I discovered I have a gift. Over the years, I’ve assembled a series of tools and processes that greatly streamlines my business operations, something important for a solopreneur like myself. When I talk to other consultants and busy professionals, they are delighted to learn about these improvements for their own work.
When I can help others focus on what they love to do well, instead of spending time on necessary back-office work, then we all benefit. I am especially motivated to help people doing work to make the world a better place. Through them, I too can make a greater impact.
To that end, I produced my 1st online video on expense filing. I’m really excited about this! Managing expenses used to be such a dreadful task for me, taking up lots of time and filled with errors of omission. I’d forget to file some things or details related to expense items. Now I have a system that allows me to file both paper and digital expenses and real-time, reducing costly delays and the time it takes to submit expenses. It’s even fun at times (gasp).
If expense filing is a drag for you, I invite you to take a look. Initial reviews are enthusiastic. All it takes is 30 minutes of your time to watch and you’ll benefit immediately from what you learned.
Join now, and you can use coupon “PAINFREE” to get $5 off until Friday, December 9, limited to first 50 subscribers.
Spend less time on expenses, more on what you love. 🙂
Empowered individuals. Creative, participatory decision making. Connectedness and care for each other. These words apply equally to an Agile organization as to a healthy community. What might happen if we applied Agile values and methods to transform communities? I will share my experiences over the past year and up to Agile 2011 to nurture engaged community in my home town and beyond – tools and methods, trials and triumphs, how Agile applied to community differs from organization. This is bleeding edge stuff, an area of opportunity for Agile consultants to do work that transforms the world. My hope is to inspire and encourage others to join me in these efforts, and to meet others already on this journey.
Below is a copy of the experience report, best viewed in full screen mode.
Going to Agile 2011? There are two opportunities in the program to connect with me and other like-minded change agents:
Thursday, 11 am – 60 minute Open Jam event titled “Whatever the problem, community is the answer”. This was a proposed 90 minute session originally. I haven’t thought how I’ll modify the format for an Open Jam yet, though will likely shorten to one hour, depending on interest level. Space will be less than a dedicated room so not sure if World Cafe still best format. Ideas welcome.
Scrum, the most widely used Agile development framework got some major praise recently from outside its software origins from Steve Denning, a thought leader in leadership, management, innovation, and organizational storytelling:
If there was a Nobel Prize for management, and if there was any justice in the world, I believe that the prize would be awarded, among others, to Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber and Mike Cohn for their contributions to the invention of Scrum.
Why such high praise? For Steve, Scrum creates the right environment to combine “rapid innovation with disciplined execution”. Steve rightly points out that the secret to success with Scrum is recognizing that Scrum is about a change in mind shift and culture, not a process that one merely follows. He uses Salesforce’s adoption of Scrum to validate his point:
Unlike many firms that have tried to implement Scrum, the leadership at Salesforce.com saw that Scrum involved not just the adoption of a new business process, or a framework for managing software development, but rather as a fundamental transformation of the way work was managed in the company. They realized that they were introducing a new way of thinking, speaking and acting in the workplace for both managers and workers. They committed to it boldly and the results have been extraordinary.
How would you introduce Agile/Scrum to participants of a Tourism conference in 2 hours? For me, the Tourism Brochure game seemed like a natural fit. Participants get a chance to experience the entire Scrum process, from feature brainstorming and prioritization to product demo and retrospective.
All was well, until I discovered later that there might be 70 participants at the session (note to self: inquire about session size when making proposal). Yikes! I then went to work on ways to scale the game with just one facilitator aka my plan to keep my sanity intact.
Scaling the resort brochure game
Preparation was key. I spent an inordinate amount of time creating supplementary material:
Provide clear instructions for people to understand concepts, which includes multiple learning methods. This workshop in some ways ran smoother than some smaller ones I’ve facilitated. There was less confusion, increased flow of activity. You can scale much better with the right supports in place.
