Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

Up on the ridge

January 23rd, 2011 No comments

valleys and ridges

valleys and ridges

Up on the ridge

I came across a great article by Daniel Yankelovich the other day on ‘The magic of dialogue’ (hat tip to Lynn Murphy for the original link).

In the article Daniel refers to Martin Buber’s idea that life is a form of meeting, and that dialogue is the ‘ridge’ on which we meet. I like that image, because a ridge is narrow, and we need to take care not to fall off. It takes some effort to stay up there – it is easier to slip back down into our own territory, than it is to stay at the point where we are in a real connection with someone else.

Dialogue, debate and conversation

Daniel explains why he prefers to refer to ‘dialogue’ rather than debate; he feels that dialogue is about seeking mutual understanding, whereas debate is about winning an argument, or vanquishing an opponent. I share his interest in mutual understanding rather than winning, but I prefer to refer to ‘conversation’ rather than dialogue: conversation for me is a less formal, more everyday term than dialogue.

Tips for improving conversations

Daniel gives some great advice in his article for improving the quality of the conversations or dialogue that he is promoting. His tips include:

  • bringing assumptions out into the open (and sharing your own assumptions before pointing out the assumptions of other people);
  • offering a gesture of empathy (what Daniel calls an ‘open sesame’ for dialogue). Empathy usually involved “acknowledging the validity of the other person’s point of view”); and
  • “expressing the emotions that accompany strongly held values”. Conversation about any topic that really matters to people is bound to touch on deeply held beliefs and very personal convictions. “If the status quo is to be subject to question, strong feelings are bound to surface.”

The whole article is well worth a read, and I’m inspired to take a look at his book of the same name (Amazon affiliate link).

* The photograph at the top is from, reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.

Sharing lessons learned between projects

May 24th, 2010 No comments

Agenda for post-project reviewI frequently run ‘post-project reviews’ or ‘after-action reviews’. These events bring together teams who have recently completed a project, so that they can learn lessons for the future. The lessons could be ones that the participants will personally take forward with them into their future work, and can also be lessons that colleagues elsewhere in their organisation or partnership need to learn.

I have developed my own approach to running these events, drawing a lot on the ideas of Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell in their excellent book Learning to Fly, and also influenced by Nick Milton. I am quite pleased with the process I have developed, and at the same time I am dissatisfied with how effective it is overall – I think it is effective in helping individuals to learn their own lessons, but not very effective in sharing lessons across projects.

Reading a recent blog post by Nancy Dixon helped me to see where and why my current approach is falling short.

Nancy identifies three stages in the process of learning lessons across projects:

1. Sensemaking: The members of the project team jointly make sense of what they have learned.
2. Formatting: Designers assemble, translate, aggregate, and mine projects lessons in such a way that they are useful to different groups in the organization
3. Moving: KM professionals create both pull and push mechanism so that lessons are accessible to those who need them.

My post-project reviews focus on the first stage, and I feel that they have become effective in helping team members to identify the real issues, discuss openly what went well and not so well and why. But they could be more effective in stages 2 and 3.

The typical output from a post-project review that I run is a set of PowerPoint slides, which include photos I have taken of all the outputs from the review – these are usually a picture of the project timeline, with comments hand-written by the team; boards with hand-written cards showing what the team thought went well and not so well; and more detailed boards probing the key things that went well/not so well, identifying why and pulling out lessons learned. By including photos of the materials produced by the participants, rather than typing up their outputs, I reduce the amount of interpreting or processing of their thoughts – the idea is that the participants will recognise the outputs as their own.

What happens to these sets of PowerPoint slides? They may be read by the participants after the review (or just filed). They may also be discussed by the management team of the organisation that commissioned me to carry out the review (or more likely, the team may look at a formal paper based on the slides I produced). But there may be no other ‘formatting’ (stage 2 in Nancy’s process), and possibly no ‘moving’ at all (stage 3). The likelihood is that most of the learning will stay in the heads of the people who took part in the review.

While it is true that

If knowledge transfer went no farther than sensemaking, a considerable amount of transfer across the organization would have been achieved.

