ADLT 610 – Discussion vs. Debate vs. Dialogue

Discussion – Trying to get someone to agree with your perspective. You talk. I talk. You talk. I talk. Etc…

Debate – Trying to “win” the conversation. I’m only listening to what you are saying in order to form a response to negate what you are saying.

Dialogue – We talk. I listen. You listen. We understand.

Nancy had a lot to say about the differences between discussion, debate, and dialogue. Based on some of her descriptions, and those she provided from various theorecists, I now have a better understanding about why I enjoy some conversations so much more than others. I can also see why some conversations have not been as productive as others, even though I was very open and ready to receive. In order to be heard, you have to listen. In order to do this, you must disclose and trust. (Smith and Berg would have a lot to say about those two!) What really blew my mind was when she talked about the conversations we have at work – how unauthentic and closed they are. How much more productive and engaged could a workforce be if there was enough trust for everyone to be open and authentic in all of their conversations? Usually, the “open, honest, and authentic” conversations only happen around the water cooler or during an offsite lunch. In the end, both the individual employees and the organization as a whole suffer.

To  progress, to consult flawlessly, to be of help, we must be open and authentic.

ADLT 610 – Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

The Kellogg-Champion & Statler case has a lot going on! How could either side have let things get to such a terrible state. Why was no one willing to stand up and ask the question – What’s really going on here? Both sides saw plenty of flashing warning signs that could have been opportunities to get the project back on track. Instead, each side either dismissed the warning signs or tried to put out the fires it generated, out by themselves. Both sides are equally reposnsible for the mess. What is probably the most interesting aspect of the situation is that neither side can see where their actions have contributed to the mess. Each wants to put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the other.

  • George has been MIA since the “bait and switch.” Although I’m sure it was not an intentional manuever to lure Kellogg in with a senior consultant and then use junior consultants instead, he should have done more to make the transition easier and more formal. There were a few things that were done and discussed with the original consultant that should have been reviewed again once the new consultants were brought on board. I would think that the swap of consultants with significant differences in tenure and experience and the complexity of the project, would have prompted George to check-in with Susan and Paul at least once in the first few weeks to ensure there were no major issues or stumbling blocks.
  • Susan and Jim went into the project with the wrong mentality. They were essentially a pair of hands from the beginning. Once it was clear that neither of the merging companies were on the same page as to how the restructuring of the company and polices was going to work, they should have stopped their work and addressed the situation head on. Once you know there is a problem, putting your head in the sand and hoping for the best is not going to make it go away. At the very least, George should have been contacted and briefed on the situation.
  • Kellogg is not a “people” person. It was always Meyer who handled those sorts of “organizational” and “people” things. Kellogg was the business man. RED RAPIDLY FLASING STOP SIGN!!! From those details and descriptions of himself, Kellogg is basically yelling at the top of  his lungs that he probably has no idea what a successful merger looks like, or what all goes into merging the culture of  two corporations, let alone hundreds of policies, even if he doesn’t know it. Unfortunately, neither do the consultants. They didn’t even realize the warning signs were flashing.

It was even more interesting to read the advice given by the consultants in Part II after I had drawn my own conclusions. I don’t think any of the experts were completely fair and objective in their take on the situation. It seemed to me, like depending on which side of the aisle they were positioned, they leveled the majority of the blame on the other party. Four experts. Four different solutions.

So, what did I learn?

From the case (but in no particular order), I learned that:

  • Every interaction, every reaction, every response, is a piece of data worth considering.
  • What happens after consultants leave the room is just as important as what happens while they’re there. It may be a good idea to get a pulse check on how the organization is feeling after the data collection has begun.
  • Problems should be addressed early and directly. Not asking for help or addressing concerns could easily spell disaster.
  • When the point is reached when either the consultant or the client seems to be at their wits end, do not push through. Stop, regroup, and re-define if necessary.
  • Research, research, research. Accepting any assignment at face value without first reviewing and researching on your own, puts you at a disadvantage.

ADLT 610 – So Excited!

Karen and I met with a client yesterday for our contracting meeting and it went very well. Our client is energetic, friendly, and genuinely concerned about the things that are happening at her facility. She seems very open to and accepting of assistance. Even though our scope changed from what we initially thought, the change is a good thing. It is going to give us an excellent opportunity to practice process consulting.

