We create and facilitate safe, exciting spaces where leaders and teams can collaborate and innovate together in service of ambitious initiatives.
INCUBATE NEW INITIATIVES
We help curate the space and protect the cadence that enables teams to innovate. Starting initiatives is difficult. Risk becomes quickly visible, specific layers of challenge set in well before an opportunity can be verified. A powerful idea needs a skillful team to develop it and that team needs a disciplined process to map the many business issues.
Networks are proliferating and increasingly we meet strangers who are essential to our collective success. How do we find a shared vocabulary? How do we discern congruent values? Practicing the disciplines that ensure honest, open communication and collaboration, we build tools that will accelerate trust to scale the work.
NEGOTIATE AND CLOSE PARTNERSHIPS, JOINT VENTURES AND ACQUISITIONS
Deals are made by people, not companies. Negotiations are about communication and transparency, not bluff or bluster. We work closely to model the partnership from the first meeting; we help build an effective business and legal team and we recognize that how two organizations negotiate is how they are likely to behave as partners. Directness, deep listening and resourceful problem-solving lead to the best chance of long range success. We love the whole process.
INNOVATIVE STRATEGIC PLANNING
There is little value in a strategic plan. The power, energy and learning is in the strategic planning process. Plans are marginalized the moment we act on them; circumstances change, assumptions explode. Scenario planners understand this. The planning process, however, calls us to hold our suppositions lightly, to be curious about what is possible, unexpected or catastrophic.
As planners, we look to step lightly on tactics and dig in around core values and purpose. Our task is always to help the team review, reconsider and reset. The best strategic planning process we ever participated in led to throwing the plan out upon its completion. We started again, wiser and more focused and drafted a manifesto for the organization in a day. The organization still lives by those uncovered insights nearly a decade later.
CONDUCT FEARLESS INQUIRIES
We begin first through the practice of deep listening and joint reflection, by identifying strategic barriers and opportunities before they are even visible.
Jonas Salk once said: “What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question.” Transformation starts right there—at the foot of that first unexpected, authentic question. Sometimes it is a question we believe we have already answered; sometimes it is one we fear to ask.
Granting ourselves the permission to ask any question, at any moment, often leads to unexpected strategic breakthroughs.
During a facilitated discussion amongst some of the nation’s most prestigious philanthropies, someone offered an extensive description of what their program had achieved. At its completion, one of the listeners leaned forward and asked: “So what?” The ensuing silence was electric. All of us understood in that moment that we had lost the purposeful thread of our combined work. We were distracted by the content and the action plans and ceased asking questions. The conversation, shaken out of its report outs and summaries, became lively with inquiry, as all parties actively collaborated around the core strategic questions we needed to be exploring.
FOCUS ON WHAT'S AT STAKE
Help management teams, CEOs and Boards focus on their most ambitious purposes. During a complex acquisition negotiation in the health services sector, my counterpart and we hit an issue we could not resolve. The longer we talked the more intransigent we both became. The negotiation stalled as each of us felt righteous and determined. Coincidentally, during our argument, a public crisis reminded us both of what was truly at stake. We were reminded of our true purpose: to create a vehicle that could alleviate the suffering of patients. We sorted out the issue in minutes.
If we are willing to explore what is at stake for each of us and be guided by the deepest purpose calling us, we can achieve purposeful and transformative collaborations.
IDENTIFY AND CONNECT MANAGEMENT TALENT AT EVERY LEVEL OF THE ORGANIZATION
Often systems are blind to their own talent. The culture, bent on serving the needs of the system and its leadership, begins to turn away from disruptive questions or nuanced thinking. There is no time (or incentive) to give emergent leaders the chance to experiment, even fail in pursuit of knowledge. Action is the currency. All too quickly the best entrepreneurs and visionaries within the organization determine their voices are no longer relevant.
We explore ways to bring their work and their innovations to the attention of a senior leadership often preoccupied by other matters. In making these connections in generative and sustainable ways, we help organizations think about the relationship between the resilience of their strategies and overall learning and development.
LEAD COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE
Organizational morale flourishes when you can assemble people from every level of the organization and give them time and permission to wrestle with deep strategic and tactical questions. We believe that well run communities of practice follow a consistent pattern, often beginning in confusion, suspicion or anxiety, evolving through confidence, skepticism and inquiry to claiming bold and far sighted discoveries. When strategy and tactics are congruent and everyone in the organization operates from a common understanding, alignment becomes a competitive edge.
When employees believe that they are the system they represent, alignment is effortless across complex structures and activities.
We use communities of practice to incubate, nourish and proliferate alignment as a core corporate value. When organizations reach the ‘hum’ of productivity, real agility and new capacities become available to all.
ENCOURAGE MINDFULNESS AND REFLECTION
Now more than ever, leaders and teams are coming to terms with the need for self-awareness and self-responsibility. The days of command and control are giving way to new forms of collaboration. Hierarchies have their place, but leadership (in the healthiest organizations) is becoming the work of all employees.
Mindfulness and reflection are active tools that stimulate leadership and learning. Without self-responsibility, however, mindfulness and reflection are useless.
We have come to understand that when we find ourselves in places of judgment or critique ("how can someone treat someone else that way? Why is someone not more appreciative of what they are being offered?"), it is instructive to turn the judgment on ourselves: “How is what I am saying of them true of me?” Until we are willing to inhabit our critique of others as a critique of ourselves, we can be neither mindful nor reflective.