Cool stuff: Different Work | Your Big Adventure | The Fish Pond
Your team needs some kind of protection. If you’re on A Big Adventure you need a support structure. Projects create change. Change makes waves through the organization. And change creates stress for people. Your project is a temporary structure within the host organization.
A tent is the fantastic metaphor for the temporary structure that tries to maintain the resilience in your project. And yes, this is part of the “change/project management strategy focused on culture and using an adventure travel metaphor”. Yes. I know!
Think about it as a hospital tent set up in a field. It allows the doctors to perform surgery isolated from what happens around them. It provides focus and shelter. It’s not a fortress. The walls are thin and allow for surrounding noises to enter. It’s put up when needed and taken away when it has served its purpose.
In this exercise you discuss with the group how their ideal tent would look like.
What kind of material? What information can get out, or what information should stay in the tent? How do you make sure you can get along on a small confined space for a period of time?
This is a visual representation of the metaphor.
Everybody has a comfort zone. A particular environment in which they feel save and … uhm … comfortable.
As perfectly described by Havi Brooks: “The more safety you have, the easier it is to mess around, take risks, play with being king or queen of your world.”
This sounds like a paradox. By staying in your comfort zone, by operating from a safe structure, you’ll feel more secure to take risks. But on your own conditions. Operating from within your own context.
How does your comfort zone look like?
In / Out.
What kind of information or stuff do you need to get into the tent to do your job, and what do you want to keep outside? Sun provides warmth in the tent, but the tent should keep the rain outside. Wow! Metaphor!
If everybody has access to the right and real information, better and faster decisions would be made. So all information should be public. But throwing all our stuff into the open also has a drawback.
Transparency makes sure people’s behavior will be noted around the globe. Although with a good reputation a lot is to gain, having a bad rep puts a lot at stake. So people will play things save. When stress is on the system, when changes occur and resilience is required, transparency leads to mediated information flow and “playing-it-safe” behavior.
What should enter and what should be blocked?
After having discussed the comfort zones and what should be in and out of the tent, it’s time to look at how this can be achieved. How are the boundaries set up and maintained?
Let me provide an example of a boundary.
Setting up dedicated time slots for asking questions so people don’t continuously interrupt each other. Regular short meetings with some key stakeholders where they can ask questions or perform some other interrupt will regulate the information flows. If people know they will be helped, they’ll wait. If they have no idea, they’ll just keep on ripping up that tent you just put up.
There are also more non-obvious borders. The language used, the way you say “no” for example, creates a boundary.
I recommend this post for additional inspiration where I asked readers how they create an environment for themselves in which they can be totally themselves, focused, have room, not be interrupted and at the same time be accessible for requests and aware of information from others? You can find some great advice in the comments.
Suppose you have your tent ready. Party Tent. Party Hats. Guitars rocking’. You enter the host organization to put up your tent. Or. Using Big Words. You want to embed the temporary social system into the larger more static social system.
How do you secure your tent? How do you make sure the rest of the organization doesn’t run over your tent?
How do you make sure The Others are respecting your boundaries?
When running projects with cultures different from the host organization, you have to think about the shock wave that precedes the project and the legacy it leaves behind. I suggest this post for inspiration.
The finale of this exercise is to ask the participants to draw what their tent looks like. Size. Material. Shape. They don’t have to limit themselves not to tents, they can also use other temporary structures, like a sukkah.