What could WOL for Healthcare look like?

Her note started off nicely enough. Then I read her feedback, including a challenge I didn’t know what to do with.

Bettina had heard about WOL Circles at a conference and liked the idea. “I started my first Circle directly. With great success!” She said she is working as a Change Manager in a large non-profit healthcare organization in Germany, and that she wanted to spread Circles. But she made it clear that WOL, in its current form, would never work. 

“The nurses, doctors, and other professionals do not have 60 minutes a week for WOL, there is too much text, the examples have to refer to the health sector…” 

Ouch. She even said the German translation wasn’t acceptable, as the informal pronoun (“du”) simply isn’t used in her organization’s “official papers.”

I knew she was right. I asked if we could speak on the phone. 

The challenges in Healthcare

Healthcare organizations suffer from the same cultural issues that plague many large companies. The hierarchical structures limit information flows in ways that are bad for individuals, the organization, and the patient. Too often, nurses don’t question doctors and medical technicians don’t question the ambulance manager. (Atul Gawande, surgeon, author, and CEO of the recently-formed healthcare venture formed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase, captured these challenges in dramatic fashion in The Checklist Manifesto.) 

The same is true across the hierarchy as well. People in a given role are not in the habit of of sharing problems and solutions to improve quality, and in many cases there may be no mechanism to do so. So the same mistakes get repeated, and innovations don’t spread. 

On top of such challenges, all of this takes place in an environment that is extraordinarily demanding. It’s busy, stressful, and unpredictable - and the stakes are extremely high.

One possibility

Of course, not all healthcare organizations have the same cultural issues. Buurtzorg, for example, has over 10,000 professionals in “a nurse-led model of holistic care” that emphasizes “humanity over bureaucracy.” They are portrayed in Reinventing Organizations as a model of self-organization and self-management. But for every Buurtzorg, there are thousands of traditional companies. 

How could WOL help?

I told Bettina how we had already adapted WOL for leaders by making it shorter and simpler, and by integrating it into a reverse mentoring program. Perhaps we could do something similar. 

Together, we decided that Bettina’s colleagues could also meet in pairs (perhaps one with more experience and one new to the organization), and we could limit meeting to no more than 30 minutes. Then we identified eight different exercises over eight weeks - eight contributions they could make that would help them find their voice, improve their craft of patient care, and enable them to re-connect with the sense of purpose that inspired them to join the profession in the first place.

What would you do?

The challenges faced by people in healthcare environment are similar to those in other operational environments, be it manufacturing, retail, transportation.

As different as those jobs may be, the people doing them all share the same human needs for control, competence, and connection. And all of the organizations they work in need to improve quality for their customers and for their own sustainability. The future of work isn’t limited to people working in offices.

Bettina and I will meet in Frankfurt this week to work on details of a pilot. Whatever the outcome, we’ll surely learn something that can help us take a next step and try again.

If you were Bettina, what would you do? What could WOL for Healthcare look like?

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WOL Circle Guides now in Dutch

As I began to write this post about the Dutch translation project, I looked again at the letter that Marc Van De Velde wrote telling me the work was complete. After reading it several times, I realized there were no better words than his, and so I include his note in full below. His last paragraph on his motivation for doing it is especially powerful.

My only addition is to add my personal thanks to Marc, Annemie, Geert, Frederik, Natasja, Saskia, and Jeroen for their translation, and to Peter for his review of it. It is a tremendous effort, inspired solely by their desire to help others.

Annemie told me, “I am proud to have participated in this project. Grateful and happy to have met beautiful people who I trust deeply.” What a truly wonderful collaboration. I hope to thank them all in person some day.

***

“Amazed by the first steps I set myself in relation to Working Out Loud, I saw the richness that the Working Out Loud method has to offer to other individuals, teams, and companies. I also became convinced that it would be beneficial for many Dutch-speaking people to have the circle guides in their own native language. 
Triggered by the initiatives from Fiona Michaux and Tiago Caldas who translated the guides into French and Portugese, I contacted you in the beginning of this year to see whether you would agree that I would launch such an initiative. 
Grateful to have received your formal agreement I’ve launched a request for help on the WOL-facebook page and other networks I was involved in. I was proud that a group of six people responded enthusiastic and committed to help me out on this project. With the help from Fiona Michaux I was introduced to the way she and her team approached this translation into French so that our NL-team could have a head-start in our own translation project. 
On March 20th of this year I held the formal kick-off for our WOL-NL-Translation-project together with Annemie Martens, Geert Nijs, Frederik Maesen, Natasja van Schaik, Saskia Wenniger and Jeroen Brands. As a team we discussed on how to approach this project and divided work amongst each other. As in any project, also this project was not spared the difficulties and problems that we had to solve as a team. Every member did what she/he could in order to complete this project and to deliver a great result to you. 
Before delivering our work to you, the Dutch circle guides have been reviewed by Peter De Troch and are currently tested within the company Annemie is working for. 
I’m proud that we made it work as I am with the result achieved. I feel humble as I’m allowed by the team to deliver our great result to you and hope that you also like what we’ve done and that you will make the Dutch version of the circle guides available on the Working Out Loud website. As you will notice we’ve also tried to respect the original layout as much as possible although we’re aware that it might still need some corrections in order to be delivered in a final version. 
As to the question “Why we’ve done this?” I think I speak for the all team in saying that we have done this project out of generosity towards the growing WOL community while at the same time being convinced that this will help others in experiencing the fun and effect of Working Out Loud. Working as a team felt as in participating in a WOL-circle in which we all experienced how great it is to work with peers who are their to help and support the other when facing a problem, issue or difficulty. In being part of this each one has built on the intimacy level with other team members so we became more closely related with each other. As a result of this we’re now even explore on how we can do more things together.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to initiate this project.
Marc"

***

Annemie Martens

Frederik Maesen

Geert Nijs (Author of "De netwerkexpeditie. Slimmer samenwerken met sociale technologie" available November 2018)

Jeroen Brands

Marc Van de Velde

Natasja van Schaik

Peter De Troch

Saskia Wenniger

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Introducing a new kind of Circle: WOL-SC

For people who have participated in a WOL Circle, a common question is, ”What comes next?” Many people want to keep going, so some join another Circle with new members. Others just continue to meet every so often, updating and supporting each other. 

Now there’s another option. It’s a new way to deepen the insights and practice you began developing in your WOL Circle, and it’s called WOL-SC.

 

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What is WOL-SC?

The “SC” in “WOL-SC” can stand for many things: “Self-Care,” “Self-Compassion,” “SuperCharge,” or whatever other label you can come up with that expresses a sense of investing in yourself and and developing important skills. In many ways, a WOL-SC Circle can be thought of as a prequel to a WOL Circle. Whereas Working Out Loud improves how you relate to others, WOL-SC helps you improve how you relate to yourself.

WOL-SC is comprised of five discrete practices that you experiment with one after the other. Without exaggeration, these practices have changed my life. When I compare my current self to myself in years past, I am happier and calmer. I act with more confidence and clarity. I am a better father, husband, and friend. WOL-SC is an attempt to distill what I’ve learned from years of experiments aimed at improving my own work and life. It is not meant as a prescription that will work for everyone, or to presume that anyone should do what I do. Rather, it's offered in the spirit of “this helped me, and I hope you find it useful too.”

The main ideas are not new. The WOL-SC Circle Guides are all based on ancient wisdom, much of it thousands of years old and increasingly supported by scientific research. My intended contribution is to make it easier for anyone to apply these fundamentally good practices till they become habits, so more people can realize the many well-documented benefits.

How does it compare to a WOL Circle?

If you have already been in a WOL Circle, then certain aspects of WOL-SC will be familiar to you. You will meet as a group of four or five. It will be a psychologically safe, confidential space without judgment or competition. Your Circle can meet in person or via video across locations, and there will be guides with instructions on what to do in those meetings.

Beyond that, there are several important differences. You will meet only once a month for six months. You will do daily exercises on your own each month, and your meetings will be for you to share what happened and to prepare for a different practice the next month.

Also, unlike a WOL Circle, there is no goal or relationship list. The practices are largely focused on yourself. The only goals are to develop greater self-awareness and mindfulness. These are the keys to realizing more of your potential as well as a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness. The reason for the Circle meetings is that the structure, shared accountability, and support can help each person make progress. Also, reflecting on and exchanging experiences each month can advance your learning. 

Better for you. Better for your organization.

