30 October 2005

Mobilizing the Retreat Team

Now our move for O1 was to get the team together in a room and explain the process that will take place up until the actual retreat. This is not so easy as it sounds. Organization Development in this fashion is virtually unknown here in the U.A.E. and people are rightly afraid of this whole new idea of going away together as a team to make plans that will change the company forever.

So we had to bring them in carefully in a private email where the idea was gently introduced. These team members have issues with being open in front of their bosses, and so there is a dire need for trust within all corners of the company. Here is part of that email we sent them:

"Dear O1 team,

Hope this email finds you well. Please relax with your cup of tea while reading this..

As you might be aware, the MDs of O1 would like to undertake an initiative to make our company better in every way for you as well as for our team as a whole. We would like to help you become a great organization where business processes will smooth out, individual roles and responsibilities will be clarified, and your viewpoints will have a bearing on how you relate to each other as a team, and many more issues will be addressed. I know it sounds like big talk, but we intend to this with careful planning and specific actions. We need all your support so that we can make a brave attempt at transforming this company.

In order to achieve our goals together, we are organizing an offsite retreat this December. You have been chosen to attend this retreat because we want your input into building a great environment to work in. This retreat will be specifically designed to address the challenges we face. We are not just going to sit down and listen to a ‘management expert’ talk. We plan to make dramatic change in practical ways at this retreat which will last 2.5 days. We will not change in 3 days, but we will begin the change process.

Mr. Roland Sullivan has 40 years of experience in helping companies be their best. He and I will be helping you achieve our goals. There is a lot of work to be done before the actual retreat happens. It is very important for you to trust this process and get introduced to Mr. Sullivan soon. The process will be for him to sit with each of you individually for a chat to get to know you, and also with all of us as a group so we can ask questions about this whole concept in front of everyone. I hope you understand the importance of an outside person. He will be objective, completely confidential with whatever you tell him, and there will be no favoritism/bias.

Please reply to this email so I know you have received it, and ask me any questions regarding this whole plan.This email has a cc to him, so if any of you want to talk to him via email first to get comfortable, please do so!

Looking forward to all your responses soon.

With regards,

Ms. Mubeena Mohd"

Depending on the nature of the responses, we would get a preliminary idea about how interested, fearful, or excited the team is overall. Scheduling the interviews shouldn't be that hard and we could probably have them for 80 minutes each and that way get the whole team done by 2 days max.

The tricky part is for us the consultants to generate questions to ask the team members during their individual chats. Gauging reactions from the email would also be tricky. But we're determined to bring change.

25 October 2005

What is the Offsite Retreat?

The next step with our client company, lets call it O1 was to get the top management to understand the entire process of Change. The main tool to initiate deep change was introduced to the top team of directors: An offsite retreat for 2 nights and 3 days where all the heads of departments, and the top team come together on a common platform and go through dialogue, carefully planned beforehand by the team and facilitated by the consultants, resulting in the beginning of a paradigm shift in the organization.

We addressed questions, issues that might affect our effort, and discussed which leaders of the company need to be included at our 3-day offsite retreat. Mr. Yogi joined us online and we had an internet voice conference that lasted for about 1.5 hours. The purpose of the change process was identified, and issues about what needs to change in the company according to each director was also generated in a one-on-one interview between each director and the consultants after the group meeting.

Some of the questions that came up in the director group conference were:

1. What is the format agenda of the retreat going to be?
2. Will it be like an extended training seminar with group activities thrown in?
3. What is the criteria for selecting members of the retreat team.. do they have to be highly educated in order to participate?
4. Since the leaders of the organization and team members will be involved in designing the agenda as well as questions and issues to talk about at the retreat, why do we need an external consultant at all?
5. Some members of the organization are not ready or willing to change. Should we still make them go to the retreat?
6. Will you be showing us the methods to arrive at solutions, or will we get the actual solutions itself during this retreat?
7. Will activity at the retreat handle psychological dimensions of employees like arrogance, competitiveness, egoism, etc.. or is it just going to be about work processes?

It was an exciting discussion about how deep, permanent change can happen. Here are parts of ingenious responses to the above questions from Mr. Yogi to the top director team:

About the agenda and activities
"The agenda of the retreat will be designed by you, the top team. You will have total control of what goes on in the retreat and what topics are talked about. After we collect the data needed from all team members individually, we will design the retreat together. Please know that the three days are going to be full of work for everyone. It is not a picnic and there will be no games. We will be there to address the foundation of your organization. The retreat will not be a place where I come and lecture and everybody listens to the 'management guru'. I do not believe in training seminars. I simply talk for 10 minutes in the beginning, and then we follow the format and agenda that we had set for ourselves."

