Follow by Email

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

HSD 2.1

Luke's comment on HSD 2 is:

'So to take one example: what if there was no interaction with consultants and managers (from the Exchanges) - how much less successful would a BootCamp be?

Possibly related question: how do you know which Differences/Exchanges are most useful/relevant?”

Luke: Thanks for your comment and great questions!

My quick reaction is that every BootCamp is so different in our experience that one can't say what changes would have what result. The learning in BootCamp is so rich, that every group surprises us with it's creativity and response to their learning, and so the detail of every BootCamp result is different.

Nonetheless; we do follow the Instructor Protocols carefully because experience has shown us that this approach always leads to great results no matter what group of people participates. And we are aware of groups attempting to run their own second BootCamp without the consultants and managers. My understanding is that they found the session less satisfying and effective.

So what is missing without the Exchanges from the consultants and managers? Actually, most of the learning opportunity!

Without the Consultants, the Camp becomes an experience without expanded learning – a repetition of what one has already learned. An analogy would be learning a new language from a book or software program and talking to yourself or speaking it only with someone else would had learned the same way. Immersion in the language's country of origin just can't be beaten for the practice, gaining new vocabulary, formation of expressions and ideas, etc.

The Consultant role in BootCamp provides all the external guidance and experience to practice the Protocols, expand one's understanding of them, appreciate the nuances, gain insight, resolve any difficulties of understanding or execution. Those Exchanges are the “instruction”.

Without the Managers, the Camp lacks the drive toward a great product delivered on time. Each organization / enterprise exists to produce and provide a product or service. The Managers provide that direction and focus. The BootCamp team needs to experience and practice how to do that effectively, without drama and fog and pretence. The Exchanges with the Managers make the simulation “real” - how “Work” should work.

As to “which Differences/Exchanges are most useful/relevant?”: ALL of them! :-)

BootCamp provides a learning experience at the individual level, the team level, the Container of the Consultants and the team, the Container of the Managers and the team, the Container of the Consultants, Managers, and the the team, and often beyond that when family members are participating or involved remotely.

At any moment, in any instance, at every turn, a given Difference or Exchange can provide the subtle learning, or the life changing AHA! that makes the Camp meaningful and successful for a participant and the team as a whole.

In Human Systems Dynamics we talk about “the difference that makes a difference”. What makes BootCamp exciting for me is that any Difference or Exchange or Container can be that difference. One just needs to be open to the possibility.

Thanks again, Luke!

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Last week I was talking about the Human Systems Dynamics course I had attended.

I'm actually still “attending” in that we are in between the class room sessions – the next week comes up soon – and I am supposed to be working on my assignment. The assignment is to, uh, er... What is the assignment? I'll have to look it up!

Anyway, I am sure that it involves continuing to practice the tools we started to learn and exercise.

For example:

Last time I was talking about some of the things that we learned and the intersection of that research with what we had experienced in our Teamwork BootCamps.

That is exciting because we always experience success with every group becoming a fully functional high performing team within a week, but we can't describe why to someone who hasn't experienced it.

(How does one describe falling in love to someone who hasn't?)

The Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) learning, and the research and experience that it is based on, helps us understand what we see occurring time and again, and provides insights as to what is going on in language that is useful. The terminology provides descriptors that make the dynamics of a group transforming into a true self organizing team more clear, and more explainable.

And that was an example of a delightfully simple tool: “What?, So what?, Now what?”


  • “... things that we learned and the intersection of that research with what we had experienced in our Teamwork BootCamps.”

So what?:

  • “... That is exciting... but we couldn't describe why.”

Now what?:

  • “Human Systems Dynamics terminology provides descriptors that make the dynamics of a group transforming into a true self organizing team more clear, and more explainable.”

In this example, nothing has actually changed – the team performance statistics stand on their own – but now we have better language – a model – that helps us to talk about it.

Additionally, we are learning about the three necessary and sufficient variables to change a human system: the Container, the Differences, the Exchanges - another model to not only better understand, but to also choose effective courses of action.

In BootCamp, some of the Containers are:

  • the group of people itself (the team to be),
  • the week of immersion using the tools,
  • the simulation of a work environment,
  • the physical space the group is using, etc.

The Differences from other teamwork sessions include:

  • the simulation which immerses one in the tools,
  • the freedom from risk,
  • the requirement to be responsible and accountable,
  • the activities of building a team product,
  • the deadline to ship or deliver that product by the end of the week

The Exchanges are:

  • the sharing of one's emotional state at any time,
  • the use of the rest of the Protocols to make decisions, resolve conflict, align oneself to improving a virtue, build shared vision, or choosing to pass on any of these and any activity one doesn't wish to participate in,
  • the interaction with the simulation's consultants and the managers.

