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We all suffer from a profound case of “Idea Surplus Disorder” at Filament — and we think that’s a good thing. Here are some of those ideas we’d like to share with you.

 

 
Posts in Tools
Make Your Experiments Smaller
 
 
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We work in “experiments” all the time with our customers, asking them to identify simple, cheap, fast, and easy things they can try to improve processes, increase communication, etc.

However, it isn’t always easy for people accustomed to working in large organizations to think small enough, so they regularly propose much larger experiments than necessary.

A few weeks ago, we shared a simple framework that has helped to shrink our customers’ experiments to just the right size. Here’s how we describe experiments now:

An experiment is smaller than a pilot which is smaller than a project which is smaller than an initiative.

The moment we shared this hierarchy, everyone began thinking about experiments the way we’d hoped they always would.

Track the Decisions You Make and the Decisions You Need After Every Meeting

We recently hosted a Meeting Design Sprint: a four-day workshop to help a client redesign a big meeting that had grown stale as well as to help the attendees rethink the dozens of other meetings they owned or influenced.

One of the best ideas to emerge from our time together: At the end of every meeting create two lists: “The Decisions We Made” and “The Decisions We Need.”

On the first list, capture the specific decisions you made in the meeting and the details for each. On the second, capture the decisions you need from elsewhere in the organization and then assign the responsibility to go “find” that decision (along with the when, the who, and the how) so your team doesn’t get stuck waiting on someone else.

Every time the leader of your team has a meeting with her leader, she should bring your team’s master list of “Decisions We Need” with her so she can ask her leader to make the decisions needed to move forward or use her influence to help find them elsewhere.

Use This Worksheet Before Your Next Meeting
 
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How much time do you spend thinking about your meetings before you send out the invitations? Is everyone necessary — and do they know their roles and the preparation you expect from them? Are you trying anything new? And will there be any Elephants, Squirrels, Zombies, or Porcupines in the room?

Download this worksheet and complete it BEFORE you call your next meeting. Answering the prompts will help you be clearer about the purpose of your meeting, the expectations to set, the experiments you’ll try, and the roles of all involved.

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Elephant, Squirrel, Zombie, Porcupine.
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Inspired by an exercise called Elephant, Dead Fish, Vomit invented by Airbnb (and shared in the wonderful book Rituals for Work), Elephant, Squirrel, Zombie, Porcupine is a group conversation “tool” designed to nurture more honest dialog among people who work together. Here’s how to use it:

During every all-hands meeting, carve out time to discuss the following:

  • Elephants: Big things people are worried about but not talking about.

  • Squirrels: Things that might be distracting the organization or team from focusing on the work that matters most.

  • Zombies: Old issues, projects, or ways or working that never seem to go away.

  • Porcupines: Touchy subjects that might feel too hard to handle.

We’re in the process of turning each of these into a card people might hold up during our meetings when they feel the group has encountered an elephant, squirrel, porcupine, or zombie. We expect they’ll help our groups have deeper conversations to help them get past the barrier each one of these entities poses.

What are the elephants, squirrels, porcupines, and zombies in your organization?

Forget Change Management. Build a Change Advocacy Team Instead!
 
 

I don’t believe “Change Management” works as well as we expect it to. Organizations spend months (or years) building something, and — when they’re almost finished — hand over the nearly complete project to the change management professionals and ask them to get the entire organization on board. It is a recipe for failure.

What if instead, you built a team that worked alongside the product design / process implementation teams to build a better “story” for the change from the very beginning? What if along with the Product Team, you spun up a “Change Advocacy Team” who’s charge wasn’t designing the product/service, but building a better case for change from the very beginning?

This is a pretty new idea for us, but here’s a set of worksheets you can use to identify the people in your organization who should be on the “ChAT” team from the very beginning. We’ll post an update soon, as a few of our customers have been using this model for several months now and are beginning to see results.

Some questions to answer about those on your ChAT team:

  • Wha value might they bring to the ChAT and are they willing to spend the political capital to help us?

  • What fears and frustrations might they be particularly good at addressing?

  • Whom could they influence most?

  • Who’s least likely to follow their lead?

  • What “story” do we want them to tell about our project?

What would you add to the mix?

