Training and learning

Reflecting on a change that happened

Here's a nice exercise you can try, to help people base their thinking about organisational change on real evidence. Running workshop sessions on organisational change is a core part of my contribution to the various programmes run by the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership.  This week, a group of people from one multi-national organisation met in Cambridge to further their own learning on sustainability and organisational responses to it.  My brief was to introduce them to a little theory on organisational change, and help them apply it to their own situation.

Theory is all very well - I love a good model or framework.  But sometimes people struggle to make the links to their experience, or they use descriptive models as if they were instructions.

This exercise gave them time to consider their direct experience of organisational change before the theory was introduced, so that they had rich evidence to draw on when engaging critically with the theory.

Step one - a change that happened

At tables, I asked them to identify a change that has happened in their organisation, of the same scale and significance as they think is needed in relation to sustainable development.  All of the tables looked at some variation of the organisation's response to dramatically changing market conditions (engaging with a different customer base, redundancies).

Step Two - four sets of questions

I then asked the groups to discuss how this change really happened (not how the organisation's change policy manual said it should have happened).  I offered four sets of questions:

  • First inklings e.g. How did you know the change was coming? How did it begin? What happened before that? What happened after that? What changed first?
  •  People e.g. Who were the main characters who helped the change to happen? Who tried to stop it happening? Who was enthusiastic? Who was cynical? Who was worried?
  •  Momentum and confirmation e.g. What happened that provided confirmation that this change really is going to happen, that it’s not just talk? How was momentum maintained? What happened to win over the people who were unhappy?
  • Completion and continuation e.g. Is the change complete, or are things still changing?  How will (did) you know the change is complete?

Step Three - debrief

Discussions at tables went on for about 20 minutes, and then we debriefed in plenary.

I invited people to share surprises.  Some of the surprises included the most senior person in the room realising that decisions made in leadership team meetings were seen as significant and directly influenced the way people did things - before the exercise, he had assumed that people didn't take much notice.

I also invited people to identify the things that confirmed that 'they really mean it', which seems to me to be a key tipping point in change for sustainability.  Some of the evidence that people used to assess whether 'they really mean it' was interesting: the legal department drafting a new type of standard contract to reflect a new type of customer base; different kinds of people being invited to client engagement events.  These 'artifacts' seemed significant and were ways in which the change became formalised and echoed in multiple places.

After the evidence, the theory

When I then introduced Schein's three levels of culture - still one of my favourite bits of organisational theory - the group could really see how this related to change.

Let me know how you get on, if you try this.

 

Three legged stool

Last week I trained 14 people in facilitation skills, at the quirky and rather wonderful Creekside Discovery Centre (see more below).  I came up with a metaphor that I quite liked, to tie together the main strands of the training - the three legged stool.

The three legged stool of facilitation

The three legged stool of facilitation

 

Facilitators help the group through:

  • Clarity on the purpose and aims of the meeting - helping the host, convenor, planning group be clear about these, ensuring the group is happy with them.  There's a download on this here.
  • Choice of techniques, meeting design - to meet the aims, suit the time/space/people.
  • Interpersonal skills - listening, reflecting, clarifying, responding, intervening to help the group hear and talk to each other, see what's happening and make choices about what to do.

Carpentry prizes for most beautiful stool?

But when I was explaining this, I realised that I hadn't given enough emphasis to the underlying basic assumption and values of facilitation: the desire to serve the group and the assumption that the group can, through conversation, work together to further its own aims and purpose.

So my three legged stool needs an addition: the group, supported by the facilitator, doing something great together.

No prizes for carpentry - it's about supporting the group.

No prizes for carpentry - it's about supporting the group.

 

It doesn't matter how well you clarify the aims, design the meeting and intervene, if at heart your intention is misplaced.  If you believe that you know best, or the group is not capable of finding its own best solution, or your intention is to show what a great facilitator you are....

So, the three legged stool is there to support the group, not to win carpentry prizes.

More on Creekside

This venue is just 5 minutes walk from Greenwich Station (DLR, Overground) in London, and has the most beautiful collection of found objects, scavenged from the Thames mud. Like this amazing old typewriter.

Thames Typewriter

Thames Typewriter

 

It has some lovely more recent touches too - gates below.

creekside gates.jpg

 

"But can you blu-tack flip chart paper to the wall and move the tables?" I hear you cry.

Yes.

I trained 14 people and it was comfortable working flexibly with this number.

So check it out.

Facilitation training - can it work one-to-one?

I love to train people in facilitation skills.  It's so much fun! People get to try new things in a safe environment, games are played, there's growth and challenge, fabulously supportive atmospheres can build up.

What's the minimum group size for this kind of learning?

How about one?

A group of one

From time to time I'm approached by people who want to improve their facilitation skills, but who don't have a ready-made group of colleagues to train with.   I point them towards open courses such as those run by the ICA, and let them know about practice groups like UK Facilitators Practice Group.  And sometimes, I work with them one-to-one.

This one-to-one work can also happen because a client doesn't have the budget to bring in facilitator for a particular event, and we agree instead to a semi-coaching approach which provides intensive, just-in-time preparation for them to play the facilitator role.  This is most common in the community and voluntary sector.

The approach turns out to be a mix of process consultancy for specific meetings, debriefing recent or significant facilitation experiences, and introducing or exploring tools and techniques.

Preparing to facilitate in a hierarchy

A client had a particular event coming up, where she was going to be facilitating a strategy session for a group of senior people from organisations which formed the membership of her own organisation.  She had concerns around authority: would they accept her as their facilitator for this session?  She was also keen to understand how to agree realistic aims for the session, and to come up with a good design.

We spent a couple of hours together, talking through the aims of the session and what she would do to prepare for it.  We played around with some design ideas. I introduced the facilitator's mandate, and she came up with ways of ensuring she had a clear mandate from the group which she could then use to justify - to them and to herself - taking control of the group's discussions and managing the process.  Helped by some coaching around her assumptions about her own authority, she came up with some phrases she was comfortable using if she needed to intervene.  We role-played these. She felt more confident about the framework and that the time and energy we'd put into the preparation was useful.

