Diagnosing Strengths & Barriers to Learning on Teams

I’m studying the course Creating a Team Culture of Continuous Learning on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 2.

Diagnosing Problems in Groups and Teams

  • We tend to think we bring together a group of people, and they will be high performing
  • It doesn’t always work! How can we identify the problems?
  • Example: steering committee on an organisational development initiative
    • Interesting patterns:
      • Every time the team met in person, lots of laughter and jokes. The were agreeable on almost anything that was discussed during the meeting
      • However, after the meeting, lots of emails sent raising numerous issues, which were not discussed during the in-person meetings
      • The next time they met, none of the issues were raised
  • The culture of politeness
    • We’re interfacing with each other, face to face, we’re going to be polite
    • “Real” issues are secondary to being polite
    • Being polite gets in the way of learning in organisations
  • The pattern of repeating
    • Even when contentious issues are raised, other people in the meeting disengage and lose focus. They’re not wanting to signal agreement or disagreement.
    • The speaker worries that they don’t get acknowledgement, so they repeat the same thing, a bit louder and more exuberant.
      • “I’ll do it again, and they’ll get it this time”
    • Not breaking the the frame, not stepping back or taking some sort of time-out.
  • Conflict is often avoided
    • People don’t feel the need to confront each other
    • They’re not comfortable dealing with conflicts
    • Undiscussable issues are not discussed during meetings
      • Conflicts are discussed outside of formal meetings, over a lunch or a beer
  • How to interrupt the negative cycle
    1. Pause, and raise the question of “What’s going on here?”
      • Make the pause part Ground rules.
      • Allow the team to re-frame and refocus
      • It needs to be a deliberate activity
      • The leader needs to help establish that this an effective and acceptable practice in the team
      • Examples:
        • work teams in factories can stop the whole production line
        • retrospectives
    2. Try to identify what the issue is
      • Where is the team is getting stuck?
    3. Collect a little data.
      • Ask everyone on the team:
        • What’s working well?
        • What isn’t working well?
      • Do an anonymous survey if people are uncomfortable talking in the open about what the issues are.
      • Don’t just make assumptions. Really try to figure out what people are seeing

Scenario: Healthcare, Part 1

  • Background
    • Hospital in a major metropolitan area that is busy 24 hours a day
    • Doctors and nurses are rushing about
    • There is tremendous paperwork behind every job that gets done
    • There is a grave problem:
      • Patients come in to the ER, and are waiting to be admitted to a bed in the hospital
      • Between their time in at the ER, and getting to the bed, there is a lag of time.
      • Sometimes, patients have waited up to 7 hours in a hallway in a gurney waiting for the bed to be available.
      • Who’s at fault?
      • Who can find a solution to this problem?
    • Cross functional team to solve the problem
      • Senior physician is leader
      • Representatives from nursing, facilities, safety, and housekeeping
      • Only 10% of the 2 hour meeting has everybody there trying to solve this
  • Chief medical officer:
    • We have too many patients waiting in the hall.
    • We’re getting calls all the time, looking for beds
    • What’s the problem?
  • Head of nursing:
    • By the time housekeeping has finished with the room, we have to put it in, confirm it, by the time we get the information to you (chief medical officer), it’s too late. Hours have passed.
  • Head of health and safety:
    • It is an infrastructure problem. We need better phone lines, better IT
  • Director of facilities and infrastructure
    • That is absolutely untrue. New phone lines, new IT system. That’s review board and a huge budget
  • <<crosstalk>>
  • Head of nursing:
    • We don’t even know if it’s going to work
  • <<crosstalk>>
  • Chief medical officer:
    • If it helps communication, I agree that it might be a good idea. We need to talk about it
  • Director of facilities and infrastructure:
    • it’s just a way over the top solution.
  • <<crosstalk>>
  • Head of nursing:
    • It’s just another thing that I have to teach an entire staff of people
  • Director of facilities and infrastructure:
    • I think the infrastructure problem is a personal infrastructure, there could be a way to open that.
  • Chief medical officer:
    • Yes, but listen, we have the finances to do whatever we need
  • Head of nursing:
    • If we have the finances, we should be hiring more nurses
  • <<crosstalk>>
  • Head of health and safety:
    • Is that the problem?
  • Head of nursing:
    • Yes, that’s the problem!
  • Head of housekeeping:
    • There are people in the rooms who are cleaning. They can do the job, they can report directly.
  • Head of nursing:
    • Yeah, but we need to have checks in place
  • <<crosstalk>>
  • Head of nursing:
    • Unfortunately, your staff can not be counted on (talking to housekeeping)
  • Director of facilities and infrastructure:
    • There is a huge competency problem. Huge! They don’t show up, they take 25 minute smoke breaks.
  • Head of housekeeping:
    • You’re not even on our floor.
  • Head of nursing:
    • But I am, and I feel like I consistently have problems and rooms are not cleaned consistently and adequately
  • <<crosstalk>>
  • Chief medical officer:
    • The problem is if the beds are not prepared, then we are in deep shit.
  • Director of facilities and infrastructure:
    • There’s a way we could work within this infrastructure personally
  • Head of nursing:
    • I just feel incredibly frustrated. I have almost no staff, and I have another team that feels unwilling to work with us, and if I could find a way…
  • Chief medical officer:
    • How hard is it to pick up the phone? That’s what I want to know.
    • (walks off)
  • Head of housekeeping:
    • (to head of nursing) My staff can work with your staff, they just don’t need to, they can go directly.
  • Head of nursing:
    • I’m unwilling to have these conversation when not everyone is present
  • Director of facilities and infrastructure:
    • Shall we table this for next week?
  • Chief medical officer:
    • (walks back)
    • So, how are we doing?
  • Director of facilities and infrastructure:
    • We are nowhere.

Debrief: Scenario, Part 1

  • It was a shouting match, no one listening
  • There was a lot of blaming
    • Chief of health and safety blamed an entire housekeeping department for not being competent
  • Chief medical officer seemed very uninterested.
    • Not even physically available for the entire meeting
    • Left to take a call
  • No solution focus
  • When we’re in a “fight” situation, our guards go up and we protect ourselves from blame.
  • Defensive routines (Agyris)
    • Triggered when we feel attached
    • “My group did our part”
    • “It’s not our fault”
    • There’s very little communication.
  • Teams need to find a way to reframe “fights” to “an exchange of ideas”, or something constructive
    • Stepping back and listening, as opposed to just asserting your own view points
  • Can we voice what the assumptions are?
    • That prevents them from going underground, getting buried

Scenario: Healthcare, Part 2

  • Background
    • Let’s assess the previous meeting, so that we can make some structural changes to the way that they communicate
  • Chief medical officer:
    • I think the last meeting was difficult. I think we need to find a way to make our meetings more effective so that we can solve the problem at hand
    • There’s no hierarch. Everyone is free to express themselves.
    • What did we do wrong in the last meeting?
  • Head of housekeeping:
    • It was not good. Everyone talked over everyone else.
  • Director of facilities and infrastructure:
    • Well, this is progress. We are laughing at each other.
    • I feel like if we’re really going to be focused on what we’re focusing on, we can’t keep taking calls in the middle of meetings.
  • Head of housekeeping:
    • In regard to staying focused, I think we really need to listen to everybody. I did not feel heard at the last meeting. I felt there was definitely a pecking order going on.
  • Chief medical officer:
    • Well, why don’t we  just go around and one person at a time take a minute, say what they need to say with no interruptions.
  • Head of nursing:
    • We for me the last meeting was really frustrating because I felt ganged up on, and there was no one stepping in. We nurses are overworked as it is, and we hardly have a chance to catch a breath more or less. I think two or three times, steps down the line.
  • Head of health and safety:
    • Guys, it’s easy to point fingers, and point out where other people drop the ball, but I think we could all do a lot better with less blame.
  • Chief medical officer:
    • Something I really would like is if people could come from their own departments with ideas from their own departments that might solve the problem at hand, and think about it ahead of time.
  • Head of housekeeping:
    • I feel like I did do that. I did come to a meeting with a solution I’d thought of that didn’t get heard. A lot of assumptions were being made about the skills of my staff. Nine times out of ten, the room is clean when the nurse comes to check it. My housekeeper could enter that into the system, get that message to the ER right way, save you time and work. I hired the staff. I know that they can do it.
  • Chief medical officer:
    • I don’t think that the housekeeping are going to solve this problem. I mean, this is a really high takes problem, this is a big deal.
  • Director of facilities and infrastructure:
    • Well, just to point out in the open format, you just made the assumption that Sarah was talking about, that housekeepers somehow can’t do it.
  • Chief medical officer:
    • Okay, all right, duly noted.
  • Head of nursing:
    • I does seem sometimes that we aren’t listening and we’re pushing too hard with our own ideas.
  • Chief medical officer:
    • How about is somebody vould volunteer to write down what is being said in the meetings, because I know everybody’s got on their mind, and then distribute it.
  • Head of housekeeping:
    • I’m happy to do that.
  • Chief medical officer:
    • Great. Maybe write down your proposal.

