The Disciplined Agile Mindset

By Scott Ambler | Vice President, Chief Scientist of Disciplined Agile at Project Management Institute

 

[This post is a supplement to Scott’s upcoming keynote at IIL’s Agile & Scrum 2020 Online Conference]

The DA tool kit supplies straightforward guidance to help you, your team, and your enterprise increase your effectiveness. The DA tool kit shows you how to apply and evolve your way of working (WoW) in a context-sensitive manner with this people-first, learning-oriented hybrid agile approach.  We describe DA in terms of four views: Mindset, People, Flow, and Practices.  In this blog I describe the mindset behind PMI’s Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit, overviewed in Figure 1.  PMI’s approach to describing the DA Mindset is straightforward: We believe in these principles, so we promise to adopt these behaviours and we follow these guidelines when doing so.

Figure 1: The Disciplined Agile Mindset.

 

The Principles

The principles of the Disciplined Agile mindset provide a philosophical foundation for business agility.  The eight principles are are based on both lean and flow concepts:

 

  1. Delight customers. We need to go beyond satisfying our customers’ needs, beyond meeting their expectations, and strive to delight them.  If we don’t then someone else will delight them and steal our customers away from us. This applies to both external customers as well as internal customers.
  2. Be awesome. We should always strive to be the best that we can, and to always get better. Who wouldn’t want to work with awesome people, on an awesome team for an awesome organization?
  3. Context counts. Every person, every team, every organization is unique.  We face unique situations that evolve over time.  The implication is that we must choose our way of working (WoW) to reflect the context that we face, and then evolve our WoW as the situation evolves.
  4. Be pragmatic (reworded from Pragmatism). Our aim isn’t to be agile, it’s to be as effective as we can be and to improve from there.  To do this we need to be pragmatic and adopt agile, lean, or even traditional strategies when they make the most sense for our context.
  5. Choice is good. To choose our WoW in a context-driven, pragmatic manner we need to select the best-fit technique given our situation.  Having choices, and knowing the trade-offs associated with those choices, is critical to choosing our WoW that is best fit for our context.
  6. Optimize flow. We want to optimize flow across the value stream that we are part of, and better yet across our organization, and not just locally optimize our WoW within our team. Sometimes this will be a bit inconvenient for us, but overall we will be able to more effectively respond to our customers.
  7. Organize around products/services (new).  To delight our customers we need to organize ourselves around producing the offerings, the products and services, that they need. We are in effect organizing around value streams because value streams produce value for customers, both external and internal, in the form of products and services.  We chose to say organize around products/services, rather than offerings or value streams, as we felt this was more explicit.
  8. Enterprise awareness. Disciplined agilists look beyond the needs of their team to take the long-term needs of their organization into account.  They adopt, and sometimes tailor, organizational guidance.  They follow, and provide feedback too, organizational roadmaps.  The leverage, and sometimes enhance, existing organizational assets.  In short, they do what’s best for the organization and not just what’s convenient for them.

 

The Promises

The promises of the Disciplined Agile mindset are agreements that we make with our fellow teammates, our stakeholders, and other people within our organization whom we interact with.  The promises define a collection of disciplined behaviours that enable us to collaborate effectively and professionally.  The seven promises are:

 

  1. Create psychological safety and embrace diversity. Psychological safety means being able to show and apply oneself without fear of negative consequences of status, career, or self-worth—we should be comfortable being ourselves in our work setting. Psychological safety goes hand-in-hand with diversity, which is the recognition that everyone is unique and can add value in different ways. The dimensions of personal uniqueness include, but are not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, agile, physical abilities, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and other ideological beliefs. Diversity is critical to a team’s success because it enables greater innovation. The more diverse our team, the better our ideas will be, the better our work will be, and the more we’ll learn from each other.
  2. Accelerate value realization. In DA we use the term value to refer to both customer and business value. Customer value, something that benefits the end customer who consumes the product/service that our team helps to provide, is what agilists typically focus on. This is clearly important, but in Disciplined Agile we’re very clear that teams have a range of stakeholders, including external end customers. Business value addresses the issue that some things are of benefit to our organization and perhaps only indirectly to our customers. For example, investing in enterprise architecture, in reusable infrastructure, and in sharing innovations across our organization offer the potential to improve consistency, quality, reliability, and reduce cost over the long term.
  3. Collaborate proactively. Disciplined agilists strive to add value to the whole, not just to their individual work or to the team’s work. The implication is that we want to collaborate both within our team and with others outside our team, and we also want to be proactive doing so. Waiting to be asked is passive, observing that someone needs help and then volunteering to do so is proactive.
  4. Make all work and workflow visible. DA teams will often make their work visible at both the individual level as well as the team level. It is critical to focus on our work in process, which is our work in progress plus any work that is queued up waiting for us to get to it.  Furthermore, DA teams make their workflow visible, and thus have explicit workflow policies, so that everyone knows how everyone else is working.
  5. Improve predictability. DA teams strive to improve their predictability to enable them to collaborate and self-organize more effectively, and thereby to increase the chance that they will fulfill any commitments that they make to their stakeholders. Many of the earlier promises we have made work toward improving predictability.
  6. Keep workloads within capacity. Going beyond capacity is problematic from both a personal and a productivity point of view. At the personal level, overloading a person or team will often increase the frustration of the people involved. Although it may motivate some people to work harder in the short term, it will cause burnout in the long term, and it may even motivate people to give up and leave because the situation seems hopeless to them. From a productivity point of view, overloading causes multitasking, which increases overall overhead.
  7. Improve continuously. The really successful organizations—Apple, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, and more—got that way through continuous improvement. They realized that to remain competitive they needed to constantly look for ways to improve their processes, the outcomes that they were delivering to their customers, and their organizational structures.

