Key Concepts

Perspectives, Intervention

The revolutionary bottom line of perspectives are that by shifting perspective, reality shift as well.

Regarding intervention, a key principle is that a living system is free to choose whether it changes, or said differently: you cannot direct a living system, you can only disturb it (Maturana & Varela).

Openness, Choice, Responsibility, Truth

These are the 4 most basic tools or perspectives in Qwan and they also form a kind of basic value system in a Space project. These 4 perspectives support the generation of positive and negative feedback loops which are the cornerstones of the complex adaptive system our Space projects are.

Inquiry, Dialogue, Creation

This is the kind of general approach to anything we encounter in a Space project. Knowing that in a complex system a problem is rarely as simple as it appears to be, we inquire into it with open curiosity. When we do this, listening without knowing or expecting it to be in a certain way something amazing happens – there is a response, sometimes a very surprising one. A dialogue emerges where our own creative response is at the same time a deepening of the inquiry. This is one of the key aspects in creating positive feed-back loops and acting as a complex adaptive system.

Wholeness

At the risk of using a word that has been misused and abused so much there is really no better word to use for this key concept. We recognize that all aspects of life affects what we do in the moment. Family situations, hobbies, longings, education, feelings of stress, boredom, inspiration, excitement, fear, etc. matters greatly in my ability to be present, to listen, to be creative and so forth. The practice of sharing circles (group dialogue) is an opportunity to support each other, grow together and to find ways to work even better as a team.

Look at the team as a complex adaptive system in a complex environment. Take a closer look at the team, perhaps it is chaotic or complicated. Take a closer look at the environment, maybe it is actually simple, complicated or chaotic. Solutions in one problem domain does not work well in the other. This is close to the view of problem domains in Cynefin except that in Space we also recognise not only the outside domain but the team domain and personal domain as well.

Harmony and balance are dynamic

The only things that are not changing are the things that do not exist. Nature does not like static states and will do whatever it takes to break the stillstand. There are two very fragile states in a system: chaos and stasis. This can be used to our advantage in some cases but if one of them (usually the static) becomes an ideal that we try to uphold we are in for trouble. Space encourages you to meet every moment freshly, adjusting where something needs adjustment. Cutting something that has grown too far, nourishing something that is not thriving. Allowing chaos to be creative and structure to be supportive.

Co-leadership

The era of the heroic, solitary leader with a close team of advisors dictating strategy and action to the rest of the organisation is past. In a turbulent, fast-changing world, leadership needs to be participatory, distributed. It needs to take the form of co-leadership.

This in turn requires a sense of responsibility, ethics and initiative (reactivity) from all members of the organization. It also requires the traditional managers to release part of their previous control and trust their co-workers. Finally, it requires some protocols, guidelines and social formats to be in place so that important, far-reaching decisions are well taken, using the available collective intelligence.

Contextual approach

When working together in projects, there are three contexts that are particularly important to always bear in mind. The environment is the context that the project exists in. It includes customer expectations, competitors, technical trends, zeitgeist, company culture etc. The group is the team context e.g. the energy level, group spirit, team culture, collective will etc. The individual is each team member’s internal context including personality type, ambitions, family situation, stress level, longings, needs, motivators etc. Philosopher Gregory Bateson is said to have said, “Nothing exists without context.”. In the space method we hold the view that context is essential for meaning, truth and beauty. Space does not oppose hierarchies but it does oppose static hierarchical ways of organization and working together.

Visualization and transparency

A key requisite for self-organization is access to and feedback from state information. Visualization takes many different forms e.g. kanban boards, picture centric presentations and information sharing, visualized measurements etc.

About Space

Background

Recent developments in complexity theory and agile methodologies have given us a whole new way of relating to reality and to work together in projects that are both fun and rewarding. Yet, there are some aspects that, although encouraged or supported in agile projects, are not specifically addressed. One key thing is the relational and human aspect of project work. Space is an agile project methodology that attempts to also address this dimension by drawing on our experiences with running projects in various fields as well as bringing in some relevant theories and approaches that address the missing areas.

What problems does Space solve?

Navigation in a complex adaptive system (as described by cybernetics) depends on two mechanisms, positive and negative feedback loops. This is an alternative to some other common ways to handle interaction and what is going on i.e. command & control, consensus and democracy. These other ways of interacting are one way or another damaging the innovative and productive milieu we actively want to encourage in agile projects. Space provides a supportive structure for giving preference to positive and negative feedback as a way of interacting as opposed to the other ways and thus helps to ensure that the project remains true to core agile principles and the complexity of creating truly innovative and awesome results.

Goals

Through the use of the space method, projects increase their likelihood of being

  • Successful
  • Innovative
  • Decrease employee churn

Individual project members are likely to experience the following benefits

  • Professional growth
  • Personal growth
  • Satisfaction with work
  • Better relationships
  • Increased creativity
  • More joy of creating

Influencing disciplines

Scrum

Scrum is the most popular Agile method used in software development projects today – for good reasons.

Lean kanban

This is the other agile framework that greatly influenced space. The focus on flow, limiting work in progress, continuous improvement (kaizen) and visualization are all essential elements in Space.

Qwan

Qwan started as a series of patterns for self-development developed by Louise Wersäll and Ulrika Danielsson. It has been used with great success in both private coaching and organizational development. There is an unfortunate tendency to neglect the developmental aspects of team and individual work in projects due to their temporal nature (a “project” that never ends is not a project). However most software developers tend to spend the majority of their time working in projects going from one project to the next. Even though it is possible to develop and educate oneself and in many ways improve team work due to experience working in a team, it tends to conflict with what is seen as “project work”. Space addresses this problem and Qwan provides a great set of tools to do this.

Jungian Psychology

Jungs brilliant formulation of personality types in terms of extraversion/introversion, thinking/feeling, intuition/sensing is very useful when looking at how similarities could work as common ground and source of strength rather than as an area where people step on each others toes and leading to stagnation while at the same time also helping to make differences a source of creativity, diversity and efficiency rather than a source of misunderstandings, conflict and isolation. Another key jungian concept that space embraces and supports is the process of individuation i.e. that there is a deeper sense of Self that seeks to realize itself and unconsciously drives each person to towards integrated wholeness and maturity in order to manifest one’s full potential.

Mindscapes Theory

Mindscapes theory (formulated by Magoroh Maruyama) provides an additional and very essential aspect to group dynamics and view of the personality. Mindscapes looks at epistemological preferences for thinking and reasoning and explains some of the barriers to embrace mutualistic reasoning in a very simple and powerful way.

Complexity Theory

Most of project work today are conducted in complex environments due constant change and high degrees of interaction and interdependence. Complexity theory is the discipline that studies such systems. Modern ecology and biology provides a multitude of examples of interdependent, self organizing systems and provide very good and easy to understand metaphors for working in projects. Complexity theory incorporates systems theory, game theory, chaos theory, cybernetics etc. While most agile methods today glances at complexity theory only a few ones (e.g. Cynefin) fully embrace the implications of Complexity theory. In Space, complexity theory is at the core of the approach which is exemplified by the additional feedback loops created by introducing other kinds of regular meetings, besides planning meetings and reviews, in a structured way into projects.

Consciousness levels in adults

Several current theories, partly overlapping, distribute adult individuals in consciousness levels, or stages of human development, reflected in their modes of action and ways of looking at things (cf Graves, Kegan, Wilber).

The most common consciousness level in global corporations is based on performance and effectiveness (organization as a well-oiled machine). There are at least two consciousness levels, further on in human development, and less common than the performance level: one is the pluralistic level (organization as a family) and the other is the integral level (organization as a living system with an evolutionary purpose).

Project Artefacts

Yardstone

Like most agile methods, Space takes an iterative approach to project work. Iterations are a great way to facilitate reflection, improvements and strike a good balance between having “work peace” to get stuff done, reflecting upon that work and receiving feedback from other stakeholders (e.g. customers).  A yardstone in Space is similar to a sprint in Scrum except that the content is determined by the sum of the estimates for the yardstone content and the duration of the yardstone is the actual completion of that content. A Yardstone is thus not a hard timebox like a sprint but instead a “feature box”. I.e. what is fixed for the duration is not the time but rather the set of functionality. That being said, the time dimension is also important and typically there is a yardstone every 2-4 weeks. Yardstones that are longer than 4 weeks does not promote iterative practices and are not recommended. The purpose of a yardstone is to enable and support continuous improvement by providing a natural rhythm in project work (like a breath cycle) where review and reflection is given appropriate room at suitable intervals. This means that in the beginning of a project it is quite common for the duration of the yardstone to vary a lot from the original estimate. This, as opposed to fixed length sprints in Scrum, greatly helps the team to improve estimation skills as it becomes very obvious after each yardstone how much over or under the original estimate the team actually was, providing a great opportunity for improvement of this vital skill. A rule of thumb is to select functionality that is estimated to take about 3 weeks, but for the initial 5 iterations target 2 weeks instead.

Milestones

A milestone is a specific set of discernable functionality that is achieved by completing several yardstones.

Project start-up

At the onset of a new project some very important questions needs to be answered:

What is the project team, who are its members?

What are the constraints?

What are the goals?

What is the definition of done?

What are the hopes, the requirements, the fears?

Another crucial thing is the project environment space. This includes things like:

  1. Meeting rooms
  2. Online collaboration environment e.g. git, google drive, slack etc.
  3. Continuous integration environment with automated builds and tests

Coaching space

The space coach (who in many ways are similar to a scrum master) conducts individual coaching sessions with each team member on a regular (usually weekly) basis. The focus in these coaching sessions are on the individual level and an opportunity for a team member to look at herself in relation to her tasks, the team, the project or any private matter that is current.

Clearing space

A clearing space is a group meeting or sharing circle if you will, that a space team conducts regularly, typically each afternoon where each team member is invited to share anything that is on her mind. It could be things she has discovered during the day, it could be general reflections on teamwork or it could be some personal matter. The purpose is not to solicit feedback or help from team members but to share and look at whatever comes up supported by the rest of the team members attentive and non-judgemental listening presence.

Team space

A team space is another kind of group meeting which differs from the clearing space in that the coach takes an active role and team members are encouraged to provide feedback and reflections on what is brought up. It is typically held once a week instead of the clearing space.