Remote Working: 5 tips for Meetings Don’t let measures against COVID-19 disrupt your work collaboration

Remote Working: 5 tips for Meetings

Don’t let measures against COVID-19 disrupt your work collaboration

Article by Marina Lynch — Exploring participatory leadership, collaboration and co-creation off- and online.

Day after day, my phone pushes more and more new flashes about the measures being taken to fight the spread of Coronavirus — in Italy, France and Belgium, in the UK and beyond. Infection rates started to rise, press conferences were announced, large-scale events cancelled, quarantine zones declared…

As I began to read into the details of the quarantine zone in Italy (restricted travel, working from home, 1 adult per family allowed to go the supermarket, keeping 1 meter distance from others) and learned of many other companies and countries asking people to work from home, I thought back to the days of being an employee and hearing that remote working was ‘tolerated in some cases, but not encouraged’. ‘What would my former colleagues be told now?’ I wondered as I excitedly read April Rinne’s article where she writes: “COVID-19 had already won The World’s Largest Remote Work Experiment Award.” Two days later, Belgium (where I live and work) announced that it was imposing rules to slow the spread of the coronavirus: schools and restaurants are closed for 3 weeks and companies are encouraged to ‘make working from home possible’.

But here’s the tricky part: most organisations don’t have established practices, let alone a solid structure, to enable remote working. Collaborating online is different than in the office. With so much disruption and uncertainty in our daily lives right now, I want to offer some ideas for processes that can facilitate remote working. Meetings is one place to start.

5 Tips for Remote Meetings

It may sound crazy, but I actually enjoy meetings since I started collaborating on a regular basis with both Percolab Belgium and the wider Going Horizontal community. Working with these groups has really upped my game when it comes to meetings — both online and offline.

Currently, about 90% of my weekly meetings are online: I meet with a few regular groups of people, attend online courses, invite people (often complete strangers) for Zoom chats to exchange ideas or see if there’s potential to collaborate, and more. What I’ve learned can offer guidance for others who are new to remote working — especially conducting remote, multi-person meetings. So, here, a few tips on the practices we use to get you started:

1. “Check-in before jumping-in”

This is one of my favourite one-liners from Samantha Slade’s book ‘Going Horizontal’. It is a reminder to check-in with your fellow meeting attendees on a human-to-human basis before jumping into the content of the meeting. It is a common-sense practice for on- and off-line meetings (and yet so often overlooked), though will be particularly helpful during this time when people are adjusting to the realities of working from home. A check-in is similar to the quick conversation you’d normally have when arriving to work or over an afternoon coffee — and can be as simple as asking: “How are you today?” or more work-related: “What ideas have you had about this project since we last talked?” Read more about check-ins.

Spending just a few minutes at the start of a meeting hearing every voice can help everyone focus on the work to come. (Bonus tip: checking-out at the close of a meeting with questions such as: “What (new) idea are you leaving with?” or “What is your next step?” are equally important!)

2. Clarify purpose

Another straight-forward, but often overlooked, practice is clarifying the purpose of your (online) meeting. Depending on if you are conducting a team meeting or a status update of a specific project, the purpose of your meeting will change. Make sure the purpose and outcomes of your remote meetings are explicitly stated either before or just after the check-in so that everyone is on the same page. Ideally, the purpose (or framing) is also included in the invitation to attend the meeting, so people know why they are showing up in the first place. This is especially relevant in times of change and when trying new practices.

3. Create the agenda together

During our weekly Percolab Belgium team calls, we spend about 5 minutes creating an agenda together after our check-in. Unlike teams who create and send around meeting agendas in advance, this allows us to be agile and autonomous. Each person is responsible for adding the points they want to share or have a conversation about.

Since we use Slack to organise most of our work, there are dedicated channels for our weekly online and monthly in-person meetings. Anyone can post a small reminder of any topic they want to address when we all come together (either online or in person). We find this is an easy way to help create the agenda once our meeting starts and it is a good practice in transparency since anyone can see what’s on a colleague’s mind. Of course, there’s always the possibility that a point which was not included on the Slack channel is added to the agenda. Our go-to meeting format is the Agile Agenda (I’ll post more on this soon) which adds structure to our conversation.

A recent team meeting. Not pictured: Joke J.

4. Share note-taking responsibility

Online meetings call for online note-taking. We use a running document that everyone can access and edit during our remote meetings. Some group calls I attend use Dropbox to store the notes, for others we use GoogleDocs. What’s important is that everyone has read-write access and that there’s more than one person who takes notes. I’d recommend 2–4 people take on this role, depending on the total size of the group.

5. Make decisions visually

Visuals and hand expressions can bring a playful — yet very useful — aspect to remote meetings. For instance, when a colleague has formulated a proposal which we will decide on, we opt to show visual confirmation (a thumbs up) to do a quick check that everyone is really on board. This is helpful after clarifying questions and comments have been expressed. If someone does not show a thumbs up, we know there’s still more to discuss.

With another group I meet with, we use a gesture that means ‘applause’ in sign language to show that we agree with or can resonate with what the person speaking has just said. It is a small sign of solidarity that doesn’t require verbal interruption.

An illustrated ‘thumbs up’

Turning Disruption into Discovery

In my line of work, we work towards system change — often in small steps. Now we are in a truly rare situation: when in a matter of days and weeks — all across the world — we are asked to leap. Our dominant, centuries-old system of work has been turned upside-down, yet I am convinced of the creativity and determination of humans to collaborate through this disruption. This is a wonderful time for discovery — of new human potential, technologies and ways to collaborate. The 5 practices described above are a good place to start (re)connecting in a time that may feel like it is pulling us apart.

How will you approach your next online meeting? I am curious to see what new practices and structural patterns (perhaps even new work systems) will emerge through this world-wide leap into remote working. So I invite anyone with insights or questions to start a conversation below and/or share this article among your networks.

Special thanks to Nil Roda-Naccari Noguera, Ria Baeck and An Baert for feedback on the draft, and to Tine Willemyns for the beautiful illustrations.



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Le kata appréciatif pour progresser

Voici un article que j’ai écrit pour Revue RH, volume 22, numéro 1, janvier/février/mars 2019.

Pour continuer de progresser dans votre carrière de CRHA, avez-vous pensé au kata appréciatif?

Le kata appréciatif est une approche inspirée du kata d’amélioration proposé par Mike Rother, tirée de la philosophie du lean management. Quant à l’élément appréciatif, il est issu de l’approche enquête appréciative (AEA). Suite à mon parcours, je constate que l’utilisation jumelée de ces deux domaines d’expertise a un pouvoir optimal pour insuffler de la vitalité dans les systèmes et chez les individus.

Le kata appréciatif, composé de quatre routines constituées de questions puissantes, donne du sens, permet de formuler des aspirations profondes basées sur les forces actuelles et propose une mise en action concrète menant à l’acquisition de nouvelles compétences par l’expérimentation.

Créer du sens et se projeter dans un futur désiré

Par des questions appréciatives, l’intention est de permettre à la personne de se créer une image mentale forte, et la plus détaillée possible, de la direction vers laquelle elle souhaite aller, de ce à quoi elle aspire dans un futur idéal.

Les questions suivantes sont des exemples typiques d’un accompagnement vers un futur désiré :

  • Lorsque tu te projettes dans le futur, quelle est la plus belle vision que tu as de toi-même, et qui sont tes principaux collaborateurs?
  • Quelles sont les tâches qui t’apportent le plus d’énergie?
  • De quelles compétences crois-tu avoir besoin pour atteindre cet idéal?
  • Quels sont les indicateurs qui te permettront de dire que tu as atteint ton objectif?