 

The Guidelines

The guidelines of the Disciplined Agile mindset help us to be more effective in our way of working (WoW), and in improving our WoW over time. The eight guidelines are:

 

  1. Validate our learnings. The only way to become awesome is to experiment with, and then adopt where appropriate, a new WoW. In guided continuous improvement (GCI) we experiment with a new way of working and then we assess how well it worked, an approach called validated learning. Being willing and able to experiment is critical to our process-improvement efforts.
  2. Apply design thinking. Delighting customers requires us to recognize that our aim is to create operational value streams that are designed with our customers in mind. This requires design thinking on our part. Design thinking means to be empathetic to the customer, to first try to understand their environment and their needs before developing a solution.
  3. Attend to relationships through the value stream. The interactions between the people doing the work are what is key, regardless of whether or not they are part of the team. For example, when a product manager needs to work closely with our organization’s data analytics team to gain a better understanding of what is going on in the marketplace, and with our strategy team to help put those observations into context, then we want to ensure that these interactions are effective.
  4. Create effective environments that foster joy. Part of being awesome is having fun and being joyful. We want working in our company to be a great experience so we can attract and keep the best people. Done right, work is play. We can make our work more joyful by creating an environment that allows us to work together well.
  5. Change culture by improving the system. While culture is important, and culture change is a critical component of any organization’s agile transformation, the unfortunate reality is that we can’t change it directly. This is because culture is a reflection of the management system in place, so to change our culture we need to evolve our overall system.
  6. Create semi-autonomous self-organizing teams. Organizations are complex adaptive systems (CASs) made up of a network of teams or, if you will, a team of teams. Although mainstream agile implores us to create “whole teams” that have all of the skills and resources required to achieve the outcomes that they’ve been tasked with, the reality is that no team is an island unto itself. Autonomous teams would be ideal but there are always dependencies on other teams upstream that we are part of, as well as downstream from us. And, of course, there are dependencies between offerings (products or services) that necessitate the teams responsible for them to collaborate.
  7. Adopt measures to improve outcomes. When it comes to measurement, context counts. What are we hoping to improve? Quality? Time to market? Staff morale? Customer satisfaction? Combinations thereof? Every person, team, and organization has their own improvement priorities, and their own ways of working, so they will have their own set of measures that they gather to provide insight into how they’re doing and, more importantly, how to proceed. And these measures evolve over time as their situation and priorities evolve. The implication is that our measurement strategy must be flexible and fit for purpose, and it will vary across teams.
  8. Leverage and enhance organizational assets. Our organization has many assets—information systems, information sources, tools, templates, procedures, learnings, and other things—that our team could adopt to improve our effectiveness. We may not only choose to adopt these assets, we may also find that we can improve them to make them better for us as well as other teams who also choose to work with these assets.

 

Whence the Agile Manifesto?

Until recently, we described the DA mindset as the combination of the DA Principles and the DA Manifesto.  The DA Manifesto in turn was described in terms of five values and 17 principles behind the manifesto.  The DA Manifesto was based on the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, or more colloquially known as the Agile Manifesto.  But, as you can imagine, people were confused by two levels of principles.  We also found the Agile Manifesto to be constraining, mostly due to the cultural baggage that has built up around it for the past two decades.  And most importantly, we realized that we could describe the mindset in a far more robust and understandable manner as you’ve seen in this blog.

The DA Mindset provides conceptual background required for business agility and is an important part of the foundation of the DA tool kit.  I will describe how to apply the DA tool kit in my keynote presentation, Disciplined Agile Strategies for Greater Innovation, at IIL’s Agile and Scrum 2020 Online Conference. I hope you choose to attend this great event.

 

[To learn more on this topic, click here to register for IIL’s Agile & Scrum 2020 Online Conference]

 

References

For further reading about the details behind the Disciplined Agile Mindset, please read Chapter 2 of Choose Your WoW! A Disciplined Agile Delivery Handbook for Choosing Your Way of Working.

About the Author Scott is the Vice President, Chief Scientist of Disciplined Agile at Project Management Institute. Scott leads the evolution of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit and is an international keynote speaker. Scott is the (co)-creator of the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit as well as the Agile Modeling (AM) and Agile Data (AD) methodologies. He is the (co-)author of several books, including Choose Your WoW!, An Executive’s Guide to the Disciplined Agile Framework, Refactoring Databases, Agile Modeling, Agile Database Techniques, and The Object Primer 3rd Edition. Scott blogs regularly at ProjectManagement.com and he can be contacted via pmi.org.


Capture More Agility by Tailoring Practices

[This post is a sneak preview of Jesse Fewell’s talk at IIL’s Agile & Scrum 2020 Online Conference, and is based on his upcoming book Untapped Agility]

We’ve been told that to achieve more innovation, more collaboration, or more agility, we need to adopt modern practices. Unfortunately, many of those practices seem fundamentally incompatible a team’s reality on the ground. If the experts say we have to use stable teams, product-based funding, but our current state won’t allow for it, what do we do? Short answer: We adapt. The path forward is to be agile with your agile, to transform your transformation.

Be Agile with your Agile
Transform your Transformation


Tailoring is management common sense

Much has been written in the project and product worlds about “tailoring” processes and practices, based on the work being done. Let’s pause for a moment to take a look at some key points. The idea of the PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition officially defines tailoring as follows:


Determining the appropriate combination of processes, inputs, tools, techniques, outputs, and the life cycle phases to manage a project is referred to as “tailoring” the application of the knowledge [of project management].

That’s a fancy way of saying that each organization should customize its approach to delivering work based on the specific dynamics and demands of the environment.

Moreover, these adjustments are not optional. The guide goes on to say:


Tailoring is necessary because each project is unique; not every process, tool, input, or output identified is necessary.

Ironically, if your PMO, Center of Excellence, or other standards group has defined their process playbook by merely copy-pasting a textbook approach from PMI, from Google, or from Spotify… they are violating the ASNI standard for project management.


Tailoring was always core to Agility

Now if you think that point is only for traditional project management and has nothing to do with Agility, then you would be mistaken. The original Agile Manifesto closes out its declaration of values and principles with this very topic, saying:


At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

That’s the conclusion, the climax, the final word. Kind of important.

So whether you come from a formal standards perspective (project management) or a more informal values-based perspective (Agile Manifesto), the expectation is the same: modify how you do your work, based on the situation at hand.

Put another way, if you believe in continuous improvement, then by definition whatever practices you are using are not optimal. If you are still using that fancy new devops method strictly out of the box, then you are simultaneously neither compliant with international standards nor consistent with the spirit of agility. Not adjusting your practices is a double-fail.


Okay, but HOW do we Adjust?

Unfortunately, there is almost zero guidance on how to go about tailoring effectively. Much of the literature in place today strongly advises that you do it but offers no filters, guardrails, or tips for doing so. That’s a problem, because if we don’t make the right adjustments we can get some very unwelcome side effects, such as:


  • If we don’t adjust enough, we still struggle unnecessarily.
  • If we adjust it too much, we lose all the benefit we’re trying to get.

How do we customize our practices without diluting their potency or even making things worse? We need to offer people a viable alternative beyond all-or-nothing.


