Lynne Cazaly – a speaker, author, facilitator, trainer and mentor carries perfect combination of being engaging, inspiring, creative and effective. She helps leaders to lead their team through transformation and change for stronger engagement, clarity and improved performance.
In our recent conversation with Lynne, we discussed about Visual Sensemaking, Future of Agile, Challenges in writing a book, and her vision of Change. Here is our interesting conversation which brought about valuable information for our readers;
Q1. Tell us something about yourself. What was your educational background? How and why did you come to choose Agile as profession? What were some of your biggest careers challenges?
Lynne: I’ve always loved and enjoyed creating and making things… not in an artistic way, but in a way of ‘getting it done’ or ‘making it up’. While Agile may not be my actual profession, I have done a lot of work with Agile teams and Agile leaders to help them lead collaborative environments, help them communicate with each other better and work with other parts of their organisation more fluidly.
My background was in communications. I studied Arts and worked in Public Relations and Communications roles in health, sport, art, government, training, and education. About 20 years ago I started my own consultancy and began working to facilitate communications for clients; I’d facilitated their strategic planning or communication or team days and found that I really enjoyed working in helping a team to be more productive, collaborative, creative and effective.
Some of my biggest career challenges involved being a lone voice or a ‘the first woman to…’. I headed up a sporting association and was frequently the only woman at every meeting. I had to work to get my voice heard. As a result of these challenges I’m deeply focused on inclusion and on helping people contribute in team sessions and workshops.
Q2. What is Lynne Cazaly’s vision of ‘change’? How would you describe it succinctly and definitely in your language.
Lynne: My vision of change is more incremental than transformational. I like the idea of being able to tweak, to adjust and to make smaller changes ongoing, rather than a big massive shift in one stage. People are able to get used to a little tweak and shift and it’s not as earth shattering for them. While they may be change weary with lots of little changes occurring constantly, a shift is possible. This occurs over time rather than trying to make one big sweeping change of everyone all at once.
Q3. Describe Lynne’s process of interacting with Business Leaders whilst bringing about change. How receptive are the leaders to newer approaches in your experiences ? And what do you advice to curbing possible friction?
Lynne: I’m most often contacted by a business leader who is trying to introduce, shift and make changes in their team, organisation and culture. While a few of the key stakeholders might be interested and in agreement, there are always people who aren’t. Even if they say they want change, when it comes to the workshop or session that is about designing that change and then doing the work to implement that change, you’ll see people’s resistance to it.
Sometimes people disagree at a high level, around a philosophy or a bigger belief. Other times they’ll disagree at a more concrete or detailed level, down in the details about a story or an event or something that’s happened to them before. Friction, debate, feisty conversation… all of these things are natural human interactions. Not always, but we need to accept that some of it is going to be healthy to tease out the truth and to work through the genuine concerns people have. As a facilitator and having developed models and training programs in facilitation, I’m a big believer in letting some of the issues come out. Stop trying to contain them or hide them or sweep them under the carpet. One of the best things to do as the meeting leader or facilitator is to mention the issues or concerns you know that people have. This is a great technique I learnt some years ago from the Groupwork Institute in Australia. They call it ‘naming ghosts’… and it’s about saying the things that you know people are thinking but perhaps they are too fearful to raise them or they’re waiting until later in a meeting or workshop to shake up the agenda. Mentioning them very early on in a meeting, workshop or project is a great way to get the theme and topic on the table. I find that progress is always easier once the ghosts have been mentioned.
Q4. What is ‘Visual Sensemaking’? Give an overview of the benefits this offers to people and how they can get started?
Lynne: Visual Sensemaking is a way that humans can make sense of complex information in these times of uncertainty. It’s not art… it’s smart. It involves mapping out visually, say on a whiteboard or in a notepad, what you know, what’s going on. That doesn’t mean it has to be pretty or clever or correct or artistic. It could be three circles interlinked like a venn diagram, or it could be a box with two arrows pointing into it with some text in the middle. Whatever you do, you’re helping other people make sense of it. We’re all sitting here with these mental models in our heads and we never know if we’re thinking alike. The only way we can work that, usually, is to talk and talk and talk and talk until we think we’ve worked out what each of us are thinking. But Visual Sensemaking takes that talking and starts to draw it or visualise it. A few shapes, some keywwords. This instantly helps people ‘see what you’re thinking’. You’ve mapped the information from your brain onto a piece of paper or a drawing app on a tablet or device and now we have something to talk about. The sooner we can ‘get on the same page’ the sooner we can decide and the sooner we can act. In my book ‘Making Sense: A Handbook for the Future of Work’ I talk about the three phases of visual Sensemaking being: think, map, act. Map out what you’re thinking and you’ll be more able to act on it – individually making sense, or collectively. You don’t need any art skills to do this, although I do run workshops and sessions that help build people’s confidence when it comes to sketching and scribing and drawing. We seem to be quite fearful of showing our thoughts like this… oh but we are happy to talk and talk and talk and talk for hours! To be more efficient, to get people on board with your project or ideas quicker, I recommend using a visual map of some type and helping people make sense.
Q5. Share some insight on ‘Leader as Facilitator’. Mention some of the positive changes it can bring into your organization, and the negative side-effects, if there can be any.
Lynne: ‘Leader as Facilitator’ is a concept I’ve written about in a book of the same name, ‘Leader as Facilitator: How to engage, inspire and get work done’. It addresses the changing nature of leadership. That we are shifting from command and control and directive work environments to more consultative, and now to more collaborative, creative, engaging workplaces where we as leaders need to get and gather the input of people in the team. It’s not up to them to step up or being more of a contributor; well not fully on them. It’s also on the team leader to create the right environment where people want to contribute, where they feel psychologically safe enough to express their thoughts and ideas and contributions. So the leader needs to be more of a facilitator. Professional facilitators of workshops use incredibly nuanced techniques to manage group dynamics, encourage safety in the group and then achieve an outcome and make great progress. You don’t have to be a full time facilitator to make use of these techniques. As a leader you can get yourself ready to facilitate, create the right environment for everyone to contribute, run a process or method for the meeting or workshop and then handle anything that happens on the day from people’s behaviour in the room or group. I identify these four steps in the book: You, Environment, Process, Responses. I’m seeing wonderful responses in teams where the leader adopts some of the principles of contemporary facilitation. The trouble with some facilitation is that some of the techniques are dated or cliched or sound like platitudes, not genuine statements of care. I’ve blogged on a few of these cliches and think it’s time to update the leadership language by incorporating some contemporary facilitation language.
Q6. You’re a renowned published author, share some of the challenges, as well as responsibilities that go into it? Do you find there is increased personal direct feedback on your work after you’re finally published?
Lynne: Yes I’ve published five books and have another two books that were printed for specific conference and client events. I have many more ideas and book topics underway for the next five or more! One of the main challenges is narrowing your topic. You start writing and you want to include everything on the topic, all of your thoughts, but that’s not the point. You need to look at the market of all of the others books on this topic and ask yourself ‘what do I know? what could I add here? What is the ‘slice’ of information on this topic that I can add?’ That’s the point. Add what you know and what you think. So there is the writing of the book and then there is the structure, the editing, the layout and design, the cover, the references, the printing and sales, the fulfilment. I really use my books as a door opener to my services, my keynote presentations and workshops. I’m at the point where each of my main workshops for clients and the public has a book to go with it. For example, I train people in visual thinking so I have a book called ‘Visual Mojo’ that goes with that. I run ‘Leader as Facilitator’ programs so I have the book to go with that. I deliver keynotes on Agile topics so I’ve just published a book called ‘Agile-ish: How to create a culture of agility’. There might be an expectation that in writing an Agile book it will be a handbook and have the whole history and very detailed ‘how to’ on Agile. I’ll leave that to Steve Denning’s wonderful book ‘The Age of Agile’. But no, not me. What I know is how to help teams make the shift from old ways of working to new ways of working…to introducing some Agile-ish ways of working. It might not be perfect or finished or done but that’s the beauty of ‘ish’. It means ‘somewhat’. And everyone on an Agile journey is going to be ish at some point. Yes, you certainly open yourself up to comment and feedback on your writing. It’s interesting and I enjoy receiving people’s feedback when they’ve actually read the book and can see the slice of the topic that I’m addressing and then have some feedback. I don’t have much time for critics who are making themselves feel better by critiquing based on the title or the book description – they haven’t read it. I’ll usually ask them to direct me to where I can get a copy of the book they’ve written on what they think, or their blog posts and presentations or published thinking. Inevitably they haven’t and they’ll point at other people’s thinking that they agree with. That’s great – you agree with that. Now let’s hear what YOUR thoughts are? Tell me what you think…write about it, publish your thinking. There’s nothing stopping you. Or is there?