How do these observations help?

Human Systems Dynamics teaches us that these three categories are all we need to concern ourself with in our analysis. Further, when we wish to determine the “Now What?” we only have to alter the formulation of one of these at a time: change the Container, change the Differences, change the Exchanges. Clearly that still covers a lot of ground. And it provides manageable clarity from which to act.

Working from our list we can see that BootCamp is successful because it provides that simulation Container, and the Difference of individual safety, and the Exchanges of the Core Protocols. And so on, with all the possible combinations. (Which emphasizes how much in human relationships BootCamp covers.)

And most usefully, it provides clarity on how BootCamp is a completely different type of team work experience, and why it is consistently successful.

“And then a miracle occurs....”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


So you know how you can come home from a course all pumped up with new learning, new insights, energy from the participants, new connections, etc., etc.?

That's me!

And then you have to deal with “reality” back home, and the questions of how to share the new learning with friends, associates, loved ones, etc., etc. and it all starts to slide downhill, leak away through your fingers?

That's NOT me!

When I came home from the certification course in Human System Dynamics last week, I had the joy of continuing to learn, gain insights, get energy because my sweetheart, and business partner, had attended with me (or more precisely, I with her, since it was her idea in the first place). And we have continued our great discussions about the intersection of the consulting / training work that we do with the concepts of HSD. []

Did I mention that she is also my business coach? []

So we have been rockin'! – bouncing ideas around, reviewing past experiences and work, playing with new “what if's” in the context of “patterns”, “containers”, “differences”, “exchanges”, etc., etc. [“patterns, containers, differences, exchanges” are all part of the HSD lexicon]

Yeah; I know – kids with new toys.

  • AND, our work is our play (Work = Play)
  • AND, we've got all these great case studies of previous and current consulting engagements we've shared
  • AND, we're seeing connections expand exponentially between the areas in which we work: IT Service Management best practices, Teamwork best practices, business Coaching, and Leadership behaviours
  • AND, the science of Human Systems Dynamics is explaining to us how
  1. some best practice adoptions go well / don't go well / do both
  2. the teamwork retreat “BootCamp” accomplishes so much in just a week []
  3. some organizations are open to new ideas & practices / some aren't / are both
  4. and so on...

Just in case you are thinking that HSD is only for organizations, consultants, change agents, folks who like new mental toys, ... keep in mind that the first word is “Human” and that, hopefully, applies to all of us. :-)

More to come...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Customer Service 2

Our story last time was riddled with opportunities for Customer Service excellence or failure.

Let's see what some of them were...

But first, we should have an understanding of what we mean by customer service. And that means sorting out who are the customers in the story, and what we mean by service.

To keep things simple we can say service is the provision of product or activity that delivers a described value to the customer. And that implies that the next person in the chain of provision from the suppler is the customer – whomever is next.

So that use of the word customer does not include notions of purchase or payment, simply the next recipient in the chain. Obviously, the customer of one transaction can then become the supplier of the next.

In our story we have the following customers:
  • the ITIL course participants (who incidentally have paid National Training for the course, and so are automatically perceived as customers)
  • Vickie, who is supplying the training, and is also the customer of National Training in the sense of using their facilities and course materials
  • National Training, who is selling the training, and is also a customer of Way Behind Technologies for training materials, and a customer of Vickie's for training capability
... and the opportunities?
  • satisfaction of the participants with the trainer's capabilities (i.e. Vickie)
  • satisfaction of the participants with the training materials (i.e. National Training through Way Behind Technologies)
  • satisfaction of the participants with the training facilities (i.e. National Training)
Now if you were the trainer, wouldn't you try to do everything in your power to have the participants satisfied with all aspects of the training (as Vickie did) so you would be asked to provide training again?

Similarly if you were National Training you would want to have participants satisfied with the trainer, facilities, and materials.
This suggests the following opportunities:
  • review potential suppliers of ITIL materials with a highly experienced trainer (as National Training may or may not have done)
  • include a probationary period in the materials supply contract
  • have an agreement with the supplier to have materials issues resolved quickly and satisfactorily to the trainer's and participants requirements
And finally if you were Way Behind Technologies wouldn't you want to support your purchaser (National Training) and your potentially best advocate as the delivery vehicle, the trainer?