Découvrir une perspective à 360 degrés de sa propre réalité

Par cette deuxième routine, le professionnel est appelé à donner des exemples réels et documentés de sa situation. Il peut s’agir de résultats probants obtenus à la suite de projets réalisés dans un passé récent, d’une évaluation annuelle, de courriels de félicita tions ou de commentaires sur son travail, d’un questionnaire sur les forces.

Un processus réflectif stimulé par des questions appréciatives est activé pour découvrir la personne dans toute sa complexité et sa réalité :

  • Qu’est-ce qui t’apporte joie et vitalité durant tes journées?
  • Qu’est-ce que tes collègues te reconnaissent comme forces distinctives?
  • Comment décrirais-tu ton environnement?
  • Par quel type de personne as-tu besoin d’être entouré pour être meilleur?

En prenant conscience de ses forces, le professionnel pourra les utiliser comme tremplin pour aller plus loin.

Déploiement, ou le plus petit pas possible (PPPP)

La routine de la mise en action permet de faire le plus petit pas possible en direction de l’objectif établi. Voici deux exemples de questions pour amorcer le mouvement :

  • Que penses-tu pouvoir mettre en action dès maintenant?
  • Qui peux-tu solliciter pour t’aider à atteindre ta prochaine cible?

Les avantages acquis à cette étape sont très encourageants pour le professionnel qui célèbre plusieurs petites victoires, des succès le menant vers la réalisation de son futur rêvé. Il est important, comme dans tout processus, de souligner les réalisations du « coaché » qui le rapprochent de son objectif professionnel.

Design, ou routine d’expérimentation

Routine dynamique et stimulante, le design est le terrain de jeu pour expérimenter de nouvelles possibilités :

  • Quelles opportunités vois-tu?
  • Y a-t-il un projet que tu pourrais entreprendre pour développer cette compétence dans l’action?
  • Quelles forces possèdes-tu déjà qui pourraient te servir de base solide pour développer une nouvelle compétence?

Plus on est créatif et audacieux, plus le développement sera rapide et ancré. Plusieurs boucles peuvent être nécessaires pour atteindre, par étape, les différents jalons de maîtrise d’une compétence. Un accompagnement de type coaching dans cette réflexion est un soutien pertinent et générateur d’énergie constructive pour se développer davantage (plutôt que de rester dans le traumatisme de ce qui pourrait être perçu comme un échec). Exemples de questions :

  • Que souhaitais-tu réaliser? Que s’est-il passé?
  • Qu’as-tu appris de cette expérimentation?
  • Que ferais-tu différemment, en tenant compte de cette expérience?

L’utilisation du kata appréciatif dans l’accompagnement au développement de compétences amène une énergie décuplée, un esprit créatif permettant de trouver plusieurs façons nouvelles de se développer et de l’engagement chez le professionnel. La joie d’avancer dans le succès est transformatrice.

Source : Revue RH, volume 22, numéro 1, janvier/février/mars 2019.


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Voici une copie du blogue du Congrès RH 2018 par l’Ordre des conseillers ressources humaines agrées (CRHA).

Qu’on parle de l’entreprise « libérée », « vivante » ou « autogérée », la tendance à viser des organisations moins ancrées dans un modèle hiérarchique est dans l’air du temps. Seulement, au-delà de l’idée, comment les CRHA peuvent-ils insuffler à l’organisation un état d’esprit plus « horizontal » ?

C’est la question qui sera au cœur d’un atelier-conférence donné le 24 octobre prochain par Lucie Marcoux, CRHA, consultante en gestion des compétences, et Samantha Slade, auteure et codirectrice de Percolab, dans le cadre du Congrès RH 2018.

