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Culture Change
Every executive knows that change is inevitable. The ability to move quickly to take advantage of circumstances is crucial is this competitive marketplace. If your competition changes, the executive has to know that his or her employees are ready to change and react to the opportunity. In this global economy, an executive also has to prepare his or her workforce to use or compete with the services and products from suppliers in other countries.

Peter Drucker says that adapting to change is ineffective. “The only way to manage change is to create it. By the time you catch up with change, the competition is ahead of you.”

Courseware Connection educates and promotes a healthy change attitude and change management skills through training and good communication strategies. We can advise those who are planning the change as well as those who must implement the change. We can open the communication lines up and down through the organization to prepare employees for the swift reaction that can make money for your business.

The greatest athletes, while talented, do not work by themselves. They have a coach who observes what they do, who offers suggestions, and who provides support. An executive cannot work alone either. While executive staff members can help, often an executive coach can make the difference between an effective and ineffective manager.

Courseware Connection offers coaching services for all levels of your business. Whether a team needs a process observer to improve the team’s communication strategy or the executives need help aligning personal and professional goals, Courseware Connection can provide the best coach for the situation. We work with experienced professionals who have experience in businesses large and small. Our coaching skills range from personal coaching to organizational development professionals.

The request was straight forward enough. The manager requested a facilitator for a meeting. When I asked why he thought a facilitator was needed, he said that a number of the participants had been getting antagonistic during the meeting.

I called a few people I knew who had been at the meetings to learn what antagonistic meant. What I learned from these folks was eye opening. The group was engineers from two departments: software development and tools acquisition, natural enemies under this organizational structure because they had to share the same resources for different approaches to a solution. The group was too large, numbering about 15 instead the classic 3 to 7 individuals, the manager had just announced that the available resources had been reduced, so some tough decisions had to be made.

Among the members of the teams were some people whose interpersonal abilities were weak. While these engineers were highly intelligent and nice people, many lacked some of the basic skills required for civil discussion. Compounding the problem, the team members saw themselves as having to defend their turf, and the antagonism had grown steadily over a couple of months.

Before the meeting, I asked that the leader prepare an agenda for the meeting and a set of goals for the meeting. This document would give some legitimacy to the idea of accomplishing something during the meeting.

When I entered the meeting, I was introduced as the facilitator. I explained my job briefly as a process observer. I explained that I would be watching as everyone discussed issues. I would note the amount of time given to topics and individuals who contributed. I would try not to interrupt, but part of my job was to keep the group on task. The part of my work that I did not share was to keep tempers from flaring among the participants. As the group slogged through the agenda; I reported who spoke, how long they spoke, and whether the agenda goal was met.

Half way through the meeting, the leader asked for discussion on one of the topics. I began to observe agitated non-verbal responses from several of the group participants: frowns, head shaking, wiggling in the seats, angry and wary looks being exchanged around the room indicated that one of the contentious topics was being discussed.

I stopped the discussion and asked the obvious question: Why is this topic important? I followed up with the question, Why would anyone disagree with what is being said? With those questions, the emotional content that was making the meetings contentious was aired. Some participants felt that the statements were biased. Others felt that the team members were insulting. I then asked whether the discussion should be continued in this forum; the participants agreed to set aside this topic for a smaller group discussion.

Another contentious topic came to the floor. This time a shouting match erupted between two of the group members. The topic needed a decision, so to control the emotional outburst, I asked that each contributor limit his or her statements to two minutes per person. As each person spoke, I listed his or her point on a flip chart. Interestingly, when the issues were written down for everyone to see, and more people got to contribute to the discussion, greater progress was made toward a decision.

About this point in time, the group members began policing themselves by observing time limits of how long each person spoke. No longer a political forum for emotionally charged issues, the meeting moved faster as participants began limiting their comments and observing the agenda constraints.

My work was nearly done after the first meeting. I was invited to the next two meetings at which I made observations on process. The group, however, had discovered some powerful tools that they could use to help themselves. Besides the use of a process observer who would keep track of the interaction, the group discovered that they could address emotionally charged issues by dispassionately presenting each point of view. As a group, they could list what was important and give certain ideas priority. They legitimized the feelings that came with topics and could separate the feelings from the ultimate goal. At the end of my last meeting, I had nothing to do.

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