Creating Value Statements in 60 Minutes or Less

In February, I helped the women’s ministry at my church come up with value statements to go with our new mission and vision statements. I had less than 60 minutes to get a room full of opinionated women to agree to seven or less short statements of value. Here is how I did it.

Before you start planning, I suggest you watch the Digital Strategist’s videos on Mission, Vision, and Value statements. She has an excellent way of explaining the purpose of each and simple ways to craft them. They are very short.

For this exercise, you will need:

  • Post-its, regular size, one stack for each participant
  • one flip chart post it
  • pens for everyone
  • a room of passionate people
  • a good facilitator
  • one hour

The women in the room had already discussed the new mission and vision statements so they were familiar with them and had already bought into them as a group. How we created group buy-in is another topic for another post, but your group needs to believe in what they do for this to work. The individuals do not need to be the same (personality, training, etc.) just passionate about what your group is doing.

I began by explaining that value statements tell others what you believe in and hold to be true. They do not express individual beliefs. They are not one word, but a phrase or statement. They are designed to bring our actions into alignment with the words of our mission and vision statements. This explanation and question time took less than 10 minutes.

On one of the large post it pages, I wrote the following question and posted it for the room to see: What are the guiding principles that dictate how we treat each other and how we treat our women? (or others?)

Each woman was asked to answer that question on their sticky notes. One answer per note. They had to write at least one and could write as many as they wanted. They created a pile in front of them or kept their notes in a stack. I gave them 10 minutes to do this.

While they were writing, I posted six flip chart post-its in a cluster.

When they were done, I instructed them to come and place their sticky notes on one of the six flip chart pages and to cluster their own that were similar together. After everyone had posted their notes, the group was then instructed to arrange the statements into categories. Things that fell outside of the six groups could be placed off to the side.

The area in front of the emerging categories was crowded, so we did it in groups. Half the ladies went and then after a few minutes, I made them rotate. I did that a couple times to let the groups rearrange and move things. They could make no more than seven category groupings. They had 10-15 minutes to do this.

If you are keeping track, we are about 30-35 minutes through the process.

Everyone then sat down. Our group had four distinct groups and only a few outlying sticky notes. We focused on the four groups and for each one I asked: How would you describe these statements with only a few words. What word ties them all together?

I labeled each groups with the words they chose. This took less than 5 minutes.

Next, I pointed to the first category and asked them to make a phrase with those words (the labels they had created). I warned them that this was not word smithing, but more like brainstorming. On the flip chart, I wrote what they said. The group came up with three or four statements for each category and I helped them reduce it to a single short statement. We did that for each of our four categories. This took us about 15 minutes, but allow for at least 20 when planning in the event your group creates more categories.

We had enough time to create final value statements so we did word smith a tiny bit.

Viola! That is it.

Bonus: If you have time, do something fun at the end. Ask them to write on a sticky note what they loved most about the day, exercise, retreat and post them on the wall for others to read. We were behind schedule that day, so I actually had less than 60 minutes for my section and we did not get to the extra fun stuff.

You can see my original notes here.

This works because the power of a group is huge when they are all passionate about something and you push them to think big.

If you are curious, and I know you are, the values my women’s ministry crafted that day are: We pursue and love others. We are growing in Christ and reflecting God’s love to others. We encourage one another with love, grace, and mercy. We strive towards being transparent and humble.

Is there something different you have done to make mission, vision, and value statements more collaborative?

–Jane, loves a motivated crowd


On Being Critical Without Being a Douche

Every couple of weeks, I see authors I love remind other authors to just be nice already. Today, I came across a writer (no I will not link there) who has an entire website devoted to how much the genre they love has begun to suck and thus this person has decided to do the world the immense favor of writing non-sucking books for all of the languishing fans of that genre. I am not even going to touch the fact that this writer bashed women authors of the genre for being too touchy-feely, but stick with the main task at hand.

I understand that the range of tastes are immense and we all have our preferences, but there is a difference between bringing up critical issues with something and being a douche.

Be constructive in your criticism. If you have a complaint, explain why you believe the issue to be an issue. Painting everything or everyone else as crap because you do not like it, is not constructive. For example, in romance the rape scene as titillation, which was popular in the 80’s and 90’s, is problematic because it normalizes the belief that “she really wanted it so it’s not rape.”