Debrief: Scenario, Part 2

  • The team takes time out, and is able to step back and review its own operation
  • It will take time to get these “retrospectives” working well
  • In this space, people have time, they are listened to, they are “in” the space.
  • The leader plays an important role in shifting the focus of the meeting
    • They have to give a green light to allow the meeting to progress (e.g. without hierachies)
    • They have to be careful not to fill the meeting space with their own voice
  • After Action Review
    • A meeting to assess what we just experienced
    • In the meeting you’re calling a timeout.
    • We want to examine what just happened, and figure out a better way.
  • The leader models the behaviour
    • e.g. I’m turning off my cell phone
  • Need to deal with specifics.
    • “We all need to listen to each other.”
    • No! Let’s examine the times when people didn’t listen to each other. Let’s be specific and detailed, not vague and general.
  • Phased approach
    1. Leave the rank and hierarchy at the door
    2. The leader legitimises, role models the behavior, creates permission, ground rules, space
    3. Examine the process. What was going on? Being in the moment.
  • It’s not about blame. It’s about effectiveness.
    • It’s about the interactions of the group, not about what you did.
    • We need to take our own responsiblity in this and focus on effectiveness, no blame
    • I’m in control of my response to what you did. I need to control my response.
  • Conduct After Action Reviews frequently
    • Some teams set aside the last 5 minutes of ever meeting for this purpose
    • Keep continually learning about what worked well, what isn’t working, and how you can improve it.
    • “What worked well” is a good reframing. You can use it at the start of the next meeting.
  • Appreciated Inquiry (Passmore and Woodman, 1987)
  • Slow down the meeting.
    • Don’t let people jump in and claim the airtime.
    • Get everyone to write down a few ideas first.
      • What are some of your thoughts about how we could become more effective?
      • People are working in parallel
    • Make sure you respond to other peoples points and issues, don’t immediately jump in and add your own.

Our After Action Review

  • This is about how I’m impacting you, and how we’re impacting each other.
  • Am I thinking about the things that you’re thinking about.
  • Are we meeting our goals?
    • Being clear about our goals
  • Lack of immediate feedback from the learner
  • Our group norms:
    • Questioning our rames, learning from each other
    • Giving concrete examples and cases that illustrate our points
    • Checking to make sure we covered the main points

Guide to the After Action Review

  • Guide to the After Action Review
    • An AAR is centered on four questions:
      • What was expected to happen?
      • What actually occurred?
      • What went well and why?
      • What can be improved and how?
    • An AAR features:
      • An open and honest professional discussion
      • Participation by everyone on the team
      • A focus on results of an event or project
      • Identification of ways to sustain what was done well
      • Development of recommendations on ways to overcome obstacles
    • Contents:
      1. Planning the After Action Review
      2. Conducting an After Action Review
      3. Sharing the AAR Results

Skilled Incompetence (Argyris, 1986)

  • Skilled Incompetence
    • Smart executive team, but unable to make clear decisions
    • What Causes Incompetence?
      • The culprit is skill
    • Where the Skillful Thrive
    • Defense Routines Emerge
    • How to Become Unskilled
      • The answer is unlearning


  • BART stands for Boundaries, Authority, Roles, and Task
  • BART is a way of thinking about teams that emphasizes psychodynamic processes
  • Boundaries
    • e.g. time, physical setting, psychological, etc
    • Time boundary examples
      • people arriving late, checking mail during meeting, etc
      • In many cultures, commencing a meeting on time is considered very important, a trademark of being very professional at work.
      • In other cultures, they’re very lenient. It’s OK to stary a meeting 15 minutes later than the scheduled time.
    • Perhaps the team does not value boundaries.
  • Authority
    • e.g. who wields authority, who has formal or informal authority
    • e.g. the person who was the designated leader was not the actual leader. The acutal leader was another team member who was a subject matter expert.
    • Who is considered to be an authority in the context?
    • We have formal and informal authority
  • Roles
    • e.g. formal and informal roles
    • e.g. one team had a member who was seen and designated as the contrarian
      • every point that was made, he felt called upon to disagree, contract, argue
      • he was really their critical thinking partner, so that turned out to be positive
    • Think about what the role says about the group or team and how you can understand that
  • Task
    • e.g. at least 2 tasks
      • work task
        • What is it that we’re assigned to do?
        • What is our purpose?
      • survival task
        • How do we sustain ourselves?
        • How do we continue our activity?
    • Teams can often get confused between their survival task, as opposed to their assignment

The BART System of Group and Organizational Analysis (Green & Molenkamp, 2005)

Focus on Culture and Conflict in Teams: Part 1 – Culture

  • Team that function well are able to deal with having a team member absent, and welcome them back on their return
  • Power Distance (Hosftede & Hofstede, 2005)
    • The aspect of where and how authority empower distributed inthe organisation
  • Project teams almost always have a pecking order
  • It is imperative that the organisational culture provides or accomodates collaboration seamlessly across culture or across authorities when the situation so demands
    • When there are emergencies, to be able to rise out of the authority matrix and be able to chip in, get your points and thoughts across
  • Effective teams have productive conversations. That is not about pecking order, but who has information
  • Overt and covert norms affect the team
    • Overt norms: norms the team recognises
    • Covert norms: norms that are below the surface, not reconised.
    • Ground rules on norms
  • Ground rules
    • Ground rules should be about the purpose of the team
    • There are also ground rules about the operational aspects of the team:
      • “it’s OK to disagree”,
      • or “let’s not interrupt each other”
  • The evolution of Japanese management: Lessons for U.S. managers (marsland & Beer, 1980)
    • Japanese firms spent a lot of time planning, less on implementation
    • U.S. firms spent less time planning
    • Japanese firms spent much less time in implementation because they had spent the time planning
  • Excitement about learning
  • Culture orientations
  • Subcultures
  • Culture is a very important diagnostic lens

Focus on Culture and Conflict in Teams: Part 2 – Conflict

  • Many organisations avoid conflict
    • Get the like-minded people together
    • This is a mistake
  • We need to get the people with different views in the space and bring them into the team so the differences can be expressed
  • Reframe conflict as “creative tension”
    • Is is tensions, there are different views, but it is creative
    • Getting undiscussable issues on the table can lead to insights. It’s ultimately where great transformation comes from


  • We encourage you to:
    1. Acknowledge what is going on in the team
    2. Step back and identify issues that are causing problems (look at not just the symptoms, but the underlying issues)
    3. What is happening in the larger organisation that is impacting the team
    4. Collect some data (check assumptions)

Other References|Additional Readings

  • Hofstede G. & Hofstede, G. J. (2005). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind (2nd Ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.
  • Marsland, S. & Beer, M. (1980). The evolution of Japanese management: Lessons for U.S. managers. Harvard Business Review.
  • Smith, K. K., & Berg, D. N. (1987). Paradoxes of group life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Darling, M., Parry, C., & Moore, J. (2005, Jul-Aug). Learning in the Thick of It. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/
  • Tavistock Primer II (Hayden & Molenkamp). Link: http://akrice.org/wp-content/uploads/primerII.pdf

Introduction to Framing and Systems Thinking

I’m studying the course Creating a Team Culture of Continuous Learning on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 1.

