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10 Practical Ways to Make Work More Adaptive and Human

Work is complex, work is challenging, work is so many things BUT work can also be hugely adaptive and very human - if you want it to be.

Here are 10 ways that have really helped me and the teams I work with:

1. Start with a check-in or a warmup

Just do it. Be it a workshop, a team meeting, a brainstorm, or a one-on-one session make check-ins mandatory. No matter how lame you think this might be, they work as a tool to help us connect as human beings before we launch into serious pieces of work, debate, problem-solving or strategy. Inevitably, there is some banter, some connecting and some questions like “ how are you?” but, why not turn this time into a mechanism where we can connect on a deeper level, or just create some energy.?

Example: “If you could bottle one feeling, any moment in life, what would it be and why?” 30seconds and go … I promise you will find out more about your fellow colleague than by asking, “Howzit going?"

This morning, I was part of a workshop and the check-in made my day: “If you had to join a reality show, which one would you choose?” Credit goes to Cortney Blanchard for starting our day off with a laugh!

Need another idea? Have a look:

2. Make some toast!

Solving problems with cross-functional teams, be it in an operational or strategic space, makes work so much more adaptive and gets really innovative ways of thinking into the working orbit. Naturally, these sessions need a good construct or hours will be spent talking. The more we realise that the world is fast-changing and not static, the better, and there is no better way to engage a broad team (on a single focus point) than making some toast together.

Here is a great template to talk you through how to make toast with your team:

3. Talk to your customers

Solve for their needs and use Design Thinking methodologies to get you there.

We so quickly get trapped into thinking we should have studied for years, had years of experience in a field and talk in massively fancy terminology before we can solve for our customers. In my mind, this is definitely not necessary.

If we understand the simplicity and beauty of Design Thinking methodologies, we’ll all become a lot more human and leave the egos at the door - ask your customers what they think, what they want and then build … don’t sit in your own head and try to come up with the answer, no need for that.

Here’s a deeper look at how to ask great questions:

4. Build a Team Health Matrix

Build on the brilliant Spotify matrix as a base, redesign it for your team. Talk to one another about what matters in a structured format and use colours to make commonality stand out. Have a look at the brilliance here:

5. Work visually

Miro, or any whiteboard tool is incredibly powerful in making work more adaptive and allows for real-time collaboration. By working in a collaborative fashion, I’ve found it is so much easier for team members to engage and provide opinions that may have been stifled due to meeting formats that are intimidating.

Miroverse has any template you could dream of, no hardcore creativity required to design your own - take a look:

6. Do a retro

This is the easiest, most simple, and most valuable tool I’ve ever come across. Whether you’re sorting out a systems issue or working through an argument with your fiancé (kidding, not kidding), a retro is the best tool to get everyone on the same page:

What worked?

What didn't work?

The two questions that build common understanding, depth in the complexity of our mental model and empathy in the fastest time possible. The magic of human empathy and the strength in adapting work where necessary is best encompassed here. Here is a great example of how to:

7. When you don’t know, say so, and then figure it out

By using interactive, dynamic and easily accessible working tools, we move away from 1000 page documents and business plans. By working in this way we leverage the ideas of Lean Methodology, in practice.

Go for it by including an array of team members; juniors, seniors, and people from different industries. I’ve learned that by focusing on building out iterations, testing, generating feedback and building work within each stage you end up finding a much better solution.

To be able to work in this way, you need to honest with your team and your ego … you don’t know it all, no one does, so figure it out together, visually and iteratively.

By widening inclusion in a project/task/problem, you automatically allow work to be more adaptive, let alone human and iterations are a lot less scary than a final solution.

By embracing lean methodology, you bring out the 'humanness' within yourself and people around you. Read more about cross functional work from the archives (an oldie but a goodie):

8. Tell stories

Language matters, learning matters, growth matters and there is no better way than telling stories, and building live case studies of wins, fails and how we navigated challenges.

When we hear and know about how someone achieved, what their name is, what colour their hair was, then we start acknowledging that we’re all human, all capable and it’s reachable. Talk the truth about the hardships and the wins and make the stories memorable … then we all start relating to what is possible. We remember history in stories, not in numbers or stats - do the same with your team, build mental models and understanding by telling a story and you make things a whole lot more tangible.

Here is a fun way of creating the story you want to share :

9. Celebrate wins

This can be done in a million different ways. It doesn’t need to be formal; it definitely doesn’t need to be coming from the top leadership, it should ideally be built into the culture of your team. For example, if you use Slack (or anything similar) create a #ringabell channel for the sales team or an #appreciationwall for more operational teams - allow anyone in the organisation to celebrate anyone else, no matter how big or small – make sure these celebrations turn into the stories that matter to your organisation.

Here is a great how-to from Slack themselves:

10. Make progress visible.

A project management tool is amazing. (It can also be a terrible tool for micromanagement but let’s just talk about the positive elements here).

Let’s take Jira, as an example. Click HERE to read more about this tool.

Make your own workflow and look at how long term goals are achieved.

Breaking the big goals down into shorter term sprints, allocating team members and then watching the progress of a team is nothing short of beautiful.

By breaking the mountain into smaller molehills, or by eating the elephant in small chewable chunks, it makes any goal seem so much more achievable - and if the metrics are monitored properly, it makes work so much more adaptable because progress or blockers are visible.

It helps us change course if need be and it helps us see how many of us are contributing to achieving a piece of work, how human is that!


To find out more, we'd love to hear from you:

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