I love turning a room of “Not So Happy to be Here at The Moment” peers into “Passionate Fired Ups with Ideas and Presence.”
I love watching the skepticals quickly move on the spectrum from “Eye Rollers” to “Eye Smilers.”
I love solving problems with Play.
I believe, when Play and Work tangles magic happens. As leaders, we don’t have to be the experts of domain, but we need to be “ The Space Holders” and “The Witnessers” for unique experts to crack out of their cocoons to show up with their beautiful colors. So, how might we just facilitate THAT? I have few theories and some tried methods:
SET AN INTENTION about the outcome before you meet with the group. Later, when the creative energy dissipates and dragon heat rises, remembering your intention will help you sail through the storms. You have an intention and you have a direction. Storm shall pass, keep sailing.
WARM everybody physically with energizers. We can not solve problems behind the open laptop screens. We need eye contact. We need body wisdom. We need connection.
TRUST that everyone in the meeting has a brilliant piece of the puzzle. Your task as the facilitator is to help gem pieces to find each other. Utilize design thinking exercises to help the pieces define their shapes. “ I have this piece that looks like a good fit here.” Boom.
PRACTICE spontaneity. Preparation before a meeting is good, but sometimes we don’t have time to prepare. Sometimes, we don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle. Sometimes we just need to go with the flow. Trust that the moment will reveal what needs to be revealed for the team. Teach team to show up to see what happens.
FRAME problems. Imagine you are in an art gallery and you are walking through an exhibit of problems. Which problem is the most interesting and relevant? Invite everyone to join you to solve that frame of problem and make sure you are in the same museum, looking at the same picture.
IDEATE with Play. Give everyone permission to get the “Bad Ideas” out of their system. Role play solving problems with an “As If The Sky is Blue” mindset to make everyone creatively excited to get the ideas flowing in the room. Finally, bring them “Down to Earth” to meet timelines and budget. When people’s energies are given blue skies to soar, it is much acceptable for the creative forces to land on what is actually achievable.
BE A CHEERLEADER. Tell everyone that they are doing great. Frequently.
PROTOTYPE ideas quickly with papers, scissors, role playing, singing, drawing, whatever. Invest in “The Story” and it’s “Telling” and not in “Pixels and “ “Perfection” ”.
TEST ideas immediately.
CELEBRATE mistake and failures.
REMEMBER when “Work” and “Play” tangles, “Magic” happens.
I facilitated a Sprint Planning Empowerment Extravaganza with a group of brilliant engineers in Fremont, CA today. I helped the team with making assumptions for each User Story, identifying specific things that they need/want and dependencies that they need to manage with other teams. I encouraged them to think out loud and talk about their feelings. Feelings? "We talk about feelings at work?" I said, "Oh my yes, indeed! How does this user story make you feel based on the assumptions you made?" Some felt sunny, others partly cloudy, one yelled "Sky is falling!" We all laughed and asked a lot of "WHYs?" to get to the bottom of what was contributing the antigravity for the sky to fall. Turns out, this engineer was depended on someone in another team to finish his part of the task. Some uttered " Why don't you meet with so and so and so and so together, I know they are working on this piece and that piece and that could help you solve your jigsaw puzzle. " Sun came out. Eyes twinkled. Gravity restored. Sky was saved.
Techniques used: I created the Empowered Team Sprint Planning Extravaganza experience, utilizing and combining Empathy Map with Experience Mapping and Service Blueprints with a sprinkle of improv.
Long live DESIGN THINKING AND IMPROV. Once again, it is proven that when work and play tangles, magic happens.
Improv For Agile Retrospective Meetings
Improv for Agile all got started when Ana T. our Product Owner asked me "Would you like to facilitate our agile retrospective meetings with improv?" I said "Oh my yes, and I would love to!" Have I led groups through agile retros before? Nope. Have I played many many many many hours of improv games with my troupes? Well, yes!
I have been facilitating our group retrospectives utilizing improv games, design thinking and energy medicine to identify very specific things in 2 week Sprints:
This experience made me realize that I need to offer more of what I do "best" or what comes to me as natural: Improv, Design Thinking and Energy Medicine. I am no longer dwelling on what is lacking in my company "defined" role as a user experience designer at the very moment. No more playing the victim of gazillion constraints that does not allow me to follow a "proper" user experience practice. I am excited about facilitating and solving problems to improve my coworkers work experience. If people are happy at work, they will be happy at home, if they are happy at home, their kids, partners, pets will be happy, too. Butterfly effect!
Over and over what came up in our agile improv retros was the challenge of cross team communication. Team members were struggling to get the answers they needed from other teams on a timely manner. As a result, some of their tasks were blocked and they were stressed.
PRODUCT OWNER'S PROPOSAL
Ana T. asked "Asli, do you want to help us come up with a solution to solve our cross collaboration problem?", I jumped up and down with joy uttering "Yes, and let's do a Design Thinking Hackathon!"
Design Thinking Hackathon
Yesterday, we commenced in San Francisco office to hack the team cross communication challenge. I walked the team through each step of design thinking activities: