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  • Reviewer Focuses on Interdependence

    In his review of Staying Healthy in Sick Organizations: The Clover Practice™,  UK Consultant Philip Whiteley seized on “Declare Your Interdependence.”

     

    He says, “When I reached the third of the three principles…I thought I had mis-read. Where I expected to read ‘declare your independence’, it runs: ‘declare your inter-dependence’ (my emphasis). This was the first indication that something original is going on. I rather tire of ‘how to’ books that place too much of a burden on the individual to sort out their workplace context. But she strikes the right balance, warning individuals against victimhood, and blaming the context for lack of effort to achieve.”

    Whiteley says he uses the book as a guide in negotiating and contracting with people he doesn’t know well and recommends it for anyone “charting difficult waters” at work. In addition to these practical uses, Whitely says the book’s focus on teamwork and interdependence has deeper implications for organizational design and philosophy. “I’m aware that a few organizations, Nokia, Southwest Airlines, WL Gore, for example, have broken out of this and embraced much more teamwork. The next step is to start to encourage shareholders and others to look at companies through this prism, rather than stick to the mono-culture of the quarterly report.”

    See the full review at http://felipewh.wordpress.com.

    Whiteley is the author of How to Manage in a Flat World: 10 Strategies to Get Connected to Your Team Wherever They Are.

  • Three Secrets to Implementing Your Strategic Plan

    I have facilitated close to 200 strategic planning processes. Here are three secrets for a successful strategic planning process. Also you can join me for a webinar “Successfully Implementing Your Strategic Plan” on Thursday, June 17, 12:00-1:15 p.m. CDT. The Magna Publications program is aimed at higher education, but the techniques are applicable to any organization.

    1. Keep the planning committee small—9-12 people. Have multiple opportunities for many people to have input into the process—focus groups, world cafes, surveys, listening sessions, surveys, and the like. A small committee has at least three benefits. First, it is more feasible to get people together with a smaller committee. Second, a group size of 9-12 people has been shown to be more productive than larger or small groups. Finally, a smaller group can analyze data from the stakeholders and make some strategic choices more readily than a larger group. A larger group is more likely to be comfortable with not making clear choices. And strategic planning is about making informed choices.

    2. Use the data. I am continually surprised at the low levels of awareness people often have about what is really going on in many organizations. So often there are pat answers for questions that are not at all supported by data. Common knowledge is notoriously unreliable, so it is essential that a group charged with planning the future of an organization be supported with current data. It is usually not enough to “talk at” the planning committee with the data. The group needs to do something with the data—discuss what it means, compare to other groups, make sense of it.

    A technique I use is to provide various reports to the planning group and ask them in small groups to analyze and then share with the larger group what it all means. (An example of data might be a recent employee survey or a report on gains and losses.) Such activities make the information much more real for the planners.

    3. Assign a “point person” for every priority. Every priority or major goal in the plan must have the name of a point person assigned to it. The role of the point person is not to do all the work, but to ensure that the priority is moving forward as planned. The point person:
    * Is the one to go to with ideas
    * Connects people who are working on similar efforts
    * Helps get the priority moving if it gets stuck
    * Reports on progress at least annually.

    What makes the point person role unique is the fact that one individual is the custodian of a priority or goal even though he or she probably does not have functional authority over all the players. Typically an institutional priority (E.g. expand technology support for learning, serve new groups, provide new offerings) are cross-functional and probably cannot be achieved by one unit. Hence the need for a point person to unify the effort across the organization.

    For more information, see http://kathleenparis.com/home/main/strategic-planning/.

  • Collaboration in Action

    Collaboration in Action

    We have an opportunity to get up to speed on today’s most pressing leadership and human productivity issues. Human resource leaders in the Madison area are collaborating to offer a day of hot topics  as part of a larger conference of the IPMA-HR Central regional conference. This collaborative learning event takes place on Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at the Madison Marriott West. (The full IPMA-HR event runs June 6-9.)