Framing, Reframing & Systems Thinking

Framing and Reframing

  • Metaphor: different camera lenses
  • If you put on a telephoto lens, you’re going to see something quite different to what you would see through a wide-angle lens
  • When people are in meetings, they usually come from a particular place or discipline, and they are caught in that way of looking at things
  • Example of reframing:
    • Tell me about the problems you are having in your organisation.
    • Stop! We don’t have problems here, we have only challenges.
  • Reframing: moved from a negative to ways to empower the organisation
  • What is a frame? Do we know what our frames are?
    • By default, we look at a situation, and we try and we try and make sense.
    • There’s so much information that you can’t make sense unless you apply a frame
  • How do I use someone else’s frame?
  • Often, there are questions about “who is responsible?” or “who is to blame?”
  • We must replace the “blame frame”. Change to a learning or discovery frame.
    • This is a big aspect of why teams don’t find solutions

The Story of George Washington Bridge

  •  Background:
    • The George Washington Bridge is one of the major arteries of traffic into the city of New York from the west
    • It’s always a bottleneck, even when traffic is flowing smoothly
    • When there’s problems or accidents, the bottleneck becomes a complete standstill, which is a serious issue for life all around the city
  • This story is about barriers, in more ways than one
  • It’s the middle of the 1970’s. Usually, about once a month, there’s a head-on collision on the bridge
  • Stakeholders:
    • The nearest hospital is Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. All the staff work very hard to save the lives of the victims of these crashes
      • No matter what the hospital staff do to improve their service, the accidents still happen. They’re not preventing accidents from happening.
    • the police, law enforcement, the Port Authority
      • Looked to prevent accidents through the enforcement of laws
    • the maintenance departments
      • Looked to prevent accidents ensuring the paint the double-yellow lines was fresh, using glow in the dark paint
    • These groups are also working to improve their ability to prevent accidents.
    • They do not prevent the accidents
  • Everyone is doing their part to improve their area of responsiblity, but the system isn’t really changing, and the accidents still happen.
  • Until….
    • Everyone steps back from their part of the problem, and thinks about the system as a whole
    • When they do that, new innovative breakthroughs and solutions are possible
    • As you think about the whole problem, it’s possible to think about solutions that prevent all accidents from happening so there are zero defects (no accidents at all)
  • The solution (in this case) happened to be concrete barriers
    • A solution was devised that dissolved the problem. Not just solved it, but made it disappear. This is an important breakthrough!
  • Why did it take so long? Why do people take so long to find solutions?
    • The barriers were invented in 1959, but weren’t installed until 1975.
    • The stakeholders were approaching the problem from their own frames.
    • They were looking at their part of the problem, not the whole problem
      • For example, the medical team was more focused on enhancing patient services, rather than thinking about how to prevent these accidents happening in the first place
    • What if I could figure out how to look at the problem from a different angle? Use a different lens?
    • The barriers on the bridge are the solution
    • The barriers in peoples minds prevent us from reaching the solution much sooner
    • We take these complicated, complex problems that are difficult to get our hands on, and we break them up into pieces.
    • Then it’s easier to work in that limited area, but connecting these areas is the hard part
    • That’s where the problems lie, connecting the different areas of responsibility
    • This is why the reframing aspect whole system is important

Cross Functional Team Designing a Rewards Program

  • Each team member had their own department heads
  • Functions were siloed, and very hard to get a meeting together when needed
  • There were conflicts over priorities and goals
  • Team members were not able to understand the other persons’ perspective (or frames)
  • Decisions got delayed, project timelines were impacted
  • How to get the teams unstuck?

Frames – Defined and Illustrated

  • Frames are determined by multiple factors. For example,
    • a person’s discipline
    • field of study
    • role
  • For example,
    • If an economist looks at a team working, they might ask “what is their economic incentive for participating in this team?”
    • If a sociologist looks at they same team, they might ask “what are the demographics of the team, and how do they influence what’s happening?”
  • Frames for this course:
    1. Group, or organisation, or system as a whole
    2. Connect with group literature that has been around for over 100 years
    3. Look at the issue of scapegoating
      • Look at the dynamics of the group or team, and not blaming one individual or group (avoid the blame game)

Scenario – Computer Manufacturing Company

  • Company makes computers that they sell to other businesses, who then sell them on the retail market
  • Now they’re contemplating marketing and producing a product of their own to sell on the retail market
    • Design engineers keen for a new creative
    • Finance sees opportunity
    • Pressure to reduce production costs or else lose business
    • Groups are having trouble with seeing from other perspectives
    • They’ve already had 2 2-hour meetings
  • Noticed that the camera angle is changing often, which I assume is an example of changing frames
  • At the end of the third meeting
    • Senior finance person:
      • hasn’t see projections.
      • If the finances aren’t there, the project isn’t there
    • IT Design Engineer:
      • team is really excitied.
      • Aside: (I’ve been waiting years to launch our own product line. But the meeting is very disappointing. I don’t think my colleages see the potential here)
      • I’m hiring new people every day. If we don’t give them something to do, we’re going to lose them
    • Production Manager:
      • We’re maxed out already. We’re talking about creating a whole new line. If we hire new staff, I think we can manage it
      • Aside: (I am about to lose 4 people, two are my best line people. If those 2 go, 3 more will also go. They’re not happy. They don’t like the wages or the hours. I’m worried that we’re going to lose them)
    • Finance:
      • we’re going to have to reduce costs. Everyone is going to have to reach an accomodation.
    • Senior Marketing Person:
      • It’s the launch of a new product.
      • There’s not way that we can launch this the ways are configured now.
      • Something has to be sacrificed
      • Aside: (I have an entire staff who doesn’t know how to launch a new product. This is a complete marketing overhaul, and I need a bigger budget. I need to get in more people, get existing people up to speed. I can’t see how to do this in 9 months)
      • I don’t feel that this group understands how competitive the retail market is.
      • I worry that we’re going to burst into the market, and have our pants down
    • Production:
      • It’s a grand plan, but people cannot work any faster
      • I’m worried about burn out and possible accidents
    • Head of Legal and Contracts
      • Before we consider staffing, we need to consider legal issues
      • We have a contractual obligation to our customers
      • If we use existing technology to create a new product, we could be sued
    • Finance:
      • We’ve discussed this before. We have not signed any contracts which prevents us from making a new product
    • Legal:
      • Aside: (This is a bad idea. Clearly none of them are concerned about the legal ramifications. If we get sued, we’ll get stuck in the courts for years. We’re not financially ready to do that, it could really affect our bottom line).
    • Finance:
      • Aside: (This is the scond project that I have worked on where no one sems to be concerned about budget. If they have any more massive overruns like last time, my reputation is on the line)
      • I’m worried about the overhead here
      • Our margins are so bad that we’re going to be losing money in 6 months
    • Production:
      • chef analogy with bad tools

Debrief – Scenario

  • Everyone was stuck in their frame. They had a hard time looking outside of the frame
  • Legal
    • She was only focussed on the risks involve in the new business opportunity
    • Not considering the cost pressures the organisation is facing, or the market realities they might have to face later
    • Seemed convinced that the entire project was a train wreck
    • She was not willing, or not aware of the bigger picture
  • From the scene, you could see that they were stuck. Every member was acting out a part of staying within the straightjacket of their role
  • We start to identify with each character, and what they’re saying as though it’s about their personality or the way they are, rather than what they’re representing in the organisation. This is a mistake we often make
    • Embedded group theory
    • Studying Intergroup Relations Embedded in Organisations (Alderfer & Smith, 1982)
  • Think about the person’s role in the organisation, not their personality
  • The meeting could be more productive if we could get out of our frame, and understand the other person’s frame
  • Time pressure is a factor
  • Some of the most important information was given to observers in asides. This information was not shared with others in the meeting
  • Are we really putting all our issues on the table. Are we talking about them in a constructive, open way
  • Somewhere along the line, you do have to step back
  • Every person in the meeting is representing their point of view. What about the large system?What would it take to think about the system?
  • We are training in analytical thinking. Break a problem into parts, solve the parts indepentantly, and then try and assemble them into a solution
  • In systems thinking, we’re thinking about what needs to be explained by putting it in the context of a larger system
  • In this scenario, the larger system is the opportunity to develop a new product. However, if everyone is sticking to their own frame, they’re not going to get there.

Studying Intergroup Relations Embedded in Organizations (Alderfer & Smith, 1982)

Strength Based Approaches to Organizations

  • Don’t come into an organisation and asking “Where are the dead bodies?”
  • Come in looking for their strengths
    • Reframe looking for organisational strenghts rather than deficits (Cooperrider & Srivasta 1987)
  • Framing (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981)
    • Research on how we frame decisions, and how people choose
    • It’s often possible to frame a problem in more than one way
    • They explored this framing effect in a hypothetical life or death situation
    • Participants in the study were asked to choose between different programs to combat the outbreak of a deadly disease which could affet 600 lives
      • Choice was given as either  a positive frame (how many people will live) or a negative frame (how many people will die)
      • 72% of participants chose the program with the positive framing
      • Only 22% chose the same program when presented with negative framing
      • Both the problems were identical
      • The difference was in the outcomes, which was described as either saving lives versus the number of lives lost

Discussion Prompt: Assignment 1 – Experiential Exercise

  • Four different frames
    • Innovative architect
    • Health & safety expert
    • Disabled person in a wheel chair
    • 5 year old kid

Debrief – Experiential Activity

  • There are things that we pass every day that we don’t notice. However, when we change our frame, these things come into the forefront.
  • The exercise gives us permission to change frames. But it is very easy to do.
  • What are ways that I can frame my questions so that the person I’m asking understands that I’m coming from a different frame
  • Changing frame
    • I wonder how our customers would view the issue?
    • I wonder how legal would view this issue?
  • What if the computer manufactor meeting started with a discussion of the changing market scenario, and the cost pressures faced by the organisation. That probably would have changed the dialog, and help participants to come out of their rames.
  • Framing and Reframing can unblock learning in teams
  • Explict reframing:
    • “Take off your management hat, and put on your customer hat”
    • Call attention to to we’re looking at it and ask how to reshape that, reframe that
  • Multiple levels:
    • individual level
    • interpersonal level
    • group level
    • organisational level
    • market level
  • Observe in your next meeting
    • What are the frames that the team members bring to the meeting?
    • Are they able to understand others’ perspectives?
    • Are the willing to explore others’ ideas?
    • Or are they stuck to their frames?

Strength Based Approaches (Asplund & Blacksmith, 2011)

  • How Strengths Boost Engagement
  • The 12 elements of great managing
    1. I know what is expected of me at work
    2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right
    3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day
    4. In the last 7 years, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work
    5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person
    6. There is someone at work who encourages my development
    7. At my, my opinions seem to count
    8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important
    9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work
    10. I have a best friend at work
    11. In the last 6 months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress
    12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow

Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life (Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987)

  • Appreciative Inquiry in Organisational Life
  • Abstract:
    • This chapter presents a conceptual refiguration of action-research based on a “sociorationalist” view of science. The position that is developed can be summarized as follows: For action-research to reach its potential as a vehicle for social innovation it needs to begin advancing theoretical knowledge of consequence; that good theory may be one of the best means human beings have for affecting change in a postindustrial world; that the discipline’s steadfast commitment to a problem-solving view of the world acts as a primary constraint on its imagination and contribution to knowledge; that appreciative inquiry represents a viable complement to conventional forms of action-research; and finally, that through our assumptions and choice of method we largely create the world we later discover.

The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice (Tversky & Kahneman, 1981)

  • The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice
  • Summary:
    • The psychological principles that govern the perception of decision problems and the evaluation of probabilities and outcomes produce predictable shifts of preference when the same problem is framed in different ways. Reversals of preference are demonstrated in choices regarding monetary outcomes, both hypothetical and real, and in questions pertaining to the loss of human lives. The effects of frames on preferences are compared to the effects of perspectives on perceptual appearance. The dependence of preferences on the formulation of decision problems is a significant concern for the theory of rational choice.

Systems Thinking Frame

  • When attending a meeting, we must represent our own frame. However, it is also important that we adopt and listen, and take on other frames. Systems thinking is all about that.
  • Analytical thinking: separate something into parts, understand the parts, and then see how the parts fit together
  • Systems thinking (as opposed to our analytical framing) asks us to do something else. Take the part we are trying to explain, and see how that works in a larger system.
  • Metaphor for Systems Thinking: Concentric Circles
  • Example of car:
    • You can pull a car apart and understand all the individual pieces.
    • However, you won’t understand why it is the size it is, or why the size has changed since the 50’s.
    • Instead of viewing the car as a transportation machine, think of it as something to move families.
    • You only understand that when you think about the car’s role in society.
  • Example of education:
    • School classes, 1 teacher, 20-30 children.
    • Why that configuration?
    • Need systems thinking to answer:
      • What is this preparing them to do?
      • What is being taught?
      • What role does that play?
  • When we want to get the purpose, we need the systems thinking piece
  • Getting rid of a problem does not necessarily led to what you want
  • Is thinking about the system as a whole too much information?
    • It’s a different set of questions that we’re asking
    • If you’re really trying to understand purpose and possibility, that’s a different space
  • Discovery space: not about getting rid of problems, but formulating problems in such as way that we can see possibilities that were not clear before
  • By thinking of a goal and working backwards, we may avoid the constraints that block us going forward
  • Analysis and synthesis
  • Example:
    • People leaving a group
    • Was told this was because of monetary compensation
    • In the larger system, compensation is only part of the rewards system
    • What are the various monetary and non-monetary rewards?
  • Considering the system rather than individualising issues or problems
  • Win/Lose frame
    • If I give you something, I have to take something away from someone else
  • Reframing: changing win/lose to win/win solutions

Systems Thinking with Dr. Russell Ackoff

Diversity Case Study

I’m studying the Optimizing Diversity on Teams course on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 4.

High Performance on Diverse Teams

  • A high performing team (HPT) has
    1. High quality output of product
    2. Strong working relationships
    3. Meaningful takeaways for individual team members
  • A HPT best practice:  willingness to be accountable for results
  • Google example:
    • Workforce demographics:
      • 70% men
      • 61% white
      • 30% Asian
      • 3% Hispanic
      • 2% African-American
    • Publishing these demographics made Google publicly accountable for these figures
    • Leaders are willing to self-reflect
    • Psychological safety
      • Google undertook a two year self-study of over 250 attributes over 1800 teams
      • Who was on a team didn’t matter as much as other factors
      • Team Interaction/Structure/Contribution > Team Composition
      • Positive relations
      • High degree of inter-personal trust and mutual respect (people are comfortable being themselves)
      • Psychologically safe teams are more likely to prevent early problems and accomplish shared goals
  • High performing teams:
    1. Engage in self reflection and public accountability
    2. Facilitate an environment of psychological safety

Creating Inclusion Through Participation

  • The key is to develop practices in your team that allow for the even flow of contributions and ideas across team members
  • Create an environment of inclusion by enhancing participation
  • Example 1:
    • A team can set a ground rules that all meeting agendas will be sent in advance of face to face meetings
  • Example 2:
    • Some teams sent out presentations 1 day in advance to allow participants time to digest the topic of the meeting. Instead of presenting the slides, the agenda is focused on discussing the presentation
    • This practice helps prevent a bias towards ideas suggested by group members with more power or authority
  • The ability of team members in all levels to participate in important decisions creates opportunities for meaning making and creativity at all levels.
  • Another example to increase collaboration
    • Use “brainwriting” instead of “brainstorming” when generating more ideas
    • Brainwriting: group members write down thoughts & ideas by themselves in response to a problem-solving prompt
    • Brainwriting tends to produce more ideas of a high quality than brainstorming. You are less likely to be distracted by other’s ideas when generating your own
  • Google moderator
    • Employees can ask anonymous questions
    • Other employees can vote the question up or down for relevancy
    • When the meeting starts, execs start with a question that has the most votes
  • Non-judgemental listening
    • Let a group member fully describe an idea without interruption, and then responding in a way that validates the potential for this idea
    • This is another means for increasing high performance
    • The opposite of non-judgemental listening: interrupting and responding with phrases like “that won’t work”, or “this is a terrible idea”, or “we’ve done this before”
  • In each of these examples, there was:
    • psychological safety
    • a process for receiving input from many different stakeholders

Nike Introduction

  • Think about what your team’s goals, roles, and norms would be, so, that you can support both diversity and inclusion on your team
  • Demographics of Nike employees: 48% white
  • Strong LGBT support
  • Four principles of diversity policy
    1. Diversity drives recruitment
    2. Diversity enriches the creativity and innovation that shapes the brand
    3. Diversity grows the competitive advantage
    4. Diversity heightens the stature and belief in the brand within our culturally diverse customer base
  • Training to address unconscious bias

Nike Goals

  • Nike wants the composition of its staff to mirror its customer base
  • Nike’s goals:
    1. Give back to historically under-served communities
      • Nike designs footwear to promote health and prevent disease in the Native American Community: the Nike Air Native N Seven
      • 7 generations of wisdom (Native American idea)
      • Proceeds from these shoes went back to the communities
    2. Advocate for the rights of marginalised groups
      • Nike gave testimony to the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labour and Pensions
      • Nike advocated for non-discrimination in the workplace for the LGBT community
      • LGBT sports summit at Nike headquarters
    3. Educate employees on issues of diversity and inclusion to minimise unconscious bias and prejudice
      • Nike runs trainings for staff emphasising respecting differences, leveraging strengths and maximising opportunity for everyone
      • Trainings include:
        • How to foster diverse environments
        • How diversity can encourage creativity and innovation
  • Inclusion is the most important success factor driving engagement

