Here is a video of the 39th ARTDO International Conference held in Cebu, Philippines, which I was one of the keynote speakers.
In the video, we appear a few times. At minute 1:20 that’s my daugher in the black suite dancing the sticks and then she is on the stage giving the instructions to engage the 300 participants. I was the only keynote that only spoke 20 minutes but had the group working for over an hour. I do not believe anyone should lecture more than 20 minutes. At minute 2.22 is my famous wall dotting.
If you need a break, just listening to the music will lift your spirits as you see Asia come alive with the sound of music… alive with hope and joy and high energy and dedication and purpose.
Below is my keynote that became a chapter in the 2nd edition of Change Champions that I edited with associate Lou Carter of BPI. It talks about how to create the NEW Borderless Organization that is coming ready or not. I say, if you want your organization to survive then being boarderless is paramount.
Whole Systems Transformation: An Effectiveness Paradigm Shift for Strategic Change
Roland L. Sullivan, William J. Rothwell, Louis Carter, Mary Jane “Maja” Balasi
- Today’s Transforming World
The “wow” future is here. We are in the midst of a social and economic revolution. New requirements confront our fast-paced, flexible and global businesses. Many corporations need help transforming their organizations to be better prepared to make the most of the incredible opportunities opening before their leaders’ eyes. Some will be “future shocked” and will become more dysfunctional. Others will wake up, make the right judgments and will take a positive leap to reach global excellence.
Warren Bennis, one of the most senior living founders of Organization Development (OD), wrote for the third edition of Practicing Organization Development: A Guide For Leading Change (2009) that “most of our organizations are in the crucible. Crucibles are utterly transformational experiences from which one emerges either hopelessly broken or powerfully emboldened to lead in excellence.”
Where are you personally? Are you changing? What are you doing as a change agent to help those that you influence to be ready for what is coming? Are you braced for more change occurring during the remaining years of your life than since the beginning of recorded civilization about 4,500 years ago?
Nano-technology and globalization are two major field forces impacting transformation of our organizations today. The ramifications of Nano-technology will amaze us beyond belief in the next decade. Globalization will continue to produce complexity, chaos, and opportunity.
Organizations have used the art and science of Organization Development (OD) for the past 50 years. Recent evaluations have revealed that something in this current process is missing. What isn’t happening is the engagement of the whole system in the encompassing change. The whole organization must be transformed in record time–not in lengthy change projects that may take years to bear fruit. We now need to bring the original theory of whole systems and enterprise-wide change back into play. We must focus on integrated change and transformation for the total enterprise, not just its component parts. Richard Beckhard first coined the phrase, Organization Development (OD), in Minneapolis. Before his recent passing, he said that we must bring back the “O” in OD. The whole system must be the focus of OD’s primary drive. Burke and Bradford support Beckhard’s confrontation of the current state of OD. They note in the Rothwell, Sullivan and Quade Practicing Organization Change and Development Series book titled, Reinventing Organization Development,
“Many OD consultants claim the title of “OD consultant” but do not engage in the practice. It may be that they use various OD techniques. This is good but it does not make them OD consultants. We are in all favor of people doing teambuilding, third party intervention, conflict resolution, appreciative inquiry, organization design, visioning, and the like. These are all valuable approaches… but it does not mean that they are developing organizations.”
Whole Systems Transformation (“whole” being the key word) indeed has a focus on changing and on developing the whole organization and not just component parts or processes. WST facilitates change that is all-inclusive, comprehensive in nature, and addresses the challenges of the entire organization, whole based, while paying attention to separate but related aspects of the organization. We do coaching, teambuilding or other fragmented interventions integrated with change of the entire organization. Mainstream OD, and especially cascaded change management, lacks the ability to engage all in confronting the salient aspects that will transform the organization to the core.
CEOs that experience their organizations in a crucible are concerned about developing their entire organization, not just the parts. They are ready to employ a fresh, best practice and theory of wholistic and systemic organization change and transformation. Certainly, they are fed up with a change management approach that dictates and cascades change. They realize it is impossible to manage change if people and an organization are transforming. Transformation is unpredictable like the start of a virgin river steam flowing from a mountain-top. One cannot predict or manage the flow.
In sum, we believe whole system transformation (WST) is one of the emerging solutions for “developing organizations” to thrive in these exciting times.
II. The Practice of Whole System Transformation.
“Whole System Transformation fosters deep change. It requires personal change. It requires courage to take an organization through this type of change. The impacts are tremendous as well as the capability for change in the organization. The employee engagement that results is an unbelievable thing to see. It is worth it! It is hard work! It’s emotional! It’s draining! And yes very rewarding!!”
