Interactive And Collaborative Communication Techniques Eriaan Oelofse April 2009


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April 6-9, 2009. Creating shared meaning, commitment, and sustained effort in organisational change initiatives through interactive and collaborative communication techniques. Paper published at Prosci Global Conference, Orlando, Florida, USA.

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Interactive And Collaborative Communication Techniques Eriaan Oelofse April 2009

  1. 1. committed to the proposed initiative in support of CREATING SHARED MEANING, the objectives of the organization. COMMITMENT, AND SUSTAINED EFFORT IN Holman, Devane, and Cady (2007) claimed that effective organizational change initiatives are ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE possible through high involvement of employees INITIATIVES THROUGH and a systemic approach to improvement. High involvement is achieved by engaging as many INTERACTIVE AND as possible employees in changing and COLLABORATIVE designing their own system, while a systemic COMMUNICATION approach implies that all people, functions, and ideas that have an affect on, or can be affected TECHNIQUES by the change, are included in the process. One of the methods through which this can be by Eriaan Oelofse, Ph.D., ChangeWright Consulting accomplished, is the World Café conversational process. Café conversations are flexible and can Published as part of the conference proceedings easily be adapted to different organizational of the Prosci Global Conference on Change settings and circumstances. (Brown & Isaacs, Management held in the US in April 2009. 1996, 2001). Introduction The purpose of this paper is twofold: • to present a description of a World Café intervention that was conducted at a It is generally accepted that personal change South African Information and precedes organizational change. Stated Communications Technology (ICT) differently, it is not organizations that change, company as part of an approach but the people (Gravells, 2006; Holden, 2007). designed to create continued effort and improve employee buy-in and All too often, organizational change is initiated commitment in a service improvement by executive and/or senior leadership, with the programme and help of external consultants. This small group of • to examine the impact of the people spends a significant amount of time intervention on the effectiveness of the discussing, debating, arguing, and analyzing the service improvement programme. reasons for having to change – providing them with the opportunity to move through three of the This will be done by considering actual four phases on the change curve a person operational statistics regarding the site’s service typically encounters when confronted with stability, as well as an analysis of in-depth change. These phases (denial, resistance, individual interviews that were conducted with exploration, and commitment) are based on a six participants two months after the derivative of Kübler-Ross’s (1989) five stages of intervention. grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), as applied in an organizational The World Café change context. When this select group of leaders decide to The World Café provides opportunities for announce the planned initiative to the rest of the creating meaningful conversations or dialogue organization, the majority of employees are around questions that matter. Although it thrown into stage one (denial) of the change appears to be a relatively simplistic practice, it is curve, while the leadership group is effectively in built on the principles of dynamic networks and stage three (exploration). This apparent gap living systems and provides a unique opportunity between the leadership group and the rest of the to access a system’s creativity and shared organization can create a great deal of knowledge that might not be available through frustration, on the one hand because the leaders more traditional approaches. appear unsympathetic to the effects of the initiative they are supposedly “pushing” through, As such, the World Café provides a safe space and on the other hand that the employees where participants can contribute in the process appear unwilling, non-supportive and non- Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 1
  2. 2. of knowledge sharing through dialogue, engage free to contribute their thoughts and feelings. with each other in a living system of personal The ideal World Café set-up consists of an relationships, and act decisively in pursuit of informal atmosphere, background music, round common aims (Brown, 2007). tables with table cloths and refreshments on each of the tables, flipchart paper, and a cup of colored markers. How does it work? Explore questions that matter World Café conversations have been used successfully with groups as small as 12 people Since the World Café conversational process is and as large as 1200 people from around the aimed at exploring new possibilities for inquiry world (Brown & Isaacs, 2001). During these and action, well-phrased and focused questions events, participants are encouraged to define intention, focus energy, and direct contribute in small groups by speaking and attention. Appreciative questions that evoke a listening, without being concerned about solving sense of future possibility also create more the issue or saying the right thing. The purpose energy and engagement than questions is to share ideas, while learning from others in focusing on what is wrong in the present. the process of discovering innovative ideas and generating new possibilities. It is not about Connect diverse people and perspectives reaching conclusions. A defining feature of the World Café During a World Café conversation, up to eight conversational process is the intentional cross- people sit around a table or in a conversation pollination of ideas as participants move from cluster to explore questions or issues related to table to table in several rounds of dialogue. As