Karen was wonderful to watch. Because I am used to my clients being internal and contacting me first, I usually feel pretty comfortable clarifying scope of work and expectations. This was a little different. Somethings came just as easily and somethings felt a little awkward. I think Karen noticed my hesitancy a few times because she just jumped right in there. She would say things like, “This sounds a little different than what we talked about over the phone.” When we were asked by the client if we would need to talk to others or would be working with just her, Karen had a very nice answer (that I can’t remember the exact wording to) that clearly said we would need to speak with others as well but that we would let her know first, and that she would still be our primary contact. This gave me the opportunity to jump in and talk about comfort, control, and the best way to work together so that we all feel as comfortable as possible. I am really looking forward to learning a lot from Karen.

After the meeting Karen and I had a brief chat before going our separate ways. It was surprising to hear how we were both having the same thoughts during the meeting. Both she and I were already problem solving and coming up with ideas, although neither of us said anything in the meeting, and a few of the ideas were the same. Deciding on our next steps seemed to flow effortlessly.

First up, the contracting memo. After having such a great meeting with Karen and the client, I thought the contracting memo would be pretty easy. I had clear examples and statements from the meeting to draw from. I think each of us left the meeting with the same idea about what the problems are (layer one and two of the onion), and Karen and I both had clear ideas about what needed to be done going forward. Even with all of this information, the draft of the contracting memo was still harder to do than I expected. In my line of work, I am used to clear and formal scopes of work. These scopes of work are legally binding and do not offer much in the way of wiggle room. Block states that the contracting memo, while nice, is not required. He also says that the memo should be short, concise and written in conversational language. While I didn’t have a lot of trouble with being concise, I struggled a bit with the informal language. All of the examples Block gives sound anything but conversational. Maybe I’m missing something. All in all though, I’m not worried. I have a wonderful partner who I know will work with me and help  me to consult flawlessly!

I am so excited. I think this is going to be a great partnership!

ADLT 610 – The Contracting Meeting

The Contracting Meeting

In a previous class session, Dr. Carter mentioned how she believes that few consultants have ever read Flawless Consulting by Peter Block. As we go deeper into the book, I can see how this could result in a consultant performing well. but perhaps not at their best. As a class, we have also had a few discussions, albeit briefly, on how presumptuous and arrogant the title seems.  Is it possible to really consult flawlessly? Even if you have a failed or stressful project? Block believes so. “Just complete the business of each step,” he says. After reading chapter five, I’m starting to think that it might be easier said than done.

There are so many nuances you must be aware of during the contracting meeting. With so many things to pay attention to, in addition to actually participating in the meeting, it makes having a flawless experience (process) seem almost impossible. When I think about the “consulting” that have done inside my own organization, I believe that I do most of the things described by Black as part of the contracting meeting, but when I see it laid out step by step, I have to wonder. If my meetings go well, was there a step, cue, or nuance missed that could have allowed the meeting to go great? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop? The world may never know.

A few things that stood out to be in chapter five:

  • “The personal interaction between the consultant and the client during the initial contracting meetings is an accurate predictor of how the project itself will proceed.” This makes perfect sense. It isn’t something that I have taken the time to think about before meeting with “clients” but each time I meet with one, I am constantly evaluating in my mind how our interaction is going, what that might mean for how we’re going to work together during the week, and what it may mean for how they’re going to work with others.
  • “Managers can also feel that their situations are so special and unique that no one could possibly understand them without having lived there for a year.” This is something I can easily relate to. I understand that every situation is going to be different, even when the problem may seem the same, simply because the situation is different. This is why having a process is important. When you have a process, you can apply it to almost any situation and work through the process based on what’s different. It’s almost comical when you think about it. If you think I have no idea what your issue is or how to solve it because it is so unique, why did you call me? 
  • “There is a difference between what the client wants from the project and what the client wants from you.” This stuck me as a difference that can sometimes be so subtle that’s missed. As a consultant, I think it can be easy to assume that as long as you’re helping the client with their issue you are meeting their needs. The client could really want to learn the steps involved in process consulting, or improve their ability to think analytically about business issues. But you’re so busy marching through the business of each step that you miss an opportunity to really help fulfill a need.
  • “Operating improvements must be a joint promise between consultant and client, not a unilateral consultant promise.” I am not responsible for the implementation of the recommendation. I can not promise results when I have no control over the implementation. What a freeing and frightening thought. Control is an illusion. Let it go.
  • “When people mean… They express it by saying…” The table of sayings presented around these two thoughts was funny to say the least. So often I have heard or said some of these phrases knowing that I meant, or the person I was speaking to, meant something different. The sad part is when you know the person feels the same way you do, but neither of you really want to be the one to say it, so you don’t. It’s the awkward going nowhere date that you both want to end, but in the end, you both suffer through. (Just for you Allen)
  • “We all have sophisticated verbal defenses, but non-verbal defenses are much less sophisticated, so trust what you see. But use it only as a signal.” Often I am told that you shouldn’t assume anything about what a person is feeling or how they are thinking, even when there are clear non-verbal signals screaming at you. I like the idea of exploring what you may see, even when it’s at odds with what you’re hearing, without coming across as assuming but not ignoring the obvious either. 

