Tag: management

Responsible…for the conference call?

Meetings No Comments

You probably saw this funny illustration of a conference call earlier this year.

What it doesn’t pick up is the even more frustrating system that is sometimes used!

The video assumes the dial in method.

The other is the ‘dialled in’ – where some poor person (often a hapless PA) dials people in to the clever switchboard computer that connects the voices. The downside? The need to keep redialling as those on mobile phones keep losing signal strength or when someone is not available.

The most robust system? The one with higher responsibly. The dial in one.

A useful metaphor for most organisations – decentralising power is likely to increase performance…giving control to the margins, to the team.

…promoting responsibility for customer service, strategy, team performance – rather than centralised action and mandates.

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Options for avoiding ‘death by feedback’

Facillitation, Meetings No Comments

In my facilitation training I am often asked what my ‘nightmares’ are. I find that hard to answer, but I do know the things I think about a lot.

These are the issues which I have worked on the most.  A few of these ‘points I ponder’ include:
1) Very ‘introverted’ groups – I now make sure I give people lots of private time to think.
2) Long post lunch plenary sessions – I use voting and humour and physical activity to keep it lively.
3) Very long panel discussions – I use controversy or comedy. I use buzz group conversations to surface any questions (to avoid the long silences that can happen when opening the floor to a large, unsure group – silences that can depress, further dampen or unsettle a group). Some colleagues like to pump prime a few people to lead off with comments and questions from the wider group. I find that a bit artificial.
4) Teach or communicating something I know only very shakily (eg directions, a concept) – I get someone else who knows, to do it!

One issue I think about a lot is how to ensure all plenary feedback is successful. In most large meetings there are times when small groups meet. And after that there is often the expectation that there is some sort of report back.

Some of the options I think about at this time of plenary expectation (and risk) include:
a) Is feedback really needed? Maybe participants will be happy to find out what happened over tea. Or you could just ask for one point from each group. This will then create time and space for other ways of working – such as the neglected Q&A or reflection (“what have you learnt; what is bothering you; what is the single key issue we need to crack” etc).
b) How can feedback be focused and brought to life? I like the use of posters to focus both group work and feedback. As well as a gallery of charts with a host to explain them, do consider getting photos of each poster on a screen and asking a rapporteur to point out a couple of key points. If the posters ask for images/doodles, you have a natural discussion point. Getting a question to put to the vote (and discussion) from each group is useful too.
c) Might asking each group feeding back to use photos and bullet points on a slide or two help?
d) Would a ‘fishbowl’ with representatives from each group be more interesting (due to the theatricality of the moment)?
e) If a design team has been working on the event, then their involvement can mean there is more ownership and a better vibe. These groups are often about 10% of the whole, so the ripple effect in terms of concentration, interest and buzz can make a very big difference.

Have fun experimenting!

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Getting it: facilitating understanding,in timely chunks

Facillitation, Plan No Comments

A friend was saying this week how she now ‘gets’ her iPhone. A shop assistant was describing a feature, and she just understood it. That wasn’t always the case for her.

In the late 1990s ‘Knowledge Management’ was at the peak of its fad cycle.  And at that time I heard US leadership expert Peter Senge explain a model of learning he finds helpful. He described two sorts of knowledge transfer:

A) First The Syntactical. This is where colleagues share many common assumptions – so there is a basic level of understanding that allows easy communication of meaning. Like two chess grandmasters, one person can merely outline a new idea (e.g. on a move), and the other person gets it. They tend to be equally motivated – and connected with sufficient trust and respect to value the other point of view too. This peer to peer approach is seen in ‘communities of practice’ where there is curiosity and enough common ground to allow the use of shorthand – so things move fast. In Syntactical knowledge transfer ‘straight transmission is easy and often swift – however, even dry talks and dense articles engage becasuse the content is so meaningful and shared.
B) Or The Transformative. Here a shared understanding needs to be built – and this requires relationships to be developed, different points of view understood and the meaning of words to be explained. The quality of the experience (whether a talk or a workshop session) really matters. It takes time.

As moderators and facilitators, we are concerned with both. However, it is easy for us (or bosses or clients) to make assumptions about how fast things need to move, assumptions that might not quite reflect the needs of the group.  Our desire for pace may be due to the ambition we have of completing certain things by the end of the day and our learning style/needs, not the groups.

When designing an event we need to think of the time required to ensure each session achieves its learning goals. Thinking and asking “is this a time for syntactical or transformative learning” really helps.

So when considering the design of an agenda, here are a few pointers:

1) A facilitated day tends to be made up of four 75-90 minute chunks – interspersed with breaks (i.e. arrival, chunk 1, coffee, chunk 2, lunch etc). Think of each of these chunks as the length of a film, many sports matches or a sleep cycle. After an hour and a half or so the human body needs some movement and transition. There is a natural cycle and rhythm at work – and we do well to remember that.

