Stoos Stampede: Empower Teams (2/6)

The original “Stoos 21” selected Amsterdam and 6+7 July for the next event of the Stoos Network. And then I stepped forward to try and make it happen by being a Management 3.0 leader…

Self-organizing Team

The team that organized the Stoos Stampede didn’t need to be empowered. There is no authority responsible for the Stoos brand, therefore anyone can empower themselves to organize an event under that name. (The public will decide if what you do also makes sense.)

We decided to experiment with a format in between open space and regular conferences. An issue with “normal” open space unconferences is that sessions are proposed only at the start of the event. This means that attendees have no idea what will be discussed during the event and cannot prepare for the sessions. The issue with “normal” conferences is that they allow people to prepare, but they leave very little room for improvisation and self-organization. We hoped to have the best of both worlds with a format in between these two extremes.

This was just one a number of choices we made. Other decisions included the choice of an old church monument instead of a conference hotel, session leaders instead of speakers, a program wall instead of a program guide, and buttons instead of badges.

Self-organizing Attendees

Stoos-wall-2We hoped that the attendees would self-organize as well. The location, in Amsterdam city center, was specifically selected to allow for spontaneous gatherings in Amsterdam’s many lunch rooms and restaurants. The venue itself enabled people to gather spontaneously in the bar, on the balconies, in the foyer, and in the big hall. And we specifically decided against printing a static program guide, so that people felt free to change, add, and delete sessions on the fly. By having a central program wall in the foyer we enabled people to take ownership of the program.

As I said on Friday morning when the event started, “The organizers are done. Now the participants should take over.”

And they did. (With a little help from Deborah Hartman-Preuss!)

The second view of Management 3.0 is Empower Teams. Smart managers understand you get the best results when people can take ownership of the outcome and make decisions together at the last responsible moment.

Go and read the Stoos Stampede Story

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  • Stoos Stampede: Energize People (1/6)
  • Stoos Stampede: Align Constraints (3/6)
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  • Deborah Hartmann Preuss

    Thanks for writing about the anatomy of this event, Jurgen.
    And thanks for the mention. I guess you are referring to my three-minute introduction to The Law of Two Feet for Unconference Newbies, just before we opened the conference for sessions.
    For those wondering, a little context: I’ve been involved in (participated in, organised, and facilitated) a number of unconferences since 2004. In fact, as a woman with a mission, my time is precious to me, and I attend almost exclusively unconferences. In this time I have had some outstanding experiences, and also seen some things that left me angry and sad: people confused, and confusing others, about the “un” part of unconference, reducing the joy and learning of the event and, worse, creating division.
    My presence on the stage that day was as a conference participant, not an organiser – I was there to offer to my peers what I’d found to be a useful, voluntary working agreement, to enhance the event for all of us. I’ve blogged the story of how I came unexpectedly to be standing on that stage, if you’re interested. It’s a story I’d like to share with you, because it marks a success for me at trying a new Stoosian tool called Non Violent Communication.
    Back to Jurgen’s theme: Sometimes we talk about “empowered teams” but secretly hold on to power by leaving them to their unconscious assumptions about authority, respect and permission. One of the tools of the truly empowering leader is facilitation: a facilitator helps a group accomplish their goals without adding her own agenda. (Sometimes a leader first helps them discover and formulate what they want into a mutual goal, which is a related skill). A Stoosian leader can help surface assumptions in a team, and then help them learn to develop working agreements that reflect everyone’s expectations and grease the wheels of collaboration. The Law of Two Feet is such a voluntary working agreement, which has shown itself of great value over and over again. You can read more on that here . But most working agreements are the unique creation of the team that needs them.
    Empowerment without decision-making authority is a farce – and we should not imagine that a lifetime of equating respect with submission will vanish with a simple invitation to participate! If we succeed in reaching outside our own community, it’s only natural that some will come to unconferences (as they do, to work) with assumptions, with unwritten “rules”, that erode the power and joy of their, and others’, experience.
    I believe a Stoosian leader sets new expectations and offers simple tools to help teams create a work environment resonant with their purpose. Like an unconference, for example. Or working agreements. That’s empowerment, with teeth 🙂
    It’s worth noting that Erwin had already planned to do some of what I’d suggested. We had discussed this, and in that case my moment on stage would have been simply welcoming newcomers and underlining his instructions. But since he knew I was coming on and time was short, I suspect he just let me cover the needed territory instead. Thanks for your trust, Erwin.
    And congrats to the Stoos Stampede organisers for creating a wonderful place for us to work together. It was not perfect – but it didn’t need to be! I give it 5 our of 5. Thanks!

  • Jurgen Appelo

    Note to readers: I replied to this comment and Deborah’s blog post in a comment on her own blog, and as a new blog post after this one…

  • Evanderkoogh

    I indeed felt there was little point in saying what you could say with twice the passion I could 🙂
    And thanks for the compliments. As Jurgen mentioned in his next post, we mostly worked on some constraints in which self-organization could emerge by people like yourself.
    I wrote about my own views on it on my own blog:

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