The personal benefits of the five practices in WOL-SC have been thoroughly studied and documented, and the new Circle Guides include resources to help you explore further and learn more. But there are benefits for organizations, too. Companies clearly recognize the need to do more to help employees handle the strains of work and life. Every company I've met with, for example, has a Wellness at Work or Mindfulness program. And hundreds of companies are spreading Working Out Loud Circles, proving that they are willing to create a safe, confidential space for employees to develop themselves.

What if we could build on that, and use Circles to enhance employees' focus, self-control, and stress management while helping them be kinder and happier? How many people would benefit if all those wellness programs had a new method that was easy to implement and spread? 

If you would like to be the first to try it…

I’ve been toying with this idea for a few years. While staying in Japan this summer, I finally drafted a set of guides that are ready to test, but not yet ready to publish. For the first experiment, I’d like to form 3 Circles, comprised of people I don’t know well and all of whom have been in at least one WOL Circle. We will start in September.

  • Circle #1 would meet in person in New York City, and I would be a member. So I would need four volunteers who live in or near NYC.
  • Circle #2 would meet via video and would span timezones. I would be a member of this Circle too, so I would need four volunteers from different countries.
  • Circle #3 would not include me. This will help me understand if the new guides are self-explanatory and what changes I may need to make. For this Circle, I would need five volunteers who would meet via video (unless five people in the same location volunteer as a group).

If you would like to volunteer for the WOL-SC experiment, send me an email at john.stepper@workingoutloud.com and let me know if you have a preference for which Circle you’d like to join. This is version 1.0 of something that may take many iterations to get right, but I am committed to working on it and to making the guides available for free. I appreciate your interest and support.

Your beautiful faces

Sometimes, in Week 12, they will share a group photo. That final meeting often takes place over dinner or a glass of wine (or both). Even groups meeting via video will take a screenshot. Then they’ll post the photo with a comment about their experience together. 

It’s like looking through a window that connects me to them, and I smile every time. 

The first WOL Circle selfie I remember was over two years ago. I included it in the TEDx talk and still use it in most of my presentations. Since then, there have been photos from many kinds of people in many different places. China, Italy, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Turkey.  

I’ve always wanted to do something more with these photos, and now I have two ideas.

The first is to display them on a dedicated page on the website, so that anyone interested in Circles can see them. Your beautiful faces would be more interesting and persuasive than any words I could write. And each photo would be a small tribute to your shared experience. 

The other idea is to include at least a dozen of them in a video series I’m finishing now. I’ll put one or more photos at the beginning of every video. Showing people how a Circle can feel, how relationships can develop, would be a wonderful way to start each week.

If you would like a photo of your Circle to be included (and everyone in your group agrees), email the best quality image you have to john.stepper@workingoutloud.com. Also send me what you would like to include in a short caption. It could be the countries you’re from, your first names, your company, or anything else you would like to add.

Each photo reminds me that Working Out Loud is about improving how we relate to each other, to ourselves, and to the work we do. One Circle at a time. 

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WOL Circle Guides now in Spanish

When Barbara Wietasch first told me she wanted to translate the Circle Guides into Spanish, I was confused. We had corresponded a few months earlier, and I remembered she was German, living in Vienna. She even blogs in German

She explained, “I lived 14 years in Madrid studying and living and working within the Spanish culture. So my emotional part is always there.” My next question was, "Why would you volunteer to take on such an extraordinary project?"

“I believe in agile work and want to make the world and organizations a better place to live, and I’m sure that WOL is an important method….a clear structure, a method, and a mindset of “who gives – wins.” I’m a fan of WOL and feel like an ambassador, having the need to spread and share it.”

She reached out to Spanish-speaking friends in Madrid, Vienna, and Munich and came into contact with new people who wanted to contribute. Gabriela participated because she “firmly believes in collaborative work and work methodologies such as WOL." Ana volunteered because of her own experience in a Circle. 

“I think WOL is really good. The change of mindset and how it worked for me in the first two weeks made it already worth it. My network is already larger than it had been before and my working area is known better only by doing WOL.”

Julia is someone I have written about before. She contributed so more people could experience the benefits.

“I am a great fan/follower of WOL and I have not thought twice when I saw they were looking for people to translate it into Spanish. I think there are many people who feel more comfortable reading in their native language and I wanted to support facilitating the dissemination of WOL in Spanish speaking countries.”

Daniella, who worked on the Portuguese translation and who used her Circles to do amazing things, said, 

“When I heard Barbara was putting together a team for translating the guides to Spanish, I did not hesitate in activating my network and bringing together some amazing women. Again, another wonderful team was formed that contributed to spread Working Out Loud! It was a great experience.”

