In a previous post I introduced Ed de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats in the IT context, including some anti-hat patterns. These patterns are a good segue to a key problem with IT’s absorption of 6Hats: resistance to change, resistance to frameworks, resistance to thinking, resistance to team work.
If you communicated with a team to say: “Hey, next team meeting, we’re doing Six Thinking Hats!” you are likely to be placed in an Aristotlian box titled “Lacking a grip on reality of the situation” and ignored, if not ridiculed. Chance for change gone.
Perhaps the big bang approach isn’t useful here, given the hostile audience, and instead you need to employ subtlety. At a school for four year olds they use Six Thinking Hats by using colourful bears, each with names and a different character (that represents each hat). These kids don’t know that they’re using Ed do Bono’s Six Thinking Hats: all they know is that they really enjoy working in teams, everyone gets a chance to say something and the ball is constantly moving down the field.
Back to IT, remember: nobody wants to see a bad presentation and nobody wants to be part of a bad team meeting. However, the chances are high that team meetings fail. Why? A team meeting has different people with different communication skills and different value to contribute and therefore, without rules, it will be a terrible meeting if you have no constraints and just have a poorly managed free for all, or brainstorm, as it’s sometimes called.
So, people want a good meeting but they don’t want to be force fed an immediate plate of boiled framework, so how do you get from here to there? Here’s some ideas:
- Gently and gradually work with your peers (not management/executive, this is NOT a top down thing, or you’re doomed) to see where they fit on the line from “love it” to “hate it”. Everyone’s feelings are important, ask them what their gut feel is about the 6Hats, share what it is. They’re already using the hats just in this process! Here’s how you check it out with your peers. Remember it’s ok to share an idea, seek guidance (everyone likes being listened to), but don’t sound all evangelist and myopic or you’ll fall at the first hurdle:
- Ask them what they think about thinking (blue hat).
- Make your feelings known about team meetings, ask them for their feelings (red hat).
- Pick some examples, ask them to share (white hat).
- How could it really work, give them an example of 6hats, what’s their thoughts (green hat).
- Quickly work out what wouldn’t work with those ideas (black hat).
- But what would be good if it could work (yellow hat).
Don’t tell your peers you’re using the hats to talk with them, just go through those six steps naturally. Think Blue/Red/White then Green/Yellow/Black. Using fishing (open) not shooting (closed) questions. Ask “how could we run team meetings differently” not “should team meetings be different?”.
If you’ve talked to Bob at the water cooler, perhaps you can follow up with an email suggesting a chat before lunch? How about this?
Bob, remember our chat about team meetings? Got 15 mins to spare before lunch tomorrow (I’m buying!), wanted to share some thoughts and get your ideas, here’s what’s on my mind:
Given the amount of work we’re doing today, and the new stuff coming in Q4, I wonder if we could be doing things differently, starting with team meetings as that could be where we manage things better – but could team meetings be better, what does that look like, what’s stopping us etc? My thoughts so far:
- I think we don’t have enough time to stop, put our foot on the ball, and have time to think about things – do you? How could we “think” better, as a team, in team meetings?
- My gut feel is that we have different folks and different strokes on the team, that’s why some of our team meetings feel ineffectual and not everyone gets to contribute, or they contribute too much – how about you?
- Take the famous January offsite – “everyone was talking but nobody was saying anything” was a quote people used in the bar after. What other data points are there?
So what could we do?
- I’d like to stop using team meetings for “management push information” and instead dedicate every minute to the team thinking, set some basic rules, and make the time sacrosanct – what other ideas?
- I don’t think our current team meetings work, but I’m not sure the team can adopt to a new way of working – what barriers stand in the way of any new proposals?
- If the team can change, I think moral will go up because people will feel listened to and if we can get everyone to focus on what matters and stand together to say No to things we think don’t matter, we could drive better team results – what other benefits?
Can we change team meetings from painful hour long sessions that nobody likes into the highlight of the week? Would love to hear your thoughts, see if we can do something.
Shall we say Claridges for lunch?
If it fails, you last action before leaving your team is to print them all t-shirts that look like this as a leaving present: