Weeknotes s01e01: “Ideas, not art”
Week of September 3–7 2018
Source: Mike Rohde, The Sketchnote Handbook
First, why weeknotes? We talk a lot about working openly. At least I have been, plus musing aloud about form, and what value I could offer by sharing my thinking and processes. I always feel a pull toward setting intentions and establishing a routine in September. In that spirit I’m committing to an open and reflective practice, so will give this a go for a few months and see where that takes me. My mantra for these posts: DONE and PUBLISHED > PERFECT.
As I start these, I am a federal public servant working as a Free Agent at the Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) at Natural Resources Canada. The OEE team is doing brilliant work transforming how we understand and value energy efficiency, and integrate it into our lives at home, at work, and on the road.
This week: Delivering on a project milestone, and facilitating another kind of conversation
Setting the stage for September: Back to work after a refreshing leave. My primary project for my time at OEE is to develop an engagement strategy. Improving energy efficiency plays a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the transition to a low-carbon future. Designing and delivering on related policies, regulations and programs means OEE colleagues need to work closely with partners and stakeholders. The team wants to increase the impact of their engagement to reach these outcomes. I shared a workplan and proposed approach for management blessing earlier in the summer. Essentially, my intent with the strategy is to “design by doing”. We’ll articulate a vision, map our current state, and develop a set of principles that we can scale. More practically, I have promised to share a first draft early on, plus develop a series of activities to both help the team address some of their more complex questions, test principles, and refine the strategy as things progress. The first outline is done. A number of colleagues commented on it through August, and the executive overseeing the work blessed it on Thursday. It happened in a meeting full of ideas and options and great energy, where we moved from transaction mode into reimagining how we could approach some projects in the next few months. I felt like I floated out of that discussion, and now have a few weeks to come back with a bunch of proposals.
For the love of dialogue: How to set up a conversation to engage a ~40 person management team for three hours on Fostering a Healthy, Respectful Workplace? Earlier this summer I was asked to facilitate a session on the topic, and to collaborate with a colleague on its design. The first challenge was creating an approach that would support open conversation and collective discussion. We wanted to create a space to discuss our team’s Public Service Employment Survey results, reflect on what the team does well, and where we can improve. Given Canada’s commitments on energy efficiency, and the awe-inspiring potential of OEE’s mandate, we centred the discussion on preconditions for effective teamwork. The Google re:work study is accessible and includes a number of practical tools for managers. We also dove into the 13 Factors of Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, which again provides a helpful framing for individuals and organizations of all sizes to reflect on enabling the best possible work environment. Finally, we asked the team to develop individual, one-page, “user manuals” to share with their teams. By creating them together, people are well-positioned to have conversations about how they do their best work.
I’m always grateful for questions that generate a lot of reflection. Here are two I’m walking with:
- How to move from engaging with stakeholders primarily at points of necessity, to engaging as a regular way of doing business? Seeing the value is one thing. Shifting how you approach your work process and deliverables is another layer entirely. Then there is the no-small-matter of how to demonstrate that we are genuinely listening, in a way that affirms credibility, when we are doing so on behalf of an institution. More on that down the road.
- Supporting psychological safety in the workplace as a precondition for team effectiveness: How do we, as both colleagues and managers, support people when they disclose difficult or even traumatic situations? Mental Health First Aid can certainly help in some contexts, however we need to give some thought to tools to support the shift in attitudes towards a more open, healthier, work environment.
Fuel for reflection: reading and resources
Reading: Ella Saltmarshe’s Using Story to Change Systems. “Story has many different qualities that make it useful for the work of systems change. It’s a direct route to our emotions, and therefore important to decision-making. It creates meaning out of patterns. It coheres communities. It engenders empathy across difference. It enables the possible to feel probable in ways our rational minds can’t comprehend. When it comes to changing the values, mindsets, rules, and goals of a system, story is foundational.”
Resources: Words don’t write themselves. I need to make time and space for them, at a time when my mind is clear and my energy is good. I’m starting to use Flowstate (thanks Stephanie Percival) to reclaim 5–10 minute spaces between activities. Separately, in an effort to expand my listening and retention toolkit, I have started practicing “sketchnotes”, to synthesize and communicate more visually.
Next week: Sharing a first iteration of the engagement strategy I have been developing — some close colleagues have kindly agreed to meet for coffee, cookies, and some strong challenge function. Also, the long-awaited Story the Future online summit starts tomorrow. I’m literally counting the moments until I can hear the first speakers. Join me?