Have you tried the Loop Approach?? – Part 2

Once your team has clarified its alignment, people potential and accountability, it’s ready to move onto Module 2 of the Loop Approach – Results.

As you know, getting things done is easier said than done. There are often so many demands on your attention that just beginning to tackle that huge to-do list can feel overwhelming.

That’s where Module 2 of the Loop Approach, Results, comes in. The first part of this workshop focuses on personal effectiveness. That’s because your team can only work well if each individual is working effectively.

You begin Module 2 by introducing team members to the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. This methodology, developed by productivity consultant David Allen, is designed to help you and your colleagues become better at self-management.

Key to GTD is creating an inbox that contains all demands on your attention. Let’s not confuse the GTD inbox with an email inbox. A GTD inbox contains all requests that come your way – whether by email, phone, letter, or in person. This inbox can also house your own ideas.

Once you’ve created your inbox, the next step is to empty it. To do so, you need to consider each item and classify it according to a specific category. If an item falls under the category of Irrelevant, for instance, throw it out. If an item falls under the category of Information, file it away. The category of Events contains any item that goes into your calendar, like a meeting or appointment.

Finally, an item might fall under the category of Actionable items. Here, things get a bit murky, but not to worry – the GTD methodology breaks these items down for you, too. First, begin by applying the GTD two-minute rule: any item that takes about two minutes or less to complete should be done immediately.

Any item that takes you more than two minutes to complete, however, should be categorized either as a task or a project. A task involves only a single step, and can be done within half an hour to an hour. “Recruit intern” does not fall under this category, as that’s likely to take days, if not weeks, to complete – but “Tidy up the office” does. A project, however, is any larger endeavor that contains more than one step. It has a projected outcome, and at least one next action – a step you can take that brings you closer to the projected outcome – attached to it.

By helping you categorize and classify demands on your attention in this way, you’ll find that the GTD methodology empowers you to set priorities, and thereby to improve your self-management. Ready to set up that GTD inbox?

Working by yourself is one thing. But working with others? You know what a pain that can be.

Thankfully, Module 2 of the Loop Approach, Results, helps you to improve your team effectiveness, so that your team can better achieve results as a group.

In the first day of the Module 2 workshop, you and your team focus on how to resolve tensions. In the Loop Approach, of course, tensions aren’t necessarily negative. All a “tension” refers to is an impulse for change. Before you can resolve a tension, however, you need to know where it belongs. That’s why on the first day of Module 2 you introduce your team to the concept of the four spaces, developed by Tom Thomison, a pioneer of the Holacracy decentralized management method.

According to Thomison, tensions fall into four spaces at work. The first is the operational space – where much everyday work takes place. This space includes things like work projects, assigning tasks and exchanging information. The second space is the governance space. This space deals with things like revising roles or changing structures. It’s where you work on, rather than in, the organization. Taken together, the operational and governance spaces pertain to the “role-ational” side of things.

The final two spaces pertain to the “relational” side of things. The first of these is the individual space, where you work on self-development. Here, you think about questions such as, “What’s really important to me in my work and in my relationships with colleagues?” Then there’s the tribe space, where all the relationships between team members are housed. Interpersonal conflict or tensions fall in this space.

Once you’ve introduced your team to these four spaces, you turn their attention to the operational space. Here, you focus on how to resolve tensions that emerge in the operational space by introducing them to the sync meeting.

A sync meeting is a tactical meeting whose purpose is to synchronize work done in the operational space. Which team member is working on which project? What next steps need to be planned? Is there any information we’re missing? Where can we get it? This meeting is led by a facilitator, and its purpose is to make sure that information and work are distributed in the best way possible.

By the end of the meeting, any operational obstacles have been cleared, and next actions have been reviewed and defined. Now you can breathe a sigh of relief.

It’s amazing to think that billions of years ago, humans evolved from a tiny cell. We grew legs and arms and then went from walking on all fours to walking upright. Much of that evolution happened because we had to adapt to a natural environment that was constantly changing.

Likewise, the environments in which organizations operate today require adaptability, given that these environments are in a state of flux. And it’s crucial for your team to be able to adapt to changing conditions. It’s for this reason that Module 3 of the Loop Approach, Evolution, focuses on high adaptability. That is, how can a team transform its structures, roles and rules as needed to meet changing conditions?

