The System Time-Out Process is a methodology for bringing together a group of about 15-25 key people across three organizational levels to work on a critical business issue. A "STOP," which usually takes the form of a one-day event, brings together the creative-problem methods of the Idea Factory with central insights from the Organization Workshop about improving relationships between organizational levels and between customers and suppliers.
For example, suppose that an organization is in the middle of rolling-out an important organizational change program, or in the process of implementing a critical business strategy. Also suppose that this change or implementation is not
going as well or as quickly as it needs to. Very often what is behind these difficulties are "invisible" systemic power dynamics between organizational levels. As the Organization Workshop vividly demonstrates, top, middle, and front-line levels each tend to fall into certain debilitating attitudes and behaviors that reduce organizational effectiveness.
Each System Time-Out Process revolves around a "focal issue," for example: "our department's new customer-focus initiative" or "the change to a team-based organization." In a session attended by an intact group that spans three organizational levels:
Each level clarifies how they perceive the focal issue and how they have been trying to "fix" the issue as they see it.
The facilitator then briefly reviews the Organization Workshop framework, giving people insight into how systemic organizational forces lead people at different levels to react differently to the same focal issue. Everyone then works toward new ways of understanding and responding to the issue. These new approaches include "high-leverage" solutions that deal with underlying issues. They also involve more empowered and empowering ways of dealing with the organizational pressures experienced by different organizational levels. After a process where each level receives coaching from the other levels, each person leaves the session publicly committed to a set of action steps
that will move the whole organization ahead.
The System Time-Out Process has been very effective not only as a stand-alone organizational problem-solving intervention, but also as a follow-up to the Organization Workshop, directly applying workshop learnings to important business issues.