ADLT 610 – The World of Flawless Consulting

The World of Flawless Consulting

It bothered me that so many of my classmates have had unsatisfactory/disappointing consulting experiences. Is it that the “client” was unsure about what they needed and/or were they resisting the feedback because it wasn’t positive? Or, were there important steps/tasks that were skipped or minimized  in the contracting and discovery phase? From the comments that we shared with each other during class, it sounds like it was a little bit of both. The combination of the prefaces and first chapters from Block and Schein served to affirm beliefs I already had about consulting and offered new insights. 

A few insights that stood out to me from both Block and Schein, in no particular order:

  • Everything that the consultant does is an intervention. According to this, there is no such thing as a neutral presence. As a consultant, everything you do, say, ask, or suggests, changes the situation. At first read, this was an overwhelming thought. If everything I do changes the the situation, how can I ever determine what the situation is? According to Schein, this is a risk I should be willing to take. The information I gather during each intervention gives me another piece of data to use in determining the “real” issue.
  • Access your ignorance. This just makes so much sense to me. It has always confused me as to why people come into something (new job, new organization, new whatever) and immediately begin changing things before attempting to understand what the dynamics of the new environment are. Taking the time to ask a few questions to determine what you don’t know can go a long way in preventing you from making bad assumptions and proposing ineffective solutions.
  • The client has the right to fail. This concept is harder for me to accept. As a consult and a person who genuinely likes to help others, I want to see people succeed. One thing I learned in the military is that to the best of your ability, you always try to set yourself or your colleagues up for success. Knowingly letting someone go down a path that you know leads to failure is not doing the right thing.
  • Joint diagnosis reflects the reality that neither the client nor the consultant knows enough at the initial point of contact to define the kind of expertise that might be relevant to the situation. This, to me, should relieve some of the stress consultants feel during the first few meetings with a client. This statement frees me of the pressure to meet with a client and immediately begin suggesting what could be wrong and what could be done, in order to show my skills as a consultant. As a client, I would want a consultant who takes the time to seek to understand versus trying to sell me a quick fix that probably won’t work anyway.

The Skilled Facilitator

I think it takes a lot of practice and self-awareness to be a good facilitator. It seems as if the skill comes more naturally to some than others, and then there are those who may never truly be “good” at it. Luckily, no matter the level of skill, The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook gives “tips, tools, and tested methods for consultants, facilitators, managers, trainers, and coaches.” It covers a lot of information.

I think the important thing to know/consider in order to use this book effectively, is to be able to determine which of the types of facilitator you will be based on the situation. There are a few questions to ask that assist in determining what type of facilitator you are.

  • Are you a member of the organization/function/team?
  • Are you a process expert?
  • Are you a content expert?
  • Are you involved in the content?

I think knowing the answers to these questions and how your role impacts the group you are working with, are the most important aspects of facilitation. You need to know you role. You need to understand how the input and advice you give is accepted and processed by the group, especially when you are a member of the group.  After thinking about these different roles, I understand better why I approach the facilitation of meetings and programs differently depending in the group and content. I recognize why I have a moment of initial hesitation when asked to facilitate sessions for teams within my department. I ask myself questions like: Is this a good idea? What biases do I have that need to be set aside? Can they be set aside? How will my suggestions impact the group? Will/how will they impact me later?

Being a good facilitator is not just about asking questions or even asking the right questions. Being a good facilitator takes knowledge of yourself and the group, understanding of the process and/or content, being able to determine the best methods and tools for the situation, AND being able to use them appropriately. Being a good facilitator is definitely a skill.

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That: Power & Leadership

A Little Bit of This – Power

Tonight I had the pleasure of reading Eris’s blog. She talked about the joy she finds in empowering others and helping them to develop their skills and capabilities. As former enlisted, I’m sure she remembers the leaders and times where she felt empowered and the times and leaders that didn’t make her feel empowered. It was a joy to read how genuinely interested she is in helping her people grow and develop. Sometimes I think that leaders forget how much empowering those who work for them will help them reach their own goals. Sometimes, I think the worry of whether or not they will individually be successful and the expectations they think others have for them, cause them to lose sight of the bigger picture. Eris also helped me to remember that leaders are people too. They make mistakes, are sometimes unsure, and need to be empowered and inspired by their own mangers!