In order to empower your team to maximize its adaptability, begin by introducing them to the governance meeting – conceived as part of Holacracy, the decentralized management method. The aim of this meeting, which is part of the governance space, is to allow your team to develop in line with changing conditions.

At the core of the meeting is an agenda that includes all governance-related tensions. Are there roles in the team that need to be changed or created? Are there aspects of teamwork than can be improved? These tensions are collected and described by all team members in one or two words.

Once these tensions are collected in an agenda, the second key aspect of the meeting involves processing them using the Integrative Decision Making process (IDM), also developed as part of Holacracy. IDM is made up of seven steps. First, you encourage team members to share problems or tensions that they identify, as well to make preliminary proposals for how to resolve them.

The next step involves giving space to team members to ask clarifying questions of the person who raised the tension and made the proposal to resolve it. There is a reaction round, in which team members can provide feedback and share thoughts. The team then goes through a round of emendation and clarification of the proposal. Then there’s an objection round, in which each team member can raise objections to the revised proposal. In the final step, the integration round, the proposal is revised to address any valid objections.

In this way, the governance meeting ensures that the team constantly raises and resolves tensions in a way that pushes it to evolve into a better, stronger working unit, ready to adapt to any change. How’s that for teamwork?

You know that annoying person at work – the colleague who takes credit for your ideas, or the boss who comes to your desk with a to-do list just as you’re ready to end your day?

Work conflicts with colleagues not only harm your mood, they’re also bad for teamwork. That’s why the second part of Module 3 helps your team improve its conflict and feedback competence.

In this part, you shift away from the role-ational spaces of governance and operation to the relational spaces of the individual and the tribe. Kick things off by introducing team members to the nonviolent communication (NVC) methodology to help them better navigate and resolve relational conflicts. NVC is based on the idea that the best way to resolve conflicts is to communicate not in terms of accusations, but in terms of needs.

This entails four steps. First, observe what is objectively happening (for instance, “I didn’t receive an answer to my email”). Second, articulate how you feel about this (“I’m frustrated and angry”). Third, identify which needs of yours are affected (“I need to feel respected by others and want to make good use of my time”). Finally, frame your needs in terms of a request to the other person (“In the future, would you be willing to try answering emails by the end of the business day?”).

Learning to use NVC in this way also equips your team to give feedback more constructively. Once you’ve introduced NVC, allow team members to practice giving feedback more positively by turning to the “hot seat” exercise. You begin by having the team sit in a circle around an empty chair – the “hot seat.” A team member then volunteers to sit in the seat.

Then, ask team members to give feedback to the person in the hot seat, using questions to guide that feedback, such as, “What do I like about working with this person?” or “What would I wish from this person for our work together in the future?” Once all the feedback has been given, the next person takes the hot seat – and the feedback begins again.

Module 3 is the final step of the Loop Approach. But if all goes well, your team will continue looping through each of the three modules – Clarity, Results and Evolution – in a movement toward improvement. The payoff? A more flexible, agile organization ready to adapt to the future and its challenges.

Today’s world is a volatile one. Fierce competition and new technologies mean that most traditional organizations must change their ways or perish. That’s because the pyramid structure on which these organizations are based is slow and clunky, and is therefore ill-suited to meeting the challenges of today’s fast-changing environment. But even the most old-fashioned organization can transform itself through the Loop Approach.

This transformational tool kit focuses on the building blocks of organizations – teams. Its three modules, Clarity, Results and Evolution, help teams learn how to achieve clarity about their purpose and structure, as well as achieve results through effective management and communication. Crucially, the Loop Approach also teaches teams how to adapt to changing conditions by improving their governance, conflict and feedback competence, so that the larger organization can succeed even in the most turbulent of waters.

Now, as a takeway, try this out: break things down into pieces.

Next time you have to plan a large project, first clearly define its outcome. Then break down the project into one or more “next actions.” What next steps are necessary to move the project forward? You may not know in advance all the necessary actions you need to take to complete the project. But thinking in terms of concrete next actions moves you a little closer to your goal.

Check out my related post: Renovation and Reimagination?

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