Organization Workshop II: Global Consultants Inc. (GCI)*

Background

In 1995, the Ashland Chemical Company began rolling out its "Simply the Best" leadership development program. With a target of all management personnel -- from CEO to supervisor -- the program was initiated by top management to prepare the organization for what they knew would be a dramatically changing, and more competitive, industry environment.

What would be the attitudes and mind-sets, the hard skills and the "people" skills, the more integrated and collaborative management techniques, and ways of dealing with information, suppliers, customers and communities that would be necessary to survive and thrive?

How could a leadership program be designed and delivered that would engage such a variety of levels of management expertise?

These were some of the questions the ACC leadership posed for themselves.

GCI™ is a critically important component of this award winning program. It represents a unique adaptation of Power and Systems' Organization Workshop. As part of a team including Barry Oshry and several members of the Ashland training organization, Jonathan Milton and Michael Sales of New Context were central to the design and delivery of GCI.

See our presentation on the “Simply the Best” Leadership Development Program.

Methodology

An elaborately simulated organization, Global Consultants Inc., with two divisions and customers with very different types of requirements acts as the program's stage for organizational learning. The simulation can accommodate up to 55 players.

A full run of the GCI version of the Organization Workshop takes one and a half days.

GCI's top management is assessed by a Board of Directors using revenue, employee satisfaction, and customer satisfaction outcomes as metrics. Top management has an opportunity to lock in stock options for themselves and all employees early on in the simulation based on how well GCI performs. Much of their compensation is tied to these outcome measures

Conceptual inputs throughout the simulation highlight organizational vulnerabilities and opportunities, such as:

1.Total System Power, i.e., a specific, easily understood framework for realizing the full abilities of the human system.

2.Messing Down and Giving Up, i.e., a form of collusion between executives and middle managers that is driven by systemic forces that are hard to notice and that reduce productivity, quality, and customer and employee satisfaction.

3.Partnership, i.e., what it takes to create relationships that are truly supportive of personal and organizational goals.

At one point the whole system takes a "snapshot" of itself through an innovative group sculpture technique that is debriefed through skillful facilitation. This discussion highlights the difficulties of dissolvingorganizational silos and taking advantage of the synergies that are available to every organization.

In order to deepen the inquiry into the dynamics of management teams further, participants explore a rich case of an actual upper-level middle manager who led a very successful team but was ultimately forced to resign.

Workshop participants apply their learnings to pressing job needs via an extended project planning session. Every person scans the organization's current situation to identify something that needs to be addressed that they are willing to take on. Working first alone, they develop a vision for their project and a plan for putting it into action. Then, each person joins a mutual coaching trio and gets feedback on his/her strategy. These intensive coaching sessions are greatly appreciated by virtually every participant in the program.


Results

A much enhanced appreciation of the impact of systemic forces on group life and organizational effectiveness.

A clear framework for building a truly robust and powerful system able to defend against threats and take advantage of opportunities in its environment.

A straight-forward set of strategies to turn on the power in the middle management ranks and limit any temptation top managers may feel to micro-manage.

A set of well-defined change initiatives that participants are truly committed to, starting at the close of the workshop.

An experience that demonstrates how easy and effective mutual coaching can be which participants will find simple to put into practice.




*GCI/Organization Workshop II is a copywrited program of Power and Systems Training