Facilitation skills as a competence for engaging stakeholders

As part of a wider team, I've been working with a UK Government department to help build their internal capacity for engaging stakeholders.  As a 'mentor', I worked with policy teams to help them plan their engagement and for one team, this included helping a team member get better at meeting design and facilitation.  He already had a good understanding of the variety of processes which could be used and a strong intuitive grasp of facilitation.  We agreed to build this further through a (very short) apprenticeship approach.  We worked together to refine the aims for a series of workshops.  I facilitated the first and he supported me.  We debriefed afterwards: what had gone well, what had gone less well, and in particular what had he or I done before and during the workshop and what was the impact.  He facilitated the next workshop, with me in the support role. Again we debriefed.  We sat down to plan the next workshop, and I provided a handout on carousel, which seemed like an appropriate technique. I observed the next two workshops, and again we debriefed.

Instead of a training course

I worked with a client who wanted to develop his facilitation skills and was keen to work with me specifically, rather than an unknown and more generic open course provider.  I already knew his context and he knew I'd have a good appreciation of some of his specific challenges: being in the small secretariat of what is essentially an industry leadership group which is trying to lead a sustainability agenda in their sector.  His job is to catalyse and challenge, as well as to be responsive to members.  So when he is planning and facilitating meetings, he will sometimes be in facilitator mode and sometimes he will need to be advocating a particular point of view.

Ideally, I'd have wanted to observe him in action in order to identify priorities and be able to tailor the learning aims. But the budget didn't allow for this.

We came up with a solution which was based on a series of four two-hour sessions, where I would be partly training (i.e. adding in new 'content' about facilitation and helping him to understand it) and partly coaching (i.e. helping him uncover his limiting assumptions and committing to do things differently).  The sessions were timed to be either a bit before or a bit after meetings which he saw as significant facilitation challenges, so that we could tailor the learning to preparing for or debriefing them.  The four face-to-face sessions would be supplemented by handouts chosen from things I'd already produced, and by recommended reading.  We agreed to review each session briefly at the end, for the immediate learning and feedback to me, and partly to model active reflection and to get him into the habit of doing this for his own facilitation work.

In our initial pre-contract meeting, we agreed some specific learning objectives and the practicalities (where, when).  Before each session, we had email exchanges confirming what he wanted to focus on. This meant I could prepare handouts and other resources to bring with me.

And this plan is pretty much what we ended up doing.

He turned out to be very well suited to this way of learning. He was a disciplined reflective practitioner, making notes about what he'd learnt from his experiences and bringing these to sessions.  He was thoughtful in deciding what he wanted to focus on which enabled me to prepare appropriately.  For example, in our final session he wanted to look at his overall learning and to identify the learning edges that he would continue to work on after our training ended.  We did two very different things in that session: he drew a timeline of his journey so far, identifying significant things which have shaped the facilitator he is now.  And we used the IAF's Foundational Facilitator Competencies to identify his current strengths and learning needs.

Can it work?

Yes, it's possible to train someone in facilitation skills one-to-one.   This approach absolutely relies on them have opportunities to try things out, and is very appropriate when someone will be facilitating anyway - trained or not.  The benefits are finely tailored support which can include advice as well as training, coaching instead of 'talk and chalk', and debriefing 'real' facilitation instead of 'practice' session.

There are downsides, of course.  You don't get the big benefit which can come from in-house training, where a cohort of people can support each other in the new way of doing things and continue to reflect together on how it's going. And you don't get the benefit of feedback from multiple perspectives and seeing a diverse way of doing things, which you get in group training.

But if this group approach isn't an option, and the client is going to be facilitating anyway, then I think it is an excellent approach to learning.

 

Occupy movement: the revolution will need marker pens

On my bike, between meetings last week, I was passing St Paul's Cathedral in London so I wandered through the Occupy London Stock Exchange 'tent city'.  Occupy LSX has divided opinion. At the meeting I was going to - a workshop of organisational development consultants, facilitators, coaches - some people made rather snide remarks about the likely impact of the first cold weather on the protesters, and about unoccupied tents.  There's a retort here about the infamous thermal imaging scoop.  Others were interested in and sympathetic to the dissatisfaction being expressed, but frustrated by the lack of a clear 'ask' or alternative from the occupiers.

Emergent, self-organising, asks and offers

What struck me, however, were the similarities between the occupy area itself, and some really good workshops I've experienced.  There was plenty of space given aside for 'bike rack', 'grafitti wall' and other open ways of displaying messages, observations or questions.  There was a timetable of sessions being offered in the Tent City University, and another board showing the times of consensus workshops and other process-related themes.

There was a 'wish list' board, where friendly passers-by could find out what the protesters need to help keep things going. Marker pens and other workshop-related paraphernalia are needed, as well as fire extinguishers and tinned sweetcorn.

I saw these as signs of an intentionally emergent phenomenon, with a different kind of economy running alongside the money economy.  Others have blogged about the kinds of processes honed and commonly in use at this kind of event or camp, in particular if you're interested there's loads on the Rhizome blog.

Don't ask the question if you don't already know the answer?

I recognise the frustration expressed by some of my OD colleagues about the lack of clearly-expressed alternatives.  This kind of conversation often occurs in groups that I facilitate: someone (often not in the room) has expressed a negative view about a policy, project or perspective.  The people in the room feel defensive and attack the grumbler: "I bet they couldn't do any better" or "what do they expect us to do?".  Some management styles and organisational cultures are fairly explicit that they don't want to hear about problems, only solutions.  (Browsing here gives some glimpses of the gift and the shadow side of this approach.)

But I see something different here: a bottom-up process where people who share broadly the same intent and perspective,  come together to explore and work out what they agree about, when looking at the problems with the current situation and the possible ways of making things better.  The are participatively framing a view of the system as it is now, and what alternatives exist. This takes time, of course.

They are also, as far as I can tell from the outside, intentionally using consensus-based processes rather than conventional, top-down, leader-led or expert-led processes to organise this.  Understandably frustrating for the news media which rely increasingly on short sound-bites and simple stories with two sides opposing each other.  And it could get very interesting when the dialogue opens up to include those who have quite different perspectives on "what's really going on here" (for example mainstream economists, bankers, city workers).

The other thing I notice about this expectation of a ready-made coherent answer, is how similar it is to some group behaviour and the interventions made by inexperienced facilitators and coaches.  When I am training facilitators, we look at when to intervene in a group's conversation, particularly when to use the intervention 'say what you see'.  (This makes it sound very mechanical - of course it's not really like that!)

The trainee facilitator is observed practising, and then there is feedback and a debriefing conversation.  Perhaps they chose not to intervene by telling the group what they observed.  Sometimes during this feedback and debrief, a trainee will say something like "Yes, I noticed that, but I didn't want to say anything because I wasn't sure what to do about it or what it meant."  They are assuming that you can only 'say what you see' if you know what it means and already have a suggestion about what to do about it.

But it also serves a group to say what you see, when you haven't a settled interpretation or clear proposal.  (In fact, it is more powerful to allow the group to interpret, explain and propose together.) All questions are legitimate, especially those to which we don't (yet) know the answer.  Ask them.  Guess some answers.  And this - for the time being - is what the occupy movement is doing.

The revolution will need marker pens

All this consensus-based work and open-space style process needs plenty of marker pens (permanent and white-board).  So if you have a bulging facilitation toolkit and you're passing St Paul's, you know what to do!

Update

Others have spotted these connections too. Listen to Peggy Holman talking about Occupy Wall Street on WGRNRadio, 9th January.

Holding nested tensions - doing and waiting

Many strands of work at the moment share a theme of putting in place the conditions for collaboration, and then waiting for something to happen.

The work

I'm working with a colleague to train people from a large state body to pilot a collaborative approach to delivering one of their legal duties.  There is pressure - from managers who don't quite get it - to have clear timetables and plans, for action to be delivered.  But while you can call on hierarchy and processes to get the job done within your own organisation, you can't tell collaborators what to do. And collaboration relies on genuinely compelling outcomes which are shared by more than one party. You can't magic those out of the air.  Our client organisation is in a position to be very clear about its own 'compelling outcomes' on the basis of a technical evidence base and legal duties.  Whether there are potential collaborators out there who share any of those compelling outcomes is one of the early questions which needs exploration.

Another strand of work is a multi-stakeholder initiative (it's hard to know how to describe it) where the convenors are using all of the good practice they know to bring people together in a spirit of enquiry and good will, to discover whether there are collaborations waiting to emerge. Participants share a sense that the current system of which they are a part is not sustainable. They may not agree about the bits which are problematic or what a sustainable version would look like.  Some of them are more natural bedfellows than others.

I'm in a curious ambiguous role as a participant in this initiative, and a 'friend of the process'.  Do I have a role as supporting the convenors? Am I in a privileged observer role, able to spot what's getting in the way and then leaving them to do something about it? Or might I choose to take more ownership and responsibility, doing something about the process myself?  (Let alone doing something about the system which we are there to change.)

Metaphors to understand the delicacy

I'm struggling to find metaphors to help explain the difference between project planning, and planning for (and then stewarding) collaborative emergence.

If you've looked after toddlers, you'll know the phenomenon of two children playing quite happily side by side, but with no interaction.  No matter how skillfully the grown-up coaxes, if they aren't ready to play together it's not going to happen.

Perhaps it's also like growing particularly temperamental plants, like orchids.  Sometimes it just doesn't work out.

Or internet dating. You set criteria and find lots of potential matches.  Everything looks promising.  And then the magic is either there or it's not. You can't make it happen through an act of will.

Or nursing a sick person: you intervene and you comfort. Sometimes it's enough to just sit next to their bed while their body gets on with doing something about the illness.

Collaboration for system change

All of these possible analogies imply someone outside of the process who is trying to get others to 'play nicely' (except the dating one). This seems unsatisfactory. Collaboration comes because the collaborators both really want to accomplish something which they can't do by themselves.  Layer on to that the unknowability of system level change, and sometimes it will take a lot of discussion, exploration and false-starts to find action which people take together which they hypothesise will lead to the right kind of change.

How do you know if you're using your time well?

This question arises in different guises.

In the large state-funded body, where the people running the collaborative experiments are very new to this way of working, there is a need to justify the way they are working to their own line managers, and to the team who are holding the experiment in the middle. At some point in the future, evaluation and the main external 'client' will want to know too.

In the system-level initiative, the hosting body needs to know that funds and staff time are being well used, and all the participants will be making daily choices about whether to be active or whether to sit on the sidelines.

I ran a workshop for a well-known NGO some years ago, helping them to shape their internal monitoring and assessment process so that it would be fit for keeping an eye on complex emergent system change.  We had a fascinating day, but it was hard to come to conclusions about KPIs or management information to gather which would be meaningful in helping the team decide what to do, or in helping the organisation decide whether to keep an area of work going.  So much would come down to professional judgement, trust and even intuition.

And the question arises for individual change agents, as I have seen over the course of all my work in independent practice: am I doing the right things? is change happening fast enough, far enough, deep enough, wide enough?  This is one of the four tensions which were explored in my paper for the EABIS Colloquium in 2008.

Frameworks, checklists, dance moves

In the training, we are using some great frameworks and checklists to help conceptualise the choices and possibilities which stakeholders are faced with, when exploring collaboration.

We have a spectrum of collaborative working, from information sharing to full mainstreaming of the shared compelling outcome in both (all) the collaborating organisations.

We have a two-by-two matrix plotting whether, for a given compelling outcome, the organisation in question can accomplish it alone or can only do it with others; against whether there are any 'others' who want to collaborate to achieve that outcome.

We have guidance on what to think about when setting up a 'holding group' to keep an overview of the collaborative work.

At some point this will come into the public domain and I'll add links.

And we also know, from experience and the writings of others, that sometimes all you can do is put in place the conditions, hold a process lightly and then wait.  (Or stumble forward.)

If not me, then who? Leadership and sustainable development

Holding out for a hero

We’re in a hole and we’re not making headway on the huge challenges that face us as a species and as a society.  Our so-called leaders shy away from action which isn’t incremental and easy.  We’re caught in a web of interlocking dependencies shoring up the status quo.  And meanwhile environmental limits are being breached every way we turn.  Why doesn’t somebody DO SOMETHING?

But hang on, what if we are the people we’ve been waiting for?

We, too, can be tempered radicals, positive deviants or social intrapreneurs – different labels for essentially the same ambiguous role: change makers on the inside of our organisation or community, wherever this may be.

This antidote to ‘great man’ leadership is explored in two books: The Positive Deviant (Parkin) helps you prepare and plan, Leadership for Sustainability (Marshall et al) is an edited collection of tales from fellow travellers, shared with a degree of honesty and openness which is unexpected outside the safety of a coaching conversation.

Who will show leadership?

Both books rightly assert that leadership can come from anywhere.  The leader may be the boss, but leadership is something any of us can practice.  And that’s lucky, because we need whole systems to change, not just individual organisations.  And systems don’t have a boss.  Leadership is necessarily distributed throughout the system, even if some people have more power than others.

Parkin’s positive deviant is someone who does the right thing

despite being surrounded by the wrong institutions, the wrong processes and stubbornly uncooperative people”.

They work to change the rules of the game.  Rather than waiting for stepping stones to appear they chuck in rocks, building a path for others as they go.

Effective leadership comes from surprising places within hierarchical structures, and can arise in situations where there isn’t any formal organisation at all.  This makes the positive deviant quite close to the tempered radical, yet Meyerson's work is a surprising omission from Parkin's index and bibliography.

Marshall et al see leadership

“as much [in] the vigilante consumer demanding to know where products have come from as [in] the chief executive promoting environmentally aware corporate practices.”

So none of us is off the hook.

What kind of leaders do we need?

If we are all in a position to show leadership, which qualities do we need to hone, to help us be really good at it?

Parkin is clear that we need to be ethical and effective.

Ethical

As Cooper points out in one of the chapters of Leadership for Sustainability, the scale of the transformation implied by how bad things are now means that doing things right is not enough: we need to do the right things.

It is not enough to show leadership merely in the service of your own organisation or community. With sustainability leadership the canvas is all humanity and the whole planet (All Life On Earth including Us, as Parkin puts it).  Regular readers of this blog, and participants on the Post-graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business will know that this is one of the distinctions I make between 'any old organisational change' and 'organisational change for sustainable development'.  See the slide 22 in the slide show here for more on this and other tensions for sustainability change makers.

To do this, the Positive Deviant has a ‘good enough’ understanding of a range of core sustainability information and concepts, and Parkin summarises a familiar set of priority subjects.  Less familiar are the snippets of sustainability literacy from classical antiquity which liven things up a bit: Cleopatra’s use of orange peel as a contraceptive and Plato’s observations of local climatic changes caused by overenthusiastic logging.

If you already know this big picture sustainability stuff, you may feel you can safely skip Parkin’s first, third and fourth section.  Not so fast.  I read these on the day DCLG published its risible presumption in favour of sustainable development.  DCLG’s failure to mention environmental limits and the equating of sustainable development with sustainable building is a caution: perhaps people who might be expected to have a good understanding of sustainability should read this section, whether they think they need it or not!

Effective

We need to understand the kinds of problems we’re facing.  Parkin offers use Grint’s useful sense-making triad to understand different kinds of problems which need different approaches:

  • tame (familiar, solvable, limited uncertainty),
  • wicked (more intractable, complex, lots of uncertainty, no clear solutions without downsides) and
  • critical (emergency, urgent, very large) problems.

The problems of unsustainability are very largely wicked (e.g. breaking environmental limits), and some are critical (e.g. extreme weather events).

Complex, uncertain and intractable situations require experimentation and agility, according to Marshall et al.  Parkin echoes this:

“By definition, we’ve not done sustainable development before ... so we are all learning as we go.”

Marshall et al go further:

“we doubt if change for sustainability can often be brought about by directed, intentional action, deliberately followed through.”

Superficial change may result, but not systemic transformation.  So leadership demands that we embrace uncertainty and release control.  This is pretty much what I'm trying to articulate here, so you'd expect me to agree. I do.

Parkin is dismissive of understandings of leadership in the context of chaos or distributed systems.  She may be right that it is a perverse choice to lead in this way if you are within an organisation which functions well in a predictable external context.  But as we have seen, leadership is most urgently required in situations which are much less simple than this, where there isn’t an obvious person with a mandate to be 'the leader'.  Dispersed leadership is a more accurate description of reality and a more practical theory in these situations.  There are some well-thought of organisational consultants and theorists worth reading on this.  For example Chris Rodgers and Richard Seel have both influenced my thinking.  AMED's Organisations&People journal regularly carries great articles if you want to explore this side of things.

From the installation of secret water-saving hippos in Cabinet Office (Goulden in Leadership for Sustainability) to John Bird setting up the Big Issue or Wangari Maathai founding of the "deliciously subversive" Green Belt Movement (some of Parkin’s choices as Positive Deviant role models), the reader can’t help but be personally challenged: how do I compare, in my leadership?  Am I ethical? Am I effective?

How will we get them?

How can we make ourselves more effective as leaders, where-ever we find ourselves?   How can we help others to show leadership?

These questions bring us to the educational and personal development aspect of these books.

Education and training

Leadership for Sustainability is a collection of personal stories gleaned from people who have been through the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice at the University of Bath’s School of Management (succeeded by Ashridge Business School’s MSc in Sustainability and Responsibility and the MA in Leadership for Sustainability at Lancaster University School of Management).  Parkin designed Forum for the Future’s Masters in Leadership for Sustainable Development.  So you can expect that both books have something to say about how we educate our future leaders.

Parkin dissects the ways business schools have betrayed their students and the organisations they go on to lead.  Unquestioningly sticking to a narrow focus of value, not understanding the finite nature of the world we live in, and avoiding a critique of the purpose of business and economy, by and large they continue to produce future leaders with little or no appreciation of the crash they are contributing to.

Marshall and her colleagues have shown leadership in this field, using a Trojan horse approach by setting up their MSc in the heart of a traditional business school, and seeding other courses.  Positive deviance in practice!

Personal development

Formal training aside, we can all improve our sustainability leadership skills.

Parkin argues that as well as having a ‘good enough’ level of sustainability literacy, Positive Deviants need to practice four habits of thought.  These are:

  • Resilience – an understanding of ecosystems, environmental limits and their resilience, rather than the personal robustness of the change maker.
  • Relationships – understanding and strengthening the relationships between people, and between us and the ecosystems which support us.
  • Reflection – noticing the impact of our actions and changing what we do to be more effective, as a reflective practitioner.
  • Reverence – an awe for the universe of which we are a part

Action research

Of those four habits of thought, reflection is the one closest to the heart of Marshall’s Leadership for Sustainability approach.

Marshall, Coleman and Reason are committed to an action research approach, seeing it as

“an orientation towards research and practice in which engagement, curiosity and questioning are brought to bear on significant issues in the service of a better world.”

In her chapter, Downey reminds us of the ‘simple instruction at the heart’ of action research

“take action about something you care about, and learn from it.”

Marshall et al tell us that action research was central to the structure and tutoring on their MSc.  I have to confess to being unclear about the distinctions between action inquiry, action research and action learning.  Answers in the comments section, please!

Marshall et al’s action learning chapters are useful to anyone involved in helping develop others as managers, coaches, consultants, teachers, trainers and so on – required reading, in fact, for those wrong-headed business schools which Parkin criticises so vehemently.