In total, a dozen people self-organized around an idea they care about, and created something that can help hundreds or even thousands. I’m grateful to all of them for these new Circle Guides, and hope to thank each of them in person someday. 

Team Members:

Barbara Wietasch - Coordination & translation

Juan Salgado Bito – Proof reading

Daniella Cunha Teichert – Layout

Translators:

Rosa Reyero

Rosa Maria García Torres

Julia Flug

Julia Bustamante

Dolores Santiago

Jose Manuel Benedetti

Perla Saucedo

Gabriela Melicchio

Ana Belén Salcines

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WOL Circle Guides now in Mandarin

I’m writing this overlooking Changfeng Park in Shanghai, and it all seems like a bit of a miracle to me. 

I first wrote about Working Out Loud in China in September of last year, after Connie Wu had me join her WOL Circle via WeChat. Little did I know that I would travel to Beijing and Shanghai, work with companies and a business school there, and see the Circle Guides in Mandarin

Now you know why I’ve begun calling her “The unstoppable Connie Wu.”

After her experience in a Circle, Connie wanted to help others have that same experience, that same feeling of confidence and connection. So she organized a team of 20 volunteers to translate the guides, and now they’re ready

Every one of these people has a busy work or school schedule (or both), and yet, motivated simply by the desire to help others, they generously worked to make the material accessible to more people in China.

I met Connie in person for the first time this week, and met her daughter and other members of the translation team. They’re smart, kind, determined people. I can imagine many more miracles in the future.

Chen Chanyu (Aimee)

Chen Jing (Lynn)

Chen Qin

Chen Yanyan (Dora)

Fan Yingying 

Fu Haoxuan

Liu Yi

Meng Na (Mona)

Pan Jiaqi (Olivia)

Shen Jie (Jane)

Shi Jing (Ivy) 

Wang Hui (Emma)

Wu Chuanjuan (Connie)

Xia Yunxin

Yang Mengyun (Daisy) 

Zhang Lingli (Angela)

Zhou Diya (Delia)

Zhou Jing

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The life & death of Quality Circles (and a more modern way to implement them)

By the time I first heard of a Quality Circle, the idea was already almost 30 years old. It’s “a group of workers who do the same or similar work, who meet regularly to identify, analyze and solve work-related problems.” I was in my twenties at the time, doing research for my first book, and I believed these Circles could make a huge difference.

The method was introduced in the 1960s by Professor Kaoru Ishikawa. By the late 1970s, more than 10 million Japanese workers were in Circles. More recently, China is reported to have formed over 20 million Circles in a a range of industries.

But in the US, at least, “quality circles are almost universally consigned to the dustbin of management techniques.”

Why? What can we do to make a good idea even better?

Out of the Crisis

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a pioneer of the quality management movement, was one of my early heroes when it came to work. His management philosophy wasn’t just for managers, but for everyone. Remarkably, his 14 principles put people at the center of quality and statistical process control.

“8. Drive out fear. 
12. Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.
14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.”

When Out of the Crisis was published, Deming was already in his 80s. He referenced Quality Control Circles (or QC-Circles) several times. Though he was familiar with their success in Japan, he had also seen failed implementations in the US, and he was not optimistic about their success there.

“The idea has appeal. The production worker can tell us a lot about what is wrong and how improvements can be made: why not tap into the source of information and help?
[But] a QC-Circle can thrive only if the management will take action on the recommendations of the Circle. Many QC-Circles are, I fear, management’s hope for a lazy way out.”

Do you treat them as human beings? Or not?

Something went wrong. QC Circles were designed to be a way for people to actively take pride in their work by having a voice in making it better. But Circles often became a management tool focused on cutting costs (and jobs), and on finding fault. 

In his book, Deming excerpted a speech from Dr. Akira Ishikawa (who became president of Texas Instruments in Japan) about why Circles worked in Japan but not in the US.

