This podcast covers Chapter 11, “Broadening Your Personal Development Goals of “12 Steps to Flow: The New Framework for Business Agility,” by Haydn Shaughnessy and Fin Goulding, developers of the internationally acclaimed workshop, Flow Academy.

I would have to say if I had a favorite chapter so far this might be it! To quote from the authors, “Flow stands for empowerment. Real empowerment puts responsibilities onto your shoulders. It gives you more liberty, more uncertainty and more need to challenge yourself to grow. You are in charge of more than you realized.”

The authors feel that Flow is in stark contrast to collaborative platforms that they feel distort people’s views of assets and values, e.g., Atlassian’s Jira and Confluence. They tend to respectively be perfect fits for obsessive project managers who want to keep order or want to bury information so nobody has to look at it again. Essentially they are document silos.

A better approach is the use of Walls with Post-Its so Flow can flourish with Kanban. They promote personal development and real growth for three reasons:

1. The development of strong, personal boundaries in emergent situations because while it’s important to be open one must know their limits;

2. The developments of emotional resilience in uncertain environments, a trait critical for shaping boundaries;

3. Mastering the ability to be a quick study, learning new rules fast along with people’s strengths and weaknesses in doing all this while maintaining a compassionate frame of mind.

This is far more important than learning how to do brain dumps of documents. In order to improve value you need to focus on the personal development goals of the people whose role is to create it.

As Fin and Hayden discussed the importance of personal goals they are talking essentially about how to thrive in a complex environment that’s bordering on chaos. This essentially means learning how to seek and implement value when in the state of some level of uncertainty and incomplete information. Doubt becomes important because it promotes inquiry. Simply put, Flow is caught not taught. It’s all about capturing what you can from social interaction in a good workplace. With everyone having personal growth goals in behaving this way collective intelligence grows and becomes more powerful.

The remainder of the chapter the authors relate the above-mentioned principles to five issues:

1. How your organization, wrongly, expects you to learn;

2. How to develop your personal learning objectives:

3. Thinking about your learning style;

4. How roles are changing in work;

5. Developing a personal learning journal.

Let’s flesh these out in a little more detail.

1. Against Traditional Organizational Learning

The authors talk about an organizational contradiction that is best captured in a statement made by one of their colleagues, Dan Pontefract, “All your school-life you are taught the value of thinking freely. Then you go to work!” Some conformity is essential but over regulating behavior is counterproductive.

The key to learning is always having a focus on increasing value in order to increase Flow. Organizations hurt themselves by focusing on placing people within functions having process-driven frameworks. This fits with a Agile approach where there is a focus on process objectives and their metrics.

2. Developing Your Personal Learning Objectives

The goal here is the development of emotional resilience so that healthy, flexible boundaries can be established when in the state of uncertainty. This is critical if one is to keep the focus on adding customer-centric value. In complex environments there is a constant learning -related pressure because one never knows everything, and never will. Consequently, it’s important to develop learning objectives centered around putting the uncertainty to work in terms of growth, inventiveness, and being smarter. This is where doubts can really help by provoking thinking in terms of seeking out patterns that can help direct work flow. Disruption is ever-present. The authors go on to talk about their personal learning objectives which, I believe, is a good read.

3. Thinking about Your Learning Style

While everyone can be dedicated to learning goals that help promote value the techniques used may differ from person to person. The authors share their techniques. Fin has a more social style mixing it up with various groups and individuals. Hayden tends to take a bit more of a contemplative approach, not that he’s a wallflower, and works to sketch out problems and solutions every day, literally, every day he always has a stack of blank A4 paper on his desk. Both provide very good examples of their learning styles on pages 237 through 242. In reading this I’m reminded of the book “Back of the Napkin,” By Dan Roam.

4. 10 Evolving Roles in Work

This part I found rather intriguing. 10 roles are listed:

1. The Initiator. These people get projects underway;

2. The Wrangler. These are people and never let go of a problem and work to get it under control;

3. The Connector. This individual has political skills and is capable of managing other people’s objectives;

4. The Coach. These coaches know that work needs the change and they are hungry for new ideas, breaking down rigid processes and replacing them with invention and interaction.

5. The Product or Project Guy. The individual capable of laying out ideas and loosely connecting them in a plan sufficient for others to take off with an flesh out.

6. The Mediator. This person does just that, i.e., works to confront behaviors to get in the way of delivering value and helps the team get back on track.

7. The Tester. This person cannot only test to see if metrics are met engaging whether or not what’s been delivered is what the customer needs.

8. The Detective. These are individuals with forensic capability who can look through the morass of complex systems and see where simple changes can be effective.

9. The Tech Guru. This is the individual who is expert in a particular area.

10. The Emotional Leader. This person is willing to learn while also taking care of people’s emotional needs. “Humility” is the watchword.

5. A Personal Learning Wall

Developing a personal learning wall is a great way to establish a focus in progress in growing on a day by day basis. The key point here is that your personal development will propel your professional development. It also works to divide goals into “long-term and “short-term.” The key element is to have your plan span the breath of your life rather than focusing only on one area. Also, it is important to track your progress, that is why the Personal Learning Wall is important in order to ensure your moving forward and objectively seeing how you are progressing in terms of increasing strengths and addressing weaknesses.

You Are the Value

It is important to be inventive during this process because you are the value. Also, one of your responsibilities is to bring the growth that you’ve created to the team to help with the collective thinking and to encourage other team members to work on their personal growth.

Here are the link for previous chapter reviews:   

episode 0037 of Wrestling with Chaos. the Introduction, The Value Seeking Enterprise, and Chapter 1, Talking About Business Agility:

episode 0042 of Wrestling With Chaos. For Chapter 2, The Customer In The Agile Business.

episode 0043 of Wrestling With Chaos. For Chapter 3, Disrupting The Cadence of Work

episode 0045 of Wrestling With Chaos. For Chapter 4, Taking Advantage of Visible Work

episode 0046 of Wrestling With Chaos, For Chapter 5, Anti-Project Thinking and Business Agility

episode 0047 of Wrestling With Chaos, For Chapter 6, Creating Value-Seeking Behavior

episode 0049 of Wrestling With Chaos, For Chapter 7, The Agile C-Suite

episode 0050 of Wrestling With Chaos, For Chapter 8 216, Value, The Anti-Plan and Testing

episode 0051 of Wrestling With Chaos, For Chapter 9, Reinventing Roles

episode 0053 of Wrestling With Chaos, For Chapter 10, The Customer Wall

For more on the various “Walls” using Post-Its refer to their excellent book, “Flow.”

In line with Business Agility and dealing with complex situations, you can download CMC’s free e-book MINDSET – 5 SIMPLE WAYS TO LOOK AT COMPLEX PROBLEMS and learn how to find a simple vantage point from which you can resolve challenges.

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