Keep steps as simple as possible. Each step in the process was kept small and focused, making it easier to follow.
Demonstrate by example. For the product review/demo, I helped one team do their demo while the other groups watched. That gave me a chance to go through what needed to be done and why. It produced several teaching moments, and increased the value of the other group’s product review sessions.
Keep the fun and energy levels up to make everything go smoother. The music and materials added a sense of play and excitement to the game.
8 teams need more than one facilitator. Had there been one more person, teams could have had questions answered more quickly, or gone less astray during an activity. To compensate, I added time to some activities in order to get around to tables.
Sharon Bowman‘s Training from the Back of the Room continues to yield excellent results for me. I had plenty of energy left, even after a hectic two hours because the participants, not me, were the centre of attention. Opening and closing discussions, small table activities kept them busy and learning together, with me as their ‘guide on the side’ as Sharon likes to say.
The start of a new year means budget time once again. Councillors have dozens, maybe hundreds of choices to make, and the tradeoffs aren’t often clear. It’s a daunting task to make those decisions, especially for new councillors. They want to better understand the priorities of citizens regarding key budget initiatives, but how in a time and cost-effective manner, in a way that people want to participate?
Engagement with a twist: the city of San José brought in community leaders last Saturday to try their hand at making budget decisions (Mercury News article). They played budget prioritization games, a variation of an Innovation Game® called Buy a Feature. Diverse groups of citizens sat at tables, each possessing play money to purchase items. The key is that no one has enough money to buy the items they care most about – they have to persuade others to pool their money together, and that’s the magic of the game. Each table group also had a list of reductions to choose from to free up money to spend, provided they reached unanimous consent to cut something, like the building of a new police station.
Photos of game materials (best viewed in full screen):
I was there, at the invitation of Luke Hohmann, CEO of Innovation Games, to work as a volunteer observer and learn from the experience, in the hopes of holding a similar event in the Sault. For corporations, this type of event isn’t so unique, but for government, it’s pioneering stuff. My role was to capture both quantitative data, like who spent money on what, and qualitative data, like why an item was purchased, how the discussions went, what items were easy for the group not to purchase. After 90 minutes I had 30 index cards worth of data from our table.
Photos of my work and the team (best viewed in full screen):
As an observer, the passion people have about their city was evident, the options they had to choose from mattered. They struggled between choices, like funding a children’s health initiative vs a fund for community-based organizations. To help citizens, subject matter experts from the city were available to answer questions. People are passionate about their community, and when given a chance for meaningful engagement, they jump to the challenge.
So what was the result?
The Innovation Games team will report back on the results within a couple of weeks, which I will then share.
I interviewed two participants to get their impressions. In a nutshell, what I heard was the event went well beyond their expectations, based on their experience from previous years. This one was highly collaborative, informative, and even (gasp) FUN! Watch the short 1 minute videos to see for yourself.
A true measure of an event like this is that besides better understanding citizen priorities, a community grows closer together. This event delivered on that. They heard each other’s stories and dreams. They shared their diverse knowledge to make better decisions, collectively, and they had a fun time getting to know each other.
I believe this is just the start, an appetizer for what is possible in how citizens and government can engage each other. My intention is to learn from the San José experience and try a similar event in my home town of Sault Ste. Marie. I’m already getting enthusiastic feedback from members of council and Mayor Amaroso, who are also passionate about citizen engagement. Thanks to Luke and his hard-working Innovation Games® team, who poured in over two months of effort to make this one day happen. Citizen engagement, stronger community and better budgets – that’s worth investing in.
Agility Café has found its home! Fridays at noon at the Dish. Last week we tackled two issues raised at the café:
how to avoid becoming too overwhelmed
how to nurture the creative process (though we discovered a deeper underlying need)
You can watch short 2 min summaries of both discussions below, starring the lovely Darren Jorgensen.