“In the U.S., a QC-Circle is normally organized as a formal staff organization, wheres a QC-Circle in Japan is an informal group of workers. A manager in Japan serves as an advisor or consultant. In the U.S., a manager of production, to get rid of the job, appoints facilitators for Quality of Work Life, Employee Involvement, Employee Participation, QC-Circles, all of which disintegrate. 
The second contrast is the selection of the theme for a meeting and the way in which the meeting is guided. In the U.S., the selection of a theme or project and how to proceed on it are proposed by a manager. In contrast, in Japan, the things are decided by the initiative of the member-workers.
The third feature is the difference in hours for a meeting. A meeting in the U.S. is held within working hours. A meeting in Japan may be held during working hours, during the lunch period, or after working hours.
In the U.S., monetary reward for a suggestion goes to the individual. In Japan, the benefit is distributed to all employees. Recognition of group achievement supersedes monetary benefit to the individual.”

These aren’t just procedural or technical differences. They’re fundamental. The way that Circles are implemented can determine whether or not employees tap into their innate needs for control, competence, and connection. 

“One Japanese plant manager who turned an unproductive U.S. factory into a profitable venture in less than three months told me: ‘It is simple. You treat American workers as human beings with ordinary needs and values. They react like human beings.’
Once the superficial, adversarial relationship between managers and workers is eliminated, they are more likely to pull together during difficult times and to defend their common interest in the firm’s health. Without a cultural revolution in management, quality control circles will not produce the desired effects in America.”

“WOL for Quality”

When Deming observed Quality Circles, it was well before enterprise social networks, before 4 billion people were using the Internet, before modern research on why people do what they do. Today, it’s easier than ever for employees in any environment to make their ideas visible, to tap into what others in the company know, and to connect and collaborate with them. 

One experiment I plan to work on is to apply the basic elements of WOL Circles - a voluntary, self-organized, safe and confidential space using structured guides - to making work better in a wider range of environments. Call it “WOL for Manufacturing” or “WOL for Hospitals” or even “WOL in the Classroom.”

To suit each specific kind of environment, I would adapt the guides to include different ways for Circles to form and interact, different contributions to make, and different technologies for making them. If a company is already spreading WOL Circles, then such an experiment would be a natural extension, a way to include people in non-office environments.

Perhaps, instead of waiting for “the cultural revolution in management” that Deming thought was necessary, we can take action now. Perhaps we finally have the tools and practices we need to create grassroots movements that matter, that can show management what’s possible and inspire them to enable broader institutional changes.

When WOL doesn’t work

It was Silke’s comment in the WOL Community that inspired this post.

“Hello, everyone.
While it is quite easy to find enthusiastic to enthusiastic reports about #WOL, I find it hard to find posts that say it didn't work and why. As an L&D manager I am always interested in both: when does a method work (probably) and when should one do something else? Not every method is suitable for every context.
Do you know of any texts / articles / reports about the failure of WOL Circles? German or English doesn't matter. DANKE!”

If you care about making something better, you have to be open to learning from negative experiences. Here are some of the most common reasons for WOL failing to make a difference for an individual or an organization, and here’s what we can do about it.

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For you

The three top challenges by far are related to logistics, choosing individual goals, and managing to do the exercises each week. 

To align the schedules  of five people 12 times, whether it’s for lunch or personal development, can seem nearly impossible.  Everyone’s time is already fully allocated, and it’s natural that personal and business demands disrupt attempts at planning ahead. As a famous film director once said, “80 percent of success is just showing up” - and that’s the biggest issue for WOL Circles.

Goals are another major challenge. I originally thought choosing a goal would be easy, but it isn’t. In later versions of the Circle Guides, I included more instructions in Week 1, but for some people it’s not enough. They wind up picking a goal that doesn’t spark their curiosity or interest, or that’s too big or small, and it’s not enough to sustain their motivation for the full 12 weeks.

A third challenge is finding time to do the exercises. I purposefully packed the agenda week so the pace would be fast and people wouldn't be bored. I also provided additional sections in the guides if you needed to do less or wanted to do more. Still, for some people it’s too much in an hour and they want to spend more time on exercises. Others want more time for discussion. Some Circles never find a balance, and people may get frustrated and leave,

For your organization

The challenges in an organization are different. The spread of WOL seems to follow a common pattern: 

  1. A person or group experiments with WOL Circles.
  2. They tell friends & colleagues, and more Circles form.
  3. A grassroots movement forms, including a small core team (or “co-creation team”) of volunteers that emerges to spread WOL.
  4. The WOL team secures institutional support, integrating WOL into existing HR programs, or as part of change management for digital transformation or innovation or culture programs. 

