Friday, November 19, 2010

Time to Reflect: Cooking Up Your GTD Weekly Review

As many of my friends and acquaintances know I am a big fan of Getting Things Done (see the blog's GTD tag on this, and also the tag on Productivity). One of the GTD tenets is the "Weekly Review" and there are some great resources for this - from the GTD Times article The GTD Weekly Review to videos of David Allen on YouTube talking you through it in 2 minutes.

I was always rather apprehensive about starting the Weekly Review because it seemed like a potentially never ending task and completely absorbing. What has helped considerably, psychologically getting over that barrier to starting, is using one of two incredibly simple and rather obvious things - one, an Online Alarm Clock that you can set for 30 minutes (or however long you want to invest) and which goes off sounding like a bullfrog impersonating a police siren.

The other is using the Pomodoro Technique (a simple technique that involves a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato and 25 minutes chunks of your life). This helps you cut up the task into bitesize pieces, gives you a break in between and helps you plan exactly how much time you want to devote. You will get over the loud ticking (or find a cozy home for it under a chair in a far corner of the room).

Now I set my online clock, or wind up my tomato and get reviewing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gaming an Interview: Using Interviews to Explore Teammember and Teamwork Potential

I just had a suggestion come in to help make job interviews more informative, and therefore increase the potential of finding a match between the candidate, the position, and team within which it sits. How do you learn enough about someone (and help them learn enough about you) to make this important match successful?

Traditional interviews often start with "Tell us a little about yourself" and end with asking the candidate a series of standard questions that have been developed to give some insights on how people will approach the task being advertised. The sampling of information about the interpersonal elements comes during a 30-60 minute timeframe, during which everyone on both sides (supply and demand) are in an entirely artificial and often rather awkward situation. If you wanted more information, and a different kind of information, why not play a game?

What an interesting interview, from the candidate's perspective, if you were asked to play a problem-solving game with the whole team - it could explore notions of team development, communication, trust, leadership or any other number of important team elements. It could also feature some good debriefing questions (What metaphor does this exercise bring to mind? When have you seen these dynamics/behaviours before? What did you do? etc.) which would help people share a bit more (all around) and with a great deal of nuance about their paradigm of team work and their approach to work more generally.

If you were hiring a trainer or facilitator, you could even ask them to bring in the game and run it for you (we did this at LEAD when we were hiring the next Director of Capacity Development). We actually looked forward to the interviews and could see people in a familiar and comfortable role (than sitting in a chair on the other side of a long table!)

An added benefit for the recruiting team is that it is more fun to play a game than simply sitting in interviews all day and asking the same questions (change the game each time to keep them on their toes), and it provides a team development opportunity that is valuable whatever the outcome of the interview.

Thanks, Andy, for the idea!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Meetings Too Long and Too Wordy? Try a Twitter Meeting

I hear over and over again that meetings go way too long (and certainly have been in more than a few of these myself). People are not always to the point (if they get to the point), and the actionable items are often embedded in lots of description and anecdote. Loose narrative is not necessarily a bad thing, and at the same time, when an institution has a meeting culture where everything happens in meetings, it is refreshing when they are planned, concise, decisive, and over.

Would it be possible to practice being concise by having a meeting on Twitter?

Here is how it might happen. You could have the first meeting in the same room, with everyone there with their laptops or smart phones. You would have to get everyone on Twitter (in most institutions, only a minority are - and still people are incredibly curious). Help them sign in, set up and connect. Then do a little practice chatting so people get the mechanics. Then start your meeting - try to conduct at least the first item completely on Twitter.

Imagine a silent room with 10 people in it all staring at their computers or phones - frankly, lots of meetings with one person talking are still like this (except people on their laptops and phones are not paying attention to the speaker - see my blog post on Email During Workshops: Bad Manners or Proof of a New Paradigm). At least this time, the other 9 people are all typing and commenting as the person sends through their very concise report, idea, or question. Every agenda item would have everyone's multiple inputs - thoughts, comments and questions. Stop at some point and debrief it, how is it going? It is interactive? Are people getting used to saying things that are short and pithy?

The next practice might be the same group in their offices. Set a time for the Twitter meeting and have everyone start engaging on Twitter from wherever they are. Imagine in this format, some of the people might be at home, on the train, or having a coffee at the cafeteria. Again see what that is like in terms of helping people be concise, and in the next face-to-face meeting reflect on that. How easy is it to get to the point? How much preparation does it take to have a short meeting? (I think it always takes more - how many people do not prepare at all for meetings, and do their thinking on their feet? Is this why meetings can take so long?) With the Twitter meeting, how easy is it to interact and engage in the discussion? And what's it like to have the minutes of the meeting at your fingertips immediately as the meeting is going on?

Full disclosure, I have not yet tried this myself although I love the idea. It sounds like an excellent way to help people notice the value of being concise in meetings and to help them practice that. Even in a formal learning situation it might be an interesting exercise in using social media, reflective practice, summarising, reporting, and two-way communication. If you try this, let me know!