Stories of Impact
What may our services look like? Here are brief examples and an account about leadership development using a learning team.
Learning Team Activation
Intervened to work with non-medical staff of a community hospital which had recently conducted an efficiency exercise. Through unfortunate mis-measurement, the result of this exercise was that several of the most widely respected, key employees were terminated. Staff morale was at a low point and the hospital was also facing a budget crisis. Through systematic reflection in learning teams, staff were able to understand the reasons for the mistakes that had been made and to take more responsibility for assessing their own performance and for advocating their issues with the administration. The learning teams also suggested and took ownership of several effective cost-containment initiatives.
Conducted a workshop for a foundation whose mission was to bring together health care officials from all regions of the state. The purpose of the workshop was to help participants launch several collaborative projects designed to improve health care in Massachusetts. By helping to form learning teams and giving them practice in listening and reflecting, several valuable initiatives were undertaken, many of which were funded by participants’ organizations and the foundation. This exercise created an appreciation for the synergy among a variety of experts who had not had contact with each other previously.
Conducted a coaching workshop for senior executives. This workshop was part of a series designed to introduce several tools they could use to improve their productivity and overall understanding of how their organization made strategic decisions. Coaching was one of these tools. The workshop began with a role play in which a colleague agreed to be coached in real time in front of the audience of executives. He described in detail an actual conflict he was having with one of his clients. After about 20 minutes it became apparent to all, that it was mostly the colleague’s lack of confidence that had produced the conflict. After leading a debrief discussion and asking the executives what they had learned, the answer from many was how useful it would be for them to be coached!
Feedback and Problem Solving
Performed a “community audit” designed to assess the overall reputation of a high-tech firm within the region where its headquarters were located. Originally, this audit was performed for a department of community relations, but after it was discovered that the firm had a relatively low profile among opinion leaders in the region, a meeting was sought with the CEO and a suggestion was made for significantly more participation by senior executives of the company on local NGO boards. The next day a memo went out to the senior leadership team urging such participation and tying it to compensation. The result was unanimous NGO board participation and a much improved reputation in the wider community.
Responded to team leader’s request for help to observe the monthly team meetings and provide input concerning team members’ communication with each other and their taking responsibility for task completion. A team of 15 people had a complex series of coordinated tasks to perform over a year’s time. Each of these tasks had periodic deadlines. By comparing impressions, team efficiency was improved and several team members received promotions in recognition of their willingness to accept challenges.
Led consulting team to improve delegation of tasks and the creation of more horizontal, less hierarchical decision making in a small company. Intervention included workshops, the creation of learning teams at two levels of executive responsibility, a 360 evaluation exercise, and coaching of the senior leadership team. As initiative was nearing a conclusion, CEO was asked for an assessment of the overall impact of the consulting work. He reported that meetings across project and department lines were now common; they had been rare before the intervention. These contacts were initiated by the concerned parties, not by the CEO. Fewer decisions were being laid on the CEO’s desk; executives were making better decisions and taking responsibility for them. Finally, he reported less complaining and more creative suggestions for improving the company.
Facilitated a series of meetings in which difficulties were brought to the surface. A company was having trouble getting executives to adopt and make full use of a software package designed to monitor their performance on a weekly basis. Many of the leaders believed that the software was too cumbersome, inhibited their freedom of action, and took too much of their time entering required data. It turned out that the decision to purchase the software was made by IT and accounting professionals without input from the executives whose routines were affected. Another series of meetings were facilitated with the key decision makers and the executives. Most of their differences were resolved in an atmosphere of mutual trust.
Worked with the community relations department of a major pharma firm that had experienced several widely publicized environmental emergencies. The department was very concerned that continuing negative publicity would hamper its efforts to expand facilities in the region. Facilitated conference for senior leaders who normally had little contact with one another: biologists and other environmental experts, community relations staff, and business strategy leaders. The result was a series of coordinated procedures for preventing and resolving environmental accidents.
How may a learning team look in action? Here is a description of leadership development as it occurred in a learning team.
A global manager in information technology and cloud computing sought to develop management in its customer support services organization
Drive business strategy by developing managers who were aligned with the needs of the business, able to work effectively in a global environment, and capable of collaborating to solve challenging business problems.
Fifteen high-performing employees of senior managers, managers, and senior individual contributors participated in an intense, project-based effort.
For six-months, employees were split into three learning teams, none of which had a designated leader. Each team was given a current business problem facing the customer support services organization and was asked to collaboratively develop a workable solution.
Examples of Projects:
Identify root cause of “missing part” service requests and create a solution to reduce volume; reduce the percentage of parts shipped using expedited, next-day shipping; reduce workload associated with canceled and duplicated service requests.
Employees allocated 25 percent of their work time to the projects while continuing in their existing roles. Each team included members from around the world. Employees were paired with an executive mentor and provided with guidance about operating as a leaderful team, in addition to suggestions for effective global communication, business fundamentals, and executive presentation skills. Throughout the duration of the project, team members met with each other and their mentors at their own discretion.
At the end of the project, teams reconvened at corporate headquarters, where they participated in roundtable discussions with senior leadership and presented solutions to their respective business problems. The company implemented the proposed solutions for all three business challenges, resulting in substantial cost savings for the customer support services organization. Feedback from the participants indicated that working in a leaderful team provided a powerful contrast to hierarchical work groups and showed the value of collaboration to solve difficult business problems.