John, executive sponsor of WST and special award winner for being a “ Champion Change Agent” in a Fortune 100 USA corporation”.
What is WST?
WST results in an enterprise-wide breakthrough led by aligned leaders engaging the critical mass to join in strategic accomplishment. More specifically it is:
- A methodology for the organization to reinvent itself with the latest social psychology. Small and large groups technology using organization dynamics is foundational.
- A process for breaking down borders so participants can create business intelligence from diverse data and establish collaborative relationships across boundaries and between levels in the organization.
- A search for common ground and clear focus for the organization to be effective in an external environment that is perplexing, quickening, and in flux.
- Based on the premise that effective change must come from within rather than from external experts or change managers.
- An enabling journey whereby the critical mass creates a new more effective culture and meaningful customer experiences in real time.
- Philosophically based, utilizing appreciative inquiry, social constructionism, positive social psychology, applied behavior science, and polarity management depending on the situation.
- The use of microcosms that transcend borders and represent the entire range of levels, functions, geography, and ideas in and beyond the organization–that is, customers, industry experts, supply chain entities, and so forth.
- Engaging and empowering the whole system to put into use evolved twenty-first century action research to sustain a change journey embedded in an agile organization.
WST is a complex journey made simple by best practices and theories developed and integrated into a single approach that enables and empowers human talent in organizations to accomplish faster, cheaper, and sustainable positive change. It involves and engages the entire system, allowing ownership of the process (people support what they co-create), suggesting the solutions, and focusing on the alignment rather than segmented change.
Elements of Whole Systems Transformation Model
Figure 1 below shows the model of WST
Element 1. The Outcome: Organization Agility
“This is now a continuous feedback kind of world, and
we need the organizational nimbleness to respond.” From: IBM 2012 Global CEO Study
There is no doubt in our mind that all organizations today will significantly benefit from transforming themselves into a more nimble and agile system.
Worley and Lawler say that the “new normal” is requiring organizations to have an amazing amount of nimbleness and agility just to survive, let alone thrive. They define agility. “Agility is a dynamic organization design capability that can sense the need for change from both internal and external sources, carry out those changes routinely and sustain above-average performance.“
An agile system has four essential features:
- A robust strategy
- An adaptable design
- Shared leadership and identity
- Sustainable ability to change and learn
It has been our experience that, in WST, all four of the above features naturally and spontaneously arise and are dealt with. Still, we insist that the starting point is the priority concern of the CEO or top executive leading the transformation. Although we suggest using the Worley and Lawler diagnostic approach, often we encourage the executive team to frame a data gathering process that they feel the most passionate about collectively.
As we enter a client system, it is essential that the internal, and external change agent collaborate with the core executive (traditionally known as the top executive) in establishing a psychological and non-psychological consulting contract.
A unified understanding of the WST model is reached. It is customized to the unique business needs and national or local cultures. The transformation effort begins with transforming the leadership of an organization. Secondly, the leadership identifies with the design team a critical mass that will be transformed toward nimbleness. The result is increased organizational excellence. Several event scenarios are custom created that will lead to the creation of a new corporation that usually requires client’s commitment for a minimum of two events, an executive team building and an initial critical mass meeting of 300 or more. Why do we orchestrate at least one large interactive meeting? The client system needs to experience the power and the shift so people can make a judgment call to determine if they wish to take the full journey to sustainable agility or nimbleness. In many cases, that means organization survival.
How many events are needed will depend on the size of the organization. One client held one large event of 300 to 500 employees for three days monthly for four years. The CEO and her team attended all summits.
A corporate-wide strategic transformation team under the guidance of an internal change agent is necessary with the “developing organization” (as Bradford Burke have said above). We like to call it the “transforming organization.”
The initial thrust of the change effort is often a pilot effort that focuses on a function or division that demonstrates a high state of readiness for becoming different. Word-of-mouth success interests others in joining the movement. In one case, a new CEO secretly attended the last day of a summit in a room of 700 people. To our surprise, the next day he announced on Good Morning Africa, a national TV program, that he would use WST as the way to introduce himself to the corporation. In his first “Big System Event” (BSE), as he named it, with over 325 leaders, his assistant executive announced in the closing that, we had just accomplished in three days what the organization had been attempting to do over the past four years.
Four large financial institutions realized that they must genuinely become one mind and brain. They committed to knocking down the borders and became one brain and one heart.
Pre–launch ends when contracts, relationship connecting, and clarification of expectations are completed. There’s an old adage in the OD field that says that, if anything goes awry in a change effort, it is usually traceable back to inept contracting.
