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Arbejdsglaede or How to Create Work Happiness

Photo by Alessandro Sicari on Unsplash

I went on an exploration trip to my first Happy Workplaces conference that took place in London on 21–22 Jun 2018.

Andy de Vale had attended the 2017 conference and he came back praising the conference. So, Jean-Paul Bayley and I decided to join the 2018 conference and see what was being shared.

The first interesting observation was that the conference was attended by lots of people with an HR and L&D background. To me, this was a plus. I really wanted to see what this community is talking about. The themes and topics would resonate with anyone working in the Lean Agile space, even if the language and memes in use were slightly different to what we are used to.

Live session sketch created by Andy de Vale

The conference was excellent. Great topics based on actual experience, lots of insights and tips, a wonderfully diverse speaker line-up and audience with lots of engagement and interactions in practically every session.

For each session, I curated the tweets that reflected the key highlights of the sessions. These were all the 8 sessions:

Becoming a leader who multiplies the abilities of your people — Cathy Busani

Cathy’s session was built around the concept of Multipliers and Diminishers. The concept is based on the Multipliers book by Liz Wiseman. It also reminded me of the concept of Energy Givers vs Energy Suckers that I first heard from Alex Adamopoulos a few years ago.

Cathy shared some great examples from within Happy Ltd. One interesting concept was removing Job Descriptions and replacing them with Team Descriptions. Essentially, define what the team needs to do and then the team figures out who does what. This would be strongly aligned with one of the Kanban Service Delivery principles that suggests we should “focus on the work and let people self-organise”

Read the curated tweets from the session: https://wakelet.com/wake/5fa24fb1-6ff0-48a2-93b7-d0c9cfd077b5

Superengaged — Nikki Gatenby

Nikki’s session was inspirational. She described many of the things that makes her company, PropellerNet, one of the best places to work.

From all the things she shared, I picked 3 key highlights:

  1. Customer (and staff) engagement levels are, at least, as important as your margins. I couldn’t agree more. At Actineo, we know that engagement is way more important than margins. Even more, the happier our customers are, the better our economic results are. Don’t put the cart in front of the horse.
  2. Don’t work with bastards. Essentially, don’t work with companies that are not going to be good for you. If they don’t look like the right client for you, give them a miss. As Nikki said, we would not want our staff to work with clients that are a bad fit for us. Bravo.
  3. Dreamballs. This was an outstanding moment. At Propellernet, every time the company achieves something of significance, they try to make one of their staff dreams true. She explained how they found a way for one of their staff to do a bike ride across Africa or how they arranged for another one to have a mobile food truck and be able to cook with some well-known chefs. Wow!

Read the curated tweets from the session: https://wakelet.com/wake/99d71a03-5924-4bd7-8455-89336e9fbc59

What if the boss made no decisions? — Donna Reeves

Another excellent session. Donna described some of the work that had been done in some of the B&Q stores where they ran an experiment with managers making no decisions.

Some of the key quotes included:

  • “We asked questions instead of giving orders. The results for the business were massive!”
  • A beautiful analogy between management and underwater photographers. The photographers need to “calm the fish” so that they can take great picture. Managers need to avoid creating any disruption when they are present in the room.

Read the curated tweets from the session: https://wakelet.com/wake/c7cffc4e-667e-4e6e-95bc-2d07c51ebe0e

Creating Inclusive Workplaces — Jill Armstrong & Jason Ghaboos

Great session with a focus on gender inclusivity. (Note: When we finally resolve the issues with gender inclusivity, we will still have an enormous amount of work to address all other types of inclusivity issues).

We explored some very interesting examples on “double standards” and how men and women have a completely different perception and experience of the same issues.

There we some very interesting insights from the audience about inclusivity:

  • We don’t talk about it
  • We assume inclusivity is a “men issue”
  • Some inclusivity initiatives (eg. Women’s Network) may exclude the men from taking part in the conversation

Read the curated tweets from the session: https://wakelet.com/wake/08424b49-8098-4ffb-95f9-e6f7c0a487d6

Creating Happiness in the Public Sector — Laurence Vanhée

Really inspirational session from Laurence about how they turned around the fortunes of the Belgian public sector department responsible for Social Security. From having no applicants wanting to join them to becoming a happy place of work.

Some of the key highlights of the session:

  • The “Happy Organisation” equation: Freedom + Responsibility will lead to Performance + Happiness
  • This statement was fabulous: “Sometimes we shouldn’t just think outside the box. We should burn the box!
  • How people think and feel determines their behaviour and this leads to the culture
  • The three potatoes of happiness at work — what am I doing well? What in my job is useful to my organisation? What do I love to do?. This is completely reminiscent of the wonderful Japanese concept of Ikigai.

Read the curated tweets from the session: https://wakelet.com/wake/bcc7d271-5106-472e-a994-adee25ffa447

Putting coaching at the core of your workplace culture — Sophie Bryan

A great presentation touching on topics such as curiosity, engagement, collaboration and learning. Loved it.

Some of the key highlights included:

  • Create a coaching culture. Ignite people’s curiosity
  • Learn to ask really good and meaningful questions.
  • Remove the appraisal process. Give feedback in a timely manner. Engage in organic conversations every day.

Read the curated tweets from the session: https://wakelet.com/wake/e3edf1ee-2be2-4d1f-a1a3-64fafb8f74e0

Put the happiness of staff at the core of the business — Sarah Gillard

Sarah’s excellent session focused around the John Lewis Partnership and how they focus on creating a happy workplace.

Imagine a company whose “ultimate purpose is the happiness of its members”…

A couple of highlights from Sarah’s session:

  • Some of the most impactful things at work are free: Say thanks, show appreciation, care for others, feel part of the community.
  • Understand how to make people freer and let them think for themselves. Remove rules, policies, appraisals, etc. Create an environment for human beings to use their full potential. Gosh! This exactly the kind of mindset I talk about when talking about Human Systems (as opposed to Manufacturing Systems) and how FFLIP fits in.

Read the curated tweets from the session: https://wakelet.com/wake/ade9e73d-72f4-4488-93be-092370197eb8

Best practices from one of the happiest countries in the world — Arlette Bentzen

Arlette’s session has a set of great tips on how to increase happiness at work. Some of these tips were:

  • Have a dedicated group of Happiness Ambassadors who get together to establish and promote a happiness plan for the company. (Note: Not sure I agree with the “annual plan” nature of what was described, but I would totally get behind a more “agile” way of doing this.)
  • Share good stories (incl. Start meeting with a positive story)
  • Random acts of kindness at work (but don’t make it repetitive!)

Read the curated tweets from the session: https://wakelet.com/wake/084d874b-82d0-4897-8475-e95b682b6ff4

Other materials from the conference

Some other blogs from the conference that I think are worth reading:

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