I still have a sense of missed opportunities – that more could be achieved.

What are the implications for me as a facilitator?

I do not think that I want to take on responsibility for stages 2 and 3. My skills as a facilitator are in helping the project team have the conversation during which they identify the learning. I have produced learning materials in the past, but instructional design is not my main area of expertise (nor is it where I want to spend my time). And I do not work within organisations as a KM professional to create systems to push and pull knowledge around.

I do think I have a responsibility when contracting with a client to raise these issues and ask how they think the lessons can and should be taken forward and shared – how do they see it happening? And I could share what I have learned from Nancy’s blog post.

There may also be some learning for me about the lessons learned process. When the team has identified a lesson, I could ask them to identify specifically who that lesson may be useful for – it could be a named individual or individuals, it could be people in a particular role (eg project managers). This would at least help to target the lesson more effectively.

And I could also ask the team to review all the lessons they have identified in a particular post-project review, and identify the top 2 or 3 they think have most value for other people.

What else could I do while still remaining in what Nancy refers to as the ‘sensemaking’ stage of transferring lessons learned?

* The image at the top of the post is from a post-project review that I ran in 2009


February 26th, 2010 Comments off

Who I work with – about my clients

I help leaders achieve positive lasting change in behaviour: for themselves, their teams and their organisation.

I typically work with Chief Executives, Chief Operating Officers, Executive Directors for People and other Executive Directors in all kinds of organisations. My clients are responsible for implementing significant change in their organisation – change that will address a problem that really matters to them – and want external help in making that change.

My clients have achieved success in their careers, which has brought them to senior leadership positions. But the skills and experience that brought them to the top are not enough to help them make the change they need. They may be feeling ‘stuck’. They know that they need to try something they haven’t done before, and they are ready to do that now.

I am a sought-after consultant, and I work with only 3 or 4 consulting clients a year.

Are any of these statements true for you?

Your organisation’s strategy isn’t working. You may have an organisational strategy, but no one ever looks at it and it makes no difference to anyone’s day job. Or the world has changed and your strategy needs to be renewed. Or you are not satisfied with how you have developed your strategy in the past, and you want something more engaging and more effective, that produces a strategy that changes your business for the better.

Your leadership team doesn’t work together. When your team meets, it gets side-tracked and wastes time. Key decisions get postponed. Decisions get ‘unpicked’ or fail to be actioned, and you waste a lot of your time ‘chasing up’ actions. Team members act as independent ‘barons’ in their own areas, and don’t work together as a team.

Your leaders don’t lead change effectively. Successful change depends on influencing and changing people’s behaviour, but your leaders use methods that don’t work. People resist change, wait for the change initiative to blow over, or just keep their heads down. You lose the people you most want to keep, and the promised benefits of change are never fully realised.

You have a problem in an area of the business that just won’t go away. You might have a persistent problem in a particular part of the business, like your customer service team. Or your annual staff survey tells you every year that ‘communication’ is a problem, despite trying one initiative after another. You are not ready to give up, but don’t know what else to try.

Being at the top can feel lonely. All those around you have a vested interest in influencing your decisions: they want a particular outcome. You may report to a board chair or a political leader, but there are some problems that you want to work through first by yourself, before taking them ‘up the line’. You know that talking things through is helpful, but you don’t make enough time to actually do it, and aren’t sure who you can trust.

People don’t tell you bad news until it’s too late. No matter how open you are, those who report to you can be reluctant to give you bad news. You find out about some problems when it’s too late: you could have fixed them with less effort if you had found out earlier. And you suspect that your leadership role means that people don’t always give you the feedback that you need, especially where you might be contributing to a problem. They don’t tell you what you need to do differently, so how can you change?

Who is most likely to succeed with the approach I take to organisational change?

You are more likely to get success in working with me if you:

  • Are committed to personal development. You know that what got you here won’t get you there. You want to continue to grow, learn and apply your learning.
  • Are willing to get help. You expect others to ask for and accept help when they need it, and you expect the same of yourself.
  • Are willing to invest in yourself and in your organisation. You will commit the time, effort and resources into improving your organisation. This includes committing your own time: you are willing to working with me as a trusted advisor, making time to meet regularly.
  • Are open to trying something different. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get the results you’ve always got! You are willing to try something new, even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable at first.
  • Are willing to share your thinking and reflect on your actions. You are willing to examine your own contribution to problems, and take action on them.
  • Are committed to mutually supportive relationships. You know that your success has come in part from the long-term, supportive relationships that you have developed.

If you fit the profile above you are in a good position to approach a critical change. I help leaders like you through exactly that kind of change.  Find out more about how I work.


October 9th, 2009 Comments off

Stuart Reid

Hello. I’m glad you found me.

My name is Stuart Reid. I help leaders achieve positive lasting change in behaviour: for themselves, their teams and their organisations.  I believe that change happens one conversation at a time.

The focus of all my work is the people side of change: I work with human beings when they are being human at work. I spend a lot of my time helping managers and leaders have the key conversations they really need to have – with themselves, with their colleagues and with the people who work for them.

I help people to notice and pay attention to what is really going on in the here and now, because that is when change happens.

I am based in the Midlands in England, and work throughout the UK, continental Europe and beyond (I have run workshops in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and South Korea).

In practice my work involves:

  • developing leadership teams;
  • supporting change and transformation initiatives;
  • facilitating large group events; and
  • coaching individual leaders and managers

Developing leadership teams

I work with leadership teams at board level and elsewhere in organisations. I help those teams to clarify their purpose, reflect on how effectively they work and communicate together and make decisions, and review the impact they have on the wider organisation.

Supporting change and transformation initiatives

I help leaders and managers to try out light-touch ways of building greater capacity for change in their organisations. This includes disturbing established habits and patterns of behaviour, introducing novelty, granting permission to experiment and innovate and creating new connections inside and outside an organisation. For me, change is a natural, creative and on-going process in organisations: it happens all the time. It can’t be stopped and can’t really be ‘managed’ or controlled.  I help leaders to keep their nerve when they’re not in control.

Facilitating large group events

I have a particular skill in designing and facilitating large group events. These events can include strategy development awaydays, team-building, post-project reviews and project launch events. I use a range of methods, including Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry, knowledge cafes and more.

Coaching individual leaders and their teams

I provide coaching support to individual leaders one-to-one and their teams as a group, sometimes in combination with developing leadership teams and supporting strategic change. I help leaders to face head-on the issues they find themselves avoiding, and help them to slow down, notice more, and support them in making adjustments to the way they work with other people. People I coach feel well listened to, find me very curious about their perspective and their situation, and get a lot of support from me in trying out new ways of working and behaving.

Recent work

  • Facilitating awaydays for the Permanent Secretary and top team of a central Government department to build the team and help them to develop new ways of working.
  • Designing and facilitating an awayday for a senior leadership team to launch a review of their three-year strategy.
  • Running workshops with staff at all levels – managers, consultants, nurses and porters –  in three London hospitals to embed new values and new ways of working.
  • Working with the management board of a local charity to create a new three-year strategy.

A bit more about me

I have an MSc in Organisational Change at Ashridge Business School. This brought new ideas and approaches into my work, including Gestalt psychology, complexity theory and relational working.

Before running my own consultancy, I worked for twelve years at the Audit Commission, initially in policy and research roles before moving into senior management. In my time there I was personally involved in the merger and de-merger of departments, the launch of new products and services, and coping both with fast growth and with rapid budget cuts. I worked closely with the Chief Executive and Managing Directors on change projects and strategy development. My final three years at the Commission were spent as an internal consultant.

Before working at the Audit Commission I worked in a range of policy and research roles, mainly in the public sector. Prior to that I did some post-graduate study in political philosophy at the University of Arizona, and spent some time as a trainee auditor. My first degree was in Philosophy, Politics & Economics at Oxford University (2:1).

I play bridge, read voraciously, and go geocaching with my children aged 14 and 11. I am learning how to perform magic with playing cards. I avoid gardening.