The Gatehouse Blog

Working Out Loud: promoting a new approach to collaboration

Barbara Schmidt, a certified Working Out Loud coach, explains how she came into contact with Working Out Loud and why the methodology reflects the way effective organisations should be working in the future.

Can you tell us about Working Out Loud?

Working Out Loud is an approach to collaboration in the workplace theorised in a book published in 2015. As a methodology, it sets out simple steps that individuals take every week as part of small peer support groups to build their network toward a specific goal.

But it’s also a mindset. The purpose of Working Out Loud is to encourage participants to work in a more transparent, communicative and networked way by sharing what they do while they are doing it, and by giving and requesting feedback constantly. It is meant to bring benefits to both the individuals – by creating a safe space where people can ask questions, try out new things and ultimately achieve greater control over their career and their life, and the entire organisation – by encouraging a culture of community-based collaboration and therefore reducing silos. By helping individuals become more aware of their expertise and increase their visibility across the organisation, you encourage them to make their expertise available to colleagues.

So how exactly does it work?

At a more granular level, the approach is built on the concept of circles. Three to five people meet for one hour a week over a 12-week period, during which they follow a structured programme. Each participant set themselves a specific goal, preferably something that can be achieved through relationships and will involve exploring a new area or learning something new. These circles are not working groups trying to deliver a project – but rather peer coaching groups where participants help each other achieve their individual goals by giving each other feedback and offering suggestions. At the end of the exercise, any progress made against your goal is considered a success.

I’ve found this methodology particularly useful to accompany some of my colleagues, used to the traditional ways of working, through their digital journey.

“The purpose of Working Out Loud is to encourage participants to work in a more transparent, communicative and networked way by sharing what they do while they are doing it, and by giving and requesting feedback constantly.”

How have you applied the concept?

It’s never been an official part of my role. I do this out of conviction, without an assignment, job description and budget – because I’m convinced that Working Out Loud is what the ‘Work 4.0’ will look like and I want to help my colleagues to develop.

The principle is to give people control over how they want to be seen and acknowledged by others, and to encourage them to build reliable and sustainable networks so they can get information faster and get tasks done quicker without reinventing the wheel every time.

There is increasing recognition of the concept. I am part of a cross-industry Working Out Loud community of practice with other large German companies, which are all looking for solutions to some of the challenges associated to being multinational corporations with hundreds of thousands of employees. Last year, we won an HR Excellence Award. It’s great to get this type of coverage as it really helps drive internal adoption.

What advice would you give to someone looking to implement this?

All materials are available online on the official website (http://workingoutloud.com), but I would strongly advise anyone considering this to talk to either John Stepper, who theorised the concept, or someone who’s implemented it in their organisations, because it can be overwhelming without any support. A great way to start is with a small pilot involving 20-40 influencers.

When trying to get buy-in, it’s important to go in both directions – bottom up, but also top down, as you will need management support at some point to make this a success.

“The principle is to give people control over how they want to be seen and acknowledged by others, and to encourage them to build reliable and sustainable networks.”

My last, and perhaps most important advice would be to keep in mind that Working Out Loud is not a change management methodology and should never be mandated. Its success depends on the willingness of individuals to change and try something new. The minute you make this mandatory, it becomes another programme that people must go through, and you lose all the benefits.

 

 Biography: Barbara Schmidt

Barbara has been with Deutsche Bank for 17 years, holding a variety of roles, and is a certified Working Out Loud coach.