Element 3: Leadership Transformation
Two of the authors recently were with top HR executives from a dozen Fortune 300 companies. When asked what their number one challenge was, most agreed that issues existed in their corporate top team. When asked what they should do about it, they didn’t have a clue. Not only do we have a clue, we have a solution. It is WST.
WST is a research-based, time tested transformation model that always generates transformation in any large or small team including the CEO’s team.
Key aspects of shifting the leadership team are:
- Building trust with the CEO or division VP while conveying confidence that this process will indeed achieve extraordinary results.
- Clearly understanding the future state that the CEO has for his or her organization. The following WST star is suggested for consideration.
- Generating significant conversations in the team that must occur for the team to catapult the organization forward.
- Creating a data-gathering approach and valid data that will surface in a safe manner from which free choice of action and commitments can be concretized.
As that process is carried out, each core/top team member is engaged in the creation of a common, robust strategic direction. This underpins three domains:
- Individual: Personal change futuring so there is an increase in individual performance.
- Team: Providing a positive leap forward toward becoming a higher performing, aligned team.
- Organization: It becomes clear about how the organization that they collectively lead needs to transform.
In the Leadership transformation module, the executive team will:
- Vent feelings of appreciation for and dissatisfaction with the current state of the team and organization. Their dissatisfaction with their current state enhances their yearning to create a preferred transformative state.
- Build and strengthen relationships among themselves — but especially with their leader.
- Gain understanding of — and provide input to — the organization’s foci of change.
- Unite themselves and their direction in a unified vision for a compelling future in the development of the organization.
- Create agreements on leadership behaviors such as committing to walking their talk and exhibiting trust among themselves and with the entire system.
- Determine what they need to do to become smarter about leading the rest of the developing organization.
- Create shared meaning that will generate hope that will empower each member to unleash power beyond his or her imagination, and to believe that a preferred future can actually become a reality.
One of our favorite clients, Rod Sando, experienced the unleashing of energy in a magical and mysterious way. Suddenly, Rod yelled out, “We have just “BLURTED!” All laughed and said, Yes. Yes, and guess what happened? All returned to their organization in T-shirts that said, “BLURT!!!” Months later with about 300 employees off site, Rod leaned over to me on the last day and said, “They will never, ever be the same. They just BLURTED!!” And sure enough, at a system wide leadership meeting the next year, the 300 employees had self-organized themselves to deal with a system wide issue that had frustrated them all for years. They faced the issue and reinvented the entire budget and management system of the organization. The executive team watched with amazement as they could now focus on more important strategic matters. As our associate, Kathleen Dannemiller often remarked, “When the magic is unleashed, executives need to get out of the way or they will be run over.”
By this point in any WST, the culture is in motion to reinvent and adjust itself to its impending challenges and successes. The team must learn how to enroll and defuse the direction and energy in other ways than cascading. They want to give support and direction to the design and implementation of large group interventions targeted to create a critical mass supporting the change. They have transcended beyond the common organization plague that is sometimes called resistance to change. A natural and excited commitment occurs as organizational members look forward to leading the next element into “Wow Sweeping Change” for a more secure future.
Only after the team members have experienced their own shift can they truly perceive the possibilities that lie ahead for the organization. One exciting conversation is to determine who should represent the larger organization in designing the transformation summits or conferences.
Element 4: Critical Mass Transformation
To achieve an extraordinary transformation, it is essential that critical mass is created to actively engage in a current state assessment, a future state creation, and a planned change execution.
Helping the internal change agent facilitate a diverse design team is most significant. Vital to success is the gathering of a max mix design team made up of 8 to 15 people that will work in a borderless manner representing the gestalt of the organization and customers. One role of this group is to create an innovative script that will be followed in the large meeting.
The authors’ experience indicates that the interactive event must be a minimum of 2.5 days. As Weisbord and Janoff often say along many noted large group OD specialists, participants need to sleep on the data twice before the collective breakthrough is assured to happen.
For an organization to sustain its agility, the critical mass first must experience the shift. This is an unprecedented unleashing of human energy resulting in increased organizational performance. It is a shift. It is a breakthrough. It is a permanent metamorphosis. It is a “blurt”. It is a paradigm leap. The caterpillar must become the butterfly. There is no return to the former state.
This shift changes behavior, attitudes, values, and mindsets. The long-term result is an increase in an organization’s ability to execute business results with a live spirit of excellence. Collectively, human talent creates an innovative business system-wide business intelligence that generates hope, shared meaning, and organization success.