The 3P Tailoring Technique

To do that, we can walk through a simple set of questions to figure out some degree of doing things better:


  1. Listen to their PAIN. Ask the team what is the specific frustration, difficulty, challenge they would face if we were to use a given technique.
  2. Explain the PURPOSE. Share the underlying principle of why we recommend that technique. What is the in- tended benefit?
  3. Design a PIVOT. Ask the team how might we adjust the technique so that we could get at least some of that benefit.

Here is how the process works in real life.



Tailoring Example for Documentation

Let’s say Maria the Manager wrestles with the excessive documentation generated in regulated, life-critical environments. Here’s how her team might approach that topic in their transformation.


  1. Maria’s Pain. “Experts say documents are wasteful. But we build medical devices. Those documents are how we pass compliance audits, never mind the rigor they foster to prevent tragic mistakes. ”
  2. A colleague explains the Purpose. “Remember, the emphasis of ‘working product over comprehensive documentation’ is to avoid distractions that waste time. I’m sure you can think of how to adjust your documentation practices to save time, without compromising the safety of the work you do.”
  3. Maria’s Pivot. “Well, much of our time is spent using our specifications to convey designs to the builders. But talking is faster than typing. We could accelerate knowledge sharing by including the designers and auditors in our meetings more frequently. Then writing the compliance documents will be more focused on the final product, rather than directing intermediate work. That might improve quality and speed, without losing any of the documentation the government requires. Let’s try this as an experiment for one subset of the overall product.”

That’s how it works. When moving on a journey towards new ways of working, leaders often get confused on how to adopt things like automation, stable teams, or prototyping. By making appropriate adjustments to established practices, you can help your transformation move forward, rather than getting stuck in the false choice of all-or-nothing.


[To learn more on this topic, click here to register for IIL’s Agile & Scrum 2020 Online Conference]

Jesse Fewell’s latest book, Untapped Agility, is a balanced guide to agility that gets past the hype and frustration to help frustrated leaders transform their agile transformations. Pre-order Untapped Agility today to join the movement of this groundbreaking book. After preordering, email taylor@jessefewell.com to receive the following benefits:

  • A FREE digital copy of the book
  • Exclusive Q&As with Jesse about the book
  • Autograph bookplate for your physical book copy

About the Author Jesse Fewell is an author, coach, and trainer who helps senior leaders from Boston to Beijing transform their organizations to achieve more innovation, collaboration, and business agility. A management pioneer, he founded and grew the original Agile Community of Practice within the Project Management Institute (PMI), has served on leadership subcommittees for the Scrum Alliance, and written publications reaching over a half-million readers in eleven languages. Jesse has taught, keynoted, or coached thousands of leaders and practitioners across thirteen countries on 5 continents. His industry contributions earned him a 2013 IEEE Computer Society Golden Core Award.


The Effective and Innovative Virtual Team Leader

By Frank P. Saladis, PMP, LIMC MCCP, PMI Fellow

Virtual teams have been a part of the business, public, and not for profit environments for many years. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the internet began to significantly influence how information and meetings were managed. The economic situation in 1986 also had a major impact on business travel and companies sought new ways to conduct meetings more economically and to minimize travel. Back in that time period, technology was available but expensive and was used primarily by large corporations that could afford to construct what was basically a television production studio. 

Today there are multiple platforms to choose from and they are generally very economical. The features and functions associated with the platforms provide the team leader or meeting facilitator with a variety of tools that can engage the attendees and produce the desired meeting outcomes. 

In today’s new business environmentremotely distributed and virtual teams, although not entirely a new concept, have become a much more integral part of daily business. The leaders of these virtual teams must adapt to a very demanding and nearly constant state of “virtuality.”

Here are a few suggestions that may assist in creating a virtual team community that is well connected, engaged, and productive: 

  1. Prepare an agenda for your meetings to send out to attendees, regardless of planned duration. Team members want to know the topics in advance. This helps them to prepare and participate more productively. 
  1. If possible, schedule “recurring meetings” and “status updates” for a specific day and time each week/month. This allows everyone to plan their schedules and avoid commitment conflicts. 
  1. Everyone’s time is important, so keep meetings as brief as possible and, as the leader, always be on line before everyone else. This also allows for some “social chat” and warm up before you begin. 
  1. Some meetings require attendance by very specific individuals. Invite only those people who are truly needed for each meeting. 
  1. Use “visual anchors” to maintain engagement – pictures, charts, images, diagrams. Use color to enhance the visual effect. 
  1. Use “verbal anchors” to ensure clarity and understanding – comparisons, analyses, processes and steps, examples, repeating information for emphasis. 
  1. Use “connection anchors” to maintain attention and participation – Ask team members specific questions, shift responsibility for facilitation., 
  1. Share work assignments equally. In many cases, leaders subconsciously assign particular work to team members based on the leader’s perception of an individual’s work performance. The leader is a coach and a mentor, and trust is a key factor in creating high performance teams. Show your entire team that you trust them. 
  1. Connect with each team member individually and establish a rapport. This is necessary to ensure that performance related discussions are productive, comfortable, and meaningful. 
  1. Establish ways for the team to get to know each other. There are lots of creative techniques to establish a very supportive virtual team environment: Share baby pictures and ask people to match each picture with the team members, have occasional round-table discussions, pair people to work together, be an idea champion and encourage everyone to come up with suggestions for increasing engagement and meeting enjoyment. 

This new virtual business environment we are experiencing will probably continue as the business world moves forward. Technology will evolve to meet the needs and the team leader must adapt to the many new norms that are just over the virtual horizon. 

One more tip I have for you is implement “enjoyment time” for each meeting, demonstrate your trust in your team, and exercise some creativity in your meeting management. Give everyone an opportunity to excel and contribute and keep communication flowing to ensure a strong team connection. 

Through June 30, 2020, we are offering free registration to our on-demand course on Virtual Agile Teams (regularly $850 USD). Learn more and register here >>


About the Author

Frank Saladis is an internationally renowned speaker, consultant and instructor in the project management profession with over 35 years of experience in the telecommunications and project management training environment. Frank is a past president of the PMI Assembly of Chapter Presidents and is the originator of International Project Management Day. In 2006 he received the prestigious Person of the Year Award from PMI for his contributions to the practice of project management.


