For an update on this process, be sure to read Collaboration Contract.
In January of 2012, we at LeanDog were honored to host Jurgen Appelo for his first Management 3.0 course in the US. If you've not read Jurgen's book on "Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders", I recommend it. The book is full of good advice and simple techniques for improving the way you manage. Among the items Jurgen shares in his class, I was intrigued by The Seven Levels of Authority and his Delegation Poker game.
Jurgen's Delegation Poker cards were introduced to several members of the LeanDog family at Codemash and conversation ensued. Within a matter of hours, the phrase "Delegation 7" had become a short-hand reference to the cards and the concepts behind them. Delegation 7 seemed a great tool to help us with some of our own challenges. There were a number of items in the Studio and at LeanDog in general that were failing to get forward motion. Everyone had an opinion, but nobody was taking action. As a self-directed team, we had a clear short-coming; plenty of people were steering and nobody was rowing. The leadership team at LeanDog decided to give Delegation 7 a try. We took on a difficult task; running areas of the business. We set up a simple chart:
Who is going to delegate these responsibilities? An individual to assign levels of responsibility wasn't what we needed. We instead needed to agree on our levels of responsibility within each area. So we made a small adjustment to the concept and each of us placed our names on the chart, indicating the level of authority we felt was appropriate given our roles and experience.
This isn't going to work
We sat back and looked at the board. After a couple of seconds somebody announced, "This isn't going to work." They were right. We had conflicts all over the place. Anywhere one person wants to Tell, Sell, or Consult, we can't also have an Agree. And "Barney" sees himself as a decision maker in all aspects of the business, providing nobody else true autonomy.
But we can make it work
We talked through each of the areas and why each of us placed our names in certain columns. After some discussion and adjustments, we came up with a more workable arrangement.
This variation on the technique worked for us quite well. Delegation was not the right word; this was Collaboration. When I introduced the concept in our studio, we called it Delegation 7, but explained it as a collaborative exercise. The phrasing and the chart were incongruent with the explanation of the exercise. Thankfully, Angela Harms took a little time and came up with a variation on the board. We renamed it Collaboration 7.
And then there were 8
Jon Stahl made an early suggestion (back in the Delegation 7 days) that we add a Joker Card. The joker is intended to be used when somebody violates the agreements. Say, for example, Robin is a 3 (Consult) and everyone else is a 5 (Advise) or further to the right. Robin makes a decision and Barney refuses to abide by it because it is not the call he would have made. Robin would play the joker card; reminding Barney of his commitment to the group.
We use Collaboration 8 as a regular part of our toolset at LeanDog. From simple tasks to corporate strategy, we use Collaboration 8 as a fast and simple means of identifying who should be involved in the decisions, to create operating agreements, and to make whom is involved in what activities publicly visible.