I can have this opinion and not think that all authors who participated in this trope are terrible. Some of the authors I like have written books with this trope. I just choose not to like those books. If you have a problem with a trend within a genre, then talk about the trend with other adjectives that do not involve excrement or expletives.

Offer a solution to the issue at hand. If you see something wrong, offer ways that issue can be fixed or another way to handle the challenge. If there is a problem in your organization, brainstorm some ideas on how YOU can make it better. If we are talking about writing, write something different and then let your writing stand on its own merits. There is no need to bash other writers of your genre as you seek to instigate change. That brings me to my last point.

If you can not be constructive or offer a solution, be nice. If you feel you can not have a civilized discussion, do not have the discussion at all. Instead, find an author, company, or person who is doing something right and applaud them. Point out all the ways they are doing the opposite of the thing you dislike. Cheer on the people you think are doing a good job.

In the words of Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.”

Jacob, the BeerBrarian, has an excellent post on why men should just be nice to women already which goes along nicely with my directive to be nice. Jacob’s post is a good example of pointing out issues without being a douche. That and the gif on his post is fabulous.

Perhaps, if we all spent more time applauding the good, the bad would get less airtime and thus seek our attention less.

I do not want to be perceived as a Pollyanna. Readers who have been around for a long time know that is not me, at all.

However, when we have conversations about how we dislike this thing about a genre or that thing about a company, can we please be constructive and seek to solve the problem? If you can do neither of those things, can you choose to be nice instead? Because if you are just mean and complain about everything and everybody, you are being a douche.

–Jane, don’t be a douche

Updated to add the Wheaton quote because I did not want my nerd cred to be revoked.

Remove the Managers

When discussing using mob rule or crowdsourcing within organizations for staff training, strategic directions, or problem solving, there is one challenge that arises often. During my session at Internet Librarian, it came up again.

These ideas are great, but people in my organization say they can’t talk freely in front of management. How do we use these ideas in this environment?

The answer is simple: Remove the managers from the room.

Crowdsourcing works best when everyone can be given equal footing. When you have a situation where people can not leave the organizational chart at the door, for whatever reason, you need to do what you can to remove those structures.

In order for a mob top solve a problem well, they have to be able to share, to offer solutions, and criticism free of the things within your organization that have thus far prevented you from finding the solution through traditional means.

Remove the managers from the room, but put a great facilitator in there with the rest of the mob. The facilitator can be internal, but it should be someone who will be able to keep the group focused and be able to report back to management with some kind of reliable authority.

Reliable authority means that the mob trusts that their words and ideas will be conveyed truthfully and someone management trusts to keep the mob from burning down the organization entirely.

If you are using mob rule for something which requires input from management, then have management engage in their own mob discussion. Add the two parts together and see where the junctions lead. At the least, the junctions can serve as great starting points when you do get the mob back in the room with their managers.

–Jane, a reliable authority

Going from Talking Head to Mob Rule, Engineering Edition

Readers, you know I love engineers. I married one, so I know how they love equations, following directions, taking things apart, and the process of things. It makes me completely batty, but I get it. I have now spent almost half my life working around the idiosyncratic ways of Mr. Rochester.

I received an email from a lovely gentleman engineer who will be chairing an engineering conference next year. He wants to shake things up a bit and add some unconference elements to his gathering. He told me they used to do what they called rap sessions, it sounded like birds of a feather to me, but the sessions have evolved into a panel of experts, which he wants to move away from. He also said there was a lot of time where people were just sitting around.

My first thought was, “Bless their hearts. They mean well.” (I am a southern girl, in case any of you have forgotten.) I wrote him a long email, with some decent advice I thought others might find helpful.

If you are facing an especially rigid group that you would like to shake up, here are some ideas from the email I sent:

For groups that have an especially hard time with change or unscheduled elements, planning an unconference type event works best at the beginning of the conference. You can use the session, whatever it is, as a type of ice breaker to get people interacting and engaging before the more structured sessions. If you give people an opportunity to start talking early, chances are high they will keep doing so.

A Birds of a Feather discussion to kick off the conference might be good for your situation. If you want the rap sessions to go back to their roots, small table discussions not led by experts, either be very clear that the format is going retro or rename the session. The problem is getting people to break out of their mold. Clear directions up front will help.

You can also use lightening talks, if the experts still want to have their say. Each talking head gets 5-10 minutes MAX to talk, say 6 speakers in a row. Then the participants break up into small discussion groups of no more than 8 (a round table) and discuss some of the ideas. People can be free to leave groups and join new discussions as they please. This might be a little chaotic, so you might need to add in some structure.