their work. Other participants at nearby tables or participants move from one table to the next, conversation clusters explore similar questions patterns appear and additional perspectives and at the same time. Participants are requested to insights surface in combinations not previously write down key ideas and insights of the imagined. dialogue. After a first round of conversation (20 to 30 minutes), participants are invited to change Harvest and share collective discoveries tables, carrying ideas and insights form the first conversation into a newly formed small group. A After completion of all the conversation rounds, table host stays at each table to share the key the entire group engages in a conversation to ideas and insights that surfaced from the share collective insights and provide the group previous dialogue with new arrivals. This with an opportunity to notice the underlying process is usually repeated for three rounds and themes and discoveries that have presented is followed by a feedback session to which all themselves during the process – often leading to participants contribute. outcomes that no one could have foreseen when the conversation commenced. This process doesn't have to be taught, but it can be guided by using the following principles How did the service as discussed in Brown and Isaacs (2001), Brown, Homer and Isaacs (2007), and Schieffer, improvement Isaacs, and Gyllenpalm (2004a, 2004b): programme come Clarify the context about? This involves determining the purpose of the Café and deciding on the outcomes to be achieved. When the purpose and outcomes A newly formed regional office of a South have been defined, it will focus the way African ICT company embarked on a journey to questions are framed and ideas are explored. implement a strategy that is focused on improving service delivery and support, as well Create a friendly and warm environment as client and employee satisfaction. In support A friendly and warm or hospitable space of the strategic objectives, the senior provides a context where all participants feel management team launched an initiative to Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 2
  3. 3. improve clients’ trust and confidence in the How do you feel about the service • service delivery and support of the company. improvement programme? Employees were challenged to an 80 day What will happen if we don't have • incident free service delivery and support period, something like the service improvement with rewards in the form of celebrations for every programme on site? twenty incident free days as motivation. An How can we improve the service • incident was defined as anything causing a improvement programme to achieve break in service delivery and support which exceptional results? could have been prevented from occurring by any of the departments. The occurrence of an The first question provided participants with the incident resulted in a “reset” of the current opportunity to voice positive or negative number of incident free days to zero. emotions regarding the programme. Since many employees were of the opinion that the The improvement programme was launched by programme was not adding value, the second means of a presentation during a question attended to the matter of legitimacy communication “road show”, with a noticeable and focused discussions on the beneficial improvement in service stability after the first few outcomes the programme has had on the site months. However, the longest period of service since its inception. The third question addressed stability was 24 days, after which a series of the issue of ownership and presented resets during the next few months prevented the participants with the opportunity to make company from reaching or improving on this suggestions on how the programme could be record. Employees became discouraged due to improved. all the resets (10 resets in less than three months), and as a result, the programme started Moving from conversation to action losing significance in the eyes of many employees. Furthermore, it appeared that At the conclusion of the process, the manager employees did not support or understand the asked for five volunteers (not part of the guidelines of what constituted an incident; and management team) to form a design team that that they lacked information on how to prevent would consider all the suggestions that were previous incidents from occurring again. It made at the event to improve the programme, seemed that the employees did not understand prioritize the key ideas, and suggest next steps. that it was in their own best interest to do things The design team submitted a proposal on how differently and improve service stability on the to enhance the service improvement programme site – they interpreted it as just another to the management team one week after the management intervention. World Café intervention. Due to the strategic importance of this initiative To address the suggestions made by all the to improve service stability, the management World Café participants, the design team team found themselves in the unfortunate proposed the following enhancements: position of having to continue with the • Departments to be measured separately programme without the necessary support from in addition to the overall site the employees. measurement. • A change in the investigation, analysis, The World Café intervention and communication of reset incidents to optimize learning and prevent similar To address the issues discussed above, the incidents from occurring again. management team agreed to use the World • A change in the mechanics of the Café conversational process to create shared resetting process – incidents should be meaning and buy-in. Ninety employees (out of a categorized in levels of seriousness possible 120) attended the intervention and based on the actual impact on spent only two hours exploring the following customers. (Some “incidents” had no three questions which were asked to touch on actual impact on customers.) If an aspects related to the legitimacy of the incident occurs, i.e. a procedure was not programme, motivation, and ownership: followed or a preventable error has occurred, the count of the department responsible for the incident will be reset Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 3