And even if this trainer didn't fit your pattern or mold, why not consider providing an answer to an immediate question which makes your organization appear competent and attractive instead of inflexible, lazy, and indifferent?

Aha! You say: Way Behind didn't recognize Vickie as their customer. Probably not; however, that is for them to say.
Even if they did, they certainly didn't behave according to our old chestnut:
Rule #1: The Customer is always right
Rule #2: If the Customer is wrong, read Rule #1

The evidence is that they perceived the trainer's difficulty with their material as the trainer's problem, not theirs. So be it. Even if we were to agree with that perspective, the potential end result is:
  • participants and trainer dis-satisfied with the materials
  • participants at risk of failing their exam as a consequence
  • participants and trainer not recommending Way Behind Technologies's materials
  • National Training not continuing to use Way Behind Technologies as their supplier
  • Way Behind Technologies going out of business
All for the sake of providing a quick email with the hidden answer revealed.

But then as we said last time: who can afford to try to meet all the various, and sometimes apparently unreasonable, customer wishes?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Customer Service 1

Yikes; where does the time go?
My last blog was LAST YEAR! Not bragging, not complaining, just observing... with shock.

Happily I have some great excuses. And not that the dogs ate my blog notes (my laptop is indigestible – Vista Home Edition - and still intact – Dell makes 'em tough). The first excuse is that we have been overrun, in a nice way, with work leftover from the recession pull back.

And that in turn has inspired me to comment on observations lately about Customer Service.

Let's start with the old chestnut:
Rule #1: The Customer is always right
Rule #2: If the Customer is wrong, read Rule #1

But of course, that is silly – right? That's for folks who want to go out of business. After all who can afford to try to meet all the various, and sometimes unreasonable, customer wishes?

A story...

My talented and lovely partner, Vickie Gray, among many other skills, is an accredited instructor in the ITIL Framework of best practices for Information Technology and Service Management. (Catch the word “Service”?)

As instructors, we have an arrangement with a supplier of course materials who have to get their product validated by the appropriate governing body. This ensures that the course content is “up to snuff” and fit for human consumption. Or, at least, matches the defined syllabus for that course.

Also, as independent consultants and trainers, we partner with training organizations who sell seats in the various courses, then have us provide the training.
All good so far.

Now once upon a time... this past January to be precise, Vickie was asked to teach an ITIL course in a city far, far away by a training organization far, far away using their training materials. (I am disguising the location and names to protect the innocent.)

To be more exact, the training organization we will call National Training had just entered into an agreement with a materials supplier we will call Behind Technologies, or perhaps Way Behind Technologies (first plot clue). Unfortunately for everyone concerned we weren't consulted on this choice – the first “Moment of Truth” in our tale. If we had been, we would have recommended our own supplier, ITSM Academy, who produce the best material and support we have experienced; and they know about Customer Service.

But no matter; Vickie is a master at teaching these courses, understands adult education methods, is certified at the highest levels in the ITIL Framework, has had pass rates of over 90% to date... how hard could this be? (Second plot clue).

As the training date approaches all are expectantly awaiting their course materials, including our instructor Vickie. This might be the right time to point out that accreditation of the materials says nothing about Way Behind's capability to package them and ship them on time. (Another "Moment of Truth"). Not only does the instructor need a copy of what the student will use, but also the presentation slides to be displayed electronically during the course. I know that seems obvious, but.... (Third plot clue).

The first morning of the course Vickie is at National Training's facility bright and early, setting up the classroom, then greeting the students at the door as they arrive. (Another "Moment of Truth"). This gets a puzzled look of admiration from the boss at National Training. Apparently their other trainers don't do this.

And then the class starts.
Did I mention that Vickie's copy of the student binder didn't arrive? Of course you saw that coming (at the Third plot clue). No matter; Vickie can manage that, and carries on without blinking. Nonetheless, the dead rhino waiting in the swamp of quicksand for her was the just released and downloaded instructor slides.

The dead rhino is that the instructor slides are written in Powerpoint. The swamp is that Vickie uses a Macbook Pro without Microsoft Office (we use OpenOffice quite successfully in all situations.) This Powerpoint file wouldn't open, so Vickie had arranged for a PDF copy of the slides (Fourth plot clue).

All was well until a particular slide contained a hidden pop-up answer to an exam question which the class, and the instructor, were to discuss before proceeding. Let's see: electronic instructional material, that is being displayed via laptop, with no instructor notes, won't show the required pop-up, and of course no reference in the student binder. And Information Technology departments need Service Management best practices – why???

