It has been 3 years since I wrote “An Agile Adoption & Transformation Survival Guide: Working with Culture” to help the Agile community increase success in spreading Agile. In this video, I share the highlights of what I have learned. Some of it is around thinking tools such as the Laloux Culture Model and some of it is around my inner journey to reach a place where I can really help people and organizations. My goal is for you to take away some practical tools as well as inspiration for your own journey.
- Intro – People over Process.
- Agile = Culture. Whole Agile.
- Focus on People: Vulnerability, Authentic Connection, Safety & Trust (VAST)
- People-centric organizations (Laloux Culture Model)
- People-centric Change
You can also see earlier version of slides and video summary.
Delighted to share the slides from my and Soo Kim’s presentation at Spark The Change.
An insider’s account of a manager’s journey of cultural transformation. How our beliefs and assumptions radically shifted. How we found the courage to fully see what is there and accept it. Being vulnerable enough to speak our truth to allow new options to emerge. Developing the boldness to choose them.
It’s all about how we show up. If we show up in a way that invites people to connect, to trust, to feel safer than usual, they probably will. And astonishing results will follow. Olaf and I have a vast experience of limiting our results because we didn’t dare to show up, speak up, stand up. We’ve been not daring, not trying, not challenging, most of our lives—like most people! We’ve learned the hard way how to show up in a way that enables connection, and impact.
We use the VAST cycle to increase connection to grow engagement in the workplace. We know safety and trust are important, but that is not the whole story. We need whole humans, intensely connected, to unleash the co-creation of astonishing results.
Joint post with Olaf Lewitz.
How to use VAST for Yourself
We use VAST as a way to navigate relationships. It works in personal and professional contexts.
Use VAST for introspection: In relation to another, we may ask ourselves:
- How trusting am I?
- How safe do I feel?
- How connected do I feel?
- How vulnerable am I choosing to be?
- Am I acting authentically?
With this new awareness, the model suggests a variety of moves:
- I can choose to be vulnerable and share how I feel. How I am feeling unsafe. How I am not trusting.
- I can choose to trust the other person and see how my behaviour shifts.
- I can state what I want. “I want to restart this conversation. I want to focus on how we can support each other. I want to focus on the goal.”
- I can ask for help.
In our experience, the most powerful move is vulnerability. Owning our experience and how we feel and then sharing it really kicks off the cycle. That’s what we mean by showing up.
VAST for Organizations
We use VAST to build awareness and choice for organizations. It is especially useful when contrasting with organizational debt (fear, mistrust) as a way of being.
A team, group, or organization may choose VAST as a future way of being. The cycle helps guide behaviour and create ideas for experiments.
We can use it in retrospectives, to collect narratives that demonstrate the behaviour we want. Acknowledge when someone was daring, inspiring us to move forward.
Run a Temenos lab to experience the cycle for yourself or with your team.
Origins of VAST
The VAST cycle is the result of a sense-making journey between Olaf and I over the past years. We have been learning and studying its elements to help ourselves and our clients grow. We didn’t go out to invent something, it just emerged – it’s a discovery. We then noticed how well it explains many beautiful personal and professional growth experiences with ourselves and our clients.
The term “VAST” was created by Anton Gillis-Adelman – who is an expert in turning a jumble of letters into words.
- Brene Brown has taught us greatly on “The Power of Vulnerability” and the need for Authentic Connection.
- Our earlier work includes Deep Insights around Fear, Risk, Safety and Vulnerability and Vulnerability: Where Courage Meets Fear
- Temenos is an experiential workshop where we’ve learned how this works
Success comes from Valuing People
Sadly, many organizations are mired in organizational debt: mistrust, politics and fear. Changing the process won’t fix this. We need to go to the root of it – to find a way to talk about and shift to a healthier culture: one that values people.
The VAST (Vulnerability, Authentic Connection, Safety and Trust) shows us how we can make our workplaces more human.
