Monday 8 June 2015

10 reasons why Africa is the Continent of Opportunity

I have just returned from a wonderful training and development event in Senegal which I helped to deliver with colleagues from the Presencing Institute. 

Using the U-Process to initiate cross-continental organisational transformation we explored a range of issues but focused in on innovative ways of using assets for sustainable development.
CEO's prototyping the future

It was organised by the African Alliance of YMCA's and provided my colleagues and I an opportunity to work with and train some of the most interesting, committed and talented individuals I have ever met. These were the National General Secretaries (also known as National Chief Executive Officers for YMCA's) in some 18 different countries. 

Despite all of the problems that the continent is struggling with (and there are many), all I can say to the West is - look out Africa is where we are going to see some wonderful and exciting happenings. 

Sunset in Senegal

1.       The population is young and innovative and unlike many parts of the world, Africa's children want to learn and they are hungry for education
2.       During the start of the millennium, Africa’s GDP grew by 4.7% a year
3.       Whilst there are issues about the way that the Chinese have taken vast amounts of resources out of the continent there are also more large infrastructural projects that have been successfully brought to completion – meaning that local people have greater accessibility to other parts of their own country
4.       Since independence, many countries in Africa have moved from being Low Income Countries to becoming Middle Income countries.
5.       Considerable numbers of African migrants with experience skills and knowledge (some of which they acquired in the west) are looking to return home taking these resources with them.
6.       Since 2000, African countries have cut their combined foreign debt from 82% of GDP to 59%
7.       Over the same period, nations have reduced their budget deficits from 4.6% of GDP to 1.8%
8.       Over a decade the Nigerian economy has been growing at an average rate of around 7% a year.
9.       One of the things holding back the continent is energy accessibility - once that nut is cracked (in the form of solar which relies less on expensive infrastructural projects) then it will be much easier to take advantage of the business opportunities that exist.
10.   Peer-to-peer banking and mobile banking is becoming established and likely to thrive freeing up business and development opportunities.

Friday 22 May 2015

Theory U - Let's get innovating

Have you ever wondered why some people and organisations seem to be just so much more innovative than others are? Well Otto Scharmer seems to have found the answer. His approach (Theory U) is able to answer many different questions but today I am just going to be looking at this one area as it relates to leadership (rather than management).
Let’s start with you as a leader.

When was the last time that you were able to just sit down and think about a problem or challenge instead of just responding to it? Can you give a date for when you were previously able to think about a challenge without earlier experiences, other people’s ideas and agendas, history, time pressures pressing down on you and gently guiding you to a particular solution? When were you free to choose an idea without restrictions, by letting go of existing baggage in order to allow new ideas to get a chance to rise to the surface? If you are anything like most leaders, you will have extreme difficulty identifying when this last happened in your professional career.

It’s not your fault. This is what tends to happen when you are running an organisation in the competitive context of a 21st century environment BUT without that protected time and space and without guidance and facilitation don’t expect innovation to come knocking on your door anytime soon.

When under pressure we use time-honoured ways of getting things done and the consequence is that we get the same types of results. This is our weakness – the inner space from which we as leaders operate is crowded and noisy. Being aware of this blockage is critical to bringing into being the sorts of effective and significant changes that so many are looking for in their own organisations.  

Theory U is one of very few leadership models or methodologies that include the psychology of the leader as part of its approach. It’s akin to recognising that if you want to be a star athlete you don’t just work on your muscles, timing and physical skills you also need to deal with who you are mentally as a sports person.  

If you are interested in learning more – Otto Scharmer of MIT will be part of a team delivering the Presencing Foundation Programme for the first time in November in Oxford United Kingdom

Wednesday 22 April 2015

What's the difference between Coaching and Mentoring?

I've worked with lots of different people and organisations and it’s interesting to note how they might take opposing  positions on coaching and mentoring. For instance one company argued that coaching was focused on performance whilst mentoring was focused on reflection and internal development. By way of contrast another company was reluctant to employ coaches because they felt that they were too focused on personal development when what they needed was someone to help their employees to settle in and learn how to do their jobs quickly and better. They decided on an induction mentoring scheme.

Can they be both right and wrong at the same time? It can certainly be the case that coaching can have performance as a key aim of the relationship; but then so can mentoring within a company or even professional body context.
Well I believe the best and most pragmatic approach to take in the first instance is to acknowledge  that there are a range of different coaching and mentoring approaches including life coaching, performance coaching, executive, leadership and business coaching to name a few – in mentoring we could include career, induction, intergenerational, developmental mentoring and peer mentoring.  This clearly shows that we may not all be speaking the same language when we talk about coaching and mentoring and that it may not be useful to speak in absolute terms when referring to either learning tool.
They have much in common - both coaching and mentoring focus on the importance of the relationship, the use of well-formed questions and high quality dialogue. Both aim to support development ,reflective skills and performance whether personal, professional (or both) within a specified context.
As an OD Consultant I have found that that it’s better to talk about ‘tendencies’ rather than in ‘absolute’ terms because companies can sometimes have quite set ideas about whether they want a coaching system or a mentoring system set up.
Mentoring tends to happen on a longer term basis – for example 6 plus months whereas a coach is often contracted to address a specific issue which may take 6 sessions.
Coaching is built upon a firm knowledge basis and supervised practice whereas good mentoring can be delivered after one training session with additional support over the life time of the programme
Mentors generally have more experience in the field that is the focus of the mentoring than the mentee – such as technology; life experience; knowledge of a career or organisation; whereas it isn't necessary for the coach to know the industry/area that the coachee is in because the tools of coaching can be applied regardless of that knowledge/experience base
If you're a Consultant my advice to you out there is to spend your energies on agreeing the language you will use and creating a programme that will best meet your needs,  rather than on arguing the point about which is which. We can always contribute to the wider debate as these professional areas grow and expand.

Friday 3 April 2015

20 Characteristics of Ineffective Teams

Work takes up a sizeable chunk of our working and waking lives. Whilst we are at work then we are likely to spend a lot of it functioning in groups. In fact, teams are the engines that drive most organisations.   So, when those teams fail to work well together then the impact can be catastