Experience report: Clean for teams – Is diversity in your team a source of energy?

When you face divergent thinking in your team. Do you sense that as a source of frustration instead of a source of energy? Then maybe the Clean for Teams workshop might be something for you. 

Ok, you visualized your workflow through a Kanban board. You meet every now so often in front of the board to reflect on what is going on and how to make the best of the current situation together.

Increased understanding of what is going enables better understanding of the system you are working in, and you can also see and understand where you might focus your improvement efforts.

You decided your next focus, maybe you translated obstacles to outcomes through the FOTO exercise? Together you write down some experiments to try out together over the next couple of weeks.


But let’s wait and rewind the tape back to the situation just before you started to look out for your outcomes.


Can I just for a second ask you to think of an elephant?

Yes, an Elephant.

What kind of elephant is that? Where is that elephant?

It’s quite likely that the image going on in your head is not the same image as mine, an old elephant tied to a tree outside of an circus.

Now let’s get back to the situation In the room. The problem you identified, how likely is it that you and your peers have the same view on what is going on? Did we see the same data? Did we interpret it the same way? Or even share our underlying perceptions about why things are like they are?

It’s quite easy to assume that other people have the same view of things as you do, and when you find out that it isn’t actually so, the conversation easily start to be about who is right or wrong.

What if we treat our internal models of the situation as something that also needs to be visualized. Not only will that enable you to start reflecting on and deepening your understanding, you can also start looking at the models people around you have. You can start to see differences, ask questions, spark curiosity and create a deeper connection to and understanding of the people around you.

But how do you create that kind of model? How to you go from your model to a group model?

Clean For Teams: An Introduction to Systemic Modeling

That my friend was the focus of a great workshop I attended just before summer in northern England, West Kirby with Caitlin Walker, her colleagues and a lovely group with mixed backgrounds.  The workshop is called Clean For Teams: An Introduction to Systemic Modeling and aims to help team learn the skills to develop greater autonomy, efficiency and understanding while working together.

Together we used Clean Questions to explore our own models for different situations, we practiced what it’s like when you help someone to explore theirs and how to deal with situations where the views are in conflict. In short, we learned how can we move from ‘Contempt to Curiosity’ – and yes I really recommend that book!

My key takeaway from the event was an even stronger feeling that injecting tools for exploring and connecting team member perceptions and models can be another team superpower for collaboration, team alignment and shared understanding.

For teams where collaboration is essential

I can wholeheartedly recommend anyone working in collaborative environments such as  Lean/Agile development to try this workshop out. It will give you an practical experience of what it’s like to be part of a team where you start working with your internal models.

To me, this journey has only just started. I will continue to learn more Systemic Modeling and how to combine that with other tools and concepts I currently use.

I’m working with Andrea Chiou (Connections at Work), who is helping me build my own models and apply these concepts into my own way of working. And there is nothing like having someone to work with, to share your ideas and thoughts.

That’s all for now. Take care!

Wait, do you want more?

Given all this, what would you like to have happen?

I’m curious if there is something that can be created around this that could be useful for you. It might be a new blog post, arranging a webinar around something, a zoom meeting or maybe arranging a Clean for Teams workshop. I don’t know, you decide.

All you need to do is to share what’s on your mind. If you write your email below I will get back to you if I’ve got something building on this that might be valuable to you. I’m not going to store your e-mail and use it for anything else than asking the questions unless you explicitly say so.

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