We outline a fundamentally different approach for organizational change: one where valuing people is integral to building lasting success.
Slides from my Keynote at Lean Into Agile Conference
Video Summary (7 minute PechaKucha)
The WholeHearted Manifesto consists on one value statement:
We Value People. (Period)
People are the driving force behind getting results. This is the secret recipe for success.
We value all people. Our customers. Our peers. But most of all ourselves.
It would be a mistake to think this is fluffy bunny stuff. It’s not. It is the hard stuff that makes all the difference.
The principles of the Wholehearted Manifesto are:
- People happen. Not right, not wrong. They will amaze you.
- Awesome outcomes emerge from people who truly connect.
- Collaboration is our oxygen: we co-create environments for people to flourish and grow.
- We all are on a unique journey and help each other along the way.
- We love and celebrate people for who they are.
- We are open and honest.
- We ask for help before we need it.
If you have any comments, suggestions, or enhancements – please add them on the manifesto page.
Help make a difference
If this message resonates with you – please go sign the manifesto. And please share the message. Let’s move towards a better world.
The manifesto spontaneously emerged during an intense, emergent collaboration session I had with Olaf Lewitz & Christine Neidhardt. We were not seeking this, it just arrived. So I imagine that many other people must be thinking the same thing. So this is a shared idea – not ours. Not anyones.
A wonderful group of people came together to help build the Wholehearted Principles at Play4Agile in Ruchersbach, Germany. Many thanks to:
- Alexey Krivitsky
- Andrea Grass
- Ari-Pekka Lappi
- Christine Neidhardt
- Ivana Gancheva
- Jan Weinkauff
- Jerónimo Palacios
- Michael Sahota
- Mikko Mannila
- Olaf Lewitz
- Rolf Dräther
- Sandra Warmolts
- Sebastian Lang
- Silvana Wasitova
We would also like to thank Brene Brown who has greatly influenced with her wonderful books and TED talks. She introduced the term “wholehearted” to describe people who are able to fully love themselves and bring joy to those around them.
People are messy: they have personalities and emotions. In this post we explore how we can embrace people’s messiness for advantage rather than have it act as a drag.
Default Business Model is Mixed Engagement
A recent study from Carnegie Mellon Training shows that there are very mixed levels of engagement from workers. See diagram to right.
Current estimates are that staff disengagement cost $11 billion from turnover alone. If we include the costs from low productivity, then $11 billion looks like pocket change.
One challenge with the traditional business model is that it denies people’s individuality and feelings. People put on an “office persona” for how they think they need to be to fit in.
In our workplaces, we do not dare to show our true and whole self. We do not feel welcome, and co-create work environments where sub-optimal results and shared ineffectiveness are normal.
The Authentic Workplace
An alternate model for our work environments is to invite people to show up as themselves – as the wonderful human beings that they are – and fully welcome them.
We might imagine an environment that allow us to:
- Relate and connect authentically.
- Share and acknowledge feelings.
- Trust each other
- Feel safe
- Be vulnerable
Typical vs. Authentic Workplace
Consider the following diagram illustrating difference between these models:
In the traditional workplace we create a work identity that is often a shallow project of our true self. Our minds our filled with distractions from our life outside of work. We put in effort to create a distortion field around ourselves to that no one sees our true selves or our distractions.
In an authentic workplace we welcome each others dreams and ambitions, personal history and most importantly our feelings.
Authentic Workplace Benefits
Here are a few benefits:
- People are motivated when they feel valued and connected at work
- “Distractions” can be dealt with so people can focus
- Emotional support for challenges so people get unstuck
- Better decisions since people are safe to share information
Authenticity is a Spectrum
It is valuable in this discussion to keep in mind that this is not a black or white situation: traditional or authentic. We might imagine measuring or sensing the level of authenticity in a given environment. I am not thinking of metrics but guideposts such as: Do people talk about their emotions? Do people feel a sense of community and support? The 12 Questions from “First Break all the rules” can be a helpful here.
