|WHOSE AGENDA IS IT ANYWAY?|
|Bob Benwick, MSc. OD, MCC, PCC, CPCC|
|Here’s a fascinating blog by one of the world’s leaders in large-scale real-time organization change, Jake Jacobs with some profound lessons for us all that I just have to share with you. Enjoy!|
“My buddy and colleague Bob Benwick recently posted a blog entry about a talk he had many years ago with my mentor Kathie Dannemiller. We were at an EDS large scale event and Bob walked up to Kathie and asked her whether the group was where we expected them to be at some point during the event. As was her loveable (and point blank) style, Kathie turned to Bob and said, “…they are exactly where they should be! It’s irrelevant where we think they should be! It’s where they are now that we need to work with. They will move forward at a speed that works for them. So what’s your next question?”
Bob says he learned a valuable lesson that day. Having worked with Kathie for a while, I had learned the same lesson years earlier. There’s a joke I heard years ago. The consultant shows up at the wrong venue, works the entire day with the wrong client….and never knows the difference!
That’s an extreme case. But how often do we get caught up with whether we’re “on track” with the agenda? After 20-plus years of doing this work I can’t ever remember actually being on time. A while back I was facilitating a meeting with a colleague. We were two hours behind on the agenda with one hour left in the meeting. My colleague was a little worried. She asked, “What are we going to do to catch up?” I looked at her somewhat puzzled and responded, “What do you mean?” Now she REALLY looked worried! I imagine she was thinking, “So first this guy can’t follow an agenda. Now he can’t even tell time!”
She was looking down at the typed agenda, back at me, and then at her watch. She actually had to do this several times (I’ll admit it took me a short while to figure out what was going on), then I realized, she was measuring our progress against the written agenda, not what was happening in the group. Having learned my lesson from Kathie long ago, I wasn’t worried at all. We were two hours behind and I was able to tell time (a relief to both my colleague, me, and any other clients I’ll ever work with!). The two hours we were behind were only “real” when compared to what we had typed up as the agenda a couple of weeks earlier. The group was right on track with the work they needed to be doing. In fact (possibly miraculously) we even ended the meeting 15 minutes early.
Barbara Bunker, another mentor of mine, put this same lesson a different way. She used to say, “Structure is helpful. It gives you something to deviate from.” The lesson in all of this? Make sure you have a solid structure for any meeting you’re leading. At the same time remember the purpose you’re aiming to achieve. And most of all, pay attention to the group you’re working with. As Kathie said, “….they (always) are where they should be!”
Thank you Jake. Clearly Kathy and Barbara have had a profound impact on all those who have had the wonderful opportunity to connect with these two giants in the field of organization development, be they clients or OD consultants. A simple question I’ll leave with you is “Do you know the difference?”