Stoos Network (part 1): About Communication

I write this in my hotel room after having traveled back from Stoos to Zürich airport. The Stoos Gathering just ended and I’m feeling very tired. I had just 6 hours of sleep in the last 2 nights, and tomorrow I have to get up early, again, to catch my plane to Cleveland, US. My report about the proceedings of the Stoos Gathering will have to wait for a day or two.

But there’s one thing I wish to clear up before I tuck in.

A number of people have been waiting (in vain) for feedback from the Stoos Gathering over Twitter during the event. It seems they expected it to be like a regular conference, with a continuous stream of ideas emitted to the outside world.

Apparently, it wasn’t.

The purpose of the Stoos Gathering was to try and reach consensus on how to accelerate management transformation. We decided that, for us to be able to achieve consensus it would be necessary to have a high level of trust, respect and safety among the participants in the room. Many of us didn’t even know each other. But we wanted the participants to share their personal stories, and their stories from their organizations and customers, in order to get to the core of the problem we tried to solve. And this required a high comfort level among all participants.

And so, at the start of the event, we asked ourselves, “What about Twitter?”

Then a long discussion started. We identified two problems with publishing half-baked ideas on a #stoos Twitter stream, while the event was running:

  1. Some of the participants had non-disclosure agreements with their organizations and/or customers. They could not say anything if there was a possibility that others would tweet identifiable comments about what was happening.
  2. And some of the participants said they would not feel comfortable opening up and expressing their inner thoughts in a group of strangers if there was a chance that comments would turn up on Twitter and the whole world was listening.

The outcome of our 30-minute discussion was that we would only tweet personal opinions (if we felt like it) with the #myview tag appended. And we would ask permission if we wanted to tweet someone else’s contribution before the end of the event. This was the best compromise we could come up with, at a time when many people didn’t know each other.

Personally, I would not have minded more openness to the outside world during the event itself. But the fact was that in this particular case trust was in conflict with transparency. And, in order to achieve our goal, internal trust was of higher priority than external transparency. I had to accept the fact we wouldn’t get much done if we didn’t respect the diverse opinions, feelings and backgrounds of the people in the room.

Yes, we decided at that moment to favor respect people over openness. Sometimes you have to choose…

Regrettably, a few people outside of the room didn’t like this decision. On Twitter I saw comments such as “feeling left out”, ”no concrete results yet”, “wasted opportunity” and “no transparency”.

What did we do wrong?

We went a long way collecting input from many people before the event, via several blog posts. We shared that input and even pasted all the feedback as information radiators on the wall in our room. But, as far a I remember, we never promised anyone to have real-time discussions over Twitter with the whole world during the event. It turned out that, with the participants in the room, that novel concept was simply not going to work. We would have real-time transparency of achieving nothing, instead of transparency-after-the-event about achieving something.

We preferred the last option.

I apologize to anyone if we have given the impression that we were going to have real-time updates, or on-line discussions. We did not intend to organize a conference. We intended to organize a focused discussion with a brand new team. And every newly formed team needs a bit of time to get to know each other, and work on a first sprint without being disturbed all the time.

Well, we finished our first sprint.

We’re delivering the results right now (see: here and here) and next week I’m sure several blog posts and announcements will follow (when we had some sleep). We welcome all the feedback we can get. And please help us do better in the next sprint. Yes, I’m sure we can do better! But interacting with the world while trying to build a new team was something we couldn’t do at the same time. At least not in Stoos.

Sorry, we're not superheroes. But at least now we are a team!

Jurgen

p.s. There were two other reasons for the lack of tweets. 1) The hotel wi-fi worked badly in our room. We often needed to go outside to get online. 2) Most of the discussions were so engaging, time simply flew past.

Tomorrow: Stoos Network (part 2): Name & Identity

For more information: Stoos Network websiteStoos Network group

  • Your Input for the #Stoos Gathering
  • Stoos Network (part 2): Stakeholders & Personas
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  • http://derekneighbors.com Derek Neighbors

    Seriously. This is laughable on nearly every level. People afraid of transparency on twitter and belonging to organizations with gag orders stand no chance of changing management for the future. #myview

  • http://profile.typepad.com/kurthusler Kurt Häusler

    Heh reminds me of SEMAT.
    Regulating tweeting? So it is all about moving towards a low trust culture then?
    Not what I expected.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/energizedkris EnergizedKris

    IMO things went wrong from the start by publicising the event like it was an open event when it was clearly a closed one. I think it would have been better to privately seek the input of those not attending before hand (rather than through open public channels such as twitter and blogs) Whilst I’m sure some external input was useful did it really make the difference to the outcomes from Stoos? If it did then maybe you invited the wrong people.
    It’s not hard to understand some of the negative behaviour that has arisen as a result of how things have been handled – in fact I would say it was predictable. IMO, it’s a microcosm of much that is wrong in the communities that we are part of – our human frailties (ego, jealously, elitism, etc) getting in the way of positive changes we would all like to see. I just hope that if something useful comes out of Stoos it won’t be tarnished with some of the unpleasantness we are witnessing on the periphery.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    That’s interesting feedback. It is exactly the opposite of some of other criticism we get. Which is that not enough people of the “target audience” were represented.
    Obviously we can’t do both. We can’t be 100% open and transparent _and_ include people who aren’t there yet.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    No, it was about trying to _build_ trust among people who didn’t know each other yet. You cannot build trust with glass windows to the outside world.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jurgenappelo Jurgen Appelo

    Good thinking. The complexity of this discussion on communication resembles the complexity of the problem we are trying to address in the first place.
    Let’s iterate and improve…

  • http://scrum-breakfast.com Peter Stevens

    … and remember the Prime Directive: Everybody involved did the best they could, given their knowledge, abilities and the situation at hand.
    Obviously there are learnings for the future…

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