How can we develop the skills?
Below are three ways that I have been developing these skills in my own life and practice.
#1 Authentic Connection Circle – Toronto
This week I am starting an Authentic Connection Circle in Toronto as a way for people to build capacity for authentically relating to one another. We will do this by talking about the stuff that scares us to build trust and create a safe environment.
Some might dismiss this as fluffy Bunny New Age. It’s not.
It’s about character.
Mastering out own patterns and history so that we can engage effectively with others is hard work. It takes character to be authentic and welcome what shows up in people.
#2 Temenos Workshops for Trust and Connection
Temenos is an experiential workshop that invites us to experience connection, openness and trust on a level that’s not accessible to us in daily life. With Temenos, we can safely test more effective methods of relating with others.
Temenos provides a safe setting to explore this space to develop our existing skills. We discover that we can open up to people and learn that this satisfies a deeply rooted human need.
With this experience, we may dare to treat each other more openly, truthfully, and effectively than before. We’re more aware of who we are, and what we want.
- Toronto – Jan 25 & 26 (Michael)
- Frankfurt – Feb. 19 & 20 (Michael/Olaf/Christine) – no website yet. Contact me if you are interested.
- Munich – Dec 12 – 14 (Olaf/Christine)
#3 Core Protocols
The Core Protocols are a set of rules designed to support high-performance teams. Some of the protocols are very supportive of building an authentic workplace. I will briefly highlight a few of them here:
- Check-in. At the start of a meeting or day everyone shares their emotional state so that there is awareness around how people are entering this context. A simple format of: I am … <glad> <sad> <afraid> is used.
- Check-out. People check out when they feel they cannot focus and be productive.
- Alignment. People share what their personal development goal is and lets others know how they can help.
Leaders Go First
In “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, Stehphen Covey talks about this as “Victory begins at home”. If you want to see these changes and benefits in your organization, you need to go first. Leadership in organizations comes from all levels. Be the change you want to see.
The primary source of this thinking for me comes from Brene Brown. Olaf Lewitz and I have been collaborating on the developing these ideas and applying them in workplaces. Parts of the text around Temenos were co-written with Olaf. Pascal Pink contributed key ideas in helping explain what Temenos really is about.
(Joint post with Olaf Lewitz)
What is Temenos?
Temenos is also the name of a special kind of experiential laboratory (usually delivered as a weekend lab) that Siraj Sirajuddin has created over many years integrating diverse influences. He’s been using these labs to support lean and agile transformations in his practice as an Organisational Transformation Mentor.
In a broader sense, Temenos is also a philosophy and mindset.
In brief, deep bonds, trust and healing result from exploring each other’s personal history (how we became who we are) and visions (who we want to be). We use the conceptual model of a container to help us perceive and understand our relationship with ourself and other, so that we can consciously let go of emotional baggage and create strategies that serve our and others’ needs in an exercise we call Clean Slate.
Temenos is a Greek word for a transformational container, such as a cut off piece of land dedicated to a king or god. It is a contained space of spiritual importance. For us Temenos, means a place where we can be our authentic selves.
Temenos Outcomes and Mechanics
The diagram below is intended to be a sketch rather than a definitive guide of the why, how, and what of Temenos. A key objective of Tememos is to get people into a state of relational flow where they are aligned and don’t keep bumping up against people’s wounds and challenges. The bottom items (what) are the actual activities that are conducted in a Temenos.
Healing ourselves using authentic connections
- Influence Maps – sharing what our influences are
Growing strong containers
- Clean Slate – getting rid of baggage
- Containers – how we create safety and opportunities for transformation
Building Authentic Connection through Sharing Perceptions and Appreciations
- Temenos Feedback – how we help people see their better selves
- Update Strategy – how we deliberately modify our relationships with others
Alignment of Personal and Shared Visions
- Who do I want to be? Where do I want to be?