Now most reasonable folks would contact the supplier, Way Behind, and ask for the hidden content which isn't supposed to be permanently hidden, and that is what Vickie, then National Training, then Vickie and National Training did. And in all cases the answer was no – the material was in the Powerpoint slide and if the instructor wouldn't purchase Microsoft Office, and the secrets wouldn't pop up that was too bad. (Remember the first five words of Rule #2?) It can't be copied out and emailed, printed and faxed, or sent by post – nada, zip, zilch.

  • How many opportunities have you found so far for Customer Service excellence or failure?
  • And what would you have done as Way Behind Technologies to make this a successful event?
We'll post your thoughts and add some next time. :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Leadership 13

You can't beat having your own coach, soul-mate, and historian right at your finger tips. And it's wonderful when she – Vickie Gray, – throws a wrench into my half baked thinking about Servant-Leadership with one comment.

Like: I think servant-leadership is attempting to solve an issue with authority.

Ooops! Another solution for symptoms – not the cause?

Let's continue the investigation on Servant-Leadership then and see what we can find.

"Larry Spears ( in the “Ten Characteristics of the Servant-Leader” ) distills Greenleaf’s (1977/2002) instrumental means into ten characteristics: listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community (pp. 3-6). It is important to note that these characteristics are not simply traits or skills possessed by the leader; a century of research has rejected what Bass and Stogdill (1990) referred to as an “approach [that] tended to treat personality variables in an atomistic fashion, suggesting that each trait acts singly to determine the effects of leadership” (p. 87).
"Rather, servant-leadership is an ethical perspective on leadership that identifies key moral behaviors that leaders must continuously demonstrate in order to make progress on Greenleaf’s (1977/2002) “best test.” The “best test,” which gives us the ethical ends for action, combined with Spears’ distillation of traits that identified the means, create a powerful framework for a review of the literature that furthers the conceptual framework for servant-leadership.

"That person is sharply different from one who is leader first... The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant first to make sure that other people's highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and the most difficult to administer, is this: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?"
As Vickie and I discussed the evolution of leadership thinking that got Greenleaf and Spears to the servant-leader concept and traits, the question became: What prompted all this?

If we take the idea at face value, it all seems quite nice, and perhaps too idealistic. I know I haven't encountered one of these animals personally. Mohandas Ghandi is the best candidate I can think of.

But if we consider the historical context of leaders, rulers, kings, princes, generals, etc. behaving in their own best interests, using their position to exercise power, and that leading to excesses of manipulation, subjugation, even slavery, the need for a kinder, gentler approach becomes clear.

Even in the lightest case of employees working for a domineering boss, the concept and traits of servant-leadership become appealing.

But not necessarily for everyone.
  • Some are very content to be led, directed, told what to do.
  • Some are looking for strong leadership in the form of an appealing vision – a picture of the future.
  • Some want a clear course of action laid out in a mission statement.
  • Some want the bounded responsibilities of specific tasks that don't include tactical or strategic thinking.
  • Some want a well defined “day job” that lets them have a life of their own outside of work.
  • Some don't want the boss asking them their opinion.
The point that Vickie and I got to was: In reaction to absolute power corrupting absolutely (or less disturbing versions of that), servant-leadership makes sense.

But the servant-leader traits listed should be part of any leaders behaviours because it simply just makes sense. They are the smart things to do. They get the best results.

And for more reasons than we might recognize on the surface.

Margaret Wheatley gave a talk on “The Work of the Servant Leader” at the 1999 conference. In her talk, which was published in Focus on Leadership, she said:
"There are many patterns, many beliefs, out there about leadership, about people, about motivation, about human development. The essential truth I’m discovering right now is that when we are together, more becomes possible. When we are together, joy is available. In the midst of a world that is insane, that will continue to surprise us with new outrages…in the midst of that future, the gift is each other. We have lived with a belief system that has not told us that. We have lived with a belief that has said, ‘We’re in it for ourselves. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Only the strong survive and you can’t trust anybody.’ That’s the belief that’s operating in most organizations if you scratch the surface. The belief that called you to be a servant-leader, I believe, is the belief of who we are as a species. We have need for each other. We have a desire for each other, and, more and more, I believe that if the real work is to stay together, then we are not only the best resource to move into this future—we are the only resource….We need to learn how to be together: that is the essential work of the servant-leader."
I like letting Margaret Wheatley have the last word.