Du principe à l’action

Samantha Slade aime comparer l’organisation au fonctionnement vertical à un rapport « parent-enfant ». « Quand un enfant se fait mal, il se tourne vers l’autorité parentale, dit-elle. Dans un mode de fonctionnement horizontal, on considère plutôt les employés comme une communauté d’adultes qui sont responsables et aptes à prendre des décisions. »

Dans le cadre de ses activités de consultation, Mme Slade a eu l’occasion de collaborer étroitement avec de nombreuses organisations, autant en Europe qu’en Amérique du Nord. De ces échanges avec des professionnels RH d’un peu partout, elle retient une chose : « Il y a un réel intérêt de la part des gens pour tout ce qui concerne le fonctionnement horizontal. Là où ça bloque, c’est qu’on a du mal à mettre en pratique ces idées dans l’entreprise. Les gens lisent beaucoup de livres, ça les inspire…, mais ils ne savent pas ce qu’ils pourraient faire lundi matin ! »

C’est dans cette optique que Samantha Slade a commencé à identifier des gestes concrets, des actions pour tendre vers l’horizontalité. C’est ce qu’elle a nommé les « 7 domaines de pratique », des principes qu’elle décrit dans son livre Going Horizontal – Creating a Non-hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time.

« Ces 7 domaines de pratique, explique-t-elle, ce sont les premiers pas accessibles aux organisations. Le premier domaine est l’autonomie, qui est tout de même le résultat d’une vision des employés : on les considère comme des humains capables de prendre des décisions… »

Le rôle du CRHA dans l’organisation horizontale

Selon Samantha Slade, les professionnels RH ont un rôle prépondérant à jouer dans un contexte où les organisations visent plus d’horizontalité dans leur fonctionnement.

« Par exemple, dit-elle, en ce qui concerne les relations entre les employés et la gestion des conflits : dans une organisation verticale, l’employé qui vit une problématique avec un collègue aura le réflexe d’aller voir son supérieur. Dans un fonctionnement horizontal, il faut créer un contexte où les employés pourront se considérer comme compétents et aptes à régler eux-mêmes leurs conflits. »

Déjà, insuffler au sein de ses équipes cette nouvelle façon de penser, c’est tout un défi !

« On verra ce que signifie concrètement l’horizontalité dans leurs pratiques RH, conclut Samantha Slade, qu’il s’agisse de la formation, des descriptions de postes, des systèmes de rémunération, etc. »

L’atelier-conférence du 24 octobre, Samantha Slade et Lucie Marcoux inviteront donc les participants à réfléchir aux enjeux propres à leur réalité.


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Going Horizontal: How do you really want to work?

Curiosity and excitement about horizontal organizations coexist with concerns and cynicism. Most of today’s work force is disengaged and the current ways of working won’t be able to take us into our future. Even if we know all this, we still struggle to figure out what to do come Monday morning.

What if we stepped back to reexamine how we really want to be working?

For over 10 years I have been using our company, Percolab, as a lab of  how an organization can function. With clients, colleagues and international friends, we try things out and sense make, in a never ending learning process. In 2016 I began offering workshops on the topic: Demystifying Self-Management. They helped people connect with the notion and explore some basic elements. In 2017, at SXSW in the USA, with Edwin Jansen, we gave a panel on Growing a Company without Bosses. It was a provocation and we were stunned by the response.

Weeks later I signed a book contract with my favorite publisher, Berrett-Koehler: Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time. It is a practical book. It builds on the fabulous work in the field of new ways of working, such as Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations. Going Horizontal is all about the practice. It offers seven domains of practice to help anchor new habits and mindset as they develop. But Going Horizontal is more than a book, it is also a community and a series of practical trainings.

A conversation on the Future of Organizations with Frederic Laloux at the annual conference of the Quebec society of HR professionals

Who shows up at a Going Horizontal training?

In Antwerp, Belgium, six countries were in the room. Some people had specific questions while others wanted to make sense of their own experimentations. In Quebec City, Canada, workers from a pulp and paper factory joined Lawyers without Borders, an IT professional (recovering from a less than satisfactory foray into self-management), and consultants and students. Going Horizontal connects across domains and job titles.