- Where do we want to be?
Through Lean/Agile and other approaches it has become clear that high-performing environments (containers) live on a foundation of trust, safety and respect. Temenos lab is an experience centered around fostering the relationships between beings. This is helpful for people who work together as a team. In particular it was designed to help leadership teams go first in the transformation of their organisations.
Why Attend Temenos?
Attending a Temenos lab can serve multiple purposes. Without limiting your options, I’m listing a few common intentions that participants had in attending a Temenos lab or organising one. Siraj hosts monthly labs at Kayser Ridge in West Virgina, about 2h drive from Dulles airport (Washington DC). We’re planning to organise Temenos labs in Europe later this year. Ping us if you’re interested!
Temenos for Your Personal Growth
The endless curiosity and passion we’re born with gets dampened when we meet the limits of the context we grow up in. This can hurt, and deviate us from our path of growth. Attending a Temenos can help you clarify for yourself what you want, who you are, who you can and want to be, and help you devise a strategy for your success.
Temenos for Your Team
A team’s effectiveness and performance is strongly correlated with its members’ ability to articulate what they think and feel, say what they want and help each other achieving it. Attending a Temenos lab together gives you this option, and may lead you to create a shared vision.
Temenos for Your Leadership Team
The leadership team of an organisation is a special kind of team, as the product you co-create and grow is your organisation. Communication habits and behavioural styles within this team give an example to all people in your organisation. Achieving a clean slate and shared vision in the leadership team, nurturing your ability to create and sustain authentic connections to other beings, will greatly improve your effectiveness in helping your organisation achieve its goals.
“The Temenos session at Play4Agile 2013 with Olaf Lewitz and Michael Sahota helped me to see more of my person and talents and my intuition which helps me in my work. I got enriched by opening my inner self in the deep process in this secure container. I had the impression that I entered a room where we all are in connection and help us to see ourselves with all our aspects. The process allowed and invited me through getting in resonance to the stories of other people to heal my wounds and to see that I’m not alone. Now, I have a better understanding how it feels that we are all connected.” – Christine Neidhardt, Coach, Nürnberg
“The Temenons workshop gave me a lot of new insights to recognize who I am and what made me the person I am today. It connects different experiences in my life with strengths & weaknesses of my character and the environments (containers) I live in and grew up to a whole picture. A picture of different colours, structures and signs of beauty and ugliness. A picture that shows me who I am and that I can be what and who I am.” – A Scrum Master
Explanation by Siraj Sirajuddin
Inventor Siraj Sirajuddin explains the Temenos from a Jungian perspective
Further Writing by Others
More people participating in Temenos labs have been publishing their experience:
- Experience the Power of Temenos Vision Labs
- A New Mythology For Women—Temenos November 2012
- Temenos Retreat – A Journey of Change
- My Experience Building Deep Trust
(if you know of or have written a blog post about a Temenos lab experience, please ping me so that I can complete this list.)
- Toronto 2 Day, June 8/9 – Michael
- Germany, July 19-20 (details tbd) — Olaf and Christine Heider
- Nashville, TN, August 2/3/4 – Before Agile 2013 – Olaf & Michael
- Washington, DC, monthly events (with Siraj)
Ping us if you are interested.
In the course of our lives, we all encounter events that shape us, allow us to change and grow, that have made us who we are. We don’t tend to acknowledge or appreciate these events, and we rarely share them. Understanding our own path, reflecting how we became who we are, which influences determined what we value and what we want, is a powerful source of personal growth. We better understand our own unique identity, our relationships with others and the related emotional baggage to the load we carry around in our lives.
Influence Maps is the module in a Temenos lab that allows you to reflect, visualise (map) and articulate your personal history, and share it with the group—as detailed and deep as you choose to. Like every Temenos module, Influence Maps works on its own, too.