    I have the honor of being one of the speakers and a co-sponsor. I’ll be leading sessions on “Bringing Your Strategic Plan to Life: A Guide to Implementation” and “The Clover Practice™ for Leaders.” The tantalizing list of presentations by veteran presenters also includes:

    • Retaining and Developing a High Quality Staff
    • How to Ramp, Rally and Revive Employees on a Flat Budget
    • Social Media: New and Creative Ways to Communicate
    • Employee Onboarding and Reboarding: Getting Employees Up to Speed Faster in New or Cross-Trained Positions
    • Using Conflict to Promote Labor/Management Collaboration and Success
    • Generation Soup: Inspiring Today’s Multi-Gen Workforce to Higher Performance
    • Understanding a Multi-generational Workforce
    • The Supervisor’s Role in Building a Customer Service Culture
    • The Supervisor’s Motivational Tool Kit
    • Increase Productivity, Innovation and Profits by Working Harmoniously with Human Nature
    • Sustainable Health Care; Strategies to Support Healthier Decisions
    • Health Care Reform is Here, What to Do Now?
    • Communicating Successfully in Person or Via Technology: What Works and When
    • Building the Future, One Coaching Question at a Time
    • Succession Planning and Performance Management for Engagement and Results
    • Preferred Learning Styles and the MBTI
    • Making a Difference with Mediasite

    The day will begin with a fun walk-run and be capped off with Suzy Favor Hamilton, 3-Time Olympic Runner, 9-Time NCAA Champion, Motivational Speaker, Realtor speaking on “Perfection is Not Success”

    The collaborative nature of this event attracted local cosponsors including Madison Area Quality & Improvement Network (MAQIN), Station 1 Consulting, Inc., Wisconsin Association of Mediators (WAM), Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence (WCPE), Wisconsin State Training Council, UW-Madison Executive Education, and UW-Madison Office of Human Resource Development.   

    You can still register for this day of rich learning and networking. The fee for Tuesday, June 8, which includes a continental breakfast. is $125. Walk in registrations will be accepted. Feel free to call me if you have questions at 608-445-1085.

  • The Power of an Apology

    I was furious. My 83 year old mother had arrived at the hospital via ambulance. She was having trouble breathing and chest pains. Her thin body was trembling and her words were slurred.

    The doctor in the ER strode into the examining room. “Hey, have you been drinking?” he asked her with a humorless laugh. Everything he did and said after that telegraphed “I don’t give a hoot.” He talked with the nurses about his expensive vacation and brushed off questions about mom’s condition. We were angry at how cavalierly this guy was treating our mother. He diagnosed pneumonia, but sent her home without a prescription for oxygen. Later that day, her condition was so serious, we drove her to a hospital 30 miles away where she remained for four days.

    A week later, Mom suffered complications and was back in the ER. That same doctor was there. (We had penned, but not yet sent, a letter of bitter complaint.) My brother and I told the admitting nurse that we didn’t want him to treat mom because we had a bad experience with him last time. As we waited for a different doctor, my brother and I could see this man going over charts. It suddenly seemed juvenile not to tell him ourselves why we didn’t want him near our mother. I asked to speak to him in the hall. I told him how disappointed we had been with how he had treated our mother previously and gave some specifics.

    He said he didn’t remember her or us. He said flatly, “I don’t know what I’m apologizing for, but I’m sorry.” He walked away.

    My brother and I looked at each other and wondered, “What just happened?” Well at least we had spoken the truth as we saw it and had communicated directly. We decided to send the letter of complaint later the next day.

    About 45 minutes later as we sat next to my mother’s bed, my brother’s cell phone rang. It was the doctor apologizing profusely. He said he realized he had been right at the end of his shift and probably wasn’t at his best. He then went on to tell my brother how much it means to him to practice good medicine and to take good care of people. He said he hadn’t been aware of how he was coming across. “Apology accepted,” I heard my brother say and “Thank you very much for calling me.”

