Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Freeing up organisations

Ben Bryant from the IMD led this session.

Using an engaging and interactive style Ben introduced us to the concept of organisational culture as being like an Iceberg - in that we tend to concentrate on what is above the waterline, but what impacts an organisation is what occurs below.

Ben outlined some interesting case studies around culture and used the examples of the "hotel coat hanger" as one example of the hidden message sent to staff from the corporate HQ - our guests are thieves and will take anything not tied down... you can see how small subtle actions like this can have a massive impact on peoples behaviours. He also highlighted the culture in Silicon Valley in the US where the accepted culture is that of taking risks and failure is an acceptable cost. That meetings are often only 30-60 minutes duration. Factors like this.. under the waterline send subsconscous messages to staff and customers alike.

Ben's key messages were about the various 'pathways to change' - i.e. structured left brain and intuitive right brain. He said that while both were EQUALLY important he would focus on right brain approaches as many of us are more than competent and experienced in the left brain based approaches.

Intuitive approaches to change are developed on four strategies:

  1. Sense giving & sense making
  2. Shadow Sensing
  3. Mindfulness and awareness
  4. Inner Freedom

Sense giving & sense making

Traditionally top management and HR have focused on Sense giving, Bryant argues that we need to spend more time on sense making - that is enabling our people to make sense of the situation, our goals and strategies.

An important strategy in sense making is the use of stories and metaphor, he said that research had shown that 40% of stories were about leaders in an organisation and the decisions they had made. Bryant went on to look at the type of metaphors we use - organic or inorganic and some of the 'hidden messages' we send while attempting to use these powerful communication strategies.


Using stories around Nelson Mandela and the cultural changes that tool place 'below the water line in South Africa, Bryant highlighted some of the actions which let to below water activities turning the tangibles above the water.

Shadow sensing

This was about the impact we leave behind us as leaders - not what we say but the way we say it - very much the shadow that follow us. Our reputation and the management of our reputation.

Inner freedom

Here Bryant talked about the tension in leadership which in many cases inhibits freedom for us. He focused on the tensions between innovation, numbers and systems.

In a summary he highlighted that as humans in change we are instinctive defensive and we should pay attention to these factors and address them first.

He left the delegates with these questions:

  • As HR are you controlling the message or letting go?
  • Are you caught up in the action or standing back and being mindful?
  • Are you known for talking the truth or colluding to play it safe?

Mikes summary -

An interesting and thought provoking session. Bryant cleverly interleaved techniques from TA, NLP and many other 'schools' top form a coherent message and approach. - one to watch.

What to me was very interesting was the number of people in the audience that spent the majority of their time on their Blackberries - the ones in eye shot were managing emails, not taking notes.. why attend?

In the session Bryant told an interesting motivational 'true story' about a consultancy firm - I have tried to find the company but without any luck.. one to follow up post conference.

1 comment:

Johanna R said...

Re use of Blackberries - it's very possible they were busy texting, '...listening to the most amazing guy - wish you were here...'!!