About selecting team members for the retreat

"We want the leaders of your organization to attend. We need those people who affect the core business of your organization, those directly responsible for its growth. Education is not a criteria, but if the person has a crucial role in supervising a team/department/section, he/she needs to be there.. the most important criteria for selection is whether they need dramatic change, without which the company will not realize its its true potential."

About the role of the consultant

"You will not be able to carry out this process without me the facilitator. I cannot stress this enough. If you try this alone, it will make your goals more difficult to reach and can worsen all situations. I urge you to trust this process and see the results. I guarantee that I will add tremendous value to this entire effort. After all, there is a lot of work and trust-building needed to be done prior to the actual retreat. You need an objective external facilitator who will take individual issues and help facilitate a process where the issues can be changed to meet organizational goals. The most important reason is for there to be absolute 100% confidentiality on all information that is collected. You need an external expert to maintain this confidentiality in addition to making sure that the information does not hurt anybody's feelings. This can only be done by knowing each individual on another level other than in their job roles, which requires a external consultant with a high standard in professional ethics."

About employees who are not ready to change

"The point of the retreat is to initiate deep, permanent, and dramatic change for the organization as well as for individual employees that affect it. We need to align key employees to the goals and vision of the company so that they work in harmony and with minimal friction. Employees who are not ready to change will be a liability for any company because our times require businesses to adapt to changing environments, technologies, and so forth. Bring these difficult employees to the retreat! You may get a pleasant surprise. We do not want people working for our company if they are not ready to change for the better of the organization. In other words, we need to ask them 'Are you in the boat or not?'"

About business solutions

"We will arrive at solutions, as well as chalk out methods for doing so. At one of my retreats, the team was working on a problem they couldn't find a solution to for ages before. Suddenly someone stands up and says 'Well why don't we do this...' and everyone shouts out 'Yes that's the answer!' Funny things happen when you are in an environment that's structure has been altered to bring out the best inside people."

About employee attitudes and the psychological dimension

"It is indeed difficult to change individuals' psychological tendencies. However, it is very possible to change the environment in an organization so that these tendencies do not show up, and eventually go away by constant reinforcement of the behavior that is expected. The retreat will be the beginning of a complete overhaul of how things are going to be from then on. The process takes into account individual differences. Thus, during the team-building effort, individuals will be given a unique development plan to act upon. The duty of the external consultant is to bring out what is already there."

Our next step is the group team meeting. Everybody's questions will be addressed, and I'll be looking to see how interested, positive, fearful, or excited they are about dramatic change that is planned for O1.

23 October 2005

Power of the Trustworthy 3rd Party

The consulting job with our current client is turning out to be one big interesting story. Today I was invited to observe a meeting that never took place in the organization before.. all managers handling different business units under one corporate umbrella came together to talk about how best they could cut expenses of their company as if it were only one unit of business instead of several.

I saw something nothing short of what simulated the Hawthorne Effect, i.e. people's behavior changing as a result of an external factor that happened to be there (when it usually isn't there everyday). I believe I was that external factor. The trustworthy 3rd party. Never before had the 'black sheep' raised his voice before this so intensely, wanting to have a say in making a difference to a key business strategy, that of cost-cutting.. first off, the 'black sheep of the family' had the courage to call this meeting and nobody had a clue why he had called it and it was out of curiousity that everyone showed up promptly. It makes me realize how simple some things can be.. if you want something answered, just ask.

What ensued then on can only be described as the first real boost to the change effort we are going to implement for this company. Knowing there is a trusted party to help them achieve things they were having trouble doing on their own, these managers got to the bottom of of some very pressing issues they faced as a team (if you can call it that right now!) My presence as an outsider was enough to bring about a calm sense of "let's do this" in the room. I very much look forward to tomorrow when we meet with the team leaders as a group, and watch Mr. Yogi work more magic. Cannot wait to document the change!

The goal of a consultant should always be to take on the role of a guide and let the team function independently with self-confidence. The power of one person changing the chemistry of the group can be so significant, that it is no wonder why Mr. Yogi always taught me that the consultant IS the tool itself. That is why we deserve the big bucks. No survey or instrument does what a trustworthy and competent external practitioner can do for the core existence of an organization.

