Web Cowgirl 衛 思 維 (webcowgirl) wrote,
Web Cowgirl 衛 思 維

Curiosity: how corporate trainers teach you to be collaborative

General update: sick still, not going out tonight, despite having gorgeous black and white dress on.

So I went to a training event work sponsored on Tuesday called "Curiosity." It's part of their non-attempt to teach us about Agile. Truth be told, this event was about teaching us how to collaborate and what barriers to collaboration are. And if you're interested, I'll tell you what we did in an attempt to learn this.

The morning started with tea, coffee, and snacks, and a lot of visiting. I didn't recognize at least half of the people there, but apparently of the 27 men and 2 other women, all were fellow employees. We got together with the two facilitators (Terri and Dena, I think) in the rehearsal studio, and they asked us to first introduce ourselves to one other person we didn't know. Then each pair went to another pair and introduced themselves, then ... she said we should know everyone by the end of the day, but thank God we didn't have to repeat everyone's name.

Then we had to go around the room and find something we hadn't noticed before. I'd, oddly, missed one of those curvy white photo shoot areas, but there was also a flag, an orchid, and scores of other things. Then we stood near the things we'd just noticed.

Then we started sorting activities. What newspaper do you read? (My group was "internet.") How long have you been at the company - in a line? Who is English (maybe, can't remember), split yes on this side, no on the other? Who shops at Tesco? Who identifies as a member of a political party? Who likes the same kind of vacation (split in four groups, mine being "adventure")? Who blogs (two lines)? Who likes ballet?

Then we heard about how certain visual clues give you ideas about a person's identity, which may or may not be correct. We split into pairs, then had to tell one person what we had in our fridge, then they had to guess what we were like based on the contents of our fridge. (My partner bombed out because my fridge was mostly empty after being on vacation and he got a very wrong idea about my cooking patterns.)

We split into pairs again. Given "Find three ways in which you are different from the person you paired with that aren't immediately obvious," I found my partner and I struggled to find our differences! However, we did get into a very interesting discussion of the promotion someone we both knew had failed to receive, so I decided to NOT switch partners and continue our conversation while we switched to ...

adding one more person, then describing how we work (both of my partners said, "I like people to leave me alone and let me work"), what kind of people we work well with, then describing how people that may have our similarities may be difficult for us to work with - about the only helpful conversation of the day.

We switched again, and I wound up with a poker developer. "What can you do to help yourself succeed at the company?" He said (first), "Fire 90% of the managers," which made me laugh, then, "Nothing, I am only a success if my team is a success." I said there was lots of stuff I could do to help myself succeed, like get better training and stuff, but my growth path was obviously different than his. I asked about the managers and then we got into a really interesting story about how the management decided that the Danish team needed the same in-seat hours as the UK team did - no more "three days at home, only in the office 10-3 TTh ..." -

and I lost my interest in the other exercises. How was his team working? What were their priorities? How did they handle this? Did they band together? What are Danish employment laws like?

So we kept chatting. We got distracted, though, with another exercise I've mostly forgotten. Perhaps it was three things you have in common with a stranger? I got paired with a nice man from Human Resources who'd been at the company for all of three weeks. He used to be at the Disney Co and told me he was really looking forward to working at a place that didn't have a lot of politics (snort). He also had been caught out earlier as doing Scottish Highland dancing, which I thought very in keeping with his general good looks, and we got caught up talking about being an ex-pat, which he was while working in Hong Kong ("very surreal there"). He was SO sweet and got me a chair and gave me a little touch on the shoulder to offer it to me. Then we had an exercise where we had to practice talking, making offers to someone, all of which they'd say no to. And we switched partners for this.

Uh, let's see, so for "saying no," my partner, I offered him to carry my bags while we backpacked across the Pyrenees, me on horseback ... to do a presentation for me at 9 AM the next day ... to go salsa dancing. He had no trouble saying no to all of these things! Then he said to me, "Let's just knock off for the day after this and spend the rest of the afternoon in the pub skiving," and I had a VERY hard time saying no! He also said, "Let's run off to Ibitha for the weekend and go to some cool clubs and check out the party scene," which actually sounded fun!

The woman tried to make the point that it was HARD to say no, but I made it so easy for him! Then we tried saying "Yes, but ..." the point being that it was a killer to creativity to have people qualify their yeses, but I wound up totally disagreeing with her on this and found "Yes, buts" work to come up with the qualifications that will enable you to say, "Yes." So when I asked my colleague if he wanted to go have lunch up the road, he said, "Yes, but ... I already have plans." However, that's the very point when you propose an alternative! (He said, "How about that trip to Ibiza, then?" And I said, "Yes, but... I don't think my husband would approve of me travelling with someone I barely know!" and he said, "So, what if he comes with us?" and I said, "Yes, but ... he doesn't like airplanes!")