2) Remember a little known Russian psychologist for the Zeigarnik effect – the legacy from Bluma Zeigarnik is that the human mind finds it helpful to be reminded what is about to happen, regularly and especially at the end of one chunk (before the break and heading into the next chunk!). This creates a helpful suspense between the parts – when we state what is coming up, others start to anticipate it and move to wanting it – a bit like a trailer in a cinema.
3) Think about how long each part within a chunk is likely to need – what will it take for the group to understand a presenters point or work through an issue? This is where knowledge transmission A or B comes in: syntactical learning means participants are ready to apply ideas much more quickly. Think of this as about how long you would allow for a scene in a film if you were a director or scriptwirter. Or, as a home viewer, are you going for fast forward or slow-mo!
4) Even when you allow longer because you know transformative learning is needed, long talks are not required.  We see in the popularity of TED talks (at less than 20 minutes each) that any input is probably best being kept short before a group can reflect, speak and apply. Do you practise the key sandwich principles for adult learning? Do make sure: first, you start with where the group is at; before taking any input/talk;, then ensuring lots of time to consider and trial and review the application of what has been learnt.
5) And a recent blog, argues that even if a presenter has a short slot, keep it shorter than scheduled anyhow! Do you rehearse your speakers? Do you know how to timekeep a contributor in an relaxed manner, stopping a session in a way that seems calm and respectful (and in tune with interest of the group)?

I hope that made sense – I sort of assumed an type A audience…did I get that right for you?

All the best in applying the ideas…these relate to the Ps of participants, principles, potential risks and process in our 13Ps.

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Synergy snowball

Front foot No Comments

We like the work of Peter Fuda – not just because we are attracted by the same words (e.g. momentum, alignment) or pictures (such as snowballs!): have a look.

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Another checklist: for success in any field??

Facillitation, Measurement No Comments

You might know that (and fully in sync with the push by surgeon Atul Gawande) we like checklists for avoiding failures of ineptitude…such as this one on facilitation skills  and this on finding a good venue.

A colleague shared this blog – a checklist of 13 things crucial for success – we like it

Here are a few things from the piece by Chase Jarvis.

“Success is each to his or her own, but let’s call it like we see it…So here’s a list of thirteen such things that you should be doing right now – let’s call it your hit list:

6. Iterate.
Nothing–and I’ll say it again, but louder–NOTHING will spring from your creative self fully formed. Genius, clarity, vision–whatever you want to call it–will come in fragments at inopportune moments over days, weeks, months, years. Be ready to catch each one of the iterations and push it out of you. The summary of those iterations will aggregate into something special.

8. Don’t underestimate the fundamentals. Know your craft.
Vision and big-picture-thinking are important, but not at the expense of the fundamentals. You’ve got know the nuts and bolts of what your doing. Skip this item at your own risk.

12. Find some quiet.
Noise, stimulation, and adventure are good for creating the raw building blocks of creativity, but they suck for the most important part of creativity — the synthesis. Synthesis–the gluing together of your ideas–requires some sort of quiet, be it just a moment or bunch of moments. So carve out this time.

13. Help others.
When chasing success too many people play the ‘me’ game. It’s all about ‘me’. Well, contrary to what it might seem, success ain’t just about me. Most people who achieve success are concerned with helping others. Helping others cultivates understanding, humility, compassion, and your network – not to mention, a better world. So don’t just reach up and pull yourself there. Be sure to reach sideways and down too, as often as you can muster

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What sort of boss?

Reflect No Comments

Are you (or do you have) an average or extraordinary boss? We like this blog – shared here in case you missed it when it was going quasi-viral.

This links to the Valve Handbook and this, the work of Gerard Fairtlough at www.idenk.co.uk/ra .

Neat stuff.

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Manage your personal productivity in waves

Personal productivity No Comments

You will know of our interest in boosting personal productivity.

This is a really useful piece shared by a reader.


Agreeing an overriding committment

Reflect No Comments

In the work of Patrick Lencioni on teams there is the challenge to agree an overriding commitment to a single, shared result within a team – a result that guides all actions and choices.

The most powerful example of this in action?

We think the response of Wal-mart colleagues centrally and locally to the 2005 flood of New Orleans.

This is an example of responsible autonomy in action too – around the guiding principle of “do all you can to help”. Read more here.

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Are emails work?

Personal productivity No Comments

How we handle the trickle, tide or torrent of emails is a key part of our personal productivity.

But is all that about to change? From social networking technologies like National Field to the head of French consulting firm ATOS stating they will not use internal emails at all in 3 years, people are seeing the way to speed the absorption and management of information from outside of the inbox.

One thing…do you see your email life as work or a distraction? Fun or a threat?

Maybe it depends on the work you do (a nurse vrs a communications manager; an electrician or a CEO)?

Maybe the solution depends on

1) The scale of the problem for you – one person was complaining to me last week they had 10 emails a day…and most of those didn’t need much time to sort

2) Your personality – some love their online persona’s (possibly too much!)

3) Your web connectivity at work –social networking required decent connectivity

4) And the devices you prefer – iPhones are relatively poor for handling email, but better for networked solutions

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In charge of the inbox?

Personal productivity, Uncategorized No Comments

Managing emails comes up time and time again with our clients along with managing diaries and meetings.   

Being in charge of your emails is an important skill in our connected world.

We have written about personal productivity (see the second half of this Business Briefing) and this on email management from The Guardian makes similar points – and argue the ‘war’ on emails may never be won.

One thing that rarely comes up is how hard it can be to do the skim reading and quick replies needed on the small screens and handsets of  iPhones and Blackberries.

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