The room full of ten people experienced what was never seen before:
-- The 'black sheep' calling the shots
-- Managers genuinely agreeing on things when they usually didn't even bother getting together for more than 5 minutes
-- Other key employees present at the meeting getting to voice their points on specific processes for the first time, being given a platform to participate rather than just to follow orders

There are obviously certain issues that did surface and this is where a consultant facilitates. I will not get into them here because we must always remember the positives as "Appreciative Inquirers". I just sat and listened, observed their interactions, got a sense of what they feel about each other, and most importantly what made them make the effort:
1. An external trustworthy presence
2. The sheer desire to grow in that particular area
3. They got an initial push by knowing about the proposed change effort. Sometimes all you need is a gentle push so they can take the first step.

So tomorrow we talk with the team about the broad topics they want our help with. And after today's meeting, I am sure they all are going to sleep on their ideas bursting inside them.

21 October 2005

The Possibility of Change

Continuing on with my thoughts on our latest consulting effort with the mid-sized distribution company here in Dubai, our next step was to rewrite the process steps with the CEO in his own words close to his comprehension.

It was not as easy as I'd hoped. He told me that he'd need more time to digest it all.. suddenly in the middle of it, he got overwhelmed and started wondering how we were going to accomplish things never been attempted in the company's history of 12 years. Needless to say, he requested to complete the other half of the rewriting the next day. One of the early steps in the process if for us to ask him a set of questions we'd prepared for his individual responses concerning the goals of his business and specifically about the changes he'd like to see in his company and for his own role. When I showed him the questions, he felt a great array of emotions ranging from excitement to nervousness to skepticism. In his heart he wanted all the change to happen.. but his mind kept asking about whether it was truly possible!

It was clear that he preferred being alone and pondered over the goals, vision, and the ideal desired state for his organization.. that piece of paper with 23 questions about different aspects on his role and business relationships stared back at him like something out of a science fiction movie. A lot went on in his mind telling from his reaction. He didn't want me to record his answers. Instead he wanted to jot down the points he wanted to make to each question himself.. and then he told me he would record it on the computer with his voice so its there as hard evidence of who he is as a Managing Director.

As a consultant to this company, I felt a great sense of pride for him taking a brave risk in his mind.. to dive into something right in just because he trusts us to make a difference to his organization. Trust is such a vital quality here in Middle-Eastern culture.. nothing would ever change if we the Change Agents are not trusted. There is a sure certainty of a smooth operation when trust between the consultant and the client is established with genuineness.. the first steps required for a more positive, profitable, and effecient orgnization, is for all parties to TRUST that dramatic and breakthrough change is possible.

16 October 2005

Deep Change in 3 Days

At our online meeting yesterday, Roland and myself made a lot of progress with our current assignments courtesy Yahoo Messenger.

I am currently working on an assignment with Roland, who I dearly call Mr. Yogi, here in Dubai and it involves transforming the leadership team of a mid-sized wholesale distribution organization. We discussed the purpose, outcomes, and steps in the intervention including specifics for a three-day executive team-building retreat in December. It is going to be the most exciting three days of my career as I will see Change in the making first-hand. I will get to see what my mentor Mr. Yogi has been doing over the last 40 years. The retreats are usually full working days off-site from the walls of the organization where the team gets down to basic processes, what needs to be changed, action and committment plans, and clarifying roles and responsibilities. The pre-work to this vital retreat will consist of one-on-one interviews with the top team who will be transformed into performing to their best, and a report on the kind of topics that should be tackled in the retreat.

A question arises as to how is deep change possible just by the top team going away someplace for 3 whole days discussing strategies. I think the answer is that it is vital to have a seasoned facilitator who can monitor the direction of the sessions, who builds trust in the team, and can turn plans into actions with gentle compulsion.. all information must be non-threatning and nobody leaves without agreeing on strategies to make the company greater than its current state. The other important point to remember is that change won't happen in these three days, but it is the only way that deep change can begin to take shape. In all his 40 years, Mr. Yogi has never seen change happen any other way which convinces me that this mastered process has able to withstand the test of time and cultural difference.

11 October 2005

Organization Development RE-fined

In order to understand how OD works we would like to introduce you to the major components of the core framework of OD.

1. Working with Whole Systems:

A systems perspective requires defining a boundary, which separates the system into an internal set of interdependent parts and an environment (the next larger system) with which it needs to interact (import/export energy). Thus, a system can be an entire enterprise, a specific unit, or even an individual and always includes internal and external customers/clients. When we apply the term “wholeness” to a system, we’re referring to the regularly interdependent parts forming an effective and aligned whole, interacting according to the influence of related forces. For a system to work smoothly, everyone who is affected by the organization needs to be positively engaged. A balance of influence from primary stakeholders such as owners, employees and customers is desired.