You could also do an AMA (Ask me Anything) like on Reddit. The experts would be there, not to give a talk, but to just answer questions from the audience. There are a lot of techie and nontechie ways to td that, but again, it would give the experts their time while allowing the audience to run the show.

In terms of people sitting around at the tables doing nothing: Is there a way to spark conversation while they are there? Consider labeling the tables with topics and allow people to sit at table that interest them allowing the conversation occur organically.

Don’t be afraid to step out of the accepted way of doing things and do something adventurous!

–Jane, an adventurer

Getting Difficult People to Come Along: a crowdsource challenge

Last week, at Computers in Libraries, I facilitated a session in which the participants defined the direction of our 45 minutes together. It was fun for me and, I think, fun for them as well. After some brainstorming, multi-voting, hand-raising, and discussion, the topic that came to the forefront was “Getting Difficult People to Come Along.”

I asked the group of about 120 people, in 11 minutes, to tell me what worked in their organizations when faced with challenging people. The list they came up with is an absolutely fabulous one. Here is the list:

  • pay attention to learning styles~!
  • customize the experience
  • letting people be a part of the process
  • get them to say what is important to them and then empower them to make that change
  • honor the past
  • demonstrate how the new thing solves a problem for them
  • being resistant to change can be good, make them winners, they are the people that can spot problems when the runners are too far forward
  • acknowledge and honor that what people are doing is difficult and there are multiple ways to do everything
  • have personal conversations with staff that are challenges
  • institutional perceptions are not always reflective of the institution – tissue paper example
  • all staff took learning or personality style surveys and classes, then talked about the change and put in the job descriptions that change is happening
  • involving everyone (don’t panic and carry a towel)
  • made training fun and was an often a scheduled thing
  • asked people what they wanted to learn
  • talking to people outside of your department
  • same as managing children (haha because it is so true)
  • change is coming, give them time to adjust

To see the full list of topics, check out the presentation notes I took on the session entitled “Unleash the Power of Your People”.

–Jane, mob ruled

Around Town at Computers in Libraries 2012

The family Rochester is heading north to Washington, D.C. for the Computers in Libraries conference this week. The boys will be seeing the sights, aka the Air and Space Museum, while I am mingling with book and tech nerds, aka librarians.

I will be making two official appearances:

Wednesday from 10:30-11:15, on Track F, I will be presenting Unleash the Power of Your People, a session on how to use unconference principles for training and other things. This will not be a sit back and sleep session, so come with lots of questions, ideas, and a willingness to share. If you know nothing about the unconference style or you are an old hand at it, you will learn something new. In a room full of intelligent people, passionate about people and libraries, how could you not leave inspired to change the world?

Wednesday evening, 5-5:45, I will be signing copies of Mob Rule Learning in the Exhibit Area. Drop by, grab a book, and come chat!

Other appearances are assured, probably with this guy, but do not hold that against me. I am easily befriended by either complementing me on my incredibly handsome, intelligent boys or buying me a drink.

–Jane, safe travels

Using a Mob in Meetings

I wrote an article for FUMSI called “An unconference approach can revitalise meetings and training.” FUMSI is an online resource for information professionals. The link above is only for the abstract. The full article is available for FUMSI subscribers only.

In the article I discuss some classic unconference facilitation styles, like fishbowl and knowledge cafe, and how they are best applied to business meetings and trainings.

–Jane, are you a fish in a bowl?

Discussing Unconference Things at Midwinter

ALA has been working hard, as have the divisions, in the past couple of years to incorporate more unconference type things into the schedule at Annual and Midwinter. Up until this point, these things have been special events and, while there are a few, most of them are not recurring. It is time to start thinking of making these “special” things less extraordinary and instead making them “just the way we do awesome things around here”.

With that in mind, I am hosting a discussion at the Networking Uncommons at Midwinter on Sunday at 9am. During this time we will likely discuss the following:

  • making current unconference offerings less special and more the way we do things
  • ways to encourage speakers to leave behind traditional sage on the stage presentations
  • planning sessions with different formats
  • linking the virtual and physical conference for a more meaningful experience at both
  • anything else you want to discuss within this topic

True to the topic at hand, the discussion format will be decided by the group on Sunday, depending on how many people show up and how we are feeling that day.