The café this Friday is the last one this month, sadly as I will be away the following two Fridays. If you have something you want help with, or just want to get out of the office, then come out and join us this week. 🙂
Today a few of us from last week’s Business Agility workshop gathered at Dish to tackle issues getting in our way to delivering more value for ourselves, our companies and the clients we serve.
The format is simple: bring a topic or two you want help with, together we’ll prioritize them and tackle them in order of importance to the group. When the owner of the topic is satisfied with the response, we move on to the next one.
For our first gathering, we had 3 excellent topics:
How to get management to buy into the full power of Scrum (and not just window dressing)
How to satisfy customers
How to make time for high, important but less urgent tasks aka why does the urgent always seem to take priority?
At the end, everyone rated the hour from 1 to 10 on a value received scale and shared what would have garnered a perfect score. Everyone scored high. The only improvement offered was one person’s wish to be more prepared with questions. All in all, a great first experiment.
Want to come to the weekly Agility Café? Contact Gerry to be put on the mailing list.
Food tip: the eggplant peanut soup at Dish pure awesomesauce
This is part one of a three part series on creating an online presence to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outline needs for information and to connect conference goers which these tools can address. In part two, I’ll list my digital tools of choice and then in the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.
Last year I attended Mesh 09. That was the first conference I’d been to where I think *everyone* had a Twitter account. Sessions were filled with people tweeting and live blogging. I followed the conference hash tag to keep up with what was happening, sometimes switching rooms because of what others were posting. Events that use social media like Twitter and live blogging amplify the value of the “hallway conversations” that are often the best part of conferences. The conference felt more alive, and in turn I got more value from going.
Over the past few years I’ve volunteered to help anumberofeventsuse social media to amplify their value and impact on participants. From experience I can say that with a little effort and knowledge, integrating social media into the conference experience does not have to be onerous or expensive. All the tools I use are free, and there are ways to automate part of the effort. Remember, too, once there is an environment in which everyone can participate and share, you don’t have to generate all the content – grab your paddle and jump in the content stream with others.
If I were in charge of social media for a conference, I would start first by identifying the needs people have around information and connecting. For this round of research I sat down with myself for an in-depth interview. Well, I was available and close by.
I see four stages participants go through related to a conference. For each stage I’ve identified needs. While some needs span across stages, I refer to them once to avoid unnecessary duplication. I know you’re busy.
Should I go to the party?
AKA deciding whether to attend the conference or not
Sessions: where can I find more detailed information about them? What do others think of them?
About presenters: where can I find more detailed information about them? What do others think of them? How can I contact presenters with my questions?
Network: who else is going that I might want to meet?
Dress up: getting ready for the party
Getting closer to the event
Network: contact people in advance, organize meet ups, discuss what is coming up
Sessions: decide which sessions to attend. What sessions are other people going to, especially people I know?
Accommodations: find someone to share a room, airport taxi. What lower cost alternatives are there to the conference hotel?
Ok, we’re there.
Network: find people to connect with in real-time, organize meet ups
Sessions: decide which sessions to attend. What sessions are other people going to, especially people I know?
last minute changes to schedule, sessions
Feedback: timely, useful session feedback to presenters and conference organizers
Conversation: what are the hot topics? What are people thinking/doing/sharing? What stories are being told by the people at the conference?
The morning after
Feedback / telling the story: what are people saying and sharing about their experience of the conference?
Network: find for those people you met but don’t have contact details for to continue discussions, follow up on opportunities, request copies of incriminating photos.
My experience is conferences not social media savvy don’t address these needs well, and miss some entirely, especially when it comes to connecting people with each other. Fortunately, all it takes is a reasonable effort and cost to bridge the gap. In the next blog post I’ll list the tools you’ll want to use to become a conference social media superstar.
How does this list compare to what you need? Have I missed anything important? Add your comment below.
This is part one of a three part series on using digital tools / social media to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outline informational and connecting needs conference goers have which these tools can address. In part two, I’ll list my digital tools of choice and then in the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.