2. A Unique Value-Based Process:

Values are enduring and positive beliefs on which the ideal or transformed state attributes its existence. Values have always been an OD signature. Additionally, the soul of OD is the process by which the desired state is achieved.
“Process: A progressive series of procedures and functions performed over a period of time bringing about a result. For OD purposes, the thoughts, feelings and interactions of those participating in the change process are of particular significance. For OD changing processes often involves converting habitual patterns of thought, feeling, behavior (action) and interaction to more desirable states.”

3. Transformational vs. Developmental:

'Transformation' is a fundamental paradigm shift from one state of being to a new state. Transformation requires a shift to new behaviors and mindsets to sustain future change. It is deep-rooted or second order change. 'Developmental' is first order change or improvement of an existing state. Ideally, conscious transformation occurs when a system requires it. Ongoing development then keeps the system moving forward. In development, core processes and domains are continually adapted through a simple continuous change cycle such as the classic Scan, Plan, Act, and Re-act model.

4.Strength-Focused Change:

Instead of having an obsessive pre-occupation with root causality of problems and negativity, contemporary OD is leaning more and more toward strength-focused change. Positive change is driven by an appreciative or value-added approach where inquisition, hope, innovation, and engagement prevail.

5. A Research-Based Philosophy:

OD has a traditional foundation in an applied behavioral knowledge of business, technology, sociology, anthropology, positive psychology, adult education, economics, and organizational behavior. The situation itself, and the beliefs of the consultant, are integrated with one goal in mind - achieving success for the organization and the customer.

Tried and true relevant knowledge, skills and ways of being, especially about change are transferred to the system. In addition,enterprise learning and intelligence are discovered, reinforced and documented throughout the effort.

Organization Development DE-fined

While there are many definitions of Organization Development (OD) floating around today, we consolidated definitions from past and contemporary leaders of the field and came up with:

Organization Development (OD) is whole-system transformation and development using a values-based collaborative process. It focuses on applying positive behavioral science wisdom to perfecting, reinforcing, and measuring such organizational features as:

• Extraordinary performance
• Building of executive teams
• Aligned leadership
• Relevant strategies
• Synergistic and functional organization design
• Clear organizational structure/chart including roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities
• Cost effective business processes
• Passionate and great human cultures
• Changed behavior and mental sets
• Globalization
• Quickened learning environments
• Or whatever the executive team believes must be focused on to achieve desired results.

In essence, OD leads people to collectively learn and change to produce desired outcomes.

About My Mentor: Roland "Mr. Yogi" Sullivan

Since the mid-1960's, he has been a full time organization development (OD) pioneer. He has worked with over 1100 organizations in 19 countries and in virtually every major industry.

NTL, known for bringing the phrase “change agent” to the world, has provided him with intense and extensive laboratory change and development training since the 60s. He also has a Master’s in OD from Loyola in Chicago and Pepperdine in Los Angeles. Pepperdine is reputed to have the most recognized degree on Change Management in the world. Roland has taught courses on change consulting at seven universities over the past 30 years.

With Dr. William Rothwell, he has just released the second edition of one of the field's seminal books, Practicing OD: A Guide for Consultants, Second Edition (Wiley/Jossey-Bass/Pfieffer). The first edition was the first major Organization Change Management book to be translated into Chinese. Along with Quade and Rothwell, Roland is the editor of the new Wiley Organization Change and Development Series. A dozen volumes have been published including the first book to integrate whole systems thinking with strategic planning and enterprise-wide change. His writings on OD have been widely published and translated into Chinese, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

For over two decades, Roland has served as Chair of the OD Institute's Committee to Define Knowledge and Skills for Competence in OD. The Institute uses this research in accrediting university programs around the globe in organization change. 21 editions of his change agent competencies have been created over the years.

The Organization Development Institute recognized his frontier work in big system change and large group facilitation by awarding him the outstanding OD Consultant of the world. Both the local chapter of the American Society of Training and Development as well as the Minnesota OD Network granted him their Organization Development Professional of the Year awards. Recently he was runner-up of the Outstanding Change Project of the World for his work with South Africa’s largest financial enterprise (ABSA). Profits in one of the business units of 2,000 employees increased 69%. Their brand as result of our corporate wide consulting effort became the most “loved” brand in all of SA. In the year 2004, it was awarded the best company to work for in Africa. Currently ABSA conducts 12 major summits per year to plan and grow their business. Roland has introduced large group summits to numerous countries such as Mexico, India, Malaysia and Switzerland.

Richard Beckhard, his late mentor and friend, who coined the phrase ‘Organization Development’ with Douglas McGregor (Theory Y and Theory X), recognized Roland to be among the world's first 100 professional change agents.