Thank you Eris for a moment of clarity and reinforcement.

A Little Bit of That – Leadership

On another note, I had the pleasure of presenting the concept of leadership with the three other classmates that make up the team, Catch 22. It felt great to feel like a cohesive team and engage the class in discussion about leadership as a team. Not only were we able to feed off of the energy we each brought to the presentation, but off of the energy the class brought as well. The comments and questions were insightful and probing. There were a few times when the discussions went deeper than we thought they would go or into directions we didn’t initially expect, at least I didn’t. It was truly a pleasure. However, next time, I think we should wait to give Dr. Carter the playdough until the end!

Thanks Catch 22 for doing an awesome job!


Chapter 8 of Group Dynamics for Teams: Power & Social Influence by Levi, what a chapter!

Working in a large corporation affords me numerous opportunities to see new teams and existing teams in action. I’ve been involved in a few myself. As I read the chapter, many situations came to mind that I have seen or experienced that seemed to have unfolded exactly as described in the book. What was even more interesting to me, was the examples given by Levi that revolve around power and influence that happen just as frequently outside of teams as they do inside of teams. Large organizations are built on hierarchies; who you know, what you know, and how fast you rise to the top.

Power – capacity or ability to change the beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors of others (Levi, p. 130)

Levi goes on to discuss the types of power: Expert, Referent, Information (personal power), and Legitimate, Reward, Coercive (positional power). When discussing as a class, although there were a few types of power that we would like to be known for,  we all agreed that the best type of power to have is all of them. Different situations may cause for use of different types of power. The link below is a table  where I’ve put in the power table from Levi, Group Dynamics for Teams (column 1 and 2). Column 3 contains instances where I think the power is most used appropriately or positions that are associated with a particular power.

Types of Power Table

No Substitute for Experience – Group Dynamics

If I found it odd that I was learning about group and team dynamics although I have experience with the subject both professionally and personally, it was just as odd to experience what we were discussing within our group and observe it in others. Although I thought all of the presentations were well done and offered different perspectives based on the book and the movie, I found it even more interesting to watch the different dynamics play out among the group members (from all teams) while we presented.

In some cases, I thought I could recognize portions of presentations that were divided by tasks and assigned to members. I assume that the portions that seemed to flow smoother and connect better were collectively discussed and then perhaps worked on individually, but I could be wrong. Sometimes, different group members seemed comfortable jumping in and supporting their team members during the presentation. At other times, you could almost sense the hesitation to jump in or talk over. The comfort level didn’t seem to be as high.

Basically, it seems as if all our teams experienced in one way or another the very things we are studying. This is going to be a very interesting semester.

Groups & Teams – Dynamics

There is a motivational poster of an detached iceberg. In the poster, you can see the portion of the iceberg that is visible above the water as well as the portion below the surface. It’s a poster that reminds me constantly how deceptively easy, simple, or “small” things can seem, when in reality, you have no idea the level of their depth.iceberg

Enter group and team dynamics.

Often times when I think of participating in groups and teams or discuss them with colleagues and friends, we share statements like:

“Everyone on the team is supposed to be an adult. If we all act like adults, we’ll be fine.”

“I just need/want everyone to do their share of the work.”

“I don’t have to like my team in order to work well with them.”

“Just tell me what part you want me to do. We don’t have to write EVERY single word together.”

Etc… Etc… Etc…

If only the keys to good group and team dynamics were as simple as everyone showing up and doing “their” part. Like the iceberg, most of what makes (or breaks) a team and undermines their performance isn’t easily seen or understood. What you can see above the surface usually looks great. Team members are talented and skilled. The team usually brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from various backgrounds. The project is exciting and challenging. However, it is what lies beneath the surface that starts to cause the problems. It’s the things that are left unsaid, the effort not taken to get to know one another, the inability to see or understand a differing opinion, the resistance or refusal to deal with “conflict,” that cause teams to under perform or fail.

But… As a corporation or any type of institution where funding has to be justified and accounted for, how do you promote and make visible the need to invest in training for or in how to develop effective groups? Do projects only fail because of poor group dyanmics or are there other factors? How do you measure a “good” group dynamic? Can you put a dollar value on it?

The more you dig, the more you discover how much more there is to uncover. Shovels up!