  4. 4. to zero, while the overall site count will programme and the World Café conversational be reduced by the number of days process. This approach is also ideal for gleaning linked to the level of seriousness of the rich and insightful information and eliminates, as specific incident. However, any incident far as possible, socially desirable responses. impacting on the customer still resulted in an overall site reset to zero. Respondents Due to the collaborative process and the All respondents participated in the World Café involvement of so many employees during the intervention and were selected randomly. One of design of the enhanced initiative, it was possible the respondents was in the operational site for the management team to accept the proposal management team, another respondent was a and implement the changes within three weeks team leader and four were team members. after the World Café intervention. Method of data gathering Based on the trend of resets depicted in Figure 1, it is evident that there was a noticeable Data collection was done by means of in-depth improvement in the number of incident free days individual interviews lasting between 25–30 (service stability) after the World Café minutes. A semi-structured discussion guide intervention. The first reset after the was developed for the interviews to allow for implementation of the enhanced improvement more flexibility and responsiveness to emerging programme occurred on day 25. In accordance themes, whilst at the same time allowing with the newly created resetting process, the sufficient structure to make a comparable count was moved back by three days. The analysis possible. The interviews were second reset occurred on day 44 when the conducted until data-saturation was reached (i.e. count moved back by four days. The last reset repetitive patterns of themes emerged). Data occurred on day 68 and the count moved back saturation was reached after six interviews. by four days. The site reached the goal of 80 incident free days 16 days later. Treatment of the data Audio-recordings of the interviews were transcribed verbatim for content analysis. Figure 1 – Trend of resets of the service According to Jackson II, Drummond, and improvement programme Camara (2007), content analysis refers to a variety of ways for conducting systematic and World Café objective textual analysis that involves event 100 comparing, contrasting, and categorizing data. 90 81 Statements that shared the same underlying 80 meaning or idea were grouped together for each 68 70 Number of days of the questions. Verbatim statements from the 60 50 respondents were used (where appropriate) to 44 40 illustrate and explicate the main themes. 30 25 24 18 20 16 16 15 12 Results 10 9 9 7 10 5 3 3 2 2 1 0 0 Reset 10 Reset 11 Reset 12 Reset 13 Reset 14 Reset 15 Reset 16 Reset 17 Reset 18 Reset 19 Reset 20 Reset 1 Reset 2 Reset 3 Reset 4 Reset 5 Reset 6 Reset 7 Reset 8 Reset 9 Current Employee perceptions about the Research Design performance improvement programme before the World Café Research approach intervention Due to the dynamic nature of the World Café The issue of employees not taking ownership of conversational process, a qualitative approach the programme was a major theme and was considered most suitable to obtain in-depth spontaneously mentioned by most respondents. data regarding participant’s thoughts and Many respondents explained that the lack of feelings about the service improvement ownership could be ascribed to the fact that Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 4
  5. 5. employees did not understand why the various aspects of the improvement programme programme was initiated, or why it was created opportunities for alignment and resulted important to support this initiative. in participants taking ownership of the programme. “People from head office came and told us about the programme and how it is “This was the first time it was really going to work, but they didn't really give communicated well. People could see enough information... Then the process and understand what it was about – was kicked-off and the information was and just this communication already never really given to people on grass made a big difference. One of the root level” (Respondent 4). questions we discussed in the small groups was what the impact would be if Furthermore, a number of respondents we don't have something like this emphasized that senior management did not programme, many people understood involve employees in the planning of the for the first time that this programme is programme. This resulted in employees good and that we need stability on the becoming despondent and de-motivated. Due to site” (Respondent 6). the stringent success criteria and the increasing pressure brought about by the numerous Finally, it appears that the World Café “resets”, many employees felt very negative intervention not only created feelings of about the programme. This also resulted in a empowerment, but also of hope: situation where employees did not want to be innovative or do anything creative due to the “...most of all, what was said there gave fear of failure. people hope... most people came out of there feeling hopeful... they felt positive and felt that they now have control over Experiences of the World Café the situation and that their viewpoints intervention were considered” (Respondent 4). All six the respondents emphasized that they Perceived impact of the World Café benefitted from participating in the event: intervention on the success of the “It was excellent in my opinion... it was service improvement programme fantastic. We couldn't have asked for anything better... this thing really When asked about the impact of the World Café pumped