- Customized Approach
Everything that I do with you is customized. I don't use "canned" programs or workshops because one size never fits all, and often it fits no one. There is nothing so frustrating as investing time and money into a consultant and finding that they did the same thing with you as with their last client.
Instead, I always start with an organizational assessment in which I meet with individuals and groups (determined together with you) in your organization, and observe regular meetings to identify the particular dynamics and factors affecting your situation. Only then do I recommend steps to take that are aimed at these issues, taking into account your organization's culture.
- Future Search and Other Types of Retreats
Sometimes I suggest a retreat or workshop that is designed to address the issues identified in the organizational assessment. This may be a half-day, full day, or multi-day program developed specifically for your needs. It can be off site, or on your premises.
One of the most powerful types of meetings is a Future Search Conference. This is particularly useful for planning in complex and uncertain situations. See this video for a brief summary of Future Search.
Future Search is a proven technique for planning in turbulent and puzzling times. It has been used in many hundreds of situations across the globe. Leading companies (for example, Ikea, Whole Foods, 3M, AT&T, Bank of America, Cigna, Core States Financial Services, Johnson and Johnson, Nissan Motors, Sony) have used it to insure the success of their planning.
Future Search gets all the stakeholders together so that the whole system is in the room. When all voices are heard, you get the advantage of people talking who don’t usually have a chance to put their heads together. Traditional planning is done by people who only know one or two parts of the picture. In a Future Search, everyone sees an accurate view of the entire situation because people with knowledge of all the pieces are present.
Future Search creates a common ground agenda so that everyone agrees unanimously (hard to believe, but it’s true) on a vision for future actions. By getting unanimous agreement on the company’s agenda, you also get universal buy-in and commitment. Disagreements are noted and used as data, but are not worked out in a Future Search. This is far different than the usual situation with strategic planning where a committee develops a plan and then has to sell it to everyone.
Future Search creates action plans and the structure to carry them out. It is not just an intellectual exercise. Before the conference ends, people are organized into action forces with set plans for next steps and long-range plans. And because all stakeholders are present, you don’t have to wait for anyone’s approval or involvement.
Future Search is a two day conference spread over three days. Participants meet in small groups comprised of representatives of each stakeholder group to review the past and survey present trends. Stakeholder groups then meet to review their own actions and specify what they want to accomplish in the future. The mixed groups then meet again to develop visions of the future. These become the basis for the common ground agenda, which then are operationalized into action plans. Finally, participants assemble into action forces to delineate specific steps they will take to realize the common ground agenda.
Future Search is one of my specialties. Please contact me for more information on Future Search. You can also visit the Future Search Network website for further details and examples. In addition, the Utah Transit Authority has created a very helpful website that explains Future Search, complete with video examples from their three Future Search Conferences. Finally, a Dutch consulting firm, KaapZ, created a simple animated film that explains Future Search rather well.
Recently I appeared on the Business Insights show on the Bizperity Network. You can view the segments on Future Search here.
- Executive Advising
Being a leader in an organization can put you in a difficult situation. You need to strike a balance between the needs of the organization, and the needs of your team. If you tip the balance too much in the direction of the organization, you lose the trust of your team and because your credibility is less, you can lose their cooperation and best effort. On the other hand, if you go the other way and focus too much on your team’s needs, then the goals of the organization will suffer. There is an optimum middle ground, but finding it is a challenge.
Another scenario when executive advising can be helpful is when you or one of your team members is having problems interacting with the rest of the team. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between personality factors and group dynamics. Most often the difficulties are due to some combination of the two. Having an outside advisor to help untangle the situation can make the difference between a functional team and one that fails, or the difference between you or your team member having to leave the job, or succeeding at it.
These are just two of the dilemmas that executives face daily. Having an advisor who you can discuss them with can help you avoid costly mistakes. While many other consultants call this function “executive coaching,” I prefer to call it “executive advising” because it is a better description of what occurs in such a relationship. I am not coaching you. Rather, I am a trusted advisor, with expertise in group dynamics, organizational issues, and personality.
- Organization Assessment
Before moving in and monkeying around, we want to understand what is going on. Systems are complex, and it's often difficult to know what is a symptom of what, and which factors are causing which. I will always want to do a thorough assessment of your organization, its situation, and its needs. This will usually include interviews with individuals and groups, and observation of teams in action. We'll work together to determine who needs to be talked with.
Sometimes a survey can be useful in tapping issues for a large number of people. But a survey is only as good as the questions. If you don't ask the right questions, people can't give you the information you need! We can work together to design a survey, and usually I work with a steering committee to help me know what to ask. Your people know best what needs to be asked!