A deep dive in Spain

The next stop is in Spain the 11-14th October, 2018 for a four day residential training in a castle in the middle of a 200 hectare forest outside of Barcelona. Beyond the enchanting venue, will be a unique learning experience. This training is offered by a powerful international team:

  • Dr. Salvador García, professor in Personal Development, Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation at the University of Barcelona,  Founder of Imagine Lab, Author of “Management by Values” and “Values Intelligence” and one of the top business speakers in Spain.
  • Carolina Escobar Mejía, Agile coach and Founder of the horizontal organization Somos Mas
  • Phoebe Tickell, Learning innovator and Social entrepreneur with Enspiral NZ & Schumacher College UK.
  • Nil Roda-Naccari Noguera from Percolab Spain and yours truly from Percolab Quebec

The day to day challenges of participants will be the basis of the program. The seven domains of practice of the Going Horizontal framework will help to grow our strengths and overcome our blind spots. Together we are exploring the new rich and yet unexplored territory of all that Going Horizontal can be.  Via each training the community grows as participants can become champions of horizontal practices in their local context.

If this speaks to you, please join us in Spain! If you know someone who should be there, please let them know.

Either way you can pre-order the book Going Horizontal now via Amazon.

If you would like to collaborate to offer a Going Horizontal training or virtual book club in your area, please contact


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The future is in business as commons | Samantha Slade | TEDxGeneva

The future is in business as commons. In a world where business models are changing and even the traditional notion of work has lost its fit with current paradigms, Samantha Slade an innovator and pioneer in organizational and business models will present a new organization mindset focused on compensation as conversation, co-governance and sharing and collaboration.

Samantha is driven by the transition to future paradigms. With a background in anthropology, she pioneers novel organizational models and practices. Ten years ago she co-founded two businesses – Percolab, an international co-creation and co-design company and Ecto a co-working cooperative in her home city Montreal, Canada. Samantha works with governments, startups, and professional associations and foundations to tackle their complex challenges. She also co-creates commons-based collective impact initiatives and platforms. Engaged in the commons and social innovation movements, Samantha is currently writing a book – Going Horizontal – Creating a Non-hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time (to be released in October 2018 with Berrett-Koehler Publishers). Samantha believes that organizations can be a microcosm of the world we want to live in.


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Pulling on the self-managing thread: The Regitex experience

Lisa Fecteau

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in October, we sat down with Lisa Fecteau, founder and owner of Regitex, to ask a few questions about her company’s approach to self-management. As we settled into her cozy kitchen with a cup of tea, she was curious about Percolab and why we wanted to interview her. We shared that Percolab has been self-managed since it’s inception, and as we are continually growing, we’ve made our practices and structures more explicit. We even train other organizations as they make the shift to self-management. We are always hungry to learn from other self-managed organizations, especially in other sectors. Regitex is just about as different as it gets from Percolab.

Lisa founded Regitex with her brother in 1998. Regitex manufactures yarns used in the production of protective garments (think firefighter’s uniforms), technical yarns for medical purposes (think bandages), and high-tech yarns used for a range of other purposes (like hosiery). Regitex does straight-up industrial production: raw materials come into the factory, machines are used to transform them, finished products come out of the factory, and then shipped all around the world.

When I think of this kind of industrial structure I think of foremen and plant managers. I think of a boss and the boss’ boss and of the boss’ boss’ boss. My imagination might even conjure a cigar-puffing owner living on a yacht somewhere far away: totally disengaged with the people who work for him and totally engaged with the profits they generate.

I seem to have a very narrow and staid (maybe even stale) view of what it means to run a factory. And Lisa Fecteau, with her unassuming manner, was turning that view on its head.