Nike Roles

  • Nike created a new role in 2006: the Vice President of Diversity
  • Nike formed a new diversity and inclusion team in 2008
  • VP of Diversity and Include reported directly tot he CEO from 2009
  • Diversity VP works with HR VP to ensure that diversity is considered in all talent decisions
  • Team’s charge is to engage employees, provide business consultation and develop tools that support diversity inclusion across all business units
  • Networks of employees help with advocacy inside and outside Nike
    • Asia Pacific Employee and Friends Network
    • Black Employee and Friends Network
    • Disabled Employee and Friends Network
    • Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender and Friends Network
    • Latino and Friends Network
    • Native American and Friends Network
    • Global Women’s Leadership Council
  • Managers provide a critical role

Nike Norms

  • Norms are ground rules that the team uses to structure their information sharing and decision making
  • Nike Norms:
    • Code of Ethics (“Inside the Lines”)
      • All employees must promise to stay inside the lines
      • Whistle-blowing hotline to report transgressions
    • Structured feedback sessions
      • Help teams to establish their new foundations
      • Everyone provides a self-assessment and an assessment of their work preferences, including
        • preference to work autonomously or collaboratively
        • how decisions are preferred to be made (consensus? specific roles?)
      • This feedback is used for the team to set their own goals, roles and norms
      • This practice of level-setting allows a safe space for ideas to be continuously generated
    • Culture as Offence (CAO)
      • CAO is a workshop that seeks to encourage inter-generational dialogue by bringing experienced executives and young new Nike employees together
  • The important point: Make sure you set goals, roles and norms on your own team, and make sure they are explicit.

Interview with Jacqui Barton

  • Vice President of Human Capital in the community and state segment of United Health Group

Global Leadership: Working Across Borders

  • Global Leadership: Working Across Borders

Managing Conflict

I’m studying the Optimizing Diversity on Teams course on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 3.

Why Conflicts Occur

  • It is difficult to establish common social norms in a diverse group
  • Conflicts can arise from deep level human needs, such as
    • workers personal beliefs coming into conflict with professional expectations
  • Team culture determines the rules (whether written or unspoken) that guide who you’re going to work together and solve problems
  • Humans instinctively form groups and establish rules
  • How does a group establish ground rules when basic assumptions about teamwork vary from person to person?
  • Affective trust: the gut instinct or implicit feeling that you can trust someone
  • Conflicts in diverse teams often form due to the challenge of forming trust (especially affective trust), due do basic differences in communication styles.
  • Expressing disagreement in different cultures:
    • high value on saving face and group harmony, but express disapproval through non-verbal cues
    • more direct ways of disagreement
  • Danone and Wahaha joint venture
    • Danone chairman publicly accused Wahaha owner of funneling funds into another venture
    • Lack of trust meant that neither party could come to agreement
    • Trust might have allowed better understanding, and have avoided the problem
  • Other common reasons for cross-cultural conflict:
    • Differences in communications styles
      • direct versus indirect
      • fluency and accent differences from dominant language
    • Attitudes towards hierarchy
    • Conflicting decision making norms
  • One third of cross-cultural teams rate themselves as unsuccessful.
  • Create strategies to build trust
  • Establish rules in a more inclusive way
  • IDEO example:
    • employees are trained on emotional intelligence to help establish trust
    • norm to listen and not judge ideas before they have been fully explored
    • If norm is broken, members will publicly draw attention to this (delicately)
  • Conflicts often arise from deep human needs, that are often just below the surface
  • Investing in and developing trust gives a team the best chance to overcome conflict and achieve high performance

Conflict Types and Origins

  • Conflict arises from a discrepancy among individuals regarding needs, beliefs and concerns
  • Conflict arises from difference across three critical team components:
    • The team goals
    • The way the team will achieve goals
    • The way team members behave
  • If not addressed, conflicts can generate dysfunction and potentially break the team apart
  • Example of conflict breaking a team apart:
    • CEO of team (Beth) had a disagreement with a member of team (John)
    • Beth and John both wanted CEO role
    • Team appointed Beth due to her high level of knowledge and preparation
    • Beth was forthcoming about what she felt needed to be done to accomplish the group goals
    • The remaining 5 members agreed with her direction, and gave feedback
    • Problem with balance of input in the group:
      • 3 of the groups 6 members could not speak English fluently, so input from them was slower and sparse
      • However, input from John was high, and he challenged nearly every decision made by Beth
      • John interrupted team conversations a lot (despite not having prepared for the simulation)
    • David de facto babysat John, while John continued to antagonise Beth
    • Beth took on more and more of the workload. She couldn’t wait for the non-English speakers to keep up with her
    • Everyone really needed to take things more slowly, but Beth had trouble slowing down
    • Because of the negative interactions between John and Beth, and the communication problems in general, Beth ended up trying to do everything herself
    • John left the the team because of his negative behaviour
    • Beth also decided to leave the team, because she was so upset and could not recover in the short time frame
    • John was difficult, but Beth’s unwillingness to slow down caused her to burn out by taking on too much of the teams responsibilities
  • Have you ever avoided conflict, and taken on too much yourself?
  • What could the team have done?
    • Team learning, taking time to reflect on dynamics, could have prevented some of the damage if the team was able to establish compatible ways of thinking.
    • Better use of people like David, who are able to bridge gaps, could have helped
    • Addressed the representational gaps (see next section)

Addressing Representational Gaps

  • Representational gaps: gaps in perception about team problems, including the team’s ultimate task and what’s important to execute team goals
  • Representational gaps arise from:
    • differences in knowledge sets
    • differences in value sets
    • conflicting interpretations of new knowledge
  • How to reconcile incompatible views?
  • An intentional effort is needed on teams to reconcile different perspectives.
    • This is important because functionally diverse teams often lack shared knowledge
    • Compatibility is established by providing adequate time for team members to build relationships and get to know each other
  • Key is for team members to mutually understand the values, beliefs and attitudes represented in the team
  • There needs to be a shared understanding of how individuals within teams identify problems
  • Four keys to representing any problem: GAEO
    • Goal hierarchy: how we prioritise goals
    • Assumptions: how we assume others behave, or how we assume others are limited in time or resources
    • Elements: components of the problem that are changeable
    • Operators: the ways that the components of the problem can change
  • Companies can set ground rule expectations that establish these shared ways of understanding problems.
    • Teams can recognise that different behaviours may exist, and these behaviours are unique to particular countries or cultures
    • This recognition and acceptance of differences helps to establish shared knowledge, and creates opportunities for mutual understanding among team members
  • At an organisational level managerial staff must set an example for valuing diversity on teams.
    • Examples:
      • Mentoring relationships
      • Job shadowing
      • Relationship building time
      • 360 feedback
    • Watch out for the potential to blur roles and to reduce creative solutions
  • Managers need to be strategic in drawing out their teams’ creativity
  • Jim Shaw, former executive vice president of MTV networks
    • a “left-brain” guy in a “right-brain” organisation
    • Initially responded to creative suggestions by discussing possible ways where the idea could go wrong
    • This had the effect of shutting down the idea
    • Instead of diving in with his perspective on the suggestion, Jim learned to incrementally share contingency planning information.
    • This way creative people can fully explain themselves and get their ideas on the table
    • No two people on Jim’s team thinks alike, and this needs to be accounted for
  • Example from the last section of team that broke apart (Beth & John):
    • Remaining four called themselves the “Small Beautiful Team”
    • Set out to reestablish goals, roles and norms for their team
    • They managed representational gaps between them through establishing frequent check-ins for information sharing and goal setting
    • The norms of active and deliberate listening where critical to their building compatibility across their views and mutual understanding of each other’s perspectives
    • Decisions were much slower and more deliberate than before.
    • One conversation when the new CEO (Nigel) called attention
    • Roles because more evenly distributed and more clearly defined
    • Representational gaps will inevitably exist, but with thoughtful intention, compatibility across individuals and high function can be achieved when mutual understanding is the goal