The selected design team, plus one representative from the executive team, will meet 3 to 5 times over 2 to 3 months. In some cases, in the 3rd or 4th large meeting, the design team insists on more time. They have experienced an empowerment that has made a big difference. They are inspired to again, “get it right”. Once we heard an executive team say, “We will never be able to repeat the success of our first large meeting, so let’s not have a second one.” Well, they did, but not without hard work by the design team. They worked evenings and weekends because they knew their effort would make a difference.
Design teams remember the challenge put to them. We do not want them to go into the big meeting until there is absolute consensus that the transformation or next wave of transformation will take place. They must believe that extraordinary results will occur. We recently witnessed a mega organization in Germany unanimously agree that their third event was “the best ever.” And guess what? We were told that the WST external consultants, who initiated the effort, were there in spirit.
The purpose of the design team is to plan in detail the most compelling meeting that their corporation has ever experienced. They must design the meeting in such a way that creates a safe environment where everyone feels empowered to speak and act. If so, all will be able to engage in a transparent conversation that moves the group forward. The environment must be so safe that even a dialogue centered on the “elephants” (sacred cows) in the room can be facilitated. Ideally, by the third day, the elephant just may be ready to begin to dance.
The design team takes the identified outcomes from the executive teambuilding session to determine the content for potent processes to move forward. Kathleen Dannemiller, often said that magical results are not due to charismatic consultants or executive, but come from tailor-made, robust processes to address the issues. Canned programs, tools and techniques do not get to the heart of the matter.
The design team plays a key role in readying the system for change by keeping their fingers on the pulse of the organization and informing the internal and external change agents about what will work and what will not work in the organization. They share deep information necessary to construct and facilitate the activities that occur.
We are well-known for co-creating detailed scripts. They include all the messaging and group work instruction, as well as logistical actions to support the work going on in the room. At times, the design team will craft remarks to be made by the CEO because they know what the room needs to hear to experience a breakthrough. It is not unusual for the script to be a 40 to 80-page document that will be revised 15 to 30 times.
When we are initiating the first ever-large group in an organization, the design team often believes that they will have one shot at making a paradigm shift meeting, a historic moment in the history of the company. If they do not succeed in grandeur, most likely engagement of people from the system will dissipate, only to set back their change making. The script is reviewed for guidance from the top executive. Often, for the first time post conference, they feel others are enrolled with the same passion that they have for the success of the company.
Facilitating the conference or summit starts with a staging day that occurs the day before the event. At this time, logistical support is carried out by a team. They begin to set up the room, including organizing the many handouts. The design and executive teams review the script, understand their roles and, if need be, rehearse their presentations on stage.
On the day of the event, a big meeting room is filled with round tables to accommodate hundreds of people meeting in groups of six to ten. Exercises link the work of individuals to their table group and from this small group (divergence), to the whole group (convergence). The key is to get participants talking and working with each other rather than listening to presenters. There are no speeches lasting over 20 minutes. Each table group is the result of carefully assigned seating. We want to assure a maximum mixture of participants allowing each table to be a borderless microcosm of the organization. Every table has a mailbox, easels, and other supplies at hand, ready for use in the coming few days. The mailbox facilitates incoming and outgoing communication and links the table group with the whole organization.
Samplings of the myriad of powerful activities or agenda items that may occur are:
- Doing a whole system scan to check in on what is and is not working.
- Drafting the aspiration for the transformative state, created by the CEO’s team. This includes providing feedback. They will need to work late into the night assimilating input from everyone in order to present back to the plenary at the beginning of morning two. It is not uncommon that, after a similar presentation, the CEO team will receive their first standing ovation in the history of the company.
- Establishing commitments and/or action plans for individuals, functions, trans-border or trans-country ad hoc groups, countries, and the whole system. This may include specific behavioral, attitudinal, or relationship changes required by specific individuals and or groups. It always includes the first steps that must occur to bring alive the shift.
- Clarifying relationships and expectations across functional divisions and organizational levels.
- Establishing business goals that are most needed right now to increase profitability.
- Attending to empowering associates to be more creative and engaged in creating an agile organization while mobilizing collective business intelligence for innovation.
- Tightening up operational and ﬁnancial control to ensure compliance, avoid waste, and enforce standards.
- Collaboratively judging what to centralize or decentralize worldwide and/or determine what to integrate (borderless) and what to differentiate (border) between business units.
Environment of the room evidences:
- Taking calculated risks, reducing fear, and trust building within the context of the event.
- Fostering candor to create open communication, especially across borders.
- Stimulating innovative thinking about how to do business dramatically different.