Key Themes at IIL’s 2020 Agile & Scrum Online Conference

By Sander Boeije

June 4th, 2020 will mark the opening day of IIL’s 5th annual Agile & Scrum Online Conference. In the past years, this conference has grown into a community of agile enthusiasts, with participants coming from all over the world and all kinds of industries. This year is no different, as #AgileCon2020 promises to be an outstanding learning experience once again. As is to be expected, the current health crisis has influenced many of the presentations this year; however, it’s rarely the main topic of a session because even amid a pandemic, agile is about adapting to change and delivering value.

This article will take you through the key themes that will emerge at Agile & Scrum 2020. Let’s dive right in.

Agile Transformation and Disruption

If there ever was a time for business agility, it is now. Organizations in all industries and across the entire globe have been forced to make radical changes in how they operate. This, of course, is due to the disruption caused by the current ongoing global health crisis which is impacting the way we interact with the world and each other. The ability to pivot and continue to deliver value to your customers has never been so important to the success of your organization. It seems that ‘Being Agile’ has become a must and it is imperative to understand how to make this Agile Transformation happen.

For more on this theme, be sure to watch the keynote presentations by Dean Leffingwell from Scaled Agile Inc., and Darrell Rigby from Bain & Company, as well as the presentations by Avi Schneier, Jesse Fewell, and Dave Sharrock.

Culture and Innovation

A second emergent theme is the need to have a strong Agile and Innovative culture within the heart of your organization. During a time of major disruption, such as we are experiencing today, applying a certain framework, running sprints, doing daily standups, or other agile events might help your team to navigate this crisis (see also the last theme discussed in this article). However, it’s the underlying widespread belief in Trust, Communication, Innovation, and Continuous Improvement that truly moves the organization forward.

Join the keynote sessions by Scott Ambler, Vice President and Chief Scientist of Disciplined Agile at PMI,  and Corgibytes’ Andrea Goulet, as well as the presentations by Shaaron Alvares and Oscar Roche to learn ways in which you can build an innovative agile culture into the core of your team or organization.

Personal Agility

A third theme that is surfacing at this year’s event is Personal Agility. Where the emphasis of Agile is mostly on teams and organizations, the individual can oftentimes be overlooked – strange, since it is these individuals who make up those same teams and organizations! And especially during a time where people might become disconnected from others, a check-in with oneself and one’s agility is incredibly relevant.

This is a central theme in the sessions by Betsy Kauffman and Louria Lindauer, and it is mentioned in several other presentations as well.

Agile Methods & Techniques

The final theme is perhaps more miscellaneous, as it relates to various kinds of agile methods and techniques that help teams to be high-performing, work with stakeholders, and deliver value to the customer. For example, keynote speaker Patricia Kong from Scrum.org will explain how you can measure the value of the outcomes that you deliver using metrics that work for you. Renee Liken, Product Owner at FordLabs of Ford Motor Company, will provide a practical way on how you can get meaningful feedback from your users. Keith Wilson will give you a comprehensive overview of Kanban. Andrea Fryrear and Jamie Champagne provide insight in agile marketing and agile analysis, respectively. And Tom Friend discusses several excellent techniques on how to manage conflict. In each case, you’ll walk away from the session with fresh ideas for yourself, your team, and your organization.

Agile & Scrum 2020 goes live on June 4th, 2020. Full on-demand access to all content will be available through December 31st, 2020. Sign up here today and get 40% off the registration price.

We are grateful to our sponsors for making this event possible. These organizations include AXELOS, Cisco, Sabre, SITA, FordLabs, Scrum Inc., Scaled Agile Inc., APMG, PDUs2Go, Steven’s Institute of Technology, ModernAnalyst, TWI Institute, AgileSherpas, Corgibytes, Champagne Collaborations, Success Agility LLC, and more.


Overcoming Distance and Cultural Barriers to Virtual Teamwork

“Out of sight, out of mind.”

This expression exists in many cultures. In some cases, the distance makes us far from the mind. In others, it is from the heart that we are far. This thinking versus feeling cultural aspect is interesting in itself… But in all cases, we agree that when one is far, one is easier to forget!

To conclude our quest for full proficiency in virtual, international teamwork, today we will investigate the distance and human aspect/cultural barriers, finalising the evaluation of ourselves and our counterparts. See our previous blog post on the language barrier here

Based on this, we will be able to make any needed improvements to our own techniques and, as Project Managers, help team members and other stakeholders to progress in proficiency.

As a reminder, here are the Transactional Analysis Discounting levels again (from this blog post):

  1. Not registering that a problem exists
  2. Not registering the significance of that problem
  3. Not registering that there are options for action [to solve the problem]
  4. Not registering that one is personally capable of implementing those actions [to solve the problem]

The Distance Barrier

Levels 1 & 2 – Problem and Significance

The distance barrier is like a two-sided coin.

On one side, the physical facts: remote communication techniques such as email, telephone, videoconferencing, text messaging, etc. are needed to communicate across distance and time zones. From studies such as the work of Mehrabian, we know that not all information passes through the words of an exchange (verbal communication). A vast majority passes through the non-verbal communication (body language) and the para-verbal (tone of voice). Based on this, an audio-only conversation (phone call) can lose up to 50% of the information content; a text-only communication (email, text message) can lose up to 90%.

On the other side of the coin are the human effects: it is harder to create and maintain fundamental emotional bonds and mutual trust at a distance. Knowing that this is a key characteristic of high-performing teams, the significance of the problem is clear.

Levels 3 & 4 – Options and Actions

To solve both the information loss and trust-building issues of distance communication:

  1. Blended communication is the tactic of mixing communication methods to ensure the most effective and efficient overall communication strategy. Like blending the ingredients of a cake: if we only had flour, it would be a poor cake! But add eggs, butter and sugar and we have something good. In the same way, if we only use email to communicate, we don’t have a very good “cake”. If we add videoconferencing, audio and instant text-messaging we have something much tastier! Blended communication leverages the positive aspects of each communication method. Used wisely, we obtain communication which is more effective and efficient than some co-located mono-method communication. It also addresses the trust issue as we can build better bonds with videoconferencing than via email, for example.
  2. To further improve mutual trust, we use inclusion. This means purposefully spending time and energy to genuinely exchange with speaking partners. By enquiring how a colleague is, and genuinely listening to the answer, we may or may not see results straight away. But the additional bond made and trust built through this fundamental human interaction will bear fruit throughout the relationship.

Human Aspects / The Cultural Barrier

Levels 1 & 2 – Problem and Significance

Whilst each one of us is unique, we all have the same fundamental needs – safety, physical and psychological well-being and belonging/recognition. Our uniqueness is a mix of our individual personality and our cultural background. On a macro level (country/region/company), cultural tendencies are clearly visible. On a micro level (person/team), individual personalities have a high importance.