life back into the initiative... We intervention on the success of the adjusted couldn't have had anything better in my service improvement programme, all the opinion” (Respondent 3). respondents concurred that the intervention had a tremendous positive impact: The respondents agreed that the event provided a perfect opportunity for interaction with other “I am very sure that if we didn't have employees. In addition, the increased interaction this intervention, we would still have facilitated by the World Café conversational struggled on like before... there were process resulted in feelings of ‘inter- lots of new ideas that we worked with connectedness’. Due to the friendly and warm after the session and created a new environment created by the intervention, all process. This intervention definitely respondents were of the opinion that it provided created the turning point in our an opportunity where employees could programme and created lots of energy contribute without fear of victimization and add and creativity in teams. It also suggestions on how to improve the current stimulated interaction between the programme. people and the various teams” (Respondent 5). Participants in the intervention also felt that their suggestions were taken seriously and that something was going to be done about it. Respondents also mentioned that the meaningful conversations or dialogue regarding Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 5
  6. 6. initiatives in order to move faster and more Discussion effectively once the initiative has been implemented. And often it does not necessarily require long, intricate and big budget interventions – in this case, a relatively The analyses of the qualitative interview data, as simplistic, but well-planned, two hour well as the actual success of the modified intervention had a major positive impact on the service improvement program as depicted in success of a service improvement programme. Figure 1, reiterated the fact that those who envision the future are the ones who end up References making it happen – in other words, people tend to support and defend that which they help to create (Cady, 2007). Brown, J., Homer, K., & Isaacs, D. (2007). The World Café. In P. Holman, T. Devane, & S. Cady The design of the World Café intervention (Eds.). (2007). The change handbook (pp. 179- encouraged interaction between participants 194) (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler which not only resulted in feelings of inter- Publishers. connectedness, but also generated a lot of energy that stimulated the creation of new and Brown, J. & Isaacs, D. (1996). Conversation as innovative ideas. As the intervention unfolded, a core business process. The Systems Thinker, participants could sense that their contributions 7, 1-5. Retrieved 7 October 2007 from the World were not only heard, but also taken seriously. Wide Web: This encouraged most participants to provide suggestions on how to improve service delivery, f. which contributed a wealth of new and innovative solutions. Additionally, the meaningful Brown, J. & Isaacs, D. (2001). The World Café: conversations or dialogue regarding various Living knowledge through conversations that aspects of the improvement programme created matter. The Systems Thinker, 12, 1-5. Retrieved opportunities for alignment and resulted in 7 October 2007 from the World Wide Web: participants understanding the strategic need for implementing and supporting a service ory.pdf. improvement initiative at the operational site. Cady, S.H. (2007, July 26 – July 27). Change While the measurement rules of the service Mastery: Engaging whole systems in improvement programme were changed as a organizations and communities. Presented at an direct result of the World Café intervention, one international training event, hosted by should keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of Changeability, Johannesburg, South Africa. the programme, i.e. improving service stability and therefore customer satisfaction, was Gravells, J. (2006, June). The myth of change achieved with great success. management: A reflection on personal change and its lessons for leadership development. Although the rhetoric of employee involvement Human Resource Development International, 9, in the planning and execution of initiatives 283-289. Retrieved 29 October 2007 from resonates through the corridors of many South Academic Search Premier database. African organizations, the experience is that leaders often impose top-down initiatives, Holden, D. (2007, May). The missing ingredient without involving employees in the process. The in organizational change. Industrial results of the individual interviews highlighted Management, 49, 8-13. Retrieved 29 October the fact that leaders should not underestimate 2007 from Academic Search Premier database. the significance of involving more employees through conversational processes like the World Holman, P., Devane, T., & Cady, S. (Eds.). Café when developing new initiatives. (2007). The change handbook (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. The outcomes of this paper provide evidence for the argument that it makes sense for Jackson II, R.L., Drummond, D.K., & Camara, S. organizations to move slower by involving (2007). What Is Qualitative Research? employees when they are developing new Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 6
  7. 7. Qualitative Research Reports in Communication, 8, 21-28. Retrieved 7 November 2007 from Academic Search Premier database. Kübler -Ross, E. (1989). On Death and Dying. London: Tavistock/Routledge. (Original work published 1969). Schieffer, A., Isaacs, D., & Gyllenpalm, B. (2004, July 14 a). The World Café: Part One. Transformation, 18, 1-7. Retrieved 6 November 2007 from the World Wide Web: WorldCafe.pdf. Schieffer, A., Isaacs, D., & Gyllenpalm, B. (2004b, July 21 b). The World Café: Part Two. Transformation, 18, 1-9. Retrieved 6 November 2007 from the World Wide Web: WorldCafe.pdf. Copyright © 2008 ChangeWright Consulting (Pty) Ltd 7