April 13th Program
Watch our website for Meeting info - coming soon.
Reflecting on PNODN's March meeting: The Impact of Cherished Beliefs on Personal and Organizational Effectiveness
By Magda C. Kaspary
On March 16th we had our March monthly meeting. I would say as a member since 2012, the content of this meeting struck me so hard as never before in a PNODN meeting.
As a side note, I enjoy attending PNODN monthly meetings because I always get insights, new ideas, a good energy to work on my professional projects.
At this time it was different. I was able to work in a personal project while exploring the impact of cherished beliefs.
David Porter taught us on how to understand cherished beliefs:
• It is an affirmative statement - something about me (or my situation) that I find attractive or admirable, expressed as an opinion or perspective
• It has no negative context or pejorative overtone.
• It is usually true about me but not completely true.
• I want it to be even more true…and validated.
Something amazing happened at the very beginning. As an exercise, David asked us to think of a project that is still waiting to be completed. In exploring why this project is not done yet, we could not use reasons like "I don't have money, time or energy to finish it".
Why? First big lesson of the night: these are excuses, we are actually saying "it is not very important". And as I said, I decided to work on a personal project. The process of understanding my cherished beliefs according to the main concept was a powerful-huge-super awe for me. I felt immediately connected to what is really important to me. No way to come back... I can't deny or forge excuses. I can finally try to find a better way to finish my personal project now, truly connected to my cherished beliefs.
Big kudos to David for his research on this topic. And I hope all attendees were able to have the same a-ha moment as I had.
See you in April!
Savvy Slips, Learning on the Run
by Philip Heller
Learnings from Practice 5: Synetics
How to enhance a team’s creative thinking to move beyond the natural resistance to change?
The Request. The Director of Forest Management for a state Department of Forestry wanted to introduce uneven aged stands as an adopted forestry management practice within the state. Many state foresters were familiar with the concept, but had not put anything like it into practice. The Director wanted a “training” that would help foresters consider the practical application of “uneven aged stands” and present any forthcoming recommendations to the department leadership.
Larger Context. The state agency was responsible for managing the cutting, growing and use of the state’s forest. Up to this point, the state managed it’s land to maximize profit by allowing private companies to bid on “getting the cut out”, yielding as much timber as possible from any one sale. State foresters would typically put out bids to clear cut parcels of land designated for timber sale. Cutting all the trees down would yield another generation of trees that would be roughly the same age for that parcel. “Uneven Age Stands” was a new forestry concept that allowed for cutting timber in such a way that left many different trees of different ages. The idea was to maximize the diversity of niches available to wildlife and create more stable forests. This new forest management concept had not been demonstrated and was foreign to many timber companies. It would certainly impact the foresters in determining how the timber was placed for sale and the timber companies in how the cut was actually carried out. Many of the foresters understood clear cutting and would be adverse to seeing their job change. Also, they worried about the probable resistance among timber companies to change their practices.
Consulting Intervention. A 1.5-day workshop was developed and conducted for all the state foresters. The foresters were randomly assigned to three working teams. Each team was expected to develop workable plans for how the state might implement uneven age stands as a forest management tool. The training consisted of three parts: 1. The value of being open, avoiding the jump to easy answers 2. Understanding the issue and generating strategies and 3. Deciding on a strategy and action plan.
After doing some fun individual and team work that allowed the whole group to look at their experience with remaining open to change, we decided to use a series of techniques to unleash each team’s imagination. We wanted to help them generate interesting and novel ways of implementing “Uneven Age Stands”.
One of the main techniques we used was a Synetics Approach. 1
1. The team listed each team member’s own understanding of the issue. Clarifying questions were used to see differences and similarities. Based on the team’s discussion, a statement of the issue as understood by the team was posted.
2. Brainstorming was used to discover any immediate solutions by team members.
3. The team was then asked to “take a vacation” from the problem and have some fun. They were to select a new setting or world X to explore as an analogy to the issue. The worlds might be machines, metals, etc. They were to pick the strangest and most different setting that was most intriguing to the whole team. They were to respond to the following questions:
• Describe x.
• How does x work?
• What do we know about x?
• What does it feel like to be an x?
• What is your experience as an x?
• What pictures can you draw about x?
The points from the “vacation” discussion were “forced fit” to the issue at hand. The team responded to:
• What relationships do you see between the analogy and the problem?
• How can we use x to describe our problem?
• How can we use this information about x to tell us something about the problem?
• What immediate solutions are suggested?
• What solution(s) can you imagine that is so way out that you'd immediately get fired for suggesting it?
Each team was to pay attention to these potential traps:
• Not being able to leave the reality of the issue
• Changing the words of the author vs. using the exact words
• Discounting unique understandings or censoring ideas
• Judging ideas that “can’t work” vs. asking how might we make that work
• Teams having so much fun, they are less willing to return to the problem
• Skipping over possible solutions that come from the earlier brainstorming
4. Finally, the team was asked to review all the material recorded and list all the possible options.
Last Line. Using a team’s imagination to implement changes to traditional practice helps to surface and work with the natural resistance to change.
1 Gordon, w. (1961) Synetics. NY: Harper and Row. Prince, G.M. (1970) The Practice of Creativity. Evanston, Il.: Harper & Row. Ulschak, f. Finishing unfinished business: Creative problem solving. (1979) In: University Associates Handbook. San Diego: University Associates.