In our daily work with others, we may observe that:

  • Some people prefer to do one thing at a time; some prefer to multi-task
  • Some believe that rules are rules; for others, rules are relative and depend on the situation
  • Some keep strict timing whilst others think that it is naïve to believe that we can divide and “control” time in this way
  • Some prefer to act alone whilst others place a high importance on relationships. Sometimes we feel that this is just for relationships’ sake; sometimes we feel that potential advantages of the relationship are taken into account

These and other observations lead us to the conclusion that others act differently to the way we do. We can fall into the trap of thinking that our way is the “right” way and their way is the “wrong” way. This leads to poor working relationships.

Levels 3 & 4 – Options and Actions

The owl and the chameleon are our guides here.

Firstly, the owl for its incredible senses of perception and reputation for wisdom. The wisdom we seek is to perceive diversity as an advantage rather than an annoying barrier to overcome.

Secondly, the chameleon for its agility and capacity to blend into its surroundings.

By combining these characteristics, we:

  1. Free ourselves from the “right way / wrong way” trap. We recognise that “their way” is simply “another way” and that different points of view increase creativity and generate new ways to solve problems
  2. We observe, using all our senses, what is going on in a situation and try hard to understand and interpret with an open mind
  3. We use the chameleon’s power to adapt agilely to the situation with the aim of enhancing mutual success.

Virtual Teamwork – Harnessing the Power

By understanding the problems and their significance (Levels 1 & 2) and identifying options for action (Levels 3 & 4), we transform the three barriers into three solid pillars supporting our international and virtual teamwork.

By seeking to:

  1. Understand each other through high quality communication and thus build trust
  2. Use blended communication and inclusion to increase efficiency and deepen trust
  3. Use difference as power and understand others’ behaviour (owl) then adapt to the needs of the situation whilst keeping our own identity (chameleon) we harness the full power of virtual global project management and teamwork.

Wishing you much success and enjoyment in your virtual international interactions!

Peter

For further details, see “Foolproof International Communication”, Moberg & Chadwick, Japco Publishing House 2013, ISBN 978-91-637-1116-9, 2013


About the Author 

Peter Chadwick is the Founder of Island Hoppers, and a Trainer and Consultant with IIL. He is qualified as an engineer, project manager, trainer, coach and pilot.

The common threads to Peter’s career are innovation and exploration. From early days dreaming-up designs, through roles leading larger and larger international project teams, up to his current role of trainer and coach, Peter constantly searches for better designs, better ways of working.

Building on his research and in-the-field experience, he has co-authored two books on transcultural cooperation with Pia Moberg and devised the Chadberg Model.

Peter has a long track record of designing and facilitating pragmatic support to individuals, teams and organisations – harnessing the power of international collective intelligence.


IIL’s Trusted Virtual Trainers Contribute to Virtual Top Tips Report

Over the past 25 years, IIL has been providing clients with thousands of virtual training experiences and we’ve learned a lot in that time; delivering high quality virtual learning is not an easy task!

Whilst we have been ahead of the game, many people in our industry are currently making the move to virtual training, which is a daunting task. So, when Course Conductor told us they were publishing a report to help those people, by sharing the top tips from lots of other expert virtual trainers – we were only too pleased to get involved.

Course Conductor has just published the report and it is aptly named “60 Top Tips to Help New Virtual Trainers (from 60 Trusted Virtual Trainers).”

The report contains a wealth of information from 60 virtual training experts, all of which will be incredibly useful to any trainer that is currently making the transition from traditional classroom training to virtual training.

Three of our virtual trainers contributed to the report: Ed Lively, Ken Terry, and Keith Wilson. They have all been verified by Course Conductor as ‘Trusted Virtual Trainers’.

Here’s Ed’s tip in the report:

Download the full report here: www.courseconductor.com/virtualtips

Learn more about IIL’s virtual courses here: https://courses.iil.com/course/upcoming


Lifting the Language Barrier

“If you differ from me, my brother, far from harming me, you enrich me.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, aviation pioneer, writer and poet, 1900 – 1944

Over more than three decades working internationally as an engineer, project manager, trainer and coach, one of the major things that I have observed is the importance of the language barrier, particularly from a “Discounting level 1 & 2” point of view.

As a reminder, here are the Transactional Analysis Discounting levels again (from the previous blog post):

  1. Not registering that a problem exists
  2. Not registering the significance of that problem
  3. Not registering that there are options for action [to solve the problem]
  4. Not registering that one is personally capable of implementing those actions [to solve the problem]

We also identified three main barriers to effective virtual global teamwork:

  1. Language barrier
  2. Distance / time zone barrier
  3. Human aspect / cultural barrier

Today, we will concentrate on the language barrier. We will run it through Discounting Analysis, moving from problems to solutions. We will also take a step further and leverage advantages to enhance effectiveness.

Our aim is to evaluate our proficiency and that of our counterparts. We can then make any needed improvements to our own techniques and, as Project Managers, help team members and other stakeholders to progress in proficiency.

The Language Barrier

Levels 1 & 2 – Problem and Significance

To work together, we need to communicate, to “speak the same language”. Yet, around seven thousand languages are used around the world today.

Over time, we have found solutions to this problem. The use of a lingua franca is one. In order to understand each other, the contemporary use of English is common in international communication. And that is the trap! Thinking that (a) speaking English solves all problems and (b) those who do speak English truly understand each other!

  1. Only around 20% of the world’s population speak English (as a first or second language). This distances 80% of potential co-workers. The significance of this problem is clear.
  2. A more subtle problem exists: registering issues between users of English. Of the global 20% of English speakers, around one-fifth speak English as their first language. For the other four-fifths, English is a secondary language or is present in their country. For less-proficient practitioners, it is obvious that care must be taken to ensure correct communication when using English internationally. However, amongst fluent practitioners, frequently no such caution is observed. International audio meetings filled with, “full speed ahead”, jargon-rich English spoken with strong accents are common. Less fluent participants try hard to follow, with difficulty. It is often clear that some practitioners have not registered that a problem exists. “This meeting is in English, we are speaking English, so there’s no problem, right?” Unfortunately, very, very wrong!

The cultural/personality iceberg – above and below the waterline

Above the waterline, we see the “what”. Observable issues of international communication are often in plain view: puzzled expressions, mistakes, incomprehension and unexpected/unwanted deliverables, sometimes months later, are common.

