23 November 2005

Positive Assignments

Mr. Yogi arrives in Dubai tonite! It is overwhelming to be able to work with such a guru of the Organization Development world. We are working as colleagues on our first client of the Middle East O1.

Getting back to the change process of O1, we are ready to conduct individual interviews of all members in the leadership team. Mr. Yogi will now have the luxury of working with each individual in person rather than through the virtual world. To prepare for team spirit, we are assigning simple tasks to the team to get their thoughts going about working with other team members. Assignment 1: List three most positive qualities of each team member including yourself. This would serve the dual purpose of documenting where leaders in the company lack interaction with others, as well as get them to think positively about their colleagues.

We only focus on the positive for deep change to occur. It is not constructive going into a recruit with negative and weak points about everyone in your head. It is indeed possible to be realistic and positive at the same time. Realism is often associated with pessimism, suffering, and impossibilities. The reality behind Appreciative Inquiry thinking is just the opposite and holds clear validity.

Appreciative Inquiry philosophy is the way of the future. Gone is the old model of Organizational 'Diagnosis' and negative problem-solving approaches, which leave the organization more drained rather than fulfilled. An organization's chances of achieving dramatic change for its desired vision are significantly greater when the following belief-system is applied by Change Agents:

"Appreciative Inquiry is about the coevolutionary search for the best in people, their organizations, and the relevant world around them. In its broadest focus, it involves systematic discovery of what gives “life” to a living system when it is most alive, most effective, and most constructively capable in economic, ecological, and human terms."
Source: A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry by David L. Cooperrider and Diana Whitney.

Upon delivering the assignment to each team member personally, one particular member could not find anything positive to say. That's how frustrating it can be for people who dwell and work in an environment that forces its members to shut the positive and focus on looming problems all the time, where solutions are temporary and worked out only out of anger, ego, and a lack of committment to the organization's true state of being.

We are bringing in the positive. We intend to help O1 deal with negativity in positive ways. This is the future of successful organizations.

21 November 2005

The Hope Syndrome

O1 is ready for change. As conscientious change consultants, we are aware of subtle but powerful psychological shifts in the leaders by observing behavior, emotional responses, and the general spirit of the leadership team after initiating the Change process. We are happy although not surprised, by the excitement the team is showing because of their participation. They not only feel empowered and involved, they are excited because our process has given them hope.

Hope is the most relevant, significant, and excellent motivator of our times. Without hope there would be no action, no patience, no vision and mission, and no committment to change. I have realized that hope can change a company around. As a young consultant it is amazing to see this in action. As much as human nature is selfish, unforgiving, needy, and egoistic, it is also full of hope for a better future and better prospects for the environment they are a part of.

Our process has everyone excited and hopeful. The team members have been given their interview questions way ahead of their interview dates. Everyone is on a realization path that this is their opportunity to seize the moment.. let out every issue plaguing them individually as an employee, and what is stopping the company from achieving their desired state.

Some surprisingly hopeful observations were:

1. The Directors asked for more time to prepare their thoughts on the 64-item questionnaire. This might seem normal, but for these particular gentlemen, it is very surprising. They are known not to think alot and not to spend time on preparing for anything. After going through the questions at their interviews, all of them requested to schedule their one-on-one meetings at a later day.

2. The Directors got together for more meetings since we started our pre-work for the retreat, than at any other time before in the company's history. They are truly preparing for change, albeit unconsciously. After their group meetings with Mr. Yogi, the Directors received an awakening and a chance to enter a new dimension with their company.

3. Many members of the team admitted that they have never been so open with communicating their views. For the first time they feel more motivated by the prospect of changes that will make their jobs easier. Everybody has responded to emails with great enthusiasm and we've been receiving feedback that they have already started with preparing answers for their interview questions.

4. One member came up to me and said, "Ever since you came in to help us out, this guy is treating me very nicely!" Wow. Relationships maybe changing already just by going through the process even before the retreat happens. I hope and expect for the leadership team to be bonded and ready to work together as a team during the retreat.

The root of all the excitement is hope. The anticipation that things are going to change for the better are driving people to behave differently. Hope makes it possible to believe that positive change is possible.

17 November 2005

On the Process

As I mentioned in my last post, I'd like to cover some of the questions that came up in the team meeting we had with O1. Mr. Yogi and I went around the room and handed the mic to every team member for the opportunity to ask any question concerning the Change process they were about to undergo. Here are some of them:

1. My understanding of the process is that the consultant will come in and analyze what is missing with us as a team and provide ways to fill those gaps?