- Discovering shared attitudes and feelings.
- Testing new work processes, organization structures. or HR transformation wishes.
- Tasting the new culture of trust, positive conversation, and cooperation while learning to be effective in a new borderless and agile experience.
Depending on the size of the system, the conference may be used once or several times to fit organizational needs. The events can be serial or sequential. In serial events, members divide into groups and experience the same event at different points in time — the first group one week, and the second group the next week. In sequential events, the design team defines a broad set of tasks and one event starts a task that is continued by the next event. In large organizations, it is not possible to include all the organization’s members in a single event, so planners develop several events, scheduled close enough together to keep the organization moving forward together and creating a critical mass for change.
A power company in the western US held four transformation sessions or events with 500 participants in each event over a one-month period. A former participant from the power company, now an executive with the Red Cross twenty years later, said on video that he uses what he learned in our WST experience every day.
One large organization in India planned two large-scale events at the top of the organization and then eight events in its business units. A large company in the US held four large-scale events that built on each other and then held one-day transformational meetings of 100 to 400 people for just one day throughout the organization. That was done against our advice because we felt transformation could never occur unless people slept on their data for at least two nights. We were proven wrong. Now, we do believe that those transformational experiences would not have occurred in one day unless the critical mass had first shifted in the initial four large meetings.
Element 5: Sustained Development.
After the initial efforts of WST, a new culture is destined to emerge. In an organization, a new culture has to be supported and built upon. To strengthen the new culture, an internal change agent is chosen and developed. A change agent is someone who will advocate, role model and practices the new culture. They will lead the way until the members of the organization sustain and institutionalize a comprehensive and perpetual positive change process.
.Kathleen Dannemiller once referred to WST events as an “Unleashing of the Magic” because an unbelievable confidence emerges that enables everyone to overcome the challenges that have surfaced.
We have taken Kathleen’s initial work and refined it to new levels. We have systematized her approach and have focused on extensively and intensively training an internal change agent. We have learned to help the internal agent to establish an official and unofficial political network to build the right relationships for gaining commitment to sustain the journey. It is essential to build a business case for change as well as to transfer confidence to the organization that sustainable agility will occur.
Element 6: Transform Internal Change Agent
Transforming an internal agent and setting him or her up politically with the CEO in the organization is critical to success.
We believe the best way to learn OD and WST is through an apprentice model We like to have at least one internal consultant “velcroed to our hip.” They help us plan and de-brief each meeting. They are given success roles and while they facilitate from the front seat while the externals coach from the back seat. These internal agents are true co-facilitators, if not leaders in every micro intervention. With a sense of urgency, we transfer more and more of the consulting role to them as the journey matures. We like to be the elf behind the scenes pulling the magical strings when the timing is right. We are also a fallback to prevent failure. We always guarantee transformation. Sometimes, we need to pull a little magic out of our hat, but that is our job. Recently, the top CFO of the organization came up to us at the end of large group interactive event and said. “We work with large consulting firms often. We pay them an extraordinary fee for expert ideas and advice. We may or may not use their suggestions. Working with you was different. You helped us find the best ideas from within our organization. Your process generated a remarkable business intelligence from which the whole system collectively determined what would work best. Thus, your process was more effective than what we could get from the big league advisors for the huge compensation” The key to bringing the wisdom alive from the participants is the transference of the process to the internal change agent.
As few as two professional facilitators — one external and one internal — can effectively manage groups of up to 1,500 participants.
Rothwell and Sullivan have championed the competency research for internal and external consultants. They also have identified the competencies that are needed to facilitate large groups. We coach extensively and intensively according to the competencies that we have published. Unlike other expert and traditional change management consultants we co-plan and debrief for learning each micro and macro intervention. Additionally, we spend extensive virtual time assisting the internal consultant to carry on without us. Our interest is to break the dependency on the external consultant’s role as soon as possible.
Ideally, as in the case of Boeing, the internal change agent reported to the CEO for years. Realistically, in most organizations today, the change master reports to the HR executive in charge of OD, Organization Effectiveness (OE), or Talent Management.
Element 7: Establish a Real-Time Strategic Transformation Team
Schmuck and Runkel in the 80s were the most prestigious OD professors and practitioners for change in education. They conceived of a team called the “cadre of internal change agents” or sometimes called the “OD specialists.” The notion has been resurrected by the work of Ackerman and Anderson who term it, “The Strategic Change Office.” We have preserved that longstanding tradition and have upgraded it as it has evolved into an indispensable role. Some of our client organizations call it the strategic transformation team. In general, the team consists of passionate high-level change influencers in the organization. It is their responsibility to advise the CEO on the transformation as it evolves. They give a periodic analysis of the current and desired future state related to transformation and the business. They recommend to the CEO the desired next steps.