Below the waterline lies the “why”. We would all like to communicate using English confidently and with ease. However, if we subjectively judge that our level of English is “inadequate”, we may be tempted to stay silent to hide our self-perceived “incompetence” and “save face”. The importance of “saving face” is particularly important in certain cultures. “Low-face-importance” cultures assume that anyone not understanding will interrupt to clarify. “High-face-importance” cultures assume that it is clear that doing so would induce a loss of face and is therefore not a viable possibility…

Levels 3 & 4 – Options and Actions

When using English to communicate:

  1. We use easy words and short, clear sentences. The simpler, the better
  2. We articulate clearly and take our time to speak. We use full words rather than joining two words together: “I am an engineer” is clearer than “I’m an engineer”
  3. We use Latin root verbs instead of Germanic root verbs: “I will obtain the contract” is clearer than “I’m going to get the contract” for many non-native English speakers
  4. We borrow best practices from international aviation communication:
    – we use the international alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie, etc.) to spell-out difficult words
    – we use individual digits to clarify numbers: “one-four” is clearer than “fourteen”
    – we confirm key elements by repetition: Person A: “Please supply fourteen (one-four) samples tomorrow.” Person B: “We will supply fourteen (one-four) samples tomorrow.”
  5. We use regular pauses and “sign posting” to allow speaking partners to easily follow the conversation: “I will now talk about X / [I deliver message X] / “I have talked about X and will now talk about Y” / [I deliver message Y]
  6. We prefer nouns to verbs: “Who is your Manager?” is easier to understand than “Who do you work for?”
  7. We avoid phrasal verbs: “call off”, “go back” and “shop around” – completely confusing!
  8. We avoid question-tags: “you do understand, don’t you?” – even more confusing!!
  9. We are careful with humour as cultural norms for humour in business vary widely. A well-intentioned humoristic comment may be misunderstood and cause unwanted confusion. It may also produce a negative effect for cultures for which the norm is to keep humour for outside of office hours…
  10. Most importantly, all nationalities, particularly native English speakers, must make efforts to adapt their speech with the one common goal of facilitating mutual understanding

When some parties have a very basic level of English (or do not speak English at all):

  1. Support from a professional translator/interpreter is of great value, allowing swifter communications and fewer expensive misunderstandings and mistakes. Language support from multi-lingual colleagues is also useful. When using translation/interpretation software, we are aware of the risk of incorrect translations
  2. A picture is worth a thousand words! Images, drawings and sketches boost mutual understanding
  3. Written communications allow time for translation and understanding. They can, however, lead to “conversations” which take many days and still end in confusion
  4. A way to improve on this is to write and talk at the same time: during an audio meeting, as one is speaking, one writes key words and figures on-screen to provide anchors for understanding
  5. We plan regular follow-up meetings: daily status points to check that progress made is according to understandings. This allows misunderstandings to be identified and corrected early

For all interactions:

  1. We reduce “loss of face” risks by clearly stating our aim of mutual understanding and the use of “less-than-perfect English” as the communication norm
  2. We reinforce openness by allowing time for people to build relationships and confidence
  3. We continuously monitor speaking partners to detect non-verbal signs of confusion or disagreement
  4. We ensure that all people contribute to the conversation by bringing in members with a tendency to stay silent (perhaps due to a difficulty to interrupt to enter the conversation)
  5. For important decisions, a written record of agreements is made during the conversation, in real-time. Participants confirm and approve the record post-meeting.

Building Strong Foundations

Our efforts to address the language barrier will obviously bring immediate benefits in improved understanding between global team members. Also, as a collateral benefit, the care, energy and good will that we transmit through our efforts to understand and be understood will be noticed by our counterparts. This tangible good will builds trust and good working relationships, particularly between cultures and at a distance.

We will build on this strong foundation in the next and final blog focused on the distance barrier and human aspect/cultural barrier.

Until then, take care and don’t hesitate to share your experiences or highlight any questions.

Peter

For further details, see “Foolproof International Communication”, Moberg & Chadwick, Japco Publishing House 2013, ISBN 978-91-637-1116-9, 2013


About the Author 

Peter Chadwick is the Founder of Island Hoppers, and a Trainer and Consultant with IIL. He is qualified as an engineer, project manager, trainer, coach and pilot.

The common threads to Peter’s career are innovation and exploration. From early days dreaming-up designs, through roles leading larger and larger international project teams, up to his current role of trainer and coach, Peter constantly searches for better designs, better ways of working.

Building on his research and in-the-field experience, he has co-authored two books on transcultural cooperation with Pia Moberg and devised the Chadberg Model.

Peter has a long track record of designing and facilitating pragmatic support to individuals, teams and organisations – harnessing the power of international collective intelligence.


“Discounting” theory as a framework for assessing remote work proficiency levels

Working virtually with team members dispersed nationally or across the globe is nothing new and our use of this way-of-working has been steadily increasing over the last few decades. We don’t need to be talking about full-blown “follow the sun” projects to make use of remote working methods: from interactions with overseas suppliers to outsourced project team members, most of us have developed skills in remote working.

With the current Covid-19 crisis, though, remote has sky-rocketed, exposing many people to the need to quickly ramp-up to full proficiency.

So, we just do it, right? Or are there pitfalls to avoid? Well, indeed there may be! A good starting point to fully understand what is at stake is the “Discounting” theory of Transactional Analysis. This is nothing to do with trying to get a reduction on a price but rather a sub-conscious process which is best described through an example.

There are four levels of discounting:

  1. Not registering that a problem exists
  2. Not registering the significance of that problem
  3. Not registering that there are options for action [to solve the problem]
  4. Not registering that one is personally capable of implementing those actions [to solve the problem]

As an example, two flatmates, John and Chris, are at home and a tap (faucet) is dripping. In actual fact, it has been dripping for months. Chris says to John, “Can you hear that tap dripping?”. “Tap dripping?” John replies. He listens. “Now you mention it, there is a tap dripping! Well how about that!” He goes back to reading his book.

→ John has just cleared past level 1: he has registered that a problem exists

Sometime later, Chris, who has been searching through water bills, comes back into the room brandishing a stack of paperwork. “Do you know how much money a dripping tap wastes?” he asks. John replies that it’s only a drip and can’t be that much. Chris shows John bills dating back over a year showing a $20 increase per month since the tap started to drip. “Wow! $20 a month! That’s terrible! But it costs a fortune to call out a plumber and anyway you can never get one to come out…”

→ John has cleared past level 2: he has registered the significance of a problem, and has started to move on to level 3 (not believing there are options for action to solve the problem).

