The Evolving State

Aug 16 / Jim Benson
The last phase of writing The Collaboration Equation is here…endgame. Through all of Covid, I have been working with editors, the people in the stories, and the content. Ready for a release in September. Like all projects, there are the parts that just flow and others where the work is more choppy.

We all learn by and while doing.

Chapter Five is a how-to to conduct on of our one-week Right Environment Exercises. This has not been easy to describe quickly and accurately. They involve several deep activities that Toni and I have put a lot of ourselves into crafting.
In this last pass, Chapter 5 of The Collaboration Equation was almost there, but needed refinement, re-arrangement, and the construction of many artifacts. And I only had a few days open to really focus on this work.

What is my Current State?

The first step was to create a quick visualization of everything that was currently in the chapter. Blue stickies are level two headings, Yellow stickies are level three headings, pink stickies are 2-sheet presentations, and orange stickies show where existing text should be converted into a 2-sheet. The diamond is showing a new potential level three heading.

This was my current state and my immediate plan. But I knew that going through that there were changing in store.

My plan would not survive reality.

What is my Evolving State?

We talk a lot about current state (what is happening to me now) and future state (where I want to be). But there isn’t much about evolving state. I knew I was going to finish Chapter 5, but I really had only a loose plan for how I would get there. I knew what I wanted, but the work wanted its own things, editors and commenters wanted still other things. I needed to see, even in this mostly-solo task, how things were evolving. I needed to see the impacts of my decisions, the rate of completion, what was changing, and how.

In a book, it’s not like a sculpture where you can just see the final product. Every time you move to another page, the previous pages are hidden. It is easy to forget work you have done, information you have already provided, or stuff you cut.

We add Red stickies here to show where sections are being moved or combined. Green stickies are showing where that moving or combining has been done in draft form.

Note here that in this, I use the stickies to talk to my future self about decisions I am making. Red stickies are all annotated.

How do I See the Evolution?

In the animation above you can see the migration of work, the growth in tickets, the notes to myself, and the structural changes to the chapter. This work took about three days. If I didn’t have the visualization, I would have easily lost track of substantive changes. That would mean I was constantly going back and checking my work.

This self interruption is what we go through every day with our teams. Untracked, unmanaged, and unvisualized work is work that is unappreciated, underinformed, and un-remembered. The rate of evolution of our work makes it easy to lose track of substance and what is missing. Then, we have to go ask others or dig for clues as to what happened.

Evolving work requires an evolving visualization. One that talks to us, reminds us, provokes us, and allows a narrative to build.

This is our evolving state. We need to see it.