Getting ready for tomorrow, today

We’ve had some exciting successes as organizational trainers, remarkable considering we’re never sure what that phrase means, exactly. Some use the term to refer to specific kinds of instruction, whether about compliance, employee retention, sales strategies, etc.  Others are looking for new insights in their focus area that will help make them more competitive.

As we are known for our work as change agents, the requests we’ve received have often been about a) neither and b) a little bit of both.  We focus more on questions that will catalyze different conversations than on answers.  As we don’t have (or believe in) formulas for success, it is hardly a choice.  Happily, it works out, and the secret to our success is that most people don’t need a consultant to tell them what to do.

This became clear to us a few years ago when we were being considered for an assignment across Europe with a global health care company.  When we were asked to describe our methods and materials, we freely admitted we didn’t have either. We were given a try out anyway, selected by the 7 country CEO’s (over the slightly better-known McKinsey and BCG) and went on to conduct a series of day long conversations in Scandinavia and Europe.   Each was different and all productive, and the sky-high ratings proved the value of engaging smart, motivated individuals in the search for new ideas and strategies.

While we have had success with many kinds of workshops and offsite meetings—some with board members or leadership groups and others with entire organizations—this was a different kind of validation.  All seven encounters in different countries across an organization that is a heavy user of consultants were apparently strikingly high. And all for simply asking questions about the future, their mission, and the opportunities to change the world.

For us, this is simply a matter of letting others into the room: as an agency that helps re-position and represent organizations trying to change the world, looking at the larger frame and then considering opportunities and challenges is where we start. After all, not everyone needs a new name or new communications strategies.  Most of us, however, can gain a lot by thinking expansively about the future, the role we can play and what it will take to get us there.    Change, which is threatening and unwelcome to so many—a source of stress and instability—can be a wonderful stimulus when an organization embraces the challenge.

We know this, because we work with leaders struggling to respond to new realities and people at every level of organizations who feel they are already doing everything they can to manage.  But everyone would rather be excited than exhausted, eager to come to work instead of demoralized.  We have no a formula for turning negativity around: as change agents we don’t  need one, because we find that given the chance, people will seize on the opportunity to innovate, to apply their expertise and insights to help transform their agencies for a changing world.  It’s all about how you invite them to collaborate, and set them up to succeed.



by Danny Abelson