My comments written down after the 4th effectiveness review (ER) at Codewise.

First of all, the ERs are becoming “no-events”. I mean, people know what to expect (both the hero of ER and the participants). They come prepared, they know what to expect. Around 30 people already participated in the ERs (and few more decided to have one for themselves).

ERs Beg For Well Described Roles

During the S3 course I attended, I heard that implementing some of S3 patterns results in starting using other S3 patterns as well. I think I start to observe a little bit of this happening. The fact we started to run ERs initiated some discussions about our roles. Sometimes we are happy with what we have (usually old job specs from the ancient times when we applied for a job or we were promoted to certain positions) but in some cases ERs are a catalyst of discussion and changes. It would eventually happened anyway, but it seems it will happen sooner thanks to ERs.

The Development Plan

I observed a difficulty with coming up quickly with development plan. I struggled with this myself during my ER. It was hard enough to grasp all the improvement suggestions (there were ~25 of them) and rapidly creating a sensible plan out of them… well, this was challenging. I felt time pressure (10 people staring at me and waiting till I present a plan to them) and that definitely wasn’t comfortable.

Yesterday, I observed how the hero of ER was preparing his plan and I was under the impression that it wasn’t easy for him as well. One of the improvement suggestions he got was that he should delegate things more. So he added “delegate tasks” as one of the points of his development plan. I was expecting more concrete steps towards delegating, not only the promise of “I will delegate more”.

Can we expect the hero to come with some detailed plan just like that? What about the big tasks – like the one that “you should delegate more” – is it OK to have a development plan with point “I will prepare a plan of action on how to delegate and then I follow it”? Or maybe the hero should spent some time on the spot and try to figure out what would be the actions moving him into the desired direction (or at least the next step – like in the GTD method – to set things in motion) ?

The problems with preparing Development Plan might stem from the fact that this were our first ERs, which resulted in a gazillion of improvement suggestions. I would expect to have less of them next time we run ER for the same person (provided that we do not wait too long with it). If so, then preparing a development plan should be much easier.

Things You Learn About Yourself

One guy – let us call him Andy (a leader of one of our teams) – gave the following appreciation: “I really appreciated when you came to me to talk about X. It was good that you reminded me about this. Thanks to you X wasn’t forgotten.” I asked the hero after the ER whether he was surprised by Andy’s words. He said it was unexpected. He rather thought about his own actions in terms of being PITA (kind of: “Here I go to this Andy guy, to give him one more issue to solve, as if he hadn’t got enough of them already… He must hate me for this…”). Now he knows better how his actions are perceived by others. Valuable knowledge, isn’t it?

Hoping for More

We had only 4 ERs so far, and even though I believe they were pretty valuable, I do not want to call it a success yet. Let me wait with fanfares until we run few of them for the same people consecutively. Will we still benefit from them as we do from the first ones? Yes, let me wait before I call it a success. But what we have right now is a promising start. Good!

Recently I read an article about the (alleged) fall of Holacracy and one part related to meetings draw my attention. I’m interested in the topic of meetings efficiency for quite a long time. It reminded me of a novel way of facilitating a meeting that I witnessed during a Sociocracy 3.0 training some time ago. What I read in the article somehow resonated with my own feelings and thoughts.

But let me start with the prevalent opinion about meetings nicely expressed by this tweet:

Surprised? I guess not. I know many people who think that “meeting = waste of time”(And BTW. my observation is, that the same people who complain about the meetings, act themselves in a way, which makes meetings a nightmare.)

Now, if you search for it, you will find a gazillion of advises on how to make meetings more efficient.

…but what actually happens when you try to squeeze the time spent on meeting to minimum aiming at making them as productive as possible? People should be happy, right? Hmm… not so fast. Read this quote from the aforementioned article:

As Zappos onboarded its employees to the system over the past four years, one of the biggest complaints, far and away, was around the rigid meeting format, which provides the guardrails for the system. Tactical meetings […] tightly govern how and when employees can speak up. The meetings, which typically are held once a week, open with a check-in round and then dive into checklists and metrics. […] there is “no discussion” during the check-in and closing rounds. In other words, there is no natural, back-and-forth conversation that begets camaraderie, respect, trust, and connection. No small talk.

Whoa, wait! That is really interesting, isn’t it? At one hand people are tired with meeting taking too long and often not bringing expected results. They are dead tired with some talkative assholes who waste time of everyone in the room. They want to reach decision quickly and go back to their work, right? They would love to end the endless debates and discussion.

And what happens when you actually give it to them? They are disappointed because “there is no natural, back-and-forth conversation that begets camaraderie, respect, trust, and connection” .

I find this really intriguing. Recently, when trying to start the process of effectiveness reviews, I experimented with strict facilitation rules (rounds & no discussion & no preamble). And I felt that some participants were not enjoying this formula (even if they witnessed its effectiveness). I wonder if what I try to achieve is so much against our human nature (and thus destined to fail) or maybe – and this is what I hope for – it is only an initial pain of doing things in a new way? Will see about this. 

As for now, my plan is to have the following deal with meeting participants:

  • during meetings, we get rid of “human element” as much as possible – we aim at efficiency,
  • after the meeting is finished then whoever feels like he wants to socialize does so (and let me tell you that our office provides plenty of ways to socialize!).

Would that work? Or maybe we are so used to the fact that the meetings are about socializing and small talk, and endless discussions that we won’t let it go no matter what?