Breaking the bubble with books

With moderate success, I’ve been trying for a few weeks now to reduce the amount of time I spend looking at my mobile phone. For one thing, the time there is usually not well invested, and for another, it’s good to glance up in the air for a moment. Social media tries to make you dependent with all kinds of tricks, which is perfectly fine in terms of the providers’ business value, but it doesn’t focus on what’s good for me.

Short, irrelevant chunks of information that suit my bubble have priority. If a longer story over 2 pages pops up, you are so distrustful thanks to years of clickbait advertising that you skip ahead after just a few sentences. Or, oh, the queue at the checkout is quick today, it’s my turn and I put the mobile back in my pocket.

Many characteristics are reminiscent of the early days of music streaming services, where users would switch tracks after less than 20 seconds. Artists and the industry responded with short, conformist, unthrilling new tracks. An hour of music scrolling and you’re mentally cooked. Many put down the streaming player and reacquainted themselves with the record player and vinyl.

In the pandemic, our “pub reading”-team has started a book debate podcast for which I “have to” read books that would otherwise never make it onto my reading list. Purely because of the genre. Of course, I also suggested books to the podcast team that they would never have read otherwise. For example, on the topic of the climate crisis, we went on to read two opposing books.

After some time, this interested me so much that I am now virtually on the hunt for books that take me into unknown or opposing spheres. They have to be well written and interesting, but the reading may also be demanding because the author has a very contrary opinion.

My hope is that books and audio books will perhaps become something like the long-playing records of the social media age. Simply immerse yourself in another world for an hour or more, learn something new, gain insights into other people’s minds and, last but not least, be well entertained.

I’m closing this post with less than 2,500 characters so that you’ll be served it often 😉

P.S.: Sadly the podcast “4zu1” of Kneipenlesung is in German only.

Breaking the bubble with books

Forgotten milestone of a magnificent journey

I am a fan of certifications, acquiring knowledge, taking demanding exams, obtaining a certificate and then applying the knowledge. On this trip things were different, but thanks to a kind colleague I walked back for a moment, took the certificate and was very happy about it, because it gives me the rare opportunity to look back.

It’s about a journey we took as a team, and lean management was one of the orientations. We changed a lot because we wanted it that way and many good ideas emerged from outside. In 2016 we organised a training Lean Sense&Respond in Germany, because some of us found it very exciting. This is a set of methods created by Fujitsu for Service Management. But my team consists of consultants, which is probably the reason why it was so exciting.

In the coming months and years we attempted to adapt the methods for us, made mistakes, learned, stood up again, improved and failed better. And whenever you doubted yourself, there was always someone in the team who had the energy to go one more try and took you with them.

In retrospect, I can only say that adopting these methods was like a catalyst for developing a culture in a team. As an obvious example, all “concerns” (obstacles in daily work) were initially assigned to me, a normal consequence in a hierarchical system. Until we all realised that it would not work that way because it was too many points for one person. Today, team members find such obstacles and remove a lot of them by themselves, sometimes even problems from the category involving hierarchy. So basically problems that could be easily assigned to me. “We analysed the problem, worked out three solutions and made an appointment with the business unit involved. Can you please attend.”.  Yes, I am happy to attend, thanks for preparation.

Since these problem fixing actions and solutions are usually clearly structured and offer alternatives, we are much less likely to encounter a negative response than before. A team of consultants is working on many projects at the same time, so there are quite a lot of obstacles in our work, which are cleared away with a fantastic speed. Everybody in the team is motivated to tackle, so you can surely imagine what a positive influence this has on our work. Looking back, it seems to me quite stupid to pass all these obstacles through one person “the boss” as a bottleneck. So I can concentrate on the problems that lie in the hierarchy or are new territory. In other words, putting my back into the right direction.

Certain decisions that seem absolutely logical or even necessary from today’s perspective were not so clear to me at that time. The most outstanding example here, arising from the question of why we have so few female applicants (and thus team members), we were able to hire four great female consultants in a row and I am sure there will be even more in the future. Today we all know that this decision constitutes an absolute enrichment of our competence. I even believe that the biggest doubters of this undertaking have now grown into biggest fans.

Decisions in general, I just find it amusing when in a movie the heroes always do everything better than their team. Imagine chief engineer “Scotty” who fixes, improves and solves everything on the starship Enterprise as a sort of one-man-show. Even though he has technicians who stand beside their aggregates every day and are much more proficient with them. Scotty should encourage his young technicians now and then as a coach. Okay, it’s only fiction. Apart from supporting individuals, we also have the challenge of rapidly developing technology. To make predictions for the future here is wonderfully balanced in a team, more brains more guts. Sticking to decisions is a matter for the management, finding decisions in complex contexts it is better placed in expert teams.

On the topic of efficiency, which is one of the main topics of Lean, I can only report amazing things. We help and support and improve each other, we are often the swiftest and have increased overall performance many times fold. At least if you take internal and external customers as a benchmark. Here, too, a great cooperation with our service management neighbours has been established. When I read headlines today “Companies want to go back to the offices to gain back control over their employees”, I wonder as if we were living in a very different world. I don’t control, I offer my help and try to keep up with how everyone is doing. Here I would also like to thank the team, because we all look after each other. Personal crises, whether small or big, are part of our lives, we are there and stand in for each other, so that we can at least give each other some comfort here. One last sentence in order to control, if something is important to me, I work along like everyone else.

I’m just realising I’ve had a wonderful journey, I could tell you a couple more paragraphs about it. Maybe I will write on the challenges in the future. The work for all of us is not getting less, just different. Getting efficient is great, being efficient can be a burden. In any case, I thank him for the suggestion to take the “Bronze Certificate” after all. Even though we are probably already “silver” consultants somehow. We will take care of that too and I promise that this time it will not take four years. Here it is:

P.S.: If you want to know where the journey is heading. In autumn 2019 and January 2020 we did an Agile training as a team 🙂 Although I stick to the initial words, even Agile is just a way to inspire culture.