"That is not correct. Let me make it clear that you are the expert. All the answers to your own problems lie within each of you. I recently attended a meeting with the Canadian Management Consulting Organization and in their charter, they said that a consultant is the expert and provides solutions to solve team problems. I believe this definition is completely wrong. The role of a consultant is to facilitate a team, and be a guide using a systematic process where the members of the team themselves are inspired by it to come together and seek answers out of their own minds. This is the future. The beauty of our process is that you are the experts and are in total control over your action plans."

2. You talk about aligning the top executive team together so that their workload is reduced. Why would you do that since they are the driving force of the organization?

"We talk about reducing the workload and transferring it out to you the team. The advantages are that you get increased responsibilities and decision-making powers, and the top executive team has the luxury of seeking out new business markets, new strategies for the organization, and can map out their vision for the company. That is their job. They do not want to be bogged down by signing cheques and taking care of administrative duties, that steal precious time they can use for significantly increasing core business results."

3. What would happen if in the middle of our Change Process, a key member of our team decides to resign from our organization?

"What a great question! Now we certainly don't want resignations at your organization. This is a perfect example of one of the things we can talk about in our retreat. Let's plan on making everyone aware of each others' work so that the next best person is ready to take over if a person leaves. However, our process up until the retreat serves the function of preparing the team to make long-lasting changes to themselves and for the organization and their team. In my experience of 40 years, the excitement of imminent long-lasting change usually motivates team members to stay throughout our process. I once had a case where 20 executives had already handed in their resignations. They all decided to stay after the Change Process I facilitated. That's how excited they became."

After this meeting, I read all the team member comments about the changes they would like to see in (i) the top team (ii) the organization as a whole, and (iii) customer relations and satisfaction. I then highlighted the common issues and created a questionnaire, which will be the interview questions making up the individual interview for each team member. Come interview time, each team member gets their questions in advance so they know what's coming to them. There will be no surprises.

07 November 2005

Magic Meeting

Today was a big day for O1. Mr. Yogi and I facilitated a meeting attended by all 12 retreat team members. It was organized to a tee by the Internal Agent's (who we have identified as the client) techie professional. We had a wireless microphone, with superior audio quality for Mr. Yogi to talk via Yahoo Messenger in their presentation room. He always emphasises a flawless process with no glitches.. this could be the make or break of the magic of change. Organization and testing facilities prior to any event are very very important.

To get to the point.. It was nothing short of magic. I wonder how the retreat will play out if this is only the beginning! Anyway, our agenda was fairly straightforward.. but I could tell all these key people have never been in conference together. They got to know each other's roles and personalities on a deeper level this bright 8 a.m. which is more than just their designations of "sales manager" or "accounting head". These were people. Emotion, perspectives, opinions, views, beliefs, and ideas replaced members' average perceptions of what the person sitting next to them is about. The "employee" became the "leader, thinker, contributor, generator".

Ok back to the straightforward agenda that brought a hint of magic in the conference room. Here's what happened:

1. Members introduced themselves in terms of what their role in the company is, and were asked to state one line about why they liked working in the company
2. Roland went through the process steps up until the retreat
3. Members were asked to write down their questions and get clear on what the consultants' roles are. "There is no such thing as a stupid question" was what I encouraged them with.
4. Roland went around the team again. Each member asked their own questions about how their company/department/team would achieve change and the methods of how this could truly happen. They were truly ingenious questions which showed a great interest and excitement in this change process. I will write another blog entry to cover some of the questions which came up, integral to making change happen.
5. Members were then asked to take a few minutes and write out on 3 sheets of paper the following:
I. Issues needing attention among the top team
II. Issues for the entire company as a whole to be more effective
III. Areas that need to be addressed regarding customer satisfaction

The meeting lasted 2 hours and post-meeting comments included:
"Wow I feel rejuvenated"
"I have faith that my views will finally be acted upon"
"Thank you for this lovely start to my day. When do we do this again?"

What we do now, is take all their responses and create the tool which will be used for the next step: individually interviewing each of the team members in strict confidence. As our process demands, no question will be a surprise to anyone. They will know what they will be interviewed on. They will have time to prepare and answer to their heart's desire. More importantly, no item on the interview questionnaire will go unapproved by the Internal Agent. We do not go against the owner(s) of the company.

More importantly, the top executive team not only owns the company. They also own the deep positive change coming their way. Mr. Yogi was right all along though. The CEO and/or the top executive team could never do something like this on their own.