Chris shows John the results of an online search. It shows a bag of 50 tap gaskets of various sizes, with free next-day delivery, for $2.59. “Well that’s very interesting, but I’m no plumber!” says John.

→ John has cleared level 3: he has registered that there are options for action, and has moved onto level 4 (not believing he has the capability to act to solve the problem).

With a heavy sigh, Chris flips to an online tutorial showing “how to fit a new gasket to fix a dripping tap in 5 minutes”. After watching the video, with a shrug and a smile, John sets aside his book, orders the gasket set online and goes off to the tool cupboard to find a wrench…

→ John has cleared all the way through to level 4: registering that a problem exists and is significant, that options for action exist and that he is capable of implementing them!

Discounting applied to virtual teamwork

So how does this apply to our need to quickly ramp-up to full proficiency in remote working? Well, it provides a framework for each of us to evaluate where we are on the proficiency scale.

Level 1: If we believe that, to “go remote”, we just carry on working as we did in the office but now via videoconference from home, we would be at level 1 – not registering that issues exist such as the time needed to set up remote links and use the technology, potential technical gremlins and the additional concentration needed when remote-working all day long.

Level 2: If we believe that these issues do exist, but we just have to “get on with it regardless”, it would be to discount the additional fatigue that distance working can cause. We may also find ourselves working long hours to get the same results as before with, at the same time, a strange feeling of frustration and lower efficiency. We would be at level 2.

Level 3: If we realise that we do need to do something to adapt to the remote working situation but are not sure of what, we would be at level 3. Solutions such as adapting the rhythm of work and using a blend of communication methods to leverage the pros of each whilst reducing the cons are just within our grasp if we take the time to think about it.

Level 4: Finally, we may be aware of key remote working techniques but be unfamiliar with them and need to gain proficiency and confidence through try-outs in a safe environment, and maybe training, coaching or support from colleagues.

Barriers to effective virtual teams

We can identify three main types of issues faced by global co-workers:

  1. Language barrier
  2. Distance / time zone barrier
  3. Human aspect / cultural barrier

Over the next few days, we will not only look into how to “get around” these three categories of barrier but, even better, we will check how we can leverage opportunities to be even more powerful than before in traditional “face-to-face” work.

As we move ahead, it would be great to get your input, discoveries and experience so that we can be stronger together. So, tune in again soon for the barrier analysis and, in the meantime, please share your virtual teamwork experiences, successes and questions below!

Take care!

Peter

Through June 30, 2020, we are offering free registration to our on-demand course on Virtual Agile Teams (regularly $850 USD). Learn more and register here >>


About the Author 

Peter Chadwick is the Founder of Island Hoppers, and a Trainer and Consultant with IIL. He is qualified as an engineer, project manager, trainer, coach and pilot.

The common threads to Peter’s career are innovation and exploration. From early days dreaming-up designs, through roles leading larger and larger international project teams, up to his current role of trainer and coach, Peter constantly searches for better designs, better ways of working.

Building on his research and in-the-field experience, he has co-authored two books on transcultural cooperation with Pia Moberg and devised the Chadberg Model.

Peter has a long track record of designing and facilitating pragmatic support to individuals, teams and organisations – harnessing the power of international collective intelligence.


Are You There? Hello...?

By Keith Wilson, MBA, B.Comm., PMP, MCP, MCT, CSM, CSPO, KMP, CDA

Virtual meetings/teams can be new territory for many of us. It can be especially difficult to be sure all attendees are getting the most out of the meeting. Sometimes, you can be left questioning if you have their full attention or if things are getting lost in translation.

Are you new to virtual teamwork? In this blog, I will share engagement techniques that I have used for years when training or consulting with teams virtually.

First, remember to be prepared and test your audio and camera beforehand. If you’re the facilitator, arrive an hour early to ensure everything works and advise other attendees to connect 5 minutes early so you will be ready to start on time.

Ice Breakers

If your web meeting app has icons that the team can use, start by asking everyone to “Click the green check or ‘OK’ icon” when they are ready to go. You may have to ask for this several times until everyone has clicked the icon. Unlike an in-person meeting, we may not have had a chance to socialize easily before the meeting begins, so take the first few minutes for a brief ice breaker. For example:

If your team has members from different parts of the world, select a word and have everyone share how they say it in their language. (For example, “beer.” I just know two other ways to say beer: “bière” (French) and the only word I know in Spanish, “cerveza.”)

Have people share an interesting factoid about the area where they live or a colloquialism. For example, I could ask people if they know what “I am going to the dépanneur and will stop at Timmy’s on the way back, eh” means. (If you’re a fellow Canadian ,you know that I am going to go to the store and then stopping at the donut shop on the way home. This can add a bit of fun to your meeting and also be educational.)

Introductions

If this is the teams’ first meeting, try this technique for introductions:

Have each person select a partner and interview them. This is easy if you are using a meeting app that supports break out groups; if not, perhaps they can send emails, texts or call each other and determine the following about their partner:

  • Who they are
  • Where they are
  • What they do for your organization
  • How long they have worked at your organization
  • 2 things you have in common outside of work

Now instead of each person introducing themselves, they introduce their partner. By sharing commonalities, it will help the team relate to each other with realizations such as, “Oh, she has young children as well”, or “ I didn’t’ know he also likes cooking.”

Frequently Ask Questions

If the questions are close ended, instruct attendees to hit the green check mark icon for yes and the red “x” for no. But don’t forget to ask open ended question that start with the 5 W’s or how. If no one responds via chat, text, phone or VoIP, try this technique: first call upon 2 people, “Ann and Amit.” Now you have their attention to ask the open-ended questions; this is better than singling out one person. Do keep in mind one of the top fears people have is public speaking and this can be compounded if they are unfamiliar with the meeting app.

Whiteboards

Use the whiteboard frequently and ensure that everyone can type or draw on it; do not just have “death by PowerPoint.” My tool of choice is Adobe Connect and when people write on the whiteboard it doesn’t show who typed the comment. The anonymity helps people participate without fear of embarrassment. Also, let people know they won’t lose points for a misspelling.

As per an in-person meeting, you should also be sure to:

  • Start and end on time
  • Have an agenda with desired results
  • Document Action Items and have people assign themselves to the Action Items

I hope this blog helps you work successfully with your virtual teams. Stay tuned for more blogs.