Conflict Resolution Strategies

  • Three ways to resolve conflict:
    1. Apologise
    2. Use joint fact finding
    3. Get a mediator
  • Apologising
    • Apologies have two functions in conflict management
      1. Demonstrating remorse
      2. Taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions
    • Apologising has potential for profound consequences. A sincere apology can be really effective in
      • establishing trust
      • developing stronger relationships within your teams
      • improving performance
    • A sincere apology has:
      1. an acknowledgement of wrongdoing
      2. the acceptance of responsibility
      3. an expression of regret
      4. a promise that the offence will not be repeated
    • There are four purposes for public leaders in particular to assume the risk of offering a public apology:
      1. Individual: a leader personally admits a wrongdoing so that others will forgive and forget
      2. Institutional: a leader apologises on behalf of a group to repair the groups coherent and customer reputation
      3. Intergroup: a leader takes responsibility for a mistake that their team inflicted on others
      4. Moral: a leader will have an authentic reason to apologise, and believe it is the right thing to do.
    • There are no cases where a good apology went wrong
    • Discomfort is inevitably part of repairing any conflict
  • Joint fact-finding
    • Joint fact-finding: a multi-step collaborative process for parties to come together and decide how information should be gathered, analysed and interpreted.
    • Set ground rules on a fact-finding agenda around a dispute
    • By investigating the technical details behind issues, the process is designed to produce more credible and agreements
    • Joint fact-finding is more likely to reduce conflict since decisions are grounded in facts, rather than emotions
    • Joint fact-finding may not be appropriate when an more powerful or knowledgeable party might use it as leverage to maintain a power imbalance
  • Mediation
    • What type of mediator?
      • You don’t actually need an empathetic mediator
      • A hostile mediator might help a team bond together better
      • Creating adversity might help team to have difficult conversations that get the team on the same page
    • The focus on conflict resolution should be getting the team to work together better

Addressing Oppression-Based Conflict

  • Team based simulation exercise:
    • Pat (an African-American woman) initially offered a lot of suggestions and participated, but became quieter and withdrew as time went on
    • White make colleagues were more successful at getting their ideas accepted
    • No one reached out to Pat to understand why she had become withdrawn
    • The team unintentionally suffered from oppression based conflict
  • The team was not successful, for two reasons:
    • all the team members were not fully engaged in the groups goals
    • the team did not find ways to ensure that diverse and varied perspectives were included in shaping strategy
  • This dynamic happens all too often in teams.
    • There are always going to be prevailing power dynamics that favour the opinions of the dominant or majority group, and discourage participation of marginal or minority members of the group

Interview with Marybeth Gasman

  • How to overcome pressure-based conflict in your organisation

5 Keys To Dealing with Workplace Conflict by Mike Myatt

  • 5 Keys of Dealing with Workplace Conflict
    • Causes of conflict
      • Communication
      • Emotions
    • How to handle conflict
      1. Define acceptable behaviour
      2. Hit conflict head-on
      3. Understand the WIIFM factor (What’s in it for me?)
      4. The importance factor
      5. View conflict as opportunity

Representational Gaps, Information Processing and Conflict in Functionally Diverse Teams

  • Representational Gaps, Information Processing, and Conflict in Functionally Diverse Teams
    • Abstract: Functional diversity in teams, while potentially beneficial, increases the likelihood that individual team members will perceive the team’s task differently, leading to gaps between teammates’ interpretations of what is needed for the team to be successful. These representational gaps are likely to create conflict as teammates try to solve what are essentially incompatible problems. Understanding how these general mechanisms work should deepen our understanding of information processing and conflict in diverse teams.

Team Diversity Basics

I’m studying the Optimizing Diversity on Teams course on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 2.

Diversity Matters and So Do Our Biases

  • Ethnically diverse and gender diverse companies financially outperform their counterparts
  • Diversity on it’s own is not enough
  • Baby-faced individuals are thought of more honest, naive and trustworthy than others
    • Study using a fictional peace offer from Palestinian leader: offer from a baby faced leader more often accepted
  • Stereotypes and bias
    • Shape our daily interactions, cause conflict and shape trust
    • We must be aware of our own biases – you may think you’re being completely fair when your actually being completely biased
  • Benevolent sexism:
    • Managers who “protect” women from difficult assignments, and so limiting their opportunities for career growth
    • Offering to help women when the help is not asked for, which can reduce confidence
    • More time and money given to older male colleagues due to unconscious bias
  • Hidden bias has consequences for employee retention and burnout
    • Only 1 in 10 women say they leave the workplace for maternity reasons
  • Elements of an inclusive culture:
    • hosting of affinity groups
    • training on hidden bias
    • channels for employees to provide input

Social Identity Theory

  • Social Identity Theory (from Simply Psychology)
    • Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s).
    • Groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world.
    • In order to increase our self-image:
      • we enhance the status of the group to which we belong
      • by discriminating and holding prejudice views against the out group
    • We divide the world into “them” and “us” based through a process of social categorisation
      • This is known as in-group (us) and out-group (them)
      • Social identity theory states that the in-group will discriminate against the out-group to enhance their self-image.
    • Stereotyping is based on a normal cognitive process: the tendency to group things together. In doing so we tend to exaggerate:
      1. the differences between groups
      2. the similarities of things in the same group.
    • Examples of in-groups and out-groups
      • Northern Ireland: Catholics – Protestants
      • Rwanda: Hutus and Tutsis
      • Yugoslavia: the Bosnians and Serbs
      • Germany: Jews and the Nazis
      • Politics: Labor and the Conservatives
      • Football: Liverpool and Man Utd
      • Gender: Males and Females
      • Social Class: Middle and Working Classes
    • Three mental processes involved in evaluating others as “us” or “them”, which take place in a particular order:
      • Social categorisation
        • We can assign people to a category then that tells us things about those people (or ourselves, based on the category we place ourselves in)
      • Social identification
        • We adopt the identity of the group we have categorised ourselves as belonging to
      • Social comparison
        • Once we have categorised ourselves as part of a group and have identified with that group we then tend to compare that group with other groups
        • This is critical to understanding prejudice
          • Once two groups identify themselves as rivals, they are forced to compete in order for the members to maintain their self-esteem

Examples of Microaggressions

  • Examples of Racial Microaggressions
    • Alien in own land
    • Ascription of intelligence
    • Colour blindness
    • Assumption of criminal status
    • Denial of individual racism
    • Myth of meritocracy
    • Pathologizing cultural value / communication styles
    • Second-class citizen
    • Environmental microaggressions
    • How to offend without really trying

Intro of Torian Richardson

  • In order to have an awareness of the culture, you need to have a self-awareness as well
  • See things in a neutral mindset – go into new situations with an open mind to alternatives
  • US and Europe have very similar working cultures
  • As an African-American working in Africa, it was very different

Diversity and Inclusion Issues on International Teams (Torian Richardson)

  • People gravitate towards the things and people that we know
  • Get to know each other’s families
  • Intellectual curiosity helped people open up their doors, and bond better
  • People in Africa come from a more tribal standpoint

Strategies for Adapting to a New Team Culture (Torian Richardson)

  • Have a level of intellectual curiosity
    • “I would really like to learn something new today”
    • People pick up on when it’s authentic and genuine
  • Get to know the people, their families, even the meanings behind public holidays
  • Intentionality is important
    • In new venture in China, started with intention to lean three things
      • Relationships (guanxi)
      • Why is credit not used as much in China?
      • What about their food, and how it relates to their culture

Cases of Strategic Focus on Diversity and Inclusion (Torian Richardson)

  • Barry-Wehmiller
    • CEO and chairman has a book called “Everybody Matters”
    • “People are at the core of every organisation”
  • GlobalMindED
    • Non-profit
    • Brings together all stakeholders in education
    • Students put together an incubator, where they do a start-up pitch at local schools
    • Coming up with a set of questions that are universal – can be asked of any student. What are your interests, why are you here, what you may want to do after you graduate

Addressing a Critical Situation of Bias (Torian Richardson)

  • Challenge at transport company: people felt as if there were some cultural and racial issues in the way that particular jobs that were given out
  • How to address in a positive way without staying derogatory?
    • bring all the stakeholders to the table
    • looking for common ground
    • everyone who was involved was also involved in created the solution
    • solution was simple, but the process of arriving at the decision was most important

Cultivating the Right Mindset to Manage Diversity and Inclusion Issues

  • Come in with the right attitude – I want to be positive
  • Accountability – level of ownership
  • Take action – actually have to take progressive action
  • Sense of gratitude

Interview with Andrés Castro Samayoa

  • Assistant Director of Assessment at the Centre for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania
  • The way in which questions of race an ethnicity are coded into the fabric of the institution
  • This happens because there is an explicit understanding of the need for shared identities between mentors and students
  • Role models with shared identities make it easier to connect
  • Examples of unintentionally marginalising students?
    • the ways in which you ask questions
    • how you end up talking to people
  • Red flag: “We think we have a handle on this”.
    • Means people are closing out opportunities for learning
    • lifelong approach

Interview with Ann Tiao

  • Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Model minority myth
    • Started in the 1960’s
    • Asian Americans were rare in the 60’s
    • Article said that Asian Americans were “model” because they were more quiet, did not voice their opinions (in contrast to African Americans)
    • Divide and conquer minorities
    • Re-emerged in the 1980’s, it was pointed out that they were over-represented in campus
    • It’s not true
      • huge diversity!
      • 50 ethnicities, 100 languages
  • Where are you from? (you don’t look like you come from here, or belong here)
  • Be intentional: what triggers you? What response do you want to make?