The power of the action research approach shines through in the collection of twenty-nine stories, which made this book – despite the somewhat heavy going of the theoretical chapters – the most compelling sustainability book I’ve read in a long time.  People have taken action about things they care about, and they have learnt from it.

Their stories demonstrate that we encourage people to show leadership in part by allowing them to be humble and to experiment, not by pretending that only the perfect can show leadership.  The stories do not trumpet an approach or sell us a technique. They are travellers’ tales for people who’ll see themselves in the narrative, and be inspired and comforted by it.

What does it feel like, to be this kind of leader?

Does this kind of leader sound like you yet?  It could be – anyone can show leadership.  But perhaps you’re sceptical or looking for a reason why it can’t be you?  It sounds like a lot of hard work and there’s no guarantee of success.

Marshall and her colleagues on the MSc course have evidently created a safe space for people to reflect about their doubts and uncertainties as well as their hopes and insights.  Chapters including this kind of personal testimony from people like Gater, Bent and Karp are intriguing, dramatic and engaging.

Karp’s story about food procurement shows difference between action learning approach and leader as hero – she’s as open about the set-backs as the successes.

I instantly recognised Bent’s description of holding professional optimism with personal pessimism, and many people I know have had that same conversation: wondering where their bolt-hole will be, to escape the impacts of runaway climate change.

Gater’s story in a brilliantly honest account of his work within a mainstream financial institution, moving a certain distance and then coming up against a seemingly insurmountable systemic challenge.  In a model of authentic story-telling, he describes tensions I have heard so many organisational change agents express.  He talks about visiting his colleagues ‘in their world’ and inviting them to visit him in his.  At the end of his story, the two worlds remain unreconciled,

“but it was okay – I had done what I could do as well as I believe I could have done it, and that had to be enough.”

Concluding

Both books start from the premise that we can’t wait for others to show leadership – we need to show leadership from where we are.

But we know that’s hard: Downey reminds us that

“…those who protect the status quo get rewarded for the inaction that slows down change, while disturbers-of-the-peace who send warning signals are disparaged, demoted or dismissed.”

But for her that’s not an excuse to hang back:

“we are not too small, and there is no small act. Either way we shape what happens.”

Transparency alert: Penny Walker is an Associate of Forum for Future, of which Sara Parkin is a Founder Director.  Penny has also been a visiting speaker on the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice run by Judi Marshall, Gill Coleman and Peter Reason, as well as being a tutor on what might be seen as a competitor course, the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business run by the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership in conjunction with Forum for the Future.

A shorter version of this review was first published in Defra's SDScene, here.

Make more progress in changing your organisation!

There's a typical pattern for sustainability change agents: enthusiastic spotting of an opportunity to change (a solution) followed by a flurry of activity and then the obstables begin to show themselves. Then it can go two ways:

  • reflecting on the 'stuckness', exploring it and finding a way beyond it,

  • giving up.

Actually, you need to see the obstacles clearly to be able to deal with them, but that doesn't stop people feeling downhearted if they'd set out imagining no obstacles at all!

Theories for the perplexed

I find it reassuring when a bit of theory (or framework, model, checklist) explains that the low points are predictable, expected and indeed part of the journey.

And theories can also help us make sense of a complex reality, find the patterns in chaos, see "what's really going on here" and understand our unconscious assumptions.  If we bring them to conscious attention, we can make choices about doing things differently. Our assumptions might be about organisations (what they are, how they work, what's amenable to change), or people (how to interact respectfully whilst intending things to change) or sustainability (what might the journey look like, how you know you're going in the right direction).

And like the man said, there's nothing so practical as a good theory. (The man in question being Kurt Lewin, social psychologist, of the unfreeze-change-refreeze model.)

So I've assembled some bits of theory which I find particularly useful and popped them in a slide show here:

Organisational change theory 2011 generic

 

View more presentations from PennyWalker

There should be some notes pages with more explanation and references, but I haven't managed to get Slide Share to show these yet. So here's a pdf with the notes.  This is a presentation I give at the fabulous Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business course, developed and run by CPSL and Forum for the Future.

Ideas into action

So theories are all very well, but what might it mean for your situation? I love to help people work out what their next steps might be, and a good way of doing this has proved to be the one-day Change Management for Sustainable Development workshop I developed and run with the IEMA.

We've got one in London on May 25th. So why not come along and we can help each other use some practical theories to make more progress? You can book here.

Don't thingify the elephants

I've just got back from a great workshop organised by ODiN and run by Delta7.  We explored the use of pictures, in particular those which visualise 'the elephant under the table'. It's always great to see some old friends and meet new people.  Also good to have the time to reflect on stucknesses and opportunities in my own work which might helps us in this collective endeavour of forging a sustainable future.

So Julian's picture about climate change at first felt like a comfortable one for me to look at and discuss.  It was familiar territory, summarised what I consider to be an important part of my own work and practice, and gave me a platform to build on.

Too comfortable?

Someone raised the question of the shadow side of naming 'elephants under the table'.  (I can't attribute this insight, as ODiN meetings are Chatham House.)  He said that by 'thingifying' the metaphor of the elephants under the table, we can shrug off our personal responsibility for them.  I am not forgetful: I have 'senior moments' which exist independently of me.  I am not failing to pull my weight around climate change: society is in the grip of denial.

So here's my challenge to myself: to reflect on the sustainable development elephants, and give people courage to name them, without 'thingifying' them and thus distancing myself from them.

Wisdom in the Crowd: using CrowdWise consensus process

The New Economics Foundation is a wonderful organisation working practically and conceptually to enable us to rethink what our economy should do for us.  It calls itself a ‘think-and-do tank’. Amongst its many interests are participation and consensus-building as part of the renewal of democracy. It’s in that spirit that my near-namesake, Perry Walker (no relation) has developed the Crowd Wise tool:  a way of enabling groups to propose alternative solutions and find consensus using a combination of a slightly sophisticated voting system and discussion which allows people to take the aspects they like about a proposal and combine them to form new proposals. Sounds a bit complicated in theory!

It is much more easily understood when you try it out in practice, which is exactly what I did at the launch a couple of weeks ago.  You can try it out on 23rd September in London – see here - where our subject will be electoral reform.

Using a fictional example - the role of nuclear power

The launch was a mini-workshop where we were given some prepared options on the role nuclear power should play in a low-carbon, energy secure future.  (Of course, in a ‘real’ situation, we’d arrive at a discussion about a topic we had chosen to be present at and come with our own views which would then form the basis of the initial options.)