    That call lifted such a heavy burden of anger off all our shoulders. I could literally breathe more freely. It was as if I had put down a bag of rocks. We agreed that it was no longer necessary to send a complaint letter. These very real feelings of relief reinforced for me how anger consumes so much energy from our minds and bodies. It takes energy to stay mad. I would like to devote that energy to other things.

    The experience also reminded me how powerful a sincere apology can be. I look at that doctor with new eyes.  I believe that if mom has to be treated by him again in the future, that she will get considerate and thorough care. It’s a good lesson. A sincere and humble apology has the power to heal.

  • How Is Collaboration Going?

    Thanks to the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, you can measure for free how well collaboration is going.

     

    It is increasingly important that agencies and institutions collaborate with one another, both to stretch financial resources further and to provide the best services. Duplicative services or processes hostile toward other organizations are too costly for today’s shrinking finances and expanding human needs. Collaboration has become a watchword in human services and education. Even in the for-profit world, suppliers who formerly competed ferociously with each other, are working together in new ways.

    So although organizations are attempting to collaborate more than ever, there is still some fuzziness about what collaboration might really mean. People use the terms cooperate, coordinate, and collaborate interchangeably. The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation classic Collaboration Handbook: Creating, Sustaining and Enjoying the Journey by Michael Winer and Karen Ray (1994) distinguishes between cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. The authors describe a continuum of increasing intensity and risk-sharing that begins with cooperation, moves to coordination, and approaches collaboration.

    Cooperation is short-term and informal and involves mostly sharing of information and virtually no risk. Coordination is a more formal relationship focused on a specific aim and requires some division of roles and responsibilities and some increased risk. Collaboration is a long-term relationship with much planning and communication, new structures for making decisions, and full commitment to a common aim. Both the risks and rewards are fully shared. (Winer and Ray credit Sharon L. Kagan, Teachers College, Columbia University for this model.)

    The idea of a continuum has helped me see that while some clients need to establish true collaboration, others can provide better services simply by better coordination. But it’s always worth the discussion to intentionally decided where we need to be on the continuum.

    For organizations that need to establish or shore up collaborative relationships, the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation has created a free on-line “Collaboration Factors Inventory” at http://wilderresearch.org/tools/cfi/index.php/. The questions are research-based and the score indicates areas in need of strengthening such as communication, role clarity, communication, funding, mutual respect, community support, and the like. There are even open-ended questions for comments. The free inventory may also be taken by everyone in the collaborative if one person registers the group and sends out a link. This is a fantatastic tool for stengthening collaboration. Kudos to the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation for making it available to all of us!

  • Be A Better Leader—Take Notes!

    The most powerful leadership strategies are also the most simple. Here is one of those simple things: Take notes!  If you have time to make a grocery list, you have time to jot down a few things you noticed today.

     

    The most powerful leadership strategies are also the most simple. Here is one of those simple things: Take notes! John Aleckson, CEO of Web Courseworks, writes about taking notes throughout the year and compiling a “Victory Log” to share with the team at the end of the year. Besides victories, your notes will include things that didn’t work, reactions you didn’t expect, things you want to try in the future, and equally as important, how you felt about these things. Whether in a tiny spiral notebook or bound book or electronic file, your notes are a goldmine of information, especially if you look back on them over time.

    If you want to dig deeper, your notes can be your vehicle for double loop learning as described by Argyris. If you are double loop learning, some of the questions you will ask yourself are, “What are the assumptions that underlie my actions? What’s the theory we have in our heads that is directing our actions? How are our theories holding up?” In single loop learning, according to Argyris, we simply ask ourselves, “What happened?” without looking much deeper.

    It is very likely that you will see patterns in your notes—people who consistently behave in a certain way, targets that regularly get missed, questions that come up again and again, people who deliver wow results every time. Our lives are so full, that if we don’t attempt to capture these things, they slip away. So your notes can be both a personal learning tool and a way to keep track of victories so you can celebrate them. But of course, you don’t have to wait till the end of the year to celebrate your team’s achievements. People need all the encouragement they can get.

    Be protective of your notes too, so you can be perfectly honest. You can figure out what this means.

    One of the leadership practices we cultivate at our annual Women’s Executive Retreat is journaling. If you have time to make a grocery list, you have time to jot down a few things you noticed today. 

    Do you take daily or weekly notes or keep a journal? What does it do for you? What impact has it had on you as an individual or a leader? Please share your experiences.

  • Employee Engagement: We Have to Talk to Each Other

    Even with only 29% of Americans saying they are engaged in their work, it can still be a hard sell to get organizations to question how their employees feel about working for them and how engaged they are in the work of the enterprise.

     

    You may have already seen the Gallup poll statistics that show only 29% of Americans are engaged in their work. Engaged workers, according to Gallup, work with passion and feel a deep connection to their organization. Not-Engaged workers sleepwalk through the work day, using little or not discretionary energy. Actively disengaged employees undermine their coworkers and their organizations. (See Gallup Study: Engaged Employees Inspire Company Innovation.) The same study showed that engaged employees are the ones who drive innovation which is the lifeblood of any organization. Even with these hard facts before us, it can still be a hard sell to get organizations to question how their employees feel about working for them and how engaged they are in the work of the enterprise. Gallup has also identified questions that correlate with engagement and high performance.  Here is a sample of questions that predict engagement:

    • Do you know what is expected of you at work?

    • In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?

    • In the last year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

    Nine additional questions comprise Gallup’s Q12 survey. (See 12 Questions to Measure Employee Engagement.) The organizational conditions that would elicit positive responses to these questions are not complicated or horribly expensive. They do require leaders and those they supervise to talk to each other. I sometimes think that my most valuable contribution as a consultant is helping people talk to each other.

  • Bringing Your Strategic Plan to Life—A Communiversity Session

    A strategic plan can be a powerful and energizing force uniting members of a nonprofit organization in working together toward shared aims. What distinguishes plans that are engines for growth and improvement from those that mainly stay on the shelf?

    On Monday, March 8, I shared research conducted on the UW-Madison campus which identifies several factors that correlate highly with successful execution of a plan. We discussed tools that ranged across developing the plan and evaluating it, communicating the plan,  implementing, and budgeting. Melinda V. Heinritz, Executive Director,  Wisconsin Historical Foundation, shared planning approaches that have resulted in significant gains for her organization.

    The Communiversity Session was sponsored by the UW Center for Nonprofits. I will send you the handout, just contact me at kathleen@kathleenparis.com.

  • Until We Get Our Act Together?

    It’s an old fashioned approach to think we have to know all the answers before we are willing to communicate with clients, colleagues, customers or stakeholders. Inviting them to contribute to solutions is respectful and appreciative. This open approach is also very likely to shed useful light on the problem itself.

     

    “We can’t say anything until we get our act together!” This is repeated countless times every day by leaders facing complex problems. Whether it’s a manufacturer dealing with a mechanical failure, or an agency installing a new system, or a college creating intellectual property guidelines, the underlying issue is the same-Leaders usually don’t want to discuss problems publicly until they have the answers figured out.

    This reluctance to openly discuss situations that are not yet resolved is a carryover from patriarchal, authoritarian command and control systems. We are accustomed to that way of doing things-the people on top figure it out and then tell everyone else. Our underlying fear as individual leaders is that we will be seen as less than competent if we discuss an issue without knowing how we are going to resolve it.

    Ten Questions to Ask
    It’s an old fashioned approach to think we have to know all the answers before we are willing to communicate with clients, colleagues, customers or stakeholders. Inviting them to contribute to solutions is respectful and appreciative. This open approach is also very likely to shed useful light on the problem itself.

    Here are ten questions to shape a discussion around any problem for which we don’t yet have answers. Questions 1-5 are those we provide answers for and questions 6-10 are those we ask of stakeholders.