If you love the unexpected, if you long to revitalize the conference circuit at ALA, if you want a place to discuss new ideas, if you want to be a part of a meaningful discussion (instead of a passive listener), if you need some new ideas to take back to your group, if you are a dreamer, a wisher, a hoper, or a magic bean buyer, come join us for a conversation that can make a difference.

–Jane, with apologies to Shel Silverstein

An Almost Streamed Meeting Causes a Ruckus

Something happened yesterday that I am still trying to understand. I am not talking about the shooting in AZ. This was much less tragic in the worldly sense, but more tragic to me personally.

An open meeting was closed to me because I could not physically sit in the room, though the means necessary for me to be “present” at the meeting were available and running; it was shut down for what I think are some shoddy reasons.

A disclaimer: I was not at the physical meeting, so my knowledge of what happened after the stream was cut off is limited to the Twitter hashtag #litabd11 and other backchannel discussions.

A word to the PTB, if you do not control the conversation and allow transparency, someone else will do it for you and the results will not be in your favor. I think the backchannels bore out the truth of that reality yesterday.

Briefly: Jason Griffey set up a Ustream if the LITA Board meeting so that members not physically present in San Diego could watch the meeting. This would also have ensured that members who were currently serving elsewhere at Midwinter could have watched the discussion later. The main speaker for the section of the meeting in question was a consultant who did an analysis of how the LITA leadership works and how we can make our organization better, at least that was what I gleaned from the tweets I saw from members in the room (which sounds a topic all the membership should have access to seeing). The board voted to suspend the live stream “during this portion of the meeting” (though for the record, the stream was never set back up). Jason has the recorded section of the meting up on his Ustream channel which shows the discussion of why the stream should be turned off. The sound is a bit wonky, but gets a little better. The discussion happens about 7 minutes into the recording.

For those not familiar with ALA or the processes of its meetings: The LITA Board meeting is an open meeting at ALA which means that any member of LITA is welcome to attend and participate. LITA stands for the Library and Information Technology Association.

There were three main reasons the board and other members present gave (in the video and on Twitter) for turning off the stream:

  • The board was not aware the streaming was going to happen and wanted a chance to discuss it first,
  • Streaming is a form of communication and should be discussed because a stream of the board would be seen as an “official” communication mechanism of the board, and
  • The information being presented by the paid consultant to LITA was copyrighted and he was paid to present to the board and not a large group (aka the entire membership).

The first reason given is valid, though knee jerk. I think (and this is speculation on my part) that Jason may have tried streaming this without warning the board to demonstrate the issue at hand, which it clearly did. The issue is that we should be streaming meetings and there is some disconnect about the why and how. People do not like to be surprised by things and will frequently reject the thing, good or bad, because the surprise factor is hard to get over. Jason got the knee jerk reaction he was looking for but unfortunately it was not in favor of streaming. The surprise could have given way to a, “What a great idea” discussion, but instead it was more like a “we want the opportunity to apply some red tape to this procedure so we’ll put it off reason” which brings us to the second reason given.

The second reason was that streaming constituted an “official” communication from the board and therefore should be vetted in some way. This argument reminds me of the discussions surrounding the LITA Blog when we first began that successful experiment. The same argument was made for not having a blog. We must get over this idea that everything that is produced should be polished to a high shine before being sent out to members. The internet is a beta platform. If you blog or tweet a meeting, people expect to see a meeting, not an “official” communication platform. If you wait around for “official” there will never be streaming of anything, including open meetings. Official communication methods from meetings, by the way, includes types notes that are out up somewhere, sometimes months after the meetings itself. This is not useful, though I think in the LITA Board’s defense their meetings minutes take less time to get the membership that want to read them. I think it is about time we got over this argument and accept the way technology works. I would expect that an association whose main purview is supposed to be about technology would inherently understand the meaning of change and flexibility in technology. Let us not forget this is an open meeting, but I will talk about that later.