We insist that one member of the team is the best change champion from the executive team. In some cases, where all members of the executive team are known for championing change, the role of top team representative may rotate. And it is obvious that the internal WST agent should lead the team. Typically the team also will include the top HR and strategic planning officers. We have found the top IT person to be increasingly critical. Why? First, today IT drives more change than nearly any other function. Second, CEOs have a great fear that if they do not stay current or ahead of the technology curve, the corporation will be at great risk.
Element 8: Change Foci
It is critical to have the CEO or the executive leader of their division initially identify the change focus. Often change foci mutate as the whole system becomes engaged. In days past, in command-and-control organizations like Honeywell in the 1980s, the foci was dictated. WST still worked well because the engagement process focused on realizing the set direction.
Our experience doing WST and research tells us that CEOs today are requesting the focus of change to:
- Thrill the customer with an experience beyond their belief.
- Become a borderless organization where walls and silos are reduced between functions, levels, the supply value chain, diverse culture, and geographic locations.
- Engage and enroll the entire organization in co-creating strategy and strategy execution.
- Establish a leadership culture in a way that goes beyond traditional leadership development training from the outside to a self-aligned leadership speaking with one heart and one brain.
- Receive competent help in successfully becoming an agile, nimble organization to have a long term sustainable, yet real time, pro-change work environment.
- Utilize technology to drive organization change, including the new cloud computing trend and the use of social media and virtual connections.
- Take a positive leap toward excellence while innovating the whole enterprise.
- Reduce fear and enhance trust by empowering employees through values.
- Replace command and demand leadership with style-based leadership grounded on influence and dialogue.
- Surface a clear and priority driven focus among complex business challenges.
- Enhance effectiveness, performance, quality, and productivity.
- Help in disrupting their business as usual while configuring and mastering a more results-oriented business model.
- Create a more effective social architecture that creates an optimum culture and learning work place environment that is driven by values.
- Assimilate global standards of excellence and integrity while becoming globally connected.
- Ignite and engage their people to do their absolute best.
- Win the continuing war on talent so that they attract, transform, and retain great people.
- Build an organizational environment known for stellar execution.
- Transforming HR and Talent Management so that they, in return, lead the transformation for the rest of the company.
We believe that now is the time for HR to play a new role, a strategic role to lead ways to develop their organizations to excellence, agility, and increased profitability. Some say HR is notorious for not caring about the bottom line. We find that, when HR is emerged in a WST agility journey, they become converted to learning competence to be a real business partner. HR begins to be sought after for help.
Our experience evidences that the needle moves upward on many of the above variables, but especially when the CEO and his or her team determines what the change foci will be.
Element 9: Communication
Margaret Wheatly, who has observed our large meetings, says in a video that one of our clients made WST work because of three forces. One was the free flow of information, the second was the enhancement of relationships; and, the third was communication. In our experience, communication was the most frequent corporate wide issue during the 60s to the mid 90s. Today, trust is the biggest challenge. Whatever the case, a communication plan implemented by the corporate communication office is key to spreading the good news. In two of our largest clients, the executive in charge insisted that the internal change agent be the communication professional. Why? Because that person intuitively recognizes the absolute importance of getting message out to the whole system.
Throughout the process of transformation, it is important to have effective and multi-directional communication. Success stories, decisions, data, descriptive shifts, and results have to be published. We have seen the successful use of:
- Instant messaging by texting and “tweeting”.
- Short “TED” videos being created.
- An electronic card that goes to the rest of the organization that summarizes a day from a large group.
- Multimedia flash presentations go out on the internal web site.
- The CEO made a video real time addressing the entire organization at the front of the room that summarizes the three days of a whole system conference.
- The professional video department had two cameras going non-stop only to be edited overnight and sent to the entire organization in the morning.
- One large event created a summary video of an event to start the next event so the next group of participants could get in the flow.
- Communication come via the internal website hooking up similar meetings in different countries.
- A top team had a professional moviemaker direct a ten-minute movie to communicate the breakthrough to the entire company.
- A professional photographer shot video and stills of the entire three-day session. He made a 15-minute video presentation with humorous captions for the last hour of closure.
The list goes on. We wonder how long it will be before guests come into the meetings in holograms? For example, we would love to bring a famous athlete to address a large meeting where the focus is youth and sports for the entire country.