Philip Heller is the senior associate of Learning Design Associates. For 35 years he has helped plan systems change and develop leaders in government, community agencies, and health care centers. Philip received his Ph.D. in Education focusing on learning and problem solving. As part of the originating group, he has been a PNODN member since 1982.
15 LEADERSHIP LESSONS learned from my El Camino Crucible* by Shannon Wallis
I was drawn to Microsoft in 2004 after hearing its mission—enable people and businesses to realize their full potential—and after having a transformational experience—a month-long, 500-mile hike across northern Spain.
Why did I do that? I had a vision that was so compelling, I couldn’t say no. And, it was one of the great learning experiences in my life, because it taught me what it takes to achieve our dreams and to get to our destinations. Before this vision, I’d worked for 10 years in HR consulting. I learned how to help organizations get to their destinations in three phases:
1) analyze the current state—what’s happening, what’s not working well, what best practices exist;
2) envision the desired future state—consider best practices, adopt or adapt them, or create something new; and
3) implement the vision.
After years of consulting, I accepted a leadership development role with The Coca-Cola Company. After two years there, I received the call to go to Spain to walk El Camino de Santiago, the 800-kilometer footpath that starts in the Pyrenees along the border of France and ends in Northwest Spain at Santiago de Compostela—the place believed to be the burial site of Saint James.
15 Life Lessons
When my Marine husband Joe said, “You should do the Camino—I want you to go,” I learned my first two lessons:
Lesson 1: Know where you are going.
You need to know what you really want. You can wander aimlessly in life bumping into things that sometimes work for you. But when you know what you want in life, your actions are more prescriptive. Imagine the difference in planning a vacation when you say, “I want to see the volcanoes of Costa Rica” versus, “I’d like to go somewhere warm.” Clarity makes taking action easier.
Lesson 2: Know what you are leaving behind.
You need to know why you are making the change and what you are leaving behind. Knowing why you want to make a change provides momentum. For me, the Camino became a symbol for a new beginning. I needed to let go of some things to move forward in life. When I decided to go, I invited my friend Susan to go with me. She’d started a new job three months earlier, and I doubted that she’d come. But she emailed me the next day: “Funny you’d ask. I just lost my job. I’m coming.”
Lesson 3: Invite others to participate—they might surprise you.
Tell people about your plans to do something different or go to a new destination. Say, I
want a different career, lose 30 pounds, or run a marathon. When someone agrees to accompany you, you are less likely to back out. And, your supporters may have hidden talents or connections that help you arrive at the destination. Two weeks later Susan arrived in Madrid. The next morning we were on a train to Pamplona, then traveled 27 miles to Roncesvalles, the town on the border of France and Spain where the Camino originates. I then realized, “It’s a long way back to Pamplona. This is crazy.” I thought of quitting then and there. Many journeys end before the first step is taken, so people never get to their destinations.
Lesson 4: Every journey begins with the first step.
Often when you look at the destination, you feel overwhelmed. But you’ll never arrive at the destination if you don’t take the first step and reach the first milestone. Milestones move you in the right direction. With each one, you’re closer to your goal. When we arrived in Roncesvalles, we met two Canadians, Christine and Judy. As they displayed their gear and big packs, I wondered if we were ready for the Camino. However, the next day I saw Christine and Judy struggling with their heavy packs. Within days, they got rid of half their gear.
Lesson 5: Pack light.
You may think that you’ve figured out all of the rules to win the game—only to learn that
some of the rules have changed. You can’t assume that what got you to where you are today—your skills, beliefs, and assumptions—will move you to where you want to be in the future. You must discard some things that made you successful in the past to create room to build new capability. When we met with other pilgrims, the questions began: “Where are you from?” “Are you going to Santiago?” At first, Susan and I didn’t plan to go to Santiago, only as far as we could in two weeks. But when asked, “Are you going to Santiago?” my soul responded,” Yes, I am going to Santiago!” We then committed to this final destination.
Lesson 6: Commit to going and go!
When you look at your final destination, you may get stuck. The distance seems too far, the work so great. You wonder whether you should stay or go. Staying stuck is as much of a decision as deciding to move forward. Without commitment to the destination, your chances of success are slim. As I started walking with the taller Susan, I noticed that I couldn’t match her long stride, and it was difficult for her to slow down. We realized that walking together would be futile. We’d have to walk separately, each at her own pace, yet still arrive together.
Lesson 7: Everyone walks at a different pace—work with it.
As you move toward your destination, some people may take a different pace or approach. Go at your own pace, respect the differences, and work with them. Susan and I agreed on three guiding principles to walk together while walking separately. If we hadn’t agreed on them, we could have easily separated. First, every night, we looked at our map and planned the next day.
Lesson 8: To get to the destination, agree on your milestones.
Every morning, we agreed on the place to meet and pledged that no matter how tired we were, we’d get to that location. Second, we communicated a lot.
Shannon Wallis is Director of Worldwide Leadership Programs
for Microsoft’s Sales Marketing and Services Group. She is an
executive coach, consultant in leadership development and change.
Visit www.theyellowarrow.com to read the complete story.
*reprinted with permission from Warren Bennis Leadership Excellence 02/2010
Editor’s Note: Part Two will appear next month.