Bas de Baar is a Dutch visual facilitator, creating visual tools for dialogue. He is dedicated to improve the dialogue we use to make sense of change.
As The Project Shrink, this is the riddle he tries to solve:
“If you are a Project Manager that operates for a short period of time in a foreign organization, with a global team you don’t know, in a domain you would not know, using virtual communication, high uncertainty, limited authority and part of what you do out in the open on the Internet, how do you make it all work?”
If we are really serious about the importance of the environment we work in and the stories we tell, we should have a Set Designer and a Storyteller on our projects.
Yes, I am totally serious.
So is Daphne Depassé, an Amsterdam based solution designer. As I live 20km from Amsterdam, you could say we are neighbors. And that makes me a happy neighbor.
She developed an entire method, Plan B, for running projects.
A method called “Plan B”!
“What’s the plan?”
Like. The need for a Set Designer. And a Storyteller.
I want to be both. And a Project Shrink.
Or. The importance of the look and feel of the environment we work in.
Shrink: How does the look and feel of an office effect a team?
Daphne: “Whatever you do, it always takes place at a physical location. And this location affects our moods and thoughts. Everything – from the view, to the colors, the height of a ceiling, the temperature and furniture – influences how we think and feel, and how we work together.
Many offices and workplaces, however, can be more depressing than stimulating. I think everybody knows places with bad coffee, uncomfortable chairs, places without fresh air or daylight – places where you just want to leave – as quickly as possible.
As our working environment has such a big impact, it only makes sense to pay attention to it.”
Shrink: How does this works on a project?
Daphne: “During a project, there are always different activities going on. In the beginning for example, you just want to get a relaxed, cosy, warm and ‘safe’ environment to get to know each other a little bit better and to share some thoughts in an informal way – building trust. For these kinds of activities an office can be devastating. In that case; a café or a park can be far more effective.
So, it depends on the activities and needs of the moment in the process.
When you want to be creative, search for an environment that is inspiring and stimulate all the senses. When you have to think clearly and make some difficult decisions together, a clean, fresh and kind of boring location could be working (the office could be the perfect place :) ).”
Shrink: In your method, Plan B, you have defined the role of “The Set Designer”. What does a person with this role do?
Daphne: “The Set Designer takes care of an optimal setting -in the broadest sense. It’s about taking care of an appropriate, enhancing location to support the activities needed. But it’s more than that. It’s also about monitoring the right positive vibe, and the right amount of fun and humour for example.
This is just one of the six roles of Plan B.
Two other roles are “The Master of Value”: monitors the direction, the common goal and ensures the correct focus of attention and value that the team wants to create.
And there is “The Storyteller”, who ensures that ideas and proposals are made explicit and translated into clear, simple and clear (visual) messages.”
Shrink: This is a rather unique approach. How do people respond to the roles?
Daphne: “Initially people are a little confused, but never in a negative way. I use these roles as a deck of cards with all the roles represented. And people like gadgets! Within teams the members can determine which role they are going to take. And they can switch roles if they want. This makes it kind of fun. It’s feels like playing.
When people practice the roles for a while, they will see the real benefits. When a person assumes a role, he makes sure that the corresponding aspects are “safe guarded”. The role of The Storyteller emphasizes common understanding, verifying the message, making the results clear and convince people of the need.”