Element 10: Thrill the Customer
We are increasingly hearing that the border between the customer and corporation is transforming into a seamless partnership. We hear the customer experience is more important now than ever. As soon as an organization has its dirty laundry cleaned, we like to recommend inviting a customer to be at each working table.
In one case, customer satisfaction was increased 77% to 84% in a division of a Fortune 100 company. An estimated yearly half billion internal and external customer transactions transpired. Never before had the customer thrill index moved more than 1% up before it went down again.
In another case, we asked the customers in a breakout room to answer three questions: What did they appreciate about the service they were getting? What did they expect in the service from the organization and, What could they do to enhance the relationship?
When they returned to report out, they had NOTHING positive to say. This was quite a wake up call to the organization
We challenge the client to go beyond their expectations, the extra mile, show commitment, and challenge people involved to role model for the rest of the organization how customers should be treated. We challenge them to be innovative, to think out of the box, to think beyond borders, and to show how they care. The customer experience becomes the new standard of excellence.
Element 11: Results
We have been writing about difference and being different. Allow us to challenge the status quo and spout a measurement of results.
In most contracts, we strongly advise the client to spend time with us setting up a valid measurement method to evaluate process and business results. Rarely do they spend the time to set up a solid research methodology. We even suggest bringing in our expert measurement associates. So far, in all cases but one, they have rejected our suggestions.
Upon reflecting upon why they do so, we became aware that the CEO or business client intuitively knows whether the time and resources pointed toward our WST intervention were worth the effort.
Kathleen Dannemiller often said, “If you feel the need to measure, you have just failed.” She would go on to say that it should be so obvious to all how unleashing of the magic was value added. We know of no case that failed, including from the many practitioners that Kathleen has trained. Our experience tells us that when we go back to clients years later, there is still positive impact from the interventions we created. One sign is that, when we walk into the company, on first sight people have a huge smile. This reminds us of a client who said that when he manages by walking around, his people come up all smiles, want to give him a hug, want to pull him into their meetings to show him what the are proudly doing. They want their picture taken with him. They have his picture as their screen saver. Before the transformation, he reported that people would turn around and walk the other way or duck into an office just to avoid having to greet him.
Here is another true story from a major airline. After three months, when we went to do a checkup, we asked if perhaps we could set up a better measurement procedure. Bob, in return said, “I don’t care. My boss, the CEO, is ecstatic with what we have done. We knew before we started the transformation work that there was a risk of our entire IT department becoming outsourced. After working with you, there is no doubt in our mind that we will ever be outsourced. What more evidence could I want that my boss, the CEO, is pleased.”
In that case we remember showing a Dannemiller video conveying what a large meeting is like. (It still can be viewed on her website, sourced in the references.) The letter I received from the client recounted that, when he saw Kathleen’s video with a standing ovation, he said to his team that there’s no way that their IT people were going to express emotion or get on their feet. The outcome, however, for each of the three events was five standing ovations.
Speaking of standing ovations, one client with a series of events, stopped counting the standing ovations after 25.
By the way, Nash Finch with our internal change agent, Ed Timberlake, has the world’s record, as far as we know, for the most standing ovations in a large group transformation experience with eight. We surpassed Dannemiller’s record when she opened up a Marriott hotel in the Middle East. Edgar emailed us recently to say that his organization had received a prestigious national award. He wanted to thank us because he said the award was due, in large part, to what he learned from our work with him regarding engaging the entire system when he was the HR VP at Nash Finch.
Because WSG facilitates movement with an organization in motion, both process and business results vary widely.
Here are a few selected process results:
- Enthusiastic participants demonstrate their commitment as they continue their involvement beyond the events. In the case of a state department, approximately 300 of 350 volunteered to be available to take on change assignments post-conference. In another IT function, all 300 divided themselves into 12 teams for execution. Each team took the direction from the large group and worked as a sub-group for the next 12 months to resolve complex business issues.
- Participants utilize robust group processes. Often participants want to use the techniques they sampled in the large event and embed the practice in their units. The most popular transfer is what we call an open forum. It is a time tested unique activity that reduces lengthy lectures. A dialogical format is set up to have a conversation with the expert or executive.
- Repeat the large group three day meeting process in divisions without any internal or external consultant help.
- Most transformation experiences end with the creation of action plans. These are the first steps to real process change. Immediately following the event, borderless working groups are primed to work on those action plans. Such implementation teams can ensure coordination of follow up activities. We have learned a great deal over the last 30 years on how to use extraordinary project management capability to ensure astute execution.