Influence Maps (the key/main part of a Temenos lab) are used in group workshops to:
- Create deep personal learning and growth,
- Connect with other participants and develop a deep level of trust,
- Allow ourselves to be seen and accepted as human beings,
- Create the opportunity for participants to heal one another’s emotional wounds.
An influence map is a visual depiction of the influences in our lives that have led to us becoming the person we are.
The diagram below shows the main elements of Influence Maps and how the Tememos container serves as a safe and caring environment.
Influence Maps help you understand and appreciate your past. This will hurt as you share past trauma, and makes you ready to be healed.
The healing and personal growth results are emergent from the container we collectively create. A high-quality container will lead to a myriad of opportunities.
Don’t mistake the Temenos’ healing effect with therapy. While we all have our unique history and individual and specific things we did and had happen to us, the strategies we use to deal with them tend to show common patterns. Many people who lose a dear person, for example, go through a stage of denial. Through sharing our history we create resonance with others who’ve been employing similar strategies.
“People heal from their pain when they have an authentic connection with another human being.”
Example Influence Maps
Before we explain the workshop setup and mechanics, here are some example influence maps.
As influence maps are a creative expression of one’s identity, there is no one “right” way to do them.
Trust. Safety. Caring. These are the properties that participants are asked to create and nurture in a Temenos. The role of the facilitator is to work with participants to have these properties rapidly emerge. For example, supporting and encouraging vulnerability so that we can speak about the issues that shame us and hold us from our potential.
From our experience, the group size should not exceed 6-8 voluntary participants who are interested in personal growth.
The first exercise in a Temenos lab (and the one taking up most of the time) is drawing and sharing of Influence Maps. The process is very simple:
- Introspect: Through a guided meditation with music, we ask you to reflect on your life. Use your timeline to guide your memories. Imagine a trusted friend asked you: What do I need to know about you that will help me understand who you really are? Ask yourself: What about me do I not dare to tell anyone? How much of that might I be willing to share to understand myself better?
- Visualise: Each participant uses a large flipchart paper and creates their life’s story with an eye towards defining moments and key influences. Many people find it useful to draw a timeline, but any expression of your deepest self will work. It’s not about the drawing, it’s about the story you tell.
- Articulate: Participants take turns telling their stories through their influence map. Before any person shares their story, another participant will set the stage for her, to initialise the Temenos: “Sit down, slow down, breathe, and focus on the whole person who will present herself.” Then share your story with the group. The group will help you understand yourself better: You mentioned <…>. Could you slow that down for us? How did that make you feel?
- As a member of the group (or a facilitator): Observe for patterns. Participants are able to help each other learn and heal in two ways. When we are similar in a trait, we can see ourselves better through the other person. One person struggling with a loss will be able to help another: “If you can forgive yourself for doing <…>, I can forgive myself for doing <…>”. An example from a recent Temenos: “If you can forgive yourself for being an average parent and making mistakes, then I can forgive myself for doing the same.” When we are dissimilar, we can see what is missing in ourselves or help others see what they may be missing.
At least two people in the group should know how to ask open (coaching) questions.
The Influence Maps add depth to the Temenos. Without them you will still identify improvement options, and have less probability for moments of true transformation.
Healing Conversations in Buddhism
Thich Nhat Hanh has this to say:
Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.
“Inspiring, Healing, Present. Michael’s presence facilitates the creation of a strong container to support making the connection from the heart, not the mind. The influence map is a powerful tool for building connection.” – An Agile Coach
“Moving, Revealing, Balancing. I found that deep connections to other human beings can be found and made a lot more often than I expected. A safe space was created and held all the way through it.” – Melanie Meinen
Origins of Temenos
Temenos is a special kind of experiential laboratory (usually delivered as a weekend lab) that Siraj Sirajuddin has created over many years integrating diverse influences such as Buddhist, Islamic, Jesuit and Hindu spirituality, mythology and Jungian psychology. He’s been using these labs to support lean and agile transformations in his practice as an Organisational Transformation Mentor.