The proliferation of Circles can stop at any point in between these different stages. Maybe the initial Circle didn’t have a good experience. Or a core team never emerges and the grassroots movement remains small and ad hoc. Sometimes, even in the face of a passionate and persistent people, the institution is resistant to doing things differently.

One thing I’ve observed is that it’s usually not an issue of company culture, but about people. I’ve seen WOL spread in even the most conservative, hierarchical organizations because of the persistence of people who felt that WOL helped them, and they were committed to helping others at their company. 

But there are a few places where change fatigue has set in. Maybe the company is under threat, or going through yet another major reorganization, and it’s all people can do to make it through the day. WOL may be “a lifeboat in a sea of change,” but they’re too tired to row.

What you & I can do

For all of these challenges, I’ve seen practitioners try different experiments and come up with innovations that help. They’ve found ways to ease the logistical burdens for Circles, trained WOL Mentors who can help with goals and other challenges that may come up, and even begun conducting “Week 0” meetings so people have a better understanding of what’s involved and expected before they commit to a Circle. For my part, I’m doing my own experiments, continuing to work on ways to make Circles easier and more engaging, and creating more resources for those who want to spread the practice.

Though WOL isn't a perfect method, I'm more optimistic than ever. Because every day I see feedback from people like Karin in Vienna who wrote something quite poignant about her Circle experience:

"If I had to describe in a word what I have learned through #WOL in the last few weeks, then that word would be 'courage'."

What if you could have that feeling? What if you could help others have the confidence to give voice to their opinions and ideas, to work in a more open, connected way, to be generous and even kind at work? How would that change your company's culture?

As Silke said, “Not every method is suitable for every context.” Yet by openly sharing what worked and didn’t work - by “working out loud about Working Out Loud” - we can help more people and make a bigger impact. Whether you make a difference for yourself, for your Circle, or for a movement of thousands of people, it all starts with making the attempt.

WOL Circle Guides now in Portuguese

I’m not sure which is more amazing to me, that the Circle Guides are now in Portuguese or how those translations were done. 

A few months ago, I wrote about Tiago Caldas in Sao Paolo who wanted to translate the guides and spread Circles in his company and country. He made his intention visible online, and Portuguese-speaking people from around the world decided to join him, like Gleyce in Munich. 

“Why I have contributed to this project? When I first saw Tiago's post in the WOL community in LinkedIn asking for support to translate the guides into Portuguese, I immediately thought: how nice is that!?
Since WOL is based on generosity, I saw his post as an opportunity to keep the generosity ball rolling! As a bonus I got the opportunity to expand my network with others WOLies in Brazil and Germany that I hope to meet in person soon.”

The group grew to 11 people from multiple countries, and from companies including ZF, Bosch, Daimler, Airbus, and Schaeffler. They’re all busy professionals, yet something drove them to volunteer and take on this extra work. Daniella from Bosch wrote to me explaining why she did it.

“3 things have moved me to join the translation group:
1.       I wanted to contribute to spreading the WOL method to a wider audience, specially Brazil which is in dear need of a positive cultural transformation movement.
2.       I wanted to help the Portuguese-speaking community to better engage their emotions, having the guides in their mother-language when they are going through their WOL journey.
3.       I wanted to experience cross-company collaboration and to get to know amazing, engaged people from other companies to reach something together.
I would like to thank Tiago for the organization of the group and all the participants for the TOP engagement! It was fun, let us continue our cooperation! On an individual level our resources maybe limited, but together we can move mountains!!”

Though these people are working in very different environments, they share two things in common: their love for Brazil and their generosity. Danilo told me, "I fully agree with Tiago when he says that it will be very useful for Brazilians, assisting us to have one organized tool for development. Let's make it happen.”

When Tiago sent me the guides, he said, “I feel very good working for something that will help a lot of people to develop themselves and connect to a new world of possibilities. WOL captured in us this sense of how we feel good in being generous.”

Generous indeed! I am extremely grateful to this wonderful group of people for their tremendous contribution. I hope these guides help spark a WOL movement in Brazil and beyond, and that I get to thank each of the translators in person someday.

Ademir de Souza

Caroline Bremberger

Daniella Cunha Teichert

Danilo Diniz Cintra

Fabrício de Almeida Mozer

Gleyce Kastl Lima

Isabel Duarte

João Senise

Patricia Coelho dos Santos Nascimento

Sergio Scabar

Tiago Caldas

WOL for Teams didn’t work, but this will

You might call it “WOL for Shared Purpose” or “WOL for Communities.” I like “WOL for Passion.” There’s no need for special materials or training. You can use the free WOL Circle Guides and start now. 