    1. What do we know about the current situation?

    2. What are the questions? What is it that we don’t know yet, but will need to find out?

    3. What are the barriers and bottlenecks we know of so far?

    4. What information is lacking?

    5. What will we do to fill the information gap?

    6. What are some ideas for addressing the issues, barriers, and information gaps?

    7. Where could we find models for benchmarking?

    8. What additional partners might make sense?

    9. What are possible unintended consequences or connections we should think about now?

    10. Who would be willing to work with us on this issue?

    If you are uncomfortable with standing in front of your clients, customers, stakeholders, employees without the answers in your back pocket, be open about that too. You can say, “I usually like to have everything figured out before coming before you, but this issue/problem will be best solved if we put our heads together on it.”

    We don’t need to have all the answers, but we do need to let people know what the timeline is and how we will ultimately develop the solution.

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  • World Cafe Magic for Involving People

    The World Café is a technique for really engaging people in questions and issues that matter to them. It combines doodling or drawing on the table followed by discussion and the opportunity to move to a different table with a different question and another round of writing, drawing and discussion.

    You know the scenario. An all-hands meeting is called to discuss the strategic plan or a topic that everyone should know about. The leader dutifully shows a PowerPoint and asks if there are any questions. After a few seconds of thudding silence, someone makes a comment or asks a question. The vast majority of people do not participate. These kinds of meetings are a waste of everyone’s time.

    I have been having great success with the World Café as a technique for really engaging people in issues that matter to them and to their organizations. In the World Café, participants sit at tables that are covered with paper. They are invited to write or draw their answers to a focus question which is posted on the table. A “table host” invites people to share their responses. Everyone listens for themes or connections. After 15-30 minutes (depending on the questions) people move to a different table with a different question posted on it. The table host remains.

    In this second round, the table host makes sure everyone introduces themselves and participants look at what the prior group wrote or drew on the table. Additions, arrows, comments, are added and the conversation continues.

    A third round usually occurs which is similar to round two except that participants help the table host prepare a list of themes and also identify any clear differences of opinion. Each table host reports out on themes heard in a 3-minute summary.

    I have used the World Café for strategic planning, asking questions such as, “What changes are occurring outside of our organization that we need to be aware of as we plan for the future?” or “What are some ways we can harness the energy of social networking technologies in our work?”

    I like to make the atmosphere as café-like as possible with coffee mugs for markers, vases of silk flowers, colorful place mats and restaurant menu-holders for the focus question. Of course, French café music is playing as people walk in.

    The World Café has much to recommend it. First, it is a friendly conversation. The questions themselves are interesting. Full participation is built in. Everyone’s point of view is welcomed, regardless of job title or demographic. Different modalities are tapped into—writing, drawing, speaking, listening. Participants are asked to synthesize and look for patterns which requires higher order thinking than just generating ideas.

    Sometimes the drawings left on the tables are zany. Sometimes they are just stick figures and sometimes the artwork is breathtaking. The words and artwork can be photographed and made into a montage that makes a great cover for a report of the event. I have designed and facilitated half a dozen World Café events in the past six months and people uniformly seem to enjoy the experience. One of seven design principles for the World Café is that people should have fun.

    The World Café is the 1995 creation of a global interdisciplinary group known as the Intellectual Capital Pioneers. “Awakening and engaging collective intelligence through conversations about questions that matter” is the motto. Juanita Brown and David Isaacs have written a comprehensive “how-to” book covering the seven design principles and more. The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter (Berrett-Koehler, 2005). The helpful (and artful) web site is http://www.theworldcafe.com/.

    I really like the World Café approach because everyone has a chance to be part of the conversation. Viewpoints that would never see the light of day in an unstructured meeting are aired and discussed. Points of agreement are found where people thought there were none. Participants leave the meeting better educated in the issues, knowing more people in their workplace, and better able to execute organizational strategies because they have a deeper understanding of what they mean. And there’s nothing like shared meaning to inspire people to do their best work. ***

    World Cafe Table Setting