Through June 30, 2020, we are offering free registration to our on-demand course on Virtual Agile Teams (regularly $850 USD). Learn more and register here >>


About the Author 

Keith Wilson is a Senior Consultant and Trainer with IIL. His background includes over 25 years of successful coaching, training, management, and consulting experience. He is well known for his public speaking skills and enthusiasm, and has been a welcomed facilitator at numerous Fortune 500 corporations, universities, and associations worldwide.


Sorting (and beyond!)

By Bob Umlas, Excel MVP

In this blog, I’ll discuss sorting, likely beyond features you knew were available! We’ll start with this screenshot of a file:

It needs sorting. There are many ways to sort data.

There are 3 ways to access sorting from the Data tab:

1–

2–You can right-mouse click on a cell and select Sort:

and this leads to another flyout with more options:

3–Then there are the sort options from the Home tab, way over on the right side (and includes options for filtering, at the bottom half):

Let’s look at these different options.

The A-Z from the Data tab will sort the contiguous range of cells based on the active cell. So, if I wanted to sort the original screenshot by the first column, Country, all I need do is click in any one cell in that column and click the A-Z tool (or select the entire contiguous range of cells), and the beginning of the data would look like this:

Had I clicked the Z-A button, it’d look like this (I’ve scrolled down a bit so you could see then change in column A):

You can see that row 143 has a different country, UK, and that’s being sorted in reverse order alphabetically, after the US. Canada shows up in row 238:

(By the way, sorting is case insensitive, but there’s an option to be case sensitive which I’ll show later).

OK, here’s the first trick I’m going to assume you didn’t know: If you wanted to sort the region within the country, you could simply click one cell somewhere in column B, click the A-Z tool (on the Data tab), click in column A, click the A-Z tool, and you get this:

The trick is to click in the reverse sequence of the order you want the columns sorted. Here, we wanted column A to be the major sort, then within column A, we want column B sorted. So, we click a cell in column B, A-Z tool, a cell in column A, A-Z tool. I’ll do it again, clicking a cell in column D then C then B then A, each time clicking the A-Z tool:

Cool?

OK, the next icon in the Data tab is also the main sorting tool access:

.

This brings up the following dialog:

Here are the various values:

 

The first option is to sort by Country, Region, Company, etc. Excel reads the headers in the first row. How did it know the first row was headers? Because of that checkbox  you see at the top right, “My data has headers.” If this is unchecked, you would see this dropdown instead:

.

OK, so if you wanted to sort Region within Company, you would select Country as the major sort, then you click on the Add level button at the top, then select Region from the dropdown:

You could continue this process for all the columns, and if you make a mistake you could click the Delete Level button. The Copy Level does just that – copies the level which is the active one.  To see which level is “active” you can see the slight grey background behind it. In the above illustration, Region is the active level. You can use it as a starting point to then only change one item. For example, in the following dialog, the first level was copied to produce the second one, and now all that needs changing is the color in the Order dropdown. This is slightly easier than re-entering all the fields.

You can sort one level A to Z, and another Z to A, etc.

The third dropdown had an option for Custom List. Why choose a custom list to sort by? Well, if you have month names as text (as opposed to real dates formatted as text), then if I sort Jan thru Dec, I’d see this:

Alphabetical, but not very useful! So, you would do this:

Then the result is what you’d hope for:

Let’s take a closer look at the Sort On the dropdown, usually “Values”. As you may have noticed, you can also sort on Cell Color, Font Color, or Cell Icon.

Here’s the dialog for sorting cell color in column B and then font color in column D:

The Order column in the dialog shows all the various color possibilities that exist in the column:

Region:

Department:

Let’s sort the yellow region (cell color) then a red department (font color):

Or how about Yellow region followed by Brown region:

(Notice Region is there twice to accomplish this sort. Also, notice I could choose “On top” or “On Bottom”):

One more, then we’ll move on!

Same as above, but alphabetical for each as well, and then numerically, descending:

Which yields:

The sort by cell Icon is for when you used any symbols from the icon sets of conditional formatting. A quick example where I used conditional formatting of 3 icon sets in column E:

Now I can sort by the icon set:

Here’s the result after scrolling down a bit:

Okay. One more button we haven’t looked at, the Options button at the top. This brings up:

See? I told you we’d show you how to do a case-sensitive sort! There’s the checkbox at the top to do that.

Usually, you sort top to bottom, but you can sort left to right. Suppose I want to reorder these columns so that I have Company, then Region then Department. First, insert a row at the top, and enter the sort sequence you want to see!

I also need to select all the cells (pressing Ctrl/A) will do it) then bring up the sort left to right feature shown above from the Options button, and I’m presented with this dialog:

The sort by dropdown shows Row 1, Row 2, etc. I want to sort row 1 left to right (blanks sort to the bottom in a top-to-bottom sort or to the right in a left-to-right sort. Here’s the result:

Now I can delete row 1 and the columns are sorted as I wanted.

Last tip. Double spacing data. Or triple-spacing, or more!

Enter the value 1 in a parallel range in an empty column, and select the blank cell to the right as well:

Now double-click the fill handle (dark square in the bottom right corner of the selection):

Press Ctrl/c (copy), then ctrl/down arrow (takes you to last value), then down arrow (takes you to the empty cell below the last value), then ctrl/V (paste), and here’s the bottom of the data I was using:

Now you have 2 rows with a 1, two with a 2, etc. Click on one of these cells in column F and click the A-Z tool and presto!:

It’s double spaced! The blank rows all got sorted into place. Clear column F and you’re all set!

You can do this left-to-right as well. Here is a sequence of screenshots as a sample to insert 2 columns between each column (then we’re done!):

Copy thru 1 thru 5 and paste twice:

Bring up the left-to-right sort options then choose to sort on row 1:

Then delete row 1 and you’re done!!

Happy sorting!

About the Author
Bob Umlas has been using Excel since its inception in 1986. He has had more than 300 articles published on subjects ranging from beginner to advanced, VBA, tips, shortcuts, and general techniques using virtually all aspects of Excel. He is the longest-running Microsoft Excel MVP in the world (25 years). He has been the technical editor of (about 20) of Bill Jelen’s (MrExcel) Excel books. Bob speaks at Excel conferences around the world on his favorite topic, Tips & Tricks, which wows even the experts. He is the author of 3 Excel books and is the current leader of NYC’s Excel Special Interest Group (which meets on the 2nd Tuesday of each month).

Books:
This isn’t Excel, it’s Magic!
Excel Outside the Box
More Excel Outside the Box