Since the last blog post(see http://tomek.kaczanowscy.pl/2016/12/sociocracy-3-0-effectiveness-review/) we run 2 more effectiveness reviews (ER in short). This blog post gathers my thought, comments and lessons learned. Hope you find it useful.
Based on previous experience I took the following steps to make the next effectiveness reviews even more fruitful:
- I prepared a document explaining shortly what it is and what is expected of the participants.
- I tried to make driver & role description more visible during the meeting – so that the appreciations and improvement suggestions were more related to it.
- Last time we ended the ER with development plan in form of some additional notes added to the “improvement suggestions” flip-chart card. This time I wanted to end the meeting with more explicit development plan (i.e. written down separately, so there would be no confusion on what was really decided).
Also, I created a short checklist for anyone who wants to run an effectiveness review (with some basic stuff like how to prepare room etc.)
Recently I’m pretty focused on the meetings efficiency. I hope to run ERs regularly so I want them to be as concise as possible.
In one of today’s meeting I set some strict rules: we speak straight to the point, no discussions, no preamble, no starting with “Uhhmmm…. Well… so…. Of course I agree with what [name of previous participant here] said, because I also feel this is very important. And also I would like to add that …” (15-20 seconds gone, now multiply it by number of participants and number of rounds!). It worked wonders – we avoided a lot of time wasting talking and the whole event was much shorter.
However, later when I discussed the event with some participants, I learned that there are some downsides of this approach (excerpt from an email I got):
“I thought the meeting was slightly rushed with the onus being on short sharp bullet points of feedback however I think we could have elaborated on our points more and given examples which could help benefit the person.”
In general there is some tension between having an efficient meeting and allowing people “to do the long and non-value talking as they usually do”. Currently I value efficiency more (but I try hard not to be rude interrupting people etc.) Still, my approach could be improved – one person suggested that giving examples (context) for appreciations could be valuable, and I agree with this idea.
Anyway, I believe that with artful participation it is possible to have a very fulfilling first ER taking less than 30 minutes. I also think that the consecutive ones (for the same role) can take half of this time.
My learning also is, that if you clearly state the purpose of the meeting (easy-peasy in case of ER: first we do appreciations, then we do improvement suggestions, so in the end we can have development plan) then it is pretty simple to stop any discussion that is not moving us towards the goal of the meeting.
Taking notes sounds simple, but it ain’t so. After one of today’s ERs we had notes so good, that people who wern’t there would benefit from reading them. The notes from the second ER would be completely cryptic to someone who wasn’t there.
In general, I think taking good notes is a skill that could be trained.
As for now, flip-charts worked for us better than whiteboards. The notes on flip-charts were more readable. Not sure why – probably because the flip-charts offer infinite surface which encourages the scribe to write longer sentences (and thus achieve better readability afterwards).
One the ERs today was mine (“lead by example”, isn’t it?). I have to say this was a positive experience. First, it is really encouraging to hear the appreciations and learn that this thing, that maybe I was even embarrassed about (oh, no, I can’t bother them again with this, no, I really can’t), that they actually appreciate it. Second, the participants gave me some really valuable feedback on how I could improve. Some of the things I was aware of (“delegate more!”) but some were new to me. And even for things I knew about it makes a difference if you hear it from few people. At least for me.
And BTW. I think I did a good job on selecting people – I took some close cooperators but also few “independent thinkers” that I do not work on daily basis but who are influenced by my job. Thanks to this, I got feedback from very different perspectives.
I ended up with a 5-points development plan. Some of the tasks too big to be “action points” but rather directions I should move into.
During my ER I had this feeling that some participants are actually more nervous than I was. It seemed to me, that it was hard for them to express their opinion in a public setting. Probably my role might have some impact on this, however, I know all of the participants pretty well and we are on friendly terms, so I’m not sure where this hardship is coming from. Also, it seems that for some people it is awkward to give feedback in such public setting. No problems with appreciations, but improvement suggestions are hard for some. I wonder if this is only because we are not used to do it in such manner? Some also dream of good, old, corpo days when managers would handle the hard stuff (an excerpt from the email I got afterwards):
“Obviously its a lot harder to give more constructive criticism face to face so I prefer anonymous then the manager will collate all feedback.”
Final Notes / Random Observations / Concerns
Notes to myself on what to improve:
- Work on roles – our old job descriptions we use instead of driver&role are not good enough.
- We need more skilled scribes.
- We need more skilled facilitators.
- Sending email with guidelines for participants seems to work pretty well.
- I still have no clue how to efficiently amend the driver/role during the ER meeting.
- The 1-month frequency is not good for everyone. Need to be flexible with this.
- If the role is not clear enough then so are the improvement suggestions. So, first work on the roles.One of the concerns we have is the following. The ER concept seems to work fine when there are no major issues with roles. The atmosphere is friendly. How will it work if there are some serious issues with person in role? Will the participants be polite enough to express their doubts in form of civilized “improvement suggestions” or will the whole meeting divert into some kind of judgment and punishment for the hero?
- In general I feel ERs are a valuable addition to what we do, and we should continue. However, I have doubts whether ERs are suitable for everyone. Will developers benefit from this kind of meeting? I’m not sure. I think in the case of many devs code reviews, 1-on-1s with tech leads and team retrospectives might be good enough.