- Because of the nature of the experience, new cultural values and practice transfer at a remarkable rate into the day-to-day operation. We believe, as does our mentors Schein and Burke, which if one has a program only focused on culture, the risk of failure is high. WST builds a desired culture indirectly in powerful ways.
- Structures for sustaining change are set up. An organization will not come out of a transformation the same it went in. Magic has happened. A tremendous energy has been unleashed. The organization may need to modify or create new processes while major processes will require integration.
- Resources become freed up to implement and carry on the transformation. In one case, a corporate finance officer spontaneously stood up and said, “I will give you US$1.5 million to support your ten change projects (the killing of the skunks) that we’ve just initiated.”
Measured business results:
- While large and dramatic changes will be apparent, it is strongly recommended that cost effectiveness and efficiency be measured regularly. People are more apt to execute if they know what will be measured. These evaluations will reinforce change momentum, show areas that need more work, and will determine future steps.
Here a just a few samples of business results.
- Six million USD was spent on the WST effort. Measured return was 100 million over a two-year period.
- A bank was noted for having a bad image in the community. They started a WST transformation effort. A couple of years into the journey, an outside independent research firm from Europe was hired by the country to identify the most loved brand in the country. They were number one. Coca-Cola was number two. Before, they were one of the most disliked companies in the country. It is a long story as to how they changed their image around.
- The Woodbury Public Safety organization in Minnesota shut down their entire service for the city pulling together the police division, the fire division, and the emergency management services division. After initial resistance, on the third day most were committed to breaking down the borders between their divisions. Since then, we can document many results. The greatest is the saving of lives because a decision was made to train police as first responders to enter burning houses to rescue. Also a national award has been given See annotated resource list for link to testimony video.
- A 50 million USD manufacturing company reduced cost of quality in six months following their 25th annual WST residential. It can be annualized to millions per year.
- A fortune 250 distribution company’s board challenged the executive team for flying 300 executives from around the USA to join the top 50 corporate leaders on several occasions. The second person in charge said. “You have been challenging us to raise a metric before you. Look, it just jumped millions of USD. We believe our transformation process made the difference.”
- A division of a large European bank had 27 people hand in their resignations to corporate HR. Post conference 25 of those who wanted to resign, re-signed up. The reason was the tremendous cultural transformation that occurred. They wanted to be a part of the new exciting, engaged, and involved workforce. Numerous employees from other units wanted to be transferred into the new culture when they heard about the transformation.
- A division of one of the largest defense companies was about to close a seven-person business unit. The director, whose job was at risk, engaged 70 employees from around the larger organization. The bottom line is that the unit produced an 18 million USD increase in revenue in 18 months. The director is still fully employed.
We have never had an event that was not dramatically successful. Change occurs in how participants interact with each other. For example, a change that is barely perceptible at first may become resoundingly clear as the conference draws to a close. People start to believe in each other and gain ways of understanding and working together. Personal lives change. Professional relationships change. Relationships between levels, divisions, and customers change in a positive manner.
The organization acquires the capability to become agile. Rational linear planning is a less important outcome. Participants tear down borders where it makes sense, and put in place a rich web that weaves the organization together in a profound and fundamental way. Confidence emerges that participants themselves can overcome their own challenges. Successful events affect a paradigm shift of the first magnitude. Learning new ways of interacting with co-workers and conducting better meetings become part of the organization’s new culture.
We brought Philip Condit in on video to address one of our clients when he was CEO of Boeing. He made a video to help the participants know what to expect following each of the three days. He shared with us that Business Week wrote that he was selected as CEO because the guidance of our mentor, Kathleen Dannemiller. He used employee participation and strategic visioning and Whole-Scale Change work as part of daily operations. Boeing, still to this day, has internal experts facilitating large groups.
Talent not only develops … it transforms. It transforms in context of a developing organization becoming more effective than ever could have been imagined.
Element 12: Action Research
We have simplified the classic organization development action research intervention process. It has four facets. They are scan, plan, act, and re-act. This is the underlying conceptual framework in every meeting, module, and micro and macro process and events.
Scan an assessment of what is or what is not happening. It is making sense of what one is observing. Essentially it determines what the current state is followed by an analysis to influence what should happen in planning.
Plan is imagining a future state and what needs to occur in order to achieve it.
Act is the intervention. This is performing what is ever is necessary in order to achieve the desired outcome.
Re-act is the solicitation of feedback in the evaluation and measurement of what just occurred. Was the desired outcome achieved? Was the intention realized? What have we learned from the previous three facets and now what do we do as we repeat the cycle?
Action research is the change agent’s essential principle. It researches an individual, team, or organization’s action in order make a difference.