The last reason given, while also valid, has some major issues as well. I do not know the exact rules about who owns copyright on material created by a consultant for ALA, whether the ALA body or the consultant is the holder of copyright for that material. For the sake of the argument, I will assume that the consultant retains copyright. If this is true, than the meeting, open or not, should not have been recorded in any fashion, including blogging and tweeting. However, there was more than one person in the room tweeting what the consultant was telling the board. Those tweets, while valuable, lacked context to some degree, as Twitter often does, so instead of a valid, whole picture of what the consultant was telling the board, we got choppy bits and pieces. In the world of the internet, streaming and Twitter are not that far apart except that one is better quality. Streaming would have given the consultant a better platform. If copyright was really an issue, a creative commons license could have protected the content of the message. After all the money we paid the consultant (I assume he did not do the work for free), should the members not be able to hear what our money paid him to do? Cindi Trainor did let us know that we could receive print copies of the consultant’s presentation if requested. I half wanted to request a copy just to put it up on the internet. I think that getting a print copy of the report is a waste of paper and postage.

My main issue with all this boils down to the fact that the LITA Board meeting is an open meeting. Open. Any member is allowed to attend and I think that should include me even though I can not physically be there. If the technology exists, and it does, for me to participate with the workings of my association, though other obligations and finances prevent me from attending, why are we not utilizing them? If the board is concerned that non-LITA folks might see the goings on of our association, then put the stream somewhere only members can access it. I would not advocate that route, however, since we all know nothing that secretive happens at board meetings. For actual secret stuff, we would have to record the conversations that go on in the halls after the meeting. Streaming meetings would open up opportunity for participation, which is what LITA is always saying it wants.

My secondary reaction is one of supreme disappointment. I love LITA, but I do not always feel that reciprocated now that I am not able to physically attend all the meetings. We are the technology group for the love of all that is holy, but we rarely act like it. Some of the tweets yesterday were arguing that the governing body should not be simply reactive to what members want and my response is “Why not?” Why can’t we experiment? Why can’t we try new things? Why does everything have to be official even when published on a platform, like streaming, Twitter, or blogs, that people know are not polished modes of communication? Why not test the newest technology (though streaming is hardly new) and show the other divisions how to do it? Isn’t that one of the things LITA is supposed to do with technology?

Lastly, and anyone with a shred on internet saavy knows this: If you do not control the message, someone else will. Yesterday, the LITA Board declined to try something new for reasons they felt were valid. As a result, other people, mainly members disenfranchised by the decision controlled the conversation via Twitter, and LITA did not come out the winner. They came out looking ignorant about the thing they are supposed to know about, technology.

I come away from this sad but unsurprised. LITA continues to be the thing I give my time and energy to in ALA because I want to make it better. I want to keep advocating for a technology association that actually is a leader in technology from inside the organization, even if I have to do so from miles away, on my blog, instead of on the live stream of the open meeting of the my board.

–Jane, this post is open for discussion

Be An Organization That Leads

I started reading Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin a couple days ago. It is a short read and well worth the time. As an individual who has spent a good portion of the last 15 years or so on the Internet, participating in various tribes, the ideas are not new but Godin has a wonderful way of explaining the power of tribes. Anyone in doubt of the true power of tribes and technology needs to read this book.

But that is not why I am writing this post. The thought that occurred to me as I was reading Tribes is that everything Godin says about the power and ability for any individual to lead a tribe also applies to every organization. This book should not be looked on as only a call to arms for individuals to become the leader they could be. This book should also be a manifesto for every organization that yearns to be more.

Godin talks about the need for an organization or tribe to have “true fans.” These are people who will do almost anything to support you, they talk about you all the time, and they are willing to go the extra mile or pay the extra dollar to have your product. True fans make up the heart of a tribe.

According to Godin:

Too many organizations care about numbers, not fans.

Every organization I have worked for was guilty of counting people like widgets. I am guilty of this. You are guilty of this.

One of the first questions we ask about a new service, website, or tool is how many users it has, how many unique visitors have come, or how many people have bought the product. While we may ask if there has been any anecdotal feedback, we never, ever ask if we have converted any fans.

One true fan of a service could be more influential, more important, than having 100 blase users. One true fan will spread the good word and try to convert others. A simple adopter will not say a word and your service dies with their lack of passion.

How would our organizations change if we stopped counting clicks and widgets and started counting fans?

If we started counting fans, we could use our new tribe to create change in our community or within the profession. Our organization could become the leader it always wanted to be.

Darien Library is a perfect example of what can happen when an organization harnesses the power of its tribe. Darien is a leader among library organizations because of their ability to see three separate groups as true fans and part of their tribe: the community they serve, the Darien Library staff themselves, and other librarians in the profession. With this tribe behind them and a vision before them, Darien is blazing a trail and many of us are happily following along.

Where are you taking your tribe today?

–Jane, is a true fan of many tribes