Q7. Mention some of your views on the future of Agile, and Agility? What trends do you see prevailing in the coming time?
Lynne: I wrote about the ish-ness of Agile as it’s getting mashed up and becoming a bit of a fusion. Some of the purists don’t like this. But it’s a little like a tidal wave. You can’t stop it but you can influence it. Every sphere of thinking goes through evolution and change and morphs into the new version of itself. Rather than arguing or debating or conflicting, perhaps you have some thoughts on where you think it’s going – let’s hear them. At Agile conferences you’ll often see people presenting on definitions or the original early intentions or the difference between this and that, in an effort to educate and make people stick to the correctness of it all. But let’s see where this is going. What else is Agile mixing in with? How is Lean, Systems Thinking, Innovation, Design Thinking, User Experience, Customer Experience, Human Resources, Thought Leadership… all of these things mixing and melding and moulding into something new? What will it be called? Who know? As I wrote about in ‘Agile-ish: How to create a culture of agility’, we need to be aware that while working in an area of thinking known as Agile, we too need to be Agile. The biggest irony I see is how fixed we can be in our views about what Agile is and what it should be and what it shouldn’t be. Maybe we need to let go a little and see where it is going and what the next iteration of Agile is as more people express their views and insights from working with it for 15 years. Let’s be open to iterate agile. *gasp!*
Q8. Mention some of your future ambitions and objectives. How would you like to see Agile thinking evolve?
Lynne: I’m intent on continuing to publish my thinking and insights. As I experience things working with teams and groups I’ll continue to write and publish. My goal is a book a year for the next 10 years. I’m halfway through that but I think I’ll still go for another 10 years (or 30 years) on this; it’s a great experience to work out what you think and then put that thinking out there in the world to add to the discussion, the learning, the insights. The people build on that, just as I’ve built on what I’ve read and learned. I have plans afoot to launch an online learning university of sorts, delivering lots of programs in the skills that people need in the workplace – not the technical stuff, but the human, social and people skills we need. As well as that, I have a couple of app/platform ideas that are in the early stages of development so I too am being Agile with those!
Q9. What would be the most valuable piece of advice you would give future Agile Coaches, Researchers and aspiring authors?
Lynne: Beware of not being too perfect. You too need to iterate. That means working on small pieces or packets of work, putting it out there, making adjustments and changes to it. This goes for your own work, your own creative thinking and publishing or your own career. Expecting perfection on the first pass or in the first job or on the first project is putting a little too much pressure on yourself and on others you work with. If we could be more Agile ourselves, more flexible and adaptive, we’d struggle less with the resistance to change we’re trying to lead in others.
Lynne Cazaly is a Keynote Speaker, Author and Facilitator. She is the author of 5 books: ‘Agile-ish: How to create a culture of agility’, ‘Leader as Facilitator: How to inspire, engage and get work done’, ‘Making Sense: A Handbook for the Future of Work’, ‘Create Change: How to apply innovation in an era of uncertainty’, and ‘Visual Mojo: How to capture thinking, convey information and collaborate using visuals’. She works with project teams, executives and senior leaders on major change and transformation projects. She helps people distil their thinking, apply ideas and innovation and boost the engagement and collaboration effectiveness of teams.