We were then asked to vote for the options in order of preference.  There’s a rather complex voting system, where you assign the options a preference (1st, 2nd, 3rd preference etc) although you are not obliged to rank all of them.  Depending on how many you rank, the ones you rank are assigned points.  For example, if you give a preference for five options, your 1st preference will score 5 points, your 2nd preference will score 4 points and so on.   If you decide to express a preference for only two options, your 1st preference scores 2 points and your 2nd preference scores 1 point.

The maths wizards may immediately see the significance of doing it this way: when the scores are amalgamated, it’s possible to see the degree of consensus.  In fact, the results are presented as a 'consensus coefficient', between 0 and 1.

In our nuclear power example, the results in the first round of voting varied between 0.19 (for an option based loosely on the views of the World Nuclear Association) and 0.59 (for an option based loosely on the views of Amory Lovins – demand reduction and a ‘soft energy’ path.  Since this was a demonstration workshop, we were then randomly assigned an option to brief ourselves about and represent.  We spent some time in small groups of (fictionally) like-minded people, understanding our option and discussing possible negotiating tactics. The groups were then mixed up and we had a chance to explain our option and discuss it with people who had different views.

Then came the negotiations!  This descended into horse-trading a bit, as we raced against time to find common ground with other groups.  In the end, the five options we began with were reduced to three.  One of these was from the original five, and two were new amalgams.  The consensus coefficients this time varied between 0.47 and 0.92.

The seemingly popular choice had elements that many of those supporting it did not like – perhaps this element of compromise is essential to consensus.  If we had had time for subsequent rounds, I think that more options would have emerged and perhaps what we would have ended up with would include a more precise understanding of the things that we really don’t agree about, as well as broader areas of common ground.

That’s a summary of the technical process.

Real-world example - AFC Wimbledon

We also had a fascinating insight into a real use of this tool as part of discussions about the strategic direction of a member-owned football club, AFC Wimbledon.  This process is ongoing.

The six options which the strategy group began with were generated by drawing on themes identified using a classic meta-planning technique, with the initial post-it brainstorm informed by gathering views from members and fans.

Options include “selling up to any sugar daddy who would build the club a 25,000 seater stadium” as well as something based more on the importance of the club as a community resource.

Pondering

There was a very interesting discussion afterwards, as people who might well use this technique in practice explored its features.  We wondered whether it was in itself a decision-making tool, or a tool to inform a decision.  We agreed that the provenance of the options was important and needs to be clear.  It was also clear that the expertise and information about the detail behind the options, the nuances and assumptions, need to be ‘in the room’, in order for new permutations of options to be created and for well-informed voting.

NEF stress the usefulness of this tool in consensus-building, because of the in-built incentive to find common ground: your score only goes up if more people express a preference for your option.  This is the case even if the preference is quite weak.

In my group, I observed one person who was extremely keen on ‘winning’, i.e. crafting the most popular option.  This led to him being willing to include elements of other options which our initial option completely excluded, because this would increase the common ground.  I was uncomfortable with these ‘compromises’, but perhaps that’s because I was more committed to my (fictional) position than to finding common ground.  I’m not sure whether this is a strength or a weakness of the system!

Try it out for yourself?

Perry is running another taster session so you can try out Crowd Wise for yourself.  In conjunction with AMED and NEF, there will be a workshop in London on 23rd September, from 2.00 – 4.30.  It’s just £15 (£10 for AMED and NEF members).  Find out more here.

Update

There's an interview with Perry on the Rhizome blog, here, and a description of Rhizome's use of the process (to help develop options for involving grassroots activists in organisational governance) here.

You can find case studies of CrowdWise in use here.

What's your route through the change journey?

One of the things we do at the one-day Change Management training workshop is to look through a decision tree (aka flow chart) to see which approach to change might be most effective, given the starting point of each person on the course. Questions to ask yourself include:

  • what's my mandate?
  • what is the stated position of my senior team / Board, and do they know what they've signed up to?
  • how much of an appetite is there amongst my colleagues?

The flow diagram is explained in this article, first published in the environmentalist.

The next workshop is on 20th July in Leeds - why not book to join us?

On Q – a great icebreaker

At the start of a six-month course, which mixes face-to-face workshops with remote group work, we wanted to get people networking and breaking ice fast - within and between their 'project groups'. I'd come across On Q before, because the AMED Council has been using it to get to know each other better in on-line conversations.  I ordered a set.  It comes in a reused video box, very neat!

Going through the cards, I looked out for ones which would be suitable for an international audience, were revealing without being threatening, and would make sense for a group of people who hadn't met before.  Nearly every card contained a question which met my criteria.

I used the On Q questions to produce larger (A5) cards for the participants, each with a different question taken directly or slightly adapted from an On Q question.  Each card also had instructions:

  • During the break, your task is to find three members of your project group (this can include your tutor) and ask them your question.  Listen to the answer.
  • For a bonus task, find three people who aren't in your group, and ask them your question, and listen to their answer.
  • Enjoy!

There was no debrief or feedback - the experience of asking the question and hearing people's answers was enough.

I wasn't sure if people would react positively to having their networking structured in this way.  I needn't have worried - the buzz in the room was immediate and people carried on asking their questions in other situations during the 24 hour workshop.

Favourites of mine included:

  • What did you used to be afraid of, that you're not afraid of any more?  (Me: the dark)
  • What do other people say about you, that you don't agree with? (Me: that I'm scarey)
  • What flock, herd or group of animals would you join? (Me: a wolf pack.  Perhaps that's what people see as scarey!)

Thoroughly recommended!

I don't want to go back in the box!

This post is about coaching, the power of unexpected questions and the alchemy of metaphor. I have just completed the first two days of a Diploma in Intermediate Executive Coaching, run by AOEC.  I've learnt loads, including realising once more the power of metaphor.  The striking thing I'd like to share is an insight I had about a project I discussed, as part of a practice session run by one of my fellow trainees.  Hats off to Simon!

The problem

The project had been bugging me.  It's enormous and complex, and I'm a relatively small cog in a very large consultant / client team. Things have been rushed and not all the plates have been spinning smoothly. It had been on my mind the previous evening, and I knew I was angry about how out of control it was feeling.

I came to the coaching session with a metaphor already in my mind, that the project was like a semi-wild cat, which was currently spitting and using its claws.  I wanted to speak calmly to it until it was pliable and tame enough to coax back into its box.