Roland considers himself not from any one country but a global citizen. Because he is so enthralled with the wonderful and dynamic change in Dubai, he has made a commitment to work there on a regular basis for years to come. Mr. Sullivan has chosen Ms. Mubeena Mohd, M.A. to be his mentee over on the legacy of his pioneering work.

My Bio: Mubeena Mohd, M.A.

Mubeena Mohd, M.A. joined with, Mr. Roland Sullivan to fulfill her personal goal of applying knowledge to provide key decision makers with relevant information and competence. Her knowledge base is focused on Psychology and Philosophy, with an applied aim of integrating the two disciplines to generate her own theory of Organization Development. Her mission is to facilitate extraordinary results in organizations by applying her knowledge of Organizational Psychology. She believes that within companies there exists in innate ability for excellence and self-realization of hidden potential.

She was awarded her Bachelor of Arts degree in two majors (Psychology and Philosophy) in May 2001 from Hofstra University, New York. Passionate about the transformation of women, she was awarded Departmental Honors for her thesis entitled “Reason vs. Emotion: How Western Women Converts to Islam Resolve Cognitive Dissonance Resulting from Gender Inequity”. She attained her Master of Arts degree in the concentrated field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology with a specialization in OD in May 2003 also from Hofstra University, New York.

Mubeena has a regular literary column on Human Assets Magazine, the only HR publication in the Gulf region. Her other ongoing professional activities include hosting and managing several online networks for HR and OD professionals, designing system-wide interventions for positive organizational change, holistic tool development, editing corporate profiles and manuals, employee competency assessments, and training program assistance. Mubeena has special talent when it comes to designing systems such as performance appraisals, training programs, and employee selection system. She uses her well-rounded cross-cultural expertise and excellent verbal, graphical, and written communication. She has assisted sales trainers with refining their training modules, designed the “UAE’s Best Practices in Human Resource Management” survey, and conducted employee competency studies for corporations for the past 2 years.

She has traveled and lived extensively around the world. Born and brought up in Mumbai, India she now resides in Dubai, United Arab Emirates which has been called by Roland Sullivan as the “change agent city of the middle east and the fastest changing city in the history of the world”. She moved to Dubai from India at the age of 12 and moved to New York at the age of 17 to pursue her Bachelors and Masters degree. She spent six prime years of her life in the United States studying psychology, philosophy, and Organization Development. She has traveled to Canada, Nepal, Thailand, Mauritius, Australia, and France. She speaks Hindi and intermediate-advanced French. One of her missions for her career is to utilize various global cultural idiosyncrasies when transforming organizational culture for bringing about a holistic synergy among people comprising of diverse nationalities, work styles, and individual preferences.

Mubeena is the member of American Psychology Society (APS), International affiliate of the society of Industrial / Organizational Psychology (SIOP), Organization Development Network (ODN), International Society for Philosophers (ISFP), and is an inductee of Phi Sigma Tau, the International Honor Society of Philosophy. She initiated the Organization Development Network of Dubai and the OD Middle East Network with the support of the American-based Organization Development Network (ODN).

Mubeena Mohd and Roland Sullivan have made a long-term commitment to maintaining a professional mentor-mentee relationship. Their operations began at the start of 2005 when Mr. Sullivan noticed the rapid pace of change characteristic of Dubai which reinforced his desire to transfer his legacy to the next generation of promising Change Agents. They are scheduled to travel to India later this year for heading an Appreciative Inquiry summit for EMPI, a leading university with a highly reputable OD program, to impact the training of future consultants in that region.

07 October 2005

Dear visitor, Welcome to my Professional Space!

I dedicate this space to the fulfillment of my career aspirations and goals.

I have made a conscious, well-thought out, and spiritually intuitive decision to pursue a career in Organization Change & Development (OCD). David Cooperider defined OCD like this: "OD is a discipline of collaborative inquiry and positive change focused on the discovery and creation of new concepts of human organization and organizations that are prosperous, that more equitably distribute power, wealth, and choice, and that are more compatible with the human spirit and the biosphere."

I welcome you to keep visiting me here as I let the world know about my progress with my goals. I am looking for experts to advise me and potential clients to assess my abilities. I am currently out to promote my services offered in association with Mr. Roland Sullivan, my dear friend and mentor who has been a Change Agent for more than 40 years now. Check up on our extensive bios and services in subsequent blog entries.

I envision this blog to be filled with my 'Progress Posts' with the inherent message that my professional work is as personal as anything else.

So you are welcome to make this space your own and contribute with your ideas, advice, leads for business, and forwarding useful contacts. Looking forward to shared resources!