Intro of Harvey Floyd II

  • Organisational psychologist and executive coach

Strategies for Reducing Bias (Harvey Floyd II)

  • Exercise around social identity
    • Aspects that are given (cannot change)
    • Aspects that are core to them
    • Aspects that are chosen
  • Example of reducing bias
    • Problem with selection and development
    • Who’s missing, and needs to be present?
    • Open discussion up to them
    • Who’s best interest is it to get this right?

Questions that Help You Create a Diverse and Inclusive Team (Harvey Floyd II)

  • How do we align our values, actions and practices?
  • Discuss undiscussable issues, find a mechanism to discuss them
  • What environment will allow this?
  • Who’s on the team? Why?
  • Who’s not on the team? Why?
  • If I’m stepping outside of boundaries, do I have the authority?

Frameworks for Managing Difficult Conversations

  • SBI – Situation, Behaviour, Impact
    • Feedback model
    • This looks like non-violent communication?
  • Unconscious bias training


Promoting Diversity in the Workplace

I’m studying the Optimizing Diversity on Teams course on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 1.

The Hidden Diversity Problem

  • Research on gender dynamics in the workplace shows that when a woman acts assertively by speaking out in meetings, challenging others ideas, and taking charge, she is a lot more likely to be viewed negatively than men acting the same way.
    • If a man takes charge, he’s showing positive leadership qualities.
    • If a woman asserts herself, she’s being too bossy.
    • We often have these feelings and reactions to our co-workers without even realising it.
    • We think we’re being fair and objective, our own bias is hidden to us.
    • That’s one of the biggest challenges we face in building a diverse workplace and diverse teams.
  • The Shield (TV show)
    • Producer by Glen Mazzara noticed two talented writers (both women) sitting quietly in a brainstorming meeting
    • He asked them why they weren’t contributing, they told him to watch carefully at the next meeting
    • Every time one of the women started talking, one of the men in the room would cut in straight away, and either shoot down the idea or start running with the it (and cutting the women out)
    • There was a clear bias, but Glen had not noticed it before
    • See “Managing Rewards Systems” section below for a way of managing this bias
  • Diversity is really important for teams. You learned in course two about how teams with different perspectives and independent thinking tend to get better results.

Promoting Diversity

  • Teams with people of different backgrounds, world views, and skill sets tend to be more innovative
    • They’re more likely to bring new ideas to the table.
    • They make better decisions because team members can see each other’s blind spots.
  • Need to set specific goals
    • e.g. adding two more minority team members
    • e.g. having 50% women on your team
    • Without specific goals, it’s much harder to motivate people
  • Need to get buy in
    • If team members don’t feel included in a diversity initiative they’re a lot more likely to be hostile to it and and to work against it
    • To create a sense of inclusion and togetherness, try to link your diversity goals to common team or organisational goals
    • Diversity initiatives are framed negatively as a way to avoid litigation, not positively in terms of how they benefit everyone
    • Talk about how getting more unique perspectives will help the organisation’s bottom line or contribute towards your shared strategic goals.
    • This positive inclusive framing helps reduce the us versus them feeling that your team members from dominant groups might feel
  • Need to build build team relationships across boundaries
    • Proactively build connections across boundaries on your team, create positive opportunities for employees to get to know and support one another
      • Team members will start to see others from a different background as part of their own network or their own tribe
      • They’ll start to proactively look for ways to support their colleagues and help them advance without a team leader or supervisor having to force them to do it
      • Use the third place to do this

Managing Rewards Systems

  • Reward systems in the workplace like performance reviews, bonuses, and promotions are powerful ways to shape culture and create an atmosphere of inclusion
    • They can also be a source of implicit bias.
    • Disadvantaging certain groups of people, even if they appear to be totally neutral.
    • If you’re serious about boosting diversity on your team, you have to think about the unintentional forms of bias that could be hiding in your reward systems
  • Symphony orchestras
    • Few of them reflect the population of the cities they represent
      • Just over 10% of orchestra musicians are people of colour
    • This is due to:
      • unequal access to music education
      • hidden biases in systems of reward and advancement from an early age
    • People of colour are tenured at a rate of about 30%, which is way lower than their white colleagues
      • Peers nitpick small imperfections in their performances and character that they would normally let slide with white musicians
      • This can happen totally unconsciously and in small ways
      • Those small unintentional forms of bias lead to fewer opportunities for people of colour at a large scale
  • Same effect can happen with informal rewards systems. Such as praise from supervisors, recognition for team members’ achievements, or even just who we listen to at meetings
  • How to combat biases?
    • Measure outcomes
      • When you set specific targets for diversity, and measure progress toward achieving them, you can uncover unintentional bias in an objective way and that leads to better accountability.
    • Post results publicaly
    • The Shield (see above)
      • The unspoken rule on the team was men direct the conversation at meetings
      • Mazzara created a new rule for the team. He told them that no one should be interrupted when they were pitching an idea

Managing Personal Bias

  • Derek’s example:
    • Speaking to a mixture of new and old students
    • Made sure to ask questions equally of old and new students in class
    • However, new students still complained of bias!
    • However, during informal periods during and after class, Derek would spend time casually chatting with the old students
  • How to overcome individual bias?
    • Outside observers
      • Observe and give feedback
        • Blind spots?
        • More supportive of a sub-group of team members?
    • Pay attention to informal interactions
      • e.g. Derek made sure students were treated equally, but in formal class time, as well as during informal times
    • Keep channels of communication open between team members
      • Regular one-on-one check-ins
        • Private conversations can make others feel more comfortable opening up

Being A Good Ally

  • Proactively include yourself as a supporter
    • Diversity initiatives are less successful when they’re seen as being divisive rather than inclusive
    • Offer to help the person managing the initiative
    • Sign up to the initiative
    • Ask the other person’s opinions, remember to listen
      • The more time you spend time talking, the less time available to other. You can be even more inclusive just by listening
  • Seek to understand
    • Just listen to the other person

Interview with Arjun Shankar

  • Man of Indian descent learned to “act white” (excluding alternative backgrounds from the work culture)
  • Bring in the alternative viewpoints

Interview with Stanford Thompson

  • Executive Director of Play on Philly
  • Works with some of the most vulnerable children.
  • There’s really power in being diverse

How to Manage Cultural Differences in Global Teams

Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce

  • Fostering Innovation Through a Diverse Workforce
    • Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale.
    • A diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial for companies that want to attract and retain top talent.
    • Nearly all respondents reported that their companies have diversity and inclusion strategies in place.
    • Organisation’s diversity goals and priorities won’t change significantly over the next three years.
    • Responsibility for the success of company’s diversity/inclusion efforts lies with senior management.
    • Significant progress has been made to build and retain diverse workforces, but there are still some impediments to companies’ efforts.



Managing Common Team Types

I’m studying Building High-Performing Teams on Coursera. These are my revision notes for week 5.

