Key Concepts

Perspectives, Intervention

The revolutionary bottom line of perspectives are that by shifting perspective, reality shift as well.

Regarding intervention, a key principle is that a living system is free to choose whether it changes, or said differently: you cannot direct a living system, you can only disturb it (Maturana & Varela).

Openness, Choice, Responsibility, Truth

These are the 4 most basic tools or perspectives in Qwan and they also form a kind of basic value system in a Space project. These 4 perspectives support the generation of positive and negative feedback loops which are the cornerstones of the complex adaptive system our Space projects are.

Inquiry, Dialogue, Creation

This is the kind of general approach to anything we encounter in a Space project. Knowing that in a complex system a problem is rarely as simple as it appears to be, we inquire into it with open curiosity. When we do this, listening without knowing or expecting it to be in a certain way something amazing happens – there is a response, sometimes a very surprising one. A dialogue emerges where our own creative response is at the same time a deepening of the inquiry. This is one of the key aspects in creating positive feed-back loops and acting as a complex adaptive system.

Wholeness

At the risk of using a word that has been misused and abused so much there is really no better word to use for this key concept. We recognize that all aspects of life affects what we do in the moment. Family situations, hobbies, longings, education, feelings of stress, boredom, inspiration, excitement, fear, etc. matters greatly in my ability to be present, to listen, to be creative and so forth. The practice of sharing circles (group dialogue) is an opportunity to support each other, grow together and to find ways to work even better as a team.

Look at the team as a complex adaptive system in a complex environment. Take a closer look at the team, perhaps it is chaotic or complicated. Take a closer look at the environment, maybe it is actually simple, complicated or chaotic. Solutions in one problem domain does not work well in the other. This is close to the view of problem domains in Cynefin except that in Space we also recognise not only the outside domain but the team domain and personal domain as well.

Harmony and balance are dynamic

The only things that are not changing are the things that do not exist. Nature does not like static states and will do whatever it takes to break the stillstand. There are two very fragile states in a system: chaos and stasis. This can be used to our advantage in some cases but if one of them (usually the static) becomes an ideal that we try to uphold we are in for trouble. Space encourages you to meet every moment freshly, adjusting where something needs adjustment. Cutting something that has grown too far, nourishing something that is not thriving. Allowing chaos to be creative and structure to be supportive.

Co-leadership

The era of the heroic, solitary leader with a close team of advisors dictating strategy and action to the rest of the organisation is past. In a turbulent, fast-changing world, leadership needs to be participatory, distributed. It needs to take the form of co-leadership.

This in turn requires a sense of responsibility, ethics and initiative (reactivity) from all members of the organization. It also requires the traditional managers to release part of their previous control and trust their co-workers. Finally, it requires some protocols, guidelines and social formats to be in place so that important, far-reaching decisions are well taken, using the available collective intelligence.

Contextual approach

When working together in projects, there are three contexts that are particularly important to always bear in mind. The environment is the context that the project exists in. It includes customer expectations, competitors, technical trends, zeitgeist, company culture etc. The group is the team context e.g. the energy level, group spirit, team culture, collective will etc. The individual is each team member’s internal context including personality type, ambitions, family situation, stress level, longings, needs, motivators etc. Philosopher Gregory Bateson is said to have said, “Nothing exists without context.”. In the space method we hold the view that context is essential for meaning, truth and beauty. Space does not oppose hierarchies but it does oppose static hierarchical ways of organization and working together.

Visualization and transparency

A key requisite for self-organization is access to and feedback from state information. Visualization takes many different forms e.g. kanban boards, picture centric presentations and information sharing, visualized measurements etc.

Project Artefacts

Yardstone

Like most agile methods, Space takes an iterative approach to project work. Iterations are a great way to facilitate reflection, improvements and strike a good balance between having “work peace” to get stuff done, reflecting upon that work and receiving feedback from other stakeholders (e.g. customers).  A yardstone in Space is similar to a sprint in Scrum except that the content is determined by the sum of the estimates for the yardstone content and the duration of the yardstone is the actual completion of that content. A Yardstone is thus not a hard timebox like a sprint but instead a “feature box”. I.e. what is fixed for the duration is not the time but rather the set of functionality. That being said, the time dimension is also important and typically there is a yardstone every 2-4 weeks. Yardstones that are longer than 4 weeks does not promote iterative practices and are not recommended. The purpose of a yardstone is to enable and support continuous improvement by providing a natural rhythm in project work (like a breath cycle) where review and reflection is given appropriate room at suitable intervals. This means that in the beginning of a project it is quite common for the duration of the yardstone to vary a lot from the original estimate. This, as opposed to fixed length sprints in Scrum, greatly helps the team to improve estimation skills as it becomes very obvious after each yardstone how much over or under the original estimate the team actually was, providing a great opportunity for improvement of this vital skill. A rule of thumb is to select functionality that is estimated to take about 3 weeks, but for the initial 5 iterations target 2 weeks instead.

Milestones

A milestone is a specific set of discernable functionality that is achieved by completing several yardstones.