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«Interview with Keith McCandless Episode: 59 Published: October 4, 2016 Amiel Handelsman: Keith, first of all, I wanted to mention to you that I’ve ...»

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Keith: Just write it down. You go back to your group with your list of things that you’ve been asked for as all the other leaders do, and as a group you decide on an answer, and the answer can only be one of four things, and because the answer can only be one of four things, it cuts through all of the misinformation, the history, lack of clarity. It boils it down to something that’s a relatively clear answer that usually takes people’s breath away, so the four answers -- When the leader goes back in, they respond with one of these four things: “Yes,” which means you’re going to get it, what you need. No, which means that isn’t something that we can provide to you. “I will try,” which means what it sounds like. I didn’t really know you needed that; we’ll work on it and we’ll see if it’s possible, and “whatever,” which can mean a couple things. Some people water this down a little bit and go “huh,” which means what you asked from me is not relevant or I don’t 14 | P a g e Transcribed by Melissa Southerland Interview with Keith McCandless even know what you’re talking about, and I’m not going to respond to that. So these answers get distributed and usually what happens in a group is we’ve never had an honest conversation about what we need from each other to achieve our goal, and literally each function was trying to optimize its own success, but not looking at the larger purpose or larger goal of the organization. It’s full of drama, always. There’s some number of “whatever’s” and “no’s,” and a lot of “I will try,” and you can pretty quickly notice that organization have histories that are filled with disappointment and misunderstanding, and if you’re serious about achieving your goals, you need to figure out across these functions; get clear answers on what you need from each other and what you can and cannot provide, and through this, each group, each individual and each group starts to see the possibility of achieving their own goals and the organizational goals. Again, it’s a kind of -- This is really where we’re starting. This is a real knowledge of okay, where honestly this is where we are at the moment; are we going to take the steps needed to go to the next level, and that is an individual and a group thing. We call that self-discovery in a group, and I think I’m still answering your question.

Amiel: Yes. Yes, I like it, and I’m going to give some thought to this. I might modify the four responses, and I know you encourage people to modify these to their needs to like, “I will get back to you by X date on that,” and the “whatever,” I assume that you’re not supposed to go that tone of “whatever.” Or you want that?

Keith: No. I want that.

Amiel: You want that, because that’s the drama?

Keith: Yes, it’s just like a teenager.

Amiel: Oh, you want them to be like a teenager? Okay.

Keith: Yes. What you’ve asked me for and I could talk about the Mayo Clinic or the Smithsonian or -Amiel: And they do that?

Keith: Yes. That’s very -Amiel: So, in other words, you’re basically trying to bring out introverts, curmudgeons, and teenagers? Okay. I have another question for you.

Keith: Okay.

–  –  –

Amiel: Usually I would ask people to tell me something, an area that you’re attempting to grow. You actually have already written up on this and you have a page on your website of “Things that I am trying to stop doing.” I don’t know if this is still a current list, but let me ask you about one of them, if I might, and you have seven items and the seventh is “Settling for inadequate space,” which means physical space. What have you noticed -- What is the mistake and how have you been trying to get back in the saddle?

Is that alright? Is that a fair question? You’re free to -Keith: Yeah, no, no, no. It’s good. I’m just thinking about the right example.

Amiel: Okay.

Keith: Well, the most dramatic one. Business school, top -- If I mentioned the name, it would be a top business school. You’d know it immediately, and so they want to use one of the liberating structures. I’m coaching somebody who has been through a workshop, 750 people or -- In one of these steep lecture hall things where all the seats are -- So, the activity that they want to do is called 25/10 crowd-sourcing, which anonymously everybody writes on a card if they were ten times bolder, what would they do? What strategy? What would be the thing they would do, and then you do five rounds of sorting the cards, moving around the space, sometimes playing music and sort the cards, stop;

everybody reads the card in front of them, decides if it’s a five, “I’m in. I want to do that.





I love that idea,” to a one, “That’s fine for somebody else. I don’t care about them.” It’s best -- It’s great if everybody can move around in an open space, look at each other so I’ll compromise. I don’t want to compromise, but okay, you guys want to do this, it’s a business school in this space, is anybody going to fall down the stairs? So, they did it.

They accomplished the goal. They got a top ten of the boldest ideas for this. This was about sustainable green business – “How can we advance a green (I’m summarizing here)”-- A sustainable green enterprise and the B Corp and all that kind of really cool stuff. So that’s the kind of thing where I know I can compromise. I actually want to change the structure of the architecture of most organizations.

Henri and I, we walked into Paris and their beautiful organization. One of the rooms that we needed to work in for a couple things had this walnut table. It covered like 80% of the room and the first thing Henri said walking in, “Can we like get a chainsaw and cut this thing up and get it out of this room now,” and the look on the CEO’s face was like offended, but also how can you possibly -- Of course, he had great reasons for it, so when I fall off the horse, I need to stop with this because you can see what the potential to make progress, to be more productive. It stings a little bit every time that you compromise and you say, “Well, well, we’ll work with that space.” You still can get 16 | P a g e Transcribed by Melissa Southerland Interview with Keith McCandless somewhere, but most of the time we want very flexible space in which all the diverse views that people combine and recombine so that all of the views get heard. We want the difference to be brought out and come together and the space -- It’s easy to go, “Well, those tables were already in the room. We’ll work with those tables.” We want ultimately a very flexible space, so that’s always what I’m thinking about. There’s always an ideal and I’ll compromise when I have to, but I let people know this could be more powerful if we weren’t in a lecture room with six chairs and a steep room.

Amiel: Yeah. I’m going to include a link in the show notes to Keith’s Stop Doing List, which has fourteen items, “What I have stopped doing,” and then a column to the right, “What I have substituted.” I think it’s a brilliant example, and I’m actually going to create one of these myself. One last very short question before you -- What is it called, climb tall buildings? What does Super Man do? I’m trying to keep the metaphor going.

Fast as a speeding bullet, yeah?

Keith: Yes.

Amiel: You describe what Henri does to you when you’re in your old habits. I don’t remember you saying what you did to him, and I think he’s more senior than you. He’s an older guy, right, so I was just curious, do you do the same thing to him, stand in front of him and look at his eyes or pat him on the back, or do you have something different?

Keith: I don’t know if I should say this. What do I do? Yeah, well, I know some things that I don’t want to say.

Amiel: Do you want to decline to answer?

Keith: Well, see, then he would know what I do.

Amiel: Oh, I see. Okay, well, in that case, let’s keep it a secret between Keith and Keith. That’s awesome. See, that actually is a better -- That is better than anything that you actually know and it works.

Keith: Most of the time. Most of the time. I recommend that -Amiel: So, listeners out there -- Yes?

Keith: I recommend that if you get a chance to chat with Henri, he’s a terrific interview.

Amiel: Well, I would love to. I would love to. I will shoot you a note about that and, Keith, thanks so much for a really awesome conversation and there’s a lot more to learn here.

–  –  –

Keith: Well, I’m happy to do it. It’s really fun for me, and I’d love to see your “stop doing” list and I’m happy to keep in touch with you about how you’re adapting liberating structures. That’s what they are. They are to be localized, to be adapted to settings, and they’re all creative comments. We’re not trying to copyright anything. This is really for everyone, so lovely, lovely to talk with you.

Amiel: Yes, thanks so much! Have a good Pacific Northwest afternoon.

Keith: Yes. Good. Okay, take care! Bye, bye.

Amiel: Okay. Take care. Bye, bye.

18 | P a g e Transcribed by Melissa Southerland

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