It’s funny how often “Listening” comes up within communication and leadership skills, but here’s a fantastic new spin from one of the worlds oldest cultures… China!
At a recent leadership program I co-facilitated in Shanghai last week – one of the participants shared the chinese symbol for listening which has the components of ear, mouth, heart and king.
The story that goes along with the symbol is that when you listen with your ears and heart you make the person feel like a king.
When it comes to thinking about people in your life who’ve influenced you, or been role models for you, how often have you found that their listening makes you feel like a king?
How’s your listening skills? Had a chance to make someone feel like a King today?
Looking for ways to:
- Help meetings be more productive?
- Discover who your leaders really are?
- Find productive pathways through complex and difficult organisational issues?
Viv McWaters and I will be running the next Open Space Technology training event in Melbourne on Wednesday 30th October.
Click here to check out more on the details and register.
You might like to register for the free 5 day email course to help get you familiarised first…?
We have opened our “Expressions of Interest” for Babel Fish Group Associates.
This free Webinar is pre-work for all those interested in the Strategic Planning for Managers and Consultants program beginning on the 21st March and continuing over 3 weeks. (For more information including how to register see: http://strategicplanningformanagers.eventbrite.com)
This 1 hour webinar will provide an introduction to the Strategic Tensions framework – a guide for developing and building on your current strategic thinking capabilities. The webinar will also provide an introduction and overview to what will be covered within the 3 week program. The webinar will be recorded, and those who register for the 3 week program will have access to the content.
Seats are limited so click here to register now.
Does your Strategic Planning make a difference?
I asked this question in an article I wrote almost 8 years ago, and after spending a significant amount of time helping others to work through business planning and strategic planning processes as well as recently teaching Strategy in Business Schools I thought the time’s ripe to open up the conversation.
One of the most useful frameworks that I’ve learnt from my Strategy work with Business Schools is that of the Strategic Tensions created by Bob De Witt and Ron Myer. Interestingly, the books that emerged from Bob and Ron were a result of them both realising that they had totally different and opposing views to Strategy. And both were right.
Within the Strategic Tensions framework – you can break Strategy down into three key areas, those being Process, Content and Context.
Process is about Strategy Process and seeks to inform and answers the questions of How, Who and When. This sees three particular strategic tensions emerging:
- Strategic Thinking – with the tension of Logic .vs. Creativity
- Strategy Formation – with the tension of Deliberate .vs. Emergent
- Strategic Change – with the tension of Revolution .vs. Evolution
Content is about Strategy content and answers the question of the What of Strategy. Here the framework looks across the areas of Business Level, Corporate and Network Level Strategy. And, finally, Context seeks to answer the Where question of Strategy. This sees Strategy and its associated tensions sitting within the areas of Organisational, Industry and International Context.
With the three areas of Process, Content and Context articulated, you might be thinking that there’s something missing. And you’d be right. That something is the question of Why. Why does the organisation exist?
Organisational purpose is the foundation which all these other areas sit, and probably could be the most prickly yet most important question for leadership to be tackling. This great Ted talk from Simon Sinek talks to this and how great leaders inspire action.
But what does this all mean? How do you use this?
One of the reasons that I’m launching a new online course “Strategic Planning for Managers and Consultants” is that I think with greater understanding of Strategy theory (in this case the Strategic Tensions) and knowledge of useful and practical group processes – you can say a big Yes to my original question asked in this newsletter. And even better – become more confident in your ability to not only think strategically but enable your team , work group or even organisation to engage in the process.
In terms of engaging people processes, I’ve found the Australian Facilitators Network email list to be a very generous collection of professionals open to sharing ideas and tools. Wanting to open the conversation up around Strategic Planning I recently asked the question of what people’s experiences around Mission, Vision and Values approaches that worked and made a difference. What did I learn?
There was a fairly general expression across the board about the importance of finding ways that enabled people to engage not only mind but heart into the process of strategic planning and visioning processes. A lot of the discussion here focused on story, metaphor and visual processes. Interestingly and maybe not unsurprising that these processes sit on the Creative side of the Strategic Thinking tension of Logic versus Creativity.
The second contribution that stood out was by John Loty who pointed to the great Thin Book of SOAR (Building Strength-based Strategy) that describes how a strategic planning process is engaged in because people want it to lead to or result in CHANGE.
CHANGE requires ACTION
o Action requires a plan.
o A plan requires a strategy.
o A strategy requires goals and enabling objectives.
o Goals and objectives require a mission.
o A mission is defined by a vision.
Interestingly, there was also a fairly general expression of the importance of taking a strengths-based approach to engaging in what might be better termed “Strategic Conversations”. With planning processes tapping into a need to reflect and look backwards as well as needing to provide some motivation and inspiration for people – strength-based approaches provide and help I think to create a safe, creative and hopefully expansive space for the “strategic conversations” that happen as a part.
One process suggestion which stood out for me was suggested by Jill Knell. The process is called “Postcards from the Future”. The reason this process stood out for me is that in the Strategic Tensions framework – this process provides a great example that spans across three Strategic Tensions. Those are:
- Strategic Thinking – On the side of Creative Thinking versus Logical
- Organisational Purpose – On the side of Stakeholders and Responsibility versus Shareholders and Profits
- Network Level Strategy – On the side of Cooperation – expanding the view and importance of relationships with other firms/companies
Here’s Jill’s brief description of “Postcards from the Future”:
“One of the activities I facilitate is ‘postcards from the future’ where the group identify all the different stakeholders (internal & external) - bottle tops are helpful here! Participants then form small groups & each writes thank you postcards to the organisation from the perspective of designated stakeholders 12 months hence after a highly successful year. The postcards are often very funny & can be synthesised into vision type statements but most people prefer to keep them as they are & display them in the workplace.”
Maybe quite rightly there can be a lot of scepticism and negativity about Strategic Planning and the associated Mission, Vision, Values activities. Issues around confusing the terms of Mission and Vision. Values that don’t reflect lived experience. Vague statements, or statements with no impact. Issues around engagement, leadership and tokenism. At the end of the day however, I believe developing a greater understanding around Strategy theory and practice can help to achieve more outcomes similar to this one shared below:
“The organisation I work for recently undertook a vision and values exercise. As a cynical old so-and-so, I was pleasantly surprised by the process and the outcome. There was a genuine attempt to engage all staff in the formulation process, the agreed statements were in plain language and there’s been good follow-up as to what these values mean in practice. It wasn’t perfect but it was a darn-sight better than I was expecting.”
Interested in learning more?
Have a look at the new interactive online course I’m running on “Strategic Planning for Managers and Consultants” starting Thursday 21st March. Early-bird Registration is open now and closes 14th March.
Like they say… Early-bird catches the worm.
Have you been waiting for your opportunity to learn how to facilitate Open Space events?
Looking for better outcomes around complex projects, stakeholder engagement, business planning or high performing teams?
To kick the new year of 2013 off Viv McWaters and I will be hosting a special public OST training program in Melbourne scheduled for Wednesday 13th February.
We’ve been pretty creative with our offering – including some really great value too!
To read more click the link below:
There’s limited places.. and the early bird closes Friday 25th January so you’ll want to get in early if you want to secure your place…
What’s been most significant for you over this last year?
Scanning through some of what’s been of the last year we’ve seen: Facebook IPO. London Olympic Games. Obama was re-elected for a second term as US president. And the passing of some significant people like: Bryce Courtney, Stephen Covey and Zig Ziglar.
And whilst there has been constriction in some sectors… Like locally, ANZ cut 1000 jobs earlier in the year. The Victoria Public Service had the “razor gang” that rationalised the workforce with over 4000 jobs going. But this pales into insignificance if you take a global view and notice that apart from Cisco systems, Citigroup and KraftFoods all cutting over 1000 jobs, the prize goes to HP who laid off over 27,000 people world-wide! (Read more here)
There have been some significant opportunities emerging. China is one – you might have heard of the whitepaper “Australia in the Asian Century”… Another is the education sector. The internet has created what some are saying is the next revolution… Mass Online Open Curriculum… If you haven’t already seen Coursera – go and check it out here… Coursera is an online platform that many (high profile) universities around the world have been joining to make their courses available online for FREE… Read more about how this is just one of a number of Global Business Model Tsunami’s hitting the worlds shores.
The most significant events of the year for me were:
- Creating 2 online coaching websites and get those up and running… Open Space Technology Coaching… and Practical Social Network Analysis….
- Heading over to Singapore in January for an intensive 3 day Train-the-Trainer for an Inclusive Leadership program for BP … this lead to joining the BP Faculty and being part of the team delivering the Inclusive Leadership program across the Asia-Pacific region… And I’m excited to say a trip to London in January 2013 for a global BP Faculty conference… This is another shift that Universities are facing regarding Executive education – Corporations creating their own universities internally.
- Emcee’d a 3 day Suicide Prevention and Self-Harming conference in Cairns and ironically learning about Happiness!
- Being invited to Townsville to teach a Multi-party conflict program (both internally and externally) for James Cook University’s Master of Conflict Management and Resolution program … You can read a book review I wrote for the textbook “The Handbook for Working with Difficult Groups” here.
- Discovered some nice cross-overs and knowledge transfer into my consulting work on business and strategic planning from teaching Global Business Strategy, Managing the Growing Organisation and being a coach for two Industry Consulting Projects at Swinburne University.
On Happiness… I thought it was ironic, that going to a suicide prevention conference as an Emcee I would find myself walking away with a wisdom around Happiness… What I learnt from one great session with Andrew Matthews which by the way – was one of the most innovative cartooning and speaking sessions I’ve ever seen- was as he said “Most people say when I’m happy, I’ll be more grateful… But actually, it’s the other way around”… And another gem that came through was: “We are most happy when we are being challenged”… So for me, the message was loud and clear… If you want to be happy there are two things to focus on: Being grateful, and being challenged…
What’s on your gratitude list for 2012? What’s your next challenge for 2013?
I’m looking forward to a trip up north to Brisbane on the Thursday 13th December… We’ll be spending 3 weeks with family…I hope you enjoy your Christmas … and I look forward to being in touch again in the new year of 2013…
Like to catch-up for a coffee in January?
I’ll be back in Melbourne on January 3rd… Flick me an email!
Here’s a selection of 5 of my favourite books on Improv…
- Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up
- Playing Along: 37 Group Learning Activities Borrowed from Improvisational Theater
- 58 1/2 Ways to Improvise in Training: Improvisation Games and Activities for Workshops, Courses and Team Meetings
- Everything’s An Offer: How to do more with less
- Games for Actors and Non-Actors 2nd Edition
Looking for more reading on Facilitation?
Download this great list here obtained from asking Facilitators all around the world what reading influenced their practice.
Looking for a way to kick-start your change efforts?
Ever heard of a group facilitation methodology known as Open Space Technology?
Open Space Technology (OST) was founded by Harrison Owen in 1983. Used the world over, Open Space Technology is exceptionally suited to complex problems requiring engagement, innovation, problem solving, creativity, teamwork, and rapid change.
To help provide more by way of an introduction to OST, I’ve decided to host a series of live webinars. This email is an invite for you to join me for the first of these webinars scheduled for Thursday 9th August from 7:30-8:30pm AEST.
And best of all they are free!
Being the first of four in the series, this first webinar will see you orienting to:
- The history, philosophy and methodology of OST and how it compares to other facilitation methodologies
- The conditions where OST is a good fit and where not
- Identifying your existing facilitation skill set that is complimentary to OST and areas that will be new
With only 100 places available you will need to register early!