Remote Teams

  • Half of US managers spend about half of their time on the road
  • Remote teams amplify the challenges around good communication
    • It’s easier to miscommunicate
    • It’s harder to build trust
  • Strategies to improve performance:
    • Have a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible, and schedule them regularly
      • Face-to-face helps establish a rapport and adjust to each others communication style.
      • Later, when communicating remotely, we still have a good sense of each other’s attitudes and feelings
      • GitHub has annual in-person meeting and a mandatory week at headquarters when first starting
    • Have a discussion where each person talks openly about their styles
      • Scenario: a more agressive communicator interacting witha more passive communicator:
        • the more aggressive communicator can come across as hostile, while they think they’re just acting normally
        • the more passive communicator can come across as unwilling to be honest and upfront about their opinions
        • If there is an open talk about how each person communicates, then people can have a better sense of the other’s intentions
      • It’s best to have these discussions during team chartering, when the group is first coming together
      • Use a communication style assessment:
        • DISC Survey
        • Persuasion Styles Assessmement (“The Art of Woo”, but Shell and Moussa)
        • Help each person reflect on their own style, and hence have a better discussion about styles
    • Building the water cooler
      • A place where people informally gather to take a break, make small talk and share ideas
      • Serves an important social function
      • Informal rapport building that occurs at the “water cooler” helps them to communicate more effectively in more formal work settings
      • For remote teams, there may be no natural place to gather
      • Need to be proactive in creating such a place in a virtual setting (“digital water cooler”)
      • GChat, Facebook chat, Slack
      • Dedicate the first few minutes of meetings for social time
      • Be very intential about creating an environment of good communication, as remote teams have fewer natural opportunities to do this

Startup Teams

  • Dollar Shave:
    • Mark Levine and Michael Dublin dreamed up subscription service for discount razors delivered to doorstep
    • Company took off so quickly, they could barely keep pace with demand
  • Other startups aren’t so lucky. They can crash and burn, and you must scramble just to keep the lights on
  • It can feel like all your waking hours need to be focused on getting the work done
  • However, you still have to pay attention to the teams’ interpersonal relationships
  • A good cohesive team may be more important that having a great idea for a product or service
    • Good ideas happen all the time
    • What separates successful companies is the ability to implement the ideas
  • Create check points for adjusting your team dynamic. There are three types:
    1. Engagement checkpoints
      • Establish times when you agree to check in on their level of involvement
      • The specific milestones depend upon their interests
        • e.g. hiring an administrative assistant who wants to work on coding software in the future, you might create a six-month checkpoint to discuss if that opportunity will actually open up for  them
    2. Problem checkpoints
      • Allow you to slow down from time to time and raise the yellow flag
        • Integrate (Jeremy Bloom)
          • Jeremry was more cautious, and he felt that his partner would often plough ahead, even when he was uncomfortable with the decision
          • Jeremy felt that his input was being ignored, so he created the “Yellow Flag” rating system
          • When the partners had to make a big decision, they would put a number on their level of their discomfort from 1 to 10
      • Quick way to surface disagreements, even when your team is moving at a fast pace
    3. Pivot checkpoints
      • A pivot is when you realise that you need to make a significant change in strategy, because:
        • something about your product or idea works really well, and you need to emphasise it
        • or it’s failing, and you need to go in a different direction
      • Tote (shopping app by Ben Silbermann)
        • Tote failed to catch on, except for one feature everyone loved: an option to pin and share products they loved with their friends
        • Silbermann made a pivot, and relaunched with that single feature at its core, called “Pinterest”
        • 2 years after launch, drawing 20 million visitors per month, valued at $1.5B.
      • At pivot checkpoint, decide if metrics require a change in strategy
      • When pivoting, set up a timeline and metrics to decide if new strategy is successful
  • Focus on creating built-in checkpoints that trigger discussions about your group dynamic

Product Development Teams

  • Group think is a major problem in product development teams
  • IDEO:
    • design thinking process
    • no precise framework for innovation
    • starts with the understanding the needs of the people you are trying to serve, and the questions to ask
  • The 6 core values of IDEO designers:
    1. Be optimistic
      • believe that anything is possible
      • designers have the freedom to explore and collaborate
    2. Clients are critical
      • they should be engaged at various points
    3. Take ownership – ask for forgiveness, not permission
      • designers are free to experiment
    4. Embrace anonymity as part of the process
      • the greater good of the team is more important than any individual contribution
    5. Learn from failure
      • there is no such thing as failure, as long as you’re learning from it
    6. Make other people successful
      • talk less, and do more
  • The goal is to get all the ideas on the table, and then to execute on them.
  • IDEO’s 6 principles
    1. Defer judgement
    2. Encourage wild ideas
    3. Build on the ideas of others
    4. Stay focused on the topic
    5. Be visual
    6. Go for quantity
      • there are no bad ideas
  • Sacrificial concept: a concept that may not make a lot of sense or is really basic, shared publicly to get help get as many other ideas out as possible
  • It is the large number of ideas (rather than any individual ideas) that make the process effective
  • Guidelines for setting roles within teams
    1. What skill sets are needed for the project
    2. Its initial goals
    3. The project leader on the client side
  • Ideas happen on the intersection of desirability, feasibility and viability
    • Desirability: asking important questions about what people want when it comes to products.
      • Peoples needs can be broken up into 3 groups:
        • emotional
        • cognitive
        • physical
    • Feasibility: coming up with concepts based on insights from research
      • e.g. what are technical constraints that might present an issue?
    • Viability: an assessment of if it makes sense for business to implement the concepts

IDEO’s Research Methods for Product Development Teams

  • The Times newspaper came to IDEO with a problem in membership:
    • IDEO determined user experience issues was more important challenge to tackle in order to increase membership
    • After an in-depth research process, IDEO helped to come up with a concept that was desirable, feasible and viable.
  • Research methods
    1. Customer interviews
      • e.g. if IDEO is researching refridgerators, they may go shopping with a customer, and ask them questions about their habits
      • Curious about the multi-layered context in which people live and eat
      • Allows capture of smaller and more precise details that might not come out in a survey
    2. Analogous research
      • What are parallel organisations that might provide insight into my organisation’s challenge?
      • What are similar challenges others in the industry have overcome?
      • e.g. in creating a new Playstation game, IDEO researchers took Playstation players to a dance class. Asking questions about what problems they had, the researcher was able to infer similar problems that people new to gaming would have
    3. Experts in the field
      • Interview those in similar or separate fields
      • Insights from the field, and possibly allow collaboration
  • 3 methods allow triangulation and synthesise data in order to determine next steps
  • Allows developement of stories and setting of goals, roles and norms of product development effort
  • Design and prototype allows high quality feedback on initial design
  • Use methods to draw on others creativity, and ensuring they don’t shut down potentially valuable ideas and contribution
  • Methods provide a thorough and psychologically safe way to vet ideas
  • Key lessons:
    • ask the right questions
    • prototype your ideas
    • collect feedback
    • learn from failure


  • Committees: teams of people brought together for goals outside of their normal day job
  • Performance tends to suffer because of lack of engagement
  • High performance is possible if you align committee goals with personal goals
  • Common issues on committees:
    1. Committee members have other obligations that often take a high priority
    2. Committee members may not know the charge
      • aligning their own goals with the committee goals can be a challenge
  • Case study:
    • Committee in north-east US university
    • Comprised of faculty, staff and students
    • Charged to enhance campus and community life
    • Goal setting through a mix of charges from executives, and those set by the committee itself
    • People can set 3-5 short term goals per year
      • e.g. issues related to location of university, or the life of the university itself
      • e.g. research student health costs in theoperations of health insurance outside of the university
    • Deadlines for committee are not strict
    • Goals might roll over from year to year
    • Committment to goals is inspired by:
      1. Opportunity to learn
      2. Satisfaction of accomplishing goals
      3. Opportunity to have a voice
    • Passion for the committee comes from the fulfillment of personal goals of committee members
    • There is potential for private interests to overtake the greater good of the group
    • Structured reflection allows the team to come up with a strategy to correct bias
      • e.g. outside surveys
      • Rules for checks and balances
    • Norms determine roles because committee roles are fluid depending upon who is on the committee, and what the task is
    • It is important to have a process for checking in

Norm Setting for Committees

  • 4 strategies:
    1. Pay attention to communication channels
      • Establish how you will communicate and how often
      • e.g. “communication will take place in person at monthly meetings, with occasional follow up by email”
      • Effective communication doesn’t mean you have to constantly communicate. Rather, when you are together, you are open to suggestions, ask questions and prevent miscommunication
    2. Encourage information sharing
      • Members have different backgrounds
      • Need to understand what contextual information is needed to ensure mutual understanding
      • Take and share meeting minutes
    3. Establish subcommittees
      • Allows committee members to maximise their limited time and focus in an area to make a high impact
      • Each subcommittee should establish their own goals, roles and norms, and align with the task at hand
    4. Have respectful disagreements
      • be aware of the danger of minimising contributions from minorities, women, and other marginalised groups on committees
      • encouraging members to remain open to one another’s viewpoints
      • Get in the habit of saying “In my experience” before giving an opinion, which ensure the option is not assigned to the committee as a while

Committees (Reading)

  • Committees that work
    • Gather facts, then establish procedures
    • Design committees like an architect
    • Assign people to committees carefully—and set them up to succeed
    • Run committees using best-practice disciplines

Building a Strong Startup Team Culture

How to be the Best Virtual Teammate

How to Innovate Like an Olympian