- Toronto, April 27/28 – Michael
- Germany, July 19-20 (details tbd) — Olaf and Christine Heider
- Nashville, TN, August 2/3/4 – Before Agile 2013 – Olaf & Michael
- Washington, DC, monthly events (with Siraj)
Ping us if you are interested.
Brene Brown had an amazing discovery: The people who have love and belonging believe they are worthy of love and belonging. These people, dubbed the “wholehearted” were able to overcome the shame issues that limit people’s lives. This post is based on Brown’s video The Power of Vulnerability and in her book The Gifts of Imperfection.
The wholehearted have a set of common traits shown in the infographic below.
The definition of the word vulnerable is “susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm”. How can this be a good thing?
At her TED Talk Listening to Shame, Brown surveys the audience to show that people see vulnerability as pure courage – as long as it’s someone else!
Browns research shows that practicing vulnerability is essential for building the social connections required for living a life of joy and belonging. We have to risk being hurt in order to build strong connections with people. Yes, you do have to talk about that difficult issue if you want a strong relationship. Yes, you do have to ask that person out and risk rejection to make progress.
Many organizations are concerned about how to bring creativity and innovation to the workplace. Brown argues that vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change. How people inter-relate and function as a social network is at the core of this.
The following three elements are all necessary aspects of vulnerability: Courage, Compassion, Authenticity.
Courage is not about heroics and it’s not about a character trait. It is about regular practice in daily life. Each day we have many opportunities to practice our courage: to do the right thing, to be vulnerable, to be authentic. It can be as simple as telling someone that you don’t want a meeting that you don’t think is valuable – even though you know it may lead to conflict. It may be in some areas of your life you are very courageous while others could use work.
We are imperfect. We all want to be seen as good, fair, reasonable. And yet the reality is that we are human, not perfect, and we make mistakes. We forget. We ignore our inside voices telling us what is right. The wholehearted not only recognize their imperfections, but see them as part of who they are and embrace them lovingly.
Compassion is a deep form of empathy where we co-suffer with the other person. Pema Chödrön writes “When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience the fear of our pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently towards what scares us.” Wholehearted living requires that we be compassionate to ourselves as well as others.
I have noticed over the last few days as I have written about empathy and shame, I have room for improvement in practicing compassion towards myself. After a troubling event, I immediately went into the trap of “looking on the bright side”. When I noticed this, I slowed down and gave myself the grace to experience a flood of emotions around the issue. To allow myself to be heard and acknowledged. It was difficult in the moment but allowed me to discharge the feelings so they did not impact the rest of my day.
A critical piece of this is kindness to ourselves. Brown states: “We can only be kind to others to the extent that we can be kind to ourselves.” I have kids and this struck me through my soul like a sharp burning knife. At the time I was aware I had low levels of self-kindness, so the implication that I could not be fully kind to my children really hurt. This truth, has led to a year+ long quest for self-kindness. (But that’s another post).
Authenticity is about being true to who we really are 24 hours a day. It means that we know who we are (imperfections and all) and let ourselves be seen that way. It means that we say and do what our true identity requires. And yes, this means taking on risk. But that is what we need to do to fully reclaim our lives.
I would like to add Brown’s Caution: “If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment and inexplicable grief.”
The good news is that there is a path forward for fully living our lives. The bad news is that there is a world of difference between knowing what you need to do and knowing how to do it. There are some guideposts (starting places) for learning how to make changes in your life in The Gifts of Imperfection. If you are interested in making changes in your life, it is best to start with Brown’s first book I Thought it was Just me since this is much more helpful in understanding what challenges you are up against.
I would like to close with the following quote from Brene Brown: “Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging”. (p.1)
I thank Brene Brown for her excellent job modeling the power of vulnerability and for helping me in my life. I would also like thank everyone who participated in the “Gifts of Imperfection” meetup group for a safe space to practice vulnerability.