The idea is a result of a failed experiment with WOL for Teams. By applying what we learned, and making some small adjustments to Circles, I think we can help a wide range of communities and causes.

Why WOL for Teams failed

WOL for Teams, as you may have guessed from the name, is a WOL Circle in which the goal and relationship list are shared by everyone in the group, and so the method emphasizes the group over the individual. A modified set of Circle Guides includes other adaptations that flow from that. For example, the goals we suggested in Week 1 are different.

  • Raise awareness about what we do
  • Get feedback from stakeholders
  • Find and learn from others who do related work

Some of the exercises were different too. You would work on the team’s online presence instead of your own. The “Letter from Your Future Self” exercise became “The President’s Award” where you speak about how your team accomplished its goal. And so on.

In the pilot, two kinds of challenges led to us deeming it a failure. The first was procedural. Having a single relationship list in the group made it unclear who was supposed to do what with each person on the list. Would the whole team suddenly offer attention and appreciation to someone? That seemed odd. (The word “stalking” was used.) Also, some teams were larger, making the meetings hard to manage.

More insidious was that we explicitly undermined one of the most important elements of WOL: intrinsic motivation. While some people in the pilot may have truly cared about their team’s goal, it wasn’t enough for most people to spark their motivation to do things differently. The Circle meeting began to feel like yet another team meeting and, as a result, most pilot members stopped showing up.

WOL for Passion

WOL for Passion is subtly different. As in WOL Circles, you're still in a group of 4 - 5 people, and each individual still chooses an individual goal they care about. However, Circles are formed based on goals that are related. By grouping people based on the goal they choose, we preserve each member’s intrinsic motivation while creating possibilities for more interaction within the Circle.

The thematic goals can be anything one truly cares about. Maybe you're passionate about a work topic like autonomous vehicles or cryptocurrencies or the Internet of Things. Or maybe you care deeply about more general topics like innovation or diversity, or education or the environment. Whatever it is, you're likely to find people who share your interests in related online communities inside and outside your company. WOL for Passion would give you all a simple and structured way to contribute and connect.

Because your goals are related, you'll be able to share more resources within your Circle. And as more Circles form related to a given theme, resources could be curated within communities of practice. “Here’s a list of people related to the topic and useful resources. Here’s a sample Contribution Checklist.” All of that would enable WOL for Passion members to make progress more quickly.

In short, WOL for Passion accelerates connecting people and knowledge around a topic, tapping into each individual's intrinsic motivation to do so.

An example in Nebraska

I've been thinking about this idea since I first heard the results of the WOL for Teams pilot over a year ago. Recently, I saw a tweet from John Porter - aka the Urban Agriculture Guru - that pushed me to do something. John had been in a WOL Circle and found it helpful for developing and growing his business and personal relationships. He also cares deeply about urban agriculture and the many benefits of consuming locally-produced food. So he wanted to see if he could use WOL to connect urban food producers with other parts of the food eco-system.

“Our local food system is in its beginning phases here in Omaha, and I really think I can be a catalyst in helping connect the dots between producers and from producers to consumers, retailers, etc.  I’d love to build an informal network of producers so that I can better support this growth, and I think WOL would be a good tool to do this.”

John said there were already meet-ups, Facebook pages, and other efforts to connect people, but that nothing so far had formed a sense of community. 

“We post announcements - but nobody is contributing. I want to use WOL to build purpose for the community. I want to be able to build collaborations between them.”

So I asked John if he would be willing to do an experiment. He would form a few Circles of people with goals related to his, and I would help him along the way. He agreed.

What are you passionate about?

The exercises in Week 11 of the Circle Guides (“Imagine the possibilities”) are about this kind of community building. “As you aim higher, your purpose is no longer about you and what you alone might accomplish but what your tribe will accomplish together.” WOL for Passion builds on this, helping you find people who care about what you care about, build deep relationships with them, and connect and equip them to make progress towards related goals.

What about you? Is there something you care so much about that you want to create connections and possibilities related to it? Try your own experiment by forming WOL Circles of people with related goals. Experience what kind of a difference that can make. I'll be glad to help you, too.

An example of community-building: Nebraska local foods 

An example of community-building: Nebraska local foods