Then they went on to the power of "Yes, and ..." which is supposed to get people to really high realms of creativity ("To the moon!"). Ours went, "So, what do we say we go on a hiking trip to Santiago de Compostela on horseback!" "Yes, and ... we'll have a boat meet us there to take us and your husband to Ibitha!" "Yes, and ...I'll arrange the hotel room so he feels comfortable about everything!" "Yes, and ... we'll go dancing until dawn!" "Yes, and ... he'll sleep in the hotel room because he doesn't like all of that clubbing stuff!" "Yes, and ... we'll go to some after party when the clubs close!" "Yes, and ... we can both do lots of illicit chemicals and he'll be our designated driver!"

"TIME!" Anyway, that was very silly, and afterwards we had a break.

Then it was time for the group activity. My group of 5 had, "Come up with a way to help promote yourself at work." First we had to come up with ideas, then we had to prsent it, and really, we floundered around, because the exercise wasn't clear enough and they weren't really allowing us to ask questions. (On the other hands, some groups had people who just said, "This is stupid," and sat out for the entire exercise.) Then each of the groups presented - ours was the Thinking and Drinking club (eveyrone had a different topic, some were "Reduce time spent in the design phase," another "Show the value of customer service" or something like that), then we got back together and rated ourselves on our collaborativity (collaborativeness?), and somehow my group said 6 despite the fact I and the Danish guy said 10! Then we were given something to "take back to the office" ("Do a search on how to order a beer in Japanese and then explain how this will help you design better user interfaces" ... what?), and dismissed.

Me, well, all I wanted to do was talk to the Danish guys about how things worked for them, and they all invited me to go out with them for lunch! I checked with someone at the office and I had no meetings for two hours ... so off I went for tapas and wine and a great visit. What did I hear? That, when offered a new contract that had a bonus but shitty hours, they said, "You would take away all my work pleasure if I had to work these hours, but to give us a bonus, you don't need to bother writing a new contract - just give it to us. And clearly none of you have children, or you'd understand that I could spend no time with my family under this kind of a schedule. When you have kids (he continued deriding The Demotivator), your kids are Priority One. Priority two is your kids, and priority three is your kids. Work is maybe fourth." And they kvetched about being stuck on this stupid event where they learned nothing but were taken away from their families for two days, but at least (they added) they were able to charge all of their meals to the company.

What I learned about Agile? Nothing. Am I able to collaborate more? With the people I worked with, yes, and I have to say, if I had the least inclination to work in Denmark, there's some guys who'd love to have me there taking care of their QA.

Also note, I've decided that ENTP is the Anti-me - while I'm trying to figure out any way to get things right, these people are determined to follow the procedures to the letter, then back-stab you to higher-ups. Both of us want to lead, but theirs is a constricting style, and mine is "here, have enough rope to hang yourself if you think you can get it done."

Here's what one of my coworkers had to say about the program:
I’m loath to write this, but I suppose you’ll need to balance the joy with the damnation, so here goes.

This is a summary of what I found out:

To collaborate with your colleagues, you must

1) Not make assumptions about them

2) Ensure your assumptions about them are accurate by probing them in a curious fashion (and trying not to scare them too badly, presumably).

3) Not respond to their ideas in a negative fashion.

In my opinion, if you didn’t already know that, then you are probably a sociopath. If you’re a sociopath, then this sort of thing probably won’t help.

At best it was a diverting four hours out of the office, at worst it was four hours of cringe worthy luvvidom and excruciating exposure.

One positive thing was that I met some of our Danish colleagues. We endured together, and afterwards I really needed a drink.

Sorry, but for me it wasn’t a hit.

I asked him for clarification of some points, and he added:
Luvvidom is the state aspired to by those that need adoration in order to function. They refer to each other as “luvvie” and they all converse in polari. Actors, basically. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luvvies There used to be a comic strip in Private Eye (a scurrilous satirical mag that was presided over by the late lamented Peter Cook see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Private_Eye ) about luvvies drawn by Heath. His drawings are naïve, but the text is usually a killer. Pseuds Corner is another great expose of anything pretentious. Go here for a huge dollop of pretentiousness unveiled: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseuds_Corner. Private Eye! Great stuff! It’s what makes us British, you know…

She should get the point, though.

The Danish guys were OK. The one we got lumbered with in the last exercise wasn’t playing at all – which kind of annoyed me. We all had to do that shite, so collaboration was the only way not to look like a total curmudgeon! Still, I can’t really blame him as I reckon I’d have been just as peeved to have to come all the way from Denmark for that! There was someone else in that final five that annoyed me for being so unutterably dull, but I can’t remember his name. If I ever have any dealings with him, I think it’ll probably be safe to simply ignore him on every level. Oops. Sociopath mode again!
Tags: $howboat, fragile
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