Regitex’s move to self-management did not happen in a burst of inspiration. It was a long, slow progression of small steps that carved out a self-managing path for the organization’s functioning. In the intervening years between the company’s founding and shift to self-management, Lisa bought out her brother’s shares in the company (thus becoming sole owner) and the company made the move from manufacturing yarn for fashion and furniture (its first market) to the protective textile focus it has now. As the manufacturing capacity and number of employees grew, Lisa decided to connect with her employees directly. For a period of 2.5 years she did rounds of interviews every 6 months. Sitting down with teams, and sometimes individuals, Lisa would ask questions so she could learn about their perception of the company. Sometime after the 5th round of interviews she realized that she had heard enough about the dissatisfaction and issues that were arising, and that nothing had significantly changed between round 1 and round 5 of interviews.

She had no idea what to do but decided she would just sit with it for a while

It all started to unblock with the need to hire a new Director of Production. After a long and unsatisfactory search for the right person, Regitex’s Director of Human Resources presented Lisa with an interesting alternative: what if instead of hiring a single director of production they created a Production Team comprised of existing employees who carried production know-how because of their work within the company.

Within a short time it became apparent that the team approach was more efficient and led to better decision-making because the Production Team had direct access to the information they needed to run things smoothly. Lisa and her HR director started experimenting with creating more of a team-based approach within the company to see how this would work out. The enthusiasm for self-managing practices was spreading across the company.

So Lisa left.

I didn’t expect that turn in the story. Lisa explained that had been sensing that she was still too much at the centre of the company and that instead of gently propelling it along towards self-management, her presence was holding them back. She completely withdrew from all operations and administration and didn’t set foot in the factory for months. “It was painful,” she confides, “I felt like I wasn’t needed anymore.”

Upon her return they decided to abolish all titles and job descriptions, including those in upper management, and move to a role-based system. They determined which were the functions that needed to happen for the organization to run smoothly, and then invited employees to self-nominate for the roles they found interesting. The roles were adapted to the logistical challenges of a company that works with day, evening, and night shifts, and the obligations outlined in their collective labour agreement.

Because, yes, Regitex is a unionized workplace.

While we were surprised and intrigued by this information, Lisa seemed unfazed about our union-related questions. For her, a key element to self-management is about trusting people’s common sense and ability to make thoughtful decisions – if you just give them enough space. In recent months, Regitex had a couple of grievances filed against them – not by internal employees, but by the union’s syndicate head office. At a formal meeting between herself, Regitex’s internal union reps and the syndicate’s official representatives, the grievances were quickly withdrawn when the Regitex employees made it clear that they had complete decision-making authority over their working conditions.

As a new collective agreement is in the works for early 2018, a strategic planning committee has been created to ensure that both Regitex’s interests and its employees’ needs are reflected in the next contract. Participation in the committee is voluntary (like everything else at Regitex) and those who have stepped forward to steer it also happen to be the company’s internal union reps. Which, in essence, means that the company’s administration has entrusted its unionized employees to make key decisions that directly impact the company and that unionized employees are considering the company interests and well-being while planning its side of the collective agreement.

As the daughter of a unionized blue collar worker, this reality is worlds away from the divisive power struggles and politicking I imagine when I think of contract agreements between unionized employees and the boss’ boss’ boss. I remember my Dad white-knuckling it through collective agreement processes in the 80’s that did not for a moment consider the interconnectedness of either the employees’ or employer’s ecosystems.

So what’s next for self-management at Regitex? They are investing in internal training for more employees to learn how to coach each other, improving the communications and other organizing systems, and exploring how profit-sharing could be done in a clear and equitable way. For Lisa, her personal next steps involve connecting with what is quickly becoming an international movement around self-management (Percolab’s own Samantha Slade is writing a book on the topic) to share Regitex’s experience.

When asked if she has a nugget of wisdom to share with us about her experience with Regitex, Lisa responds without hesitation: If you want to shift to self-management do less, not more. Don’t try to create all kinds of new initiatives. Pull back for a while, observe, watch, create space, and leave this space open for newness to emerge. That’s when stuff starts to happen.


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