My focus was on the cat: wild and capable of causing a lot of pain, in its anarchic panic.  It was afraid and it could smell my fear.

I saw my own role as needing to move from being angry with it or afraid of it, to being the calm person who could 'cat whisper' it back to being tame, for just long enough to get it where I wanted it.

And anyway, this was only training: I felt I probably wouldn't get much out of the twenty minute session and I - wrongly - thought I knew already what my learning would be.

Surprising question

The training partner who was coaching me in this practice surprised me.  He didn't ask about the cat, he asked about the box.

That was definitely left-field for me.  I hadn't paid much attention to the box until he asked, and it stopped me in my tracks.  I described the box that I was picturing: small, carboard with a hinged lid and a padlock.

As I got a clearer picture in my mind of this box, I had a revelation.   I was trying to play a terrible trick on the cat.  I wasn't serving the cat, I was only trying to deal with my feelings.  And what a disrespectful attitude I had towards it.  I was looking at it all wrong.  This project is hard because it is ambitious and complicated and taking place in difficult circumstances.  If it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be worth working on.

I care about it, and I am proud of its ambition and the attempts the team is making to keep things going and to realise that ambition.

I shouldn't be trying to turn it into a pussycat.

Pride of a lion

Without really understanding how, my attitude to the project was transformed - and it has stayed transformed (at least so far).

This project is a lion, and I am proud to be walking alongside it in the open air, head up and back straight, not flinching when the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune assail us.

The take-away

So the original metaphor was powerful in enabling me to raise this subject matter in the session, but it was the unexpected question from the coach inviting me to explore an aspect of it which I had overlooked, which really transformed my perspective. I had gone into the session with the explicit aim of 'sounding off', and I emerged from it with renewed pride and purpose.

Community and behaviour – when critical mass makes all the difference

I was pointing people towards the six sources of influence in some behaviour change training recently, and went back to some original sources to remind myself about the distinctions between the six sources. To recap, the six sources are arranged into a two-by-three table, with ‘motivation’ and ‘ability’ divided into personal, social and structural.  In this explanation on the VitalSmarts blog the two ‘social’ sources of influence have been merged.  This bothered me – is there really so little distinction between social motivation (peer pressure) and social ability?

It seems to me that the distinction is brought most sharply into focus when critical mass is needed to make a behaviour viable.  Want to buy more locally-produced food?  A farmers’ market or a local veggie box scheme needs a critical mass of producers and customers to be viable.  Setting up a lift share scheme?  You’re going to need more than two members.  Freecycling?  Hackney Freecycle has over 17,000 members (yes, really) generating about 1,500 messages about free stuff for giving and taking a month.

Now this kind of critical mass isn’t going to be important for all the behaviours you want to change, which is probably why the distinctions isn’t so clear in some of the descriptions.  But where it is, then special attention needs to be given to recruiting the mass.

  • How will you make it as widely-known as possible?
  • How will you make it simple for people to let you know they’re up for it?
  • How will you make it easy to store information about a pool of people and then ‘activate’ them you have enough mass to start things?
  • And how will you use their good ideas and information to shape the system, so that it works for enough of them?

There’s a virtuous circle which can come into play here.  This was brought home to me by a stakeholder engagement planning meeting which I ran last week with a community organisation which has been awarded substantial funding through the Low Carbon Communities Challenge.  We did a quick brainstorm of all the non-carbon related ‘social capital’ in their village – the formal and informal organisations which bring people together and build a sense of community.  The population is about 2,000 and the group came up with over thirty formal groups, clubs or regular events (one for every 67 people!) and a host of informal groupings.  Active community organisations build community channels and hubs for conversation.  Members will have more connection with each other, and more trust, than people who are merely residents of the same place.  So a critical mass of ‘warm’ people is much easier to find.

I was bowled over by how many active societies there are, and we all felt very positive about the potential for drawing on this wonderful resource for the low-carbon activities the group has planned.

Actions we take which help build community – in our neighbourhoods or workplaces – all add to the web of interconnections which form fertile soil for future behaviour change.

Community and behaviour – when critical mass makes all the difference

I was pointing people towards the six sources of influence in some behaviour change training recently, and went back to some original sources to remind myself about the distinctions between the six sources. To recap, the six sources are arranged into a two-by-three table, with ‘motivation’ and ‘ability’ divided into personal, social and structural.  In this explanation on the VitalSmarts blog the two ‘social’ sources of influence have been merged.  This bothered me – is there really so little distinction between social motivation (peer pressure) and social ability?

2010 Training dates - IEMA Change Management workshops

We have three dates in the diary for this one-day workshop, which I've been running since 2005. The day is very interactive, with everyone sharing a specific sustainability challenge which they are working on, and using various frameworks and exercises to explore and understand the challenge better.

During the workshop, people

  • Hear about some theory on organisational change and approaches to change, including a scale of strategic engagement, visioning, identifying key players, choosing a change strategy, identifying barriers to change and planning first steps.
  • Apply this to their own organisational sustainability challenge.
  • Hear from others in a similar situation, discuss common challenges and discovering sources of further information and support.

As you’d expect, the contents have evolved since I ran the first one.  But the approach is still one of making selected bits of change theory as accessible as possible to people, and giving them time to work on their own particular situation during the workshop. And everyone still gets a free copy of the workbook, so they can carry on making their own notes and using plenty more exercises and frameworks at their own pace.

If you'd like to come along, you can book through IEMA's website.

London: 28th April 2010

Leeds: 20th July 2010

Newcastle upon Tyne: 12th October 2010

Is sustainable development about more than the environment?

I've been running a training course today, helping sustainable development specialists get some insights from the world of organisational change.  As part of this, each person identified a sustainability challenge that's real for them and their organisation right now. One of the participants was grappling with how to get people from across the organisation to look at the sustainability impacts of the services they provide.   This will entail having a much better understanding of what the social aspects of sustainable development are, and how you might measure or assess your performance on these aspects.

We came back to this question about the social aspects of sustainable development when looking at Dexter Dunphy's phases of organisational strategic engagement with sustainability.  There's a pdf of a presentation summarising this here. One of the phases in this typology is ‘efficiency’.

If your focus is on the environment, it’s clear that this is about eco-efficiency or resource-efficiency.  If your focus is the economic aspects of sustainability, then financial and labour efficiency (productivity) are easy concepts to grasp.  But what does this mean when you are thinking about the social aspects?