ToolsMatthew Homann
Thinking in Experiments: Use If/Then (Maybe) To Try New Things
 
 

Our customers design “experiments” in nearly every meeting we facilitate at Filament: simple, easy, fast, and cheap things that might help their organization learn something, try something, or build something.*

Experiments are smaller than “pilots” and certainly not as large as “projects” or “initiatives.” They’re just big enough to provide a modicum of proof and direction that might help a team decide what to do next.

Here’s how it works:

  • 15 Minutes: After setting a topic for the experiments (teamwork, meetings, technology, customer service, etc.), we ask everyone to spend some time alone with a handful of small experiment cards and capture a handful of “If we try ___________, I think this might happen…” ideas.

  • 45 Minutes: Next, we group teams into “Labs” of 5-7 people where they’ll listen to everyone’s individual ideas, explore common themes and then develop 2-3 experiments to share with the larger group — using the worksheet you see at the top of this post.

  • 30 Minutes: After the experiment sharing, we’ll do a gallery walk of the experiment sheets, and then a small “pricing team” will assign a “price” to each experiment using the Fibonacci sequence** before the group votes on the experiments they’d like to try next.

At the end of the exercise, the group has at least 2-3 experiments they’ll do next several weeks. More importantly, they’ve learned the value of trying new things quickly without getting bogged down in “Project Paralysis.”

* Experiments work so well that we’re building an entire two-day, deep-dive workshop about how to make experimentation a central part of an organization’s way of working.

** We’ll share our Experiment Pricing Methodology in a future post.

Building a Better Strategy with "Our Five Futures"
 
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The next time you need people to plan for a disruptive future, give them five to think about instead of just one. When we do this work, we divide people into at least five different groups, and give each group one of the following “futures” to discuss:

  • A disruptive technology that will impact their industry, competitors, or customers such as AI, Blockchain, or Quantum Computing government action,

  • A disruptive competitor will enter their market like an Apple, Amazon, or Google,

  • An unexpected business model will demand they rethink traditional talent, production, or pricing strategies much like AirBNB did to the hotel industry,

  • A change in governmental policy or regulation will realign incentives or shift risk tolerances like what would happen to if the tax code were dramatically rewritten, or

  • A future where everything that happens is predictable and nothing that occurs is surprising (The Status Quo).

For each of these futures, we ask the following questions (shown on the worksheet above):

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how likely do you believe this future will happen?

  2. What do you hope will be true in this future?

  3. What do you fear will be true in this future?

  4. Are there ways we work/operate now that might make it harder to be ready for this future?

  5. If we’re certain that even part of this future will occur, what should we focus our attention on now to be ready?

Once the groups reconvene, ask each to share a story about the future they were given — paying particular attention to their answers to last two questions (4 & 5 from the list above).

We’ll bet you’ll find that no matter the future, each group will answer those last two questions in a very similar way. And that’s where you should begin your strategy work.

You can download the set of all Five Future Worksheets here.

Put Your Ideas in Quarantine
 
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My name is Matt, and I’ve got Idea Surplus Disorder a.k.a. “Shiny Shiny Syndrome” real bad.

You’ll know you have it too when you regularly give in to an overwhelming urge to start working on something new (and amazing) instead of wrapping up your current projects.

And Idea Surplus Disorder isn’t only an individual affliction — organizations can suffer from it, too!

Though “ISD” isn’t (usually) fatal, the cumulative results of pursuing new ideas at the expense of finishing others can have debilitating impacts on your business and your team.

Because Idea Surplus Disorder is incurable — at least I hope so — I’ve begun to treat my case by learning to “quarantine” my newest ideas. From Wikipedia:

Quarantine is compulsory isolation, typically to contain the spread of something considered dangerous, often but not always disease.

Whenever I have a great idea, I capture it so I don’t lose it, but then I wait at least 90 days before I give it any more of my time. This “compulsory” waiting period keeps me from starting work on a poorly-formed idea I’ll later lose passion for. It also gives me time to think about the idea and socialize it with friends and colleagues. If I’m still enamored with it once the 90 days have passed, it goes straight to the top of my “To Do” list.

By creating a process to postpone and ultimately resurface the ideas I have, I’ve learned to devote more energy working on what matters now, knowing that if my new idea still feels as “shiny” in 90 days as it does today, we’ll both be ready for a long term relationship.

You can download your own version of our Idea Quarantine Poster here.