviously, if managers/leaders have been so dialed into identifying and selecting ‘normals’, then how could they identify a helpful weirdo? As Davidson notes, it’s important for the leadership and hiring groups to understand where their own weaknesses lie. Taking an organizational self-assessment can provide a baseline. If you have more planners and doers in your group, perhaps you need to hire or grow more strategists. If you have more big idea people maybe you need more logistically minded individuals.

Also, ability to communicate effectively despite one’s weirdness is still a necessity in any eligible job candidate. Though if someone is challenged with communicating effectively, it is possible to learn as long as one demonstrates the willingness and capacity to do so. Also, as Davidson hints, communication style differences can also be mitigated by managers and project leads who are savvy at building collaborative bridges and trust within diverse teams. So hiring and promoting managers for their ability and potential to get various work styles to jive in harmony should be considered when reviewing candidates. For groups with highly proactive employees regardless of their talents, an introverted leader is an ideal manager because introverts often allow these highly proactive and talented individuals to contribute and share before diving in and solving problems for them like an extroverted manager might. Extroverted managers impulse to lead by throwing out solutions can stifle and frustrate employees or event prevent developing their capacity for independent proactive problem solving.

Extroverted managers are needed, but with employees or workforces that look solely to leadership for direction or cues for action. My father-in-law likes to refer to them as employees “with a strong back and weak mind.” This type of work culture might not be useful in situations where people need to think quickly and not require their boss for guidance on decisions. For example, teams that rapidly develop solutions or innovation for example, can do better with a leader who lets them solve problems on their own.

So now I have my diverse dream team? How do I get them to work with each other effectively?

Continue reading ‘Hire more oddballs and learn how to herd cats with different colored headwear’


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