With wonderful serendipity, I had just been reading Jonathon Porritt’s valedictory report, published yesterday.  Jonathon recently stepped down as Chair of the UK Government’s Sustainable Development Commission, and in this report he examines what he calls the mystery of why sustainable development hasn’t been better embedded in the various strands of government in the UK.  He blogs about it here and there's also a link to download the report.

As it happens, he provides a very useful summary of what social sustainability is and what efficiency means in that context.  He does it so well, that I’ll quote at some length here.

The two overarching ends [of sustainable development, as articulated in the UK Government’s 2005 strategy] (“Living Within Environmental Limits”, and “Achieving a Strong, Healthy and Just Society”) require very different approaches. The test of “living within environmental limits” is a strictly empirical test: define the limit (as in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, for instance, or threshold limits for pollutants in the air or water), measure levels of compliance against these agreed limits, and then adapt policies accordingly.  By contrast, “achieving a strong, healthy and just society” is a predominantly normative aspiration rather than an empirical test, with very different metrics and very different value judgements as to the weight that should be attached to different aspects of “strong, healthy and just”.

At the heart of the concept of sustainable development lies the concept of “dual equities”: inter-generational equity (living today in such a way that we aren’t ruining prospects for people tomorrow), and intra-generational equity (living today in such a way that we reduce – or even eliminate – current unsupportable inequalities in wealth, opportunity and broader entitlements).

In that respect, sustainable economic development means “fair shares for all”, ensuring that people’s basic needs are properly met across the world, while securing constant improvements in the quality of people’s lives through efficient, inclusive economies. “Efficient” in that context simply means generating as much economic value as possible from the lowest possible throughput of raw materials and energy.

…Once basic needs are met, the goal is to achieve the highest quality of life for individuals and communities, within the Earth’s carrying capacity, through transparent, properly regulated markets which promote both social equity and personal prosperity.”

This idea of efficiency in the use of the Earth’s carrying capacity to give as much social well-being as possible must mean, in some situations, redistributing carrying capacity from those who have an unfairly large share of it, in order that those whose needs are not being met can better meet their own needs.  This is the case because it is not possible to ‘increase the size of the pie’ – we only have one planet.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) produces the Happy Planet Index which uses official statistics to reveal, as they put it,  “the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered” in 143 countries covering 99% of the world’s population.  (I know you want to know – the UK score is 43.3, the USA is 30.7, and Costa Rica is 76.1.)

I wonder how this approach could be used to measure performance in organisations?

Who can help me make this change?

The latest issue of the environmentalist includes an article I've written, entitled "who can help me make this change?".  In it, I share an approach I've used successfully in training courses and (as my daughter would say) in true life: it helps people to systematically identify key internal and external players who can help them bring about the change they want to see. If a particular person or group are crucial to making the change happen, then you want them to be supportive of it.  Ask them what they'd like to see happening, and how you can help them.  Find common ground and enlist their support.

If someone is already very supportive, but not really needed, then see what they can do to influence or recruit those who are needed.  Or enlist them to support you.

Remember, the art of engaging people to help create transformational change involves listening and letting go.

Horror stories and denial - which makes me cringe more?

So I'm just topping up on today's environmental news feed (my feed of choice is The Guardian, a nice little app that even a web dilettante like me can add to their Google home page) and two stories stand out and demand a closer look. The first states, "Met Office warns of catastrophic global warming in our lifetimes".   The second say, "CO2 is green", which is less self-explanatory.  In fact, it's an astonishing TV ad running in the US aimed at scuppering a cap-and-trade bill - thanks to Leo Hickman for picking this up in his blog.

What I notice is that while reading them, I get that creeping feeling up the back of my neck and round to my jaw, and the sinking in my shoulders.  I'm physically cringing.  Not very much.  But it's there.

And which had the biggest cringe effect?  I can't be certain, but I'd say that CO2 denialists make me more unhappy than the Met Office's truly dire research.

So I wonder: what can I learn from this?

That I'm more comfortable with things which reinforce my existing world view, however awful?  Perhaps.

That we need to pull together now and use all our considerable intelligence and organising power to avert the worst and prepare a soft landing, and that I'd rather the US pro-CO2 lobby would 'get with the programme'.

I'm happier owning up to that as a reason!

The other thing I notice is that these cringe-related feelings are not empowering and motivating.  What I plan to do now is

  • forget I read either story,
  • remind myself of some of my reasons to be cheerful,
  • review my to-do list, and
  • plunge into productive work.

Does that make me a denialist too?

IEMA Conference 2009 - how it went

Well as promised, here are my thoughts having attended the morning of the IEMA Conference 09.

Speeches

- I'd gladly hear Jonathan Porritt again.  He talked about the need to get off the hedonic treadmill, and the challenge of getting marketeers to sell austerity.  His slides are here.  I'm intrigued that he found Dr Steven Chu's speech to the Nobel Laureate's symposium inspiring - because JP says the speech was about energy efficiency.  And in the words of Theodore Roszack,

...prudence is such a lacklustre virtue.

I couldn't find a way to read, hear or watch Secretary Chu's speech (please let me know if you know of one) but the symposium site is here.  The other insight which caused me to stop short is that, apparently, family planning is the single best intervention in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, from a cost benefit point of view.

I didn't really understand what Lord Jenkin was trying to tell us.  Insufficiently relevant, at least to this member of the audience.  Sorry.

Peter Jones is always interesting, although his acrobatic mind can leave me behind sometimes.

Skills for Change

The workshop I ran was an hour's worth on skills for change.  I chose to focus on inter-personal influencing, through mirroring body language, asking facilitative questions, and sharing the six sources of influence that I learnt about through the 'all washed up' video which I've blogged about here.

The handouts from the session are here.

It was a lot of fun - it's amazing how quickly you can find three things that you have in common with a total stranger - and I hope stretched some people to think beyond 'awareness raising' as a way of influencing others.

I hope that it also helped people to be braver about networking later in the day, because making connections and building trust within a group such as this one, composed of IEMA members and fellow-travellers, will - in the long run - have far more impact than speechifying.

IEMA Conference 2009

I was delighted to be asked to run a skills-based session for IEMA's 2009 conference (London, September 22nd), because it's a chance to help environmental specialists get better at the soft stuff.  I'm going to be sharing three different skills which change agents really need if they want to influence other people, and I'll blog about how it went when it's done. The skills are - developing rapport, asking facilitative questions, and understanding six key sources of influence.

-------------------------------

Later addition:

The handouts from this session are available here, and the 'how it went' entry is here.