Picture this: There are 30 people in the room. Leaders have put aside 90 minutes to engage in a conversation about working together more effectively, post business transformation. The focus is on getting things done in collaboration with:

Other members of the team
A second team
The larger organization

And, people are already busy, busy, busy; we mustn’t waist their time!  So let’s pile on as much information as possible in those 90 minutes, have a 40 slide PowerPoint at the ready, and change speakers every 15 minutes. Let’s also hope there are no questions to slow things down.  

So, the attendee’s role is to: A) ingest all this wonderful data, and B) start making the relevant changes happen when he or she leaves the meeting room. Yes. Right away. Yet, the data is often dense and unfamiliar at best. And even if it’s digested, what do you do with it? Information overload, and change overload. That’s what I call a managerial Double Whammy.

Sound familiar? Let’s continue.

On the other hand, organizers think people get bored if they take time to explain. They’re also afraid that their audience will start complaining if given the opportunity to talk. They unfortunately, assume that attendees can figure out how these new rules and roles apply to them, without support. And finally, they believe their work is done when the information has been downloaded. Sigh of relief!

Of course this scenario, although repeated many times over, is wrong on all counts.  It seems self-evident to say, but I’ll say it anyway: Change can only happen through people, and people need to connect with the new information, and with each other, to make sense of their new reality.

By flipping the script to facilitate reflection, storytelling, sharing of real life experiences, and visualizations, we engage our imagination and emotions, try the change on for size, and pave the way forward.

Dear Leader, the next time you’re asked to organize a 90 minute information marathon, please focus on the human ingredient first. Bring in 30 people for 90 minutes of:

  • Dialoguing and story sharing with real voices,
  • Encouraging questions and exploration, starting in smaller groups where there is safety,
  • Alternating between these intimate exchanges and a connection with the larger group to normalize the experience for all,
  • Looking for solutions only once people feel they have been heard.

What you will experience are curiosity and exploration instead of disbelief and opposition. You will notice how the session becomes less about the leaders and more about the followers. You will see confusion give way to clarity, and you will start to effect real change, in real time.

~ Dominique

2 thoughts on “The Human Ingredient in Change”

  1. I agree completely. In observing some workshops while overseas, I have noticed exactly what you have described. At the end of a very dense and complex presentation the presenter would say “Any questions?” Of course, there would be none. Why because the audience would have had to study the material being presented prior to the workshop. Since that didn’t happen – participants cannot respond! A huge failing for me is the lack of understanding by presenters on how to use technology/power-points. Using flip charts do not seem to exist any longer, including interactive discussions/dialogue that you describe.

    Thank you. Anne

    1. Dominique Dennery

      Agreed Anne! Organizations hold fewer and fewer meetings, so organizers feel tremendous pressure to cram the agenda, hoping that people will be more informed. The opposite happens. Our role is definitely to keep making the case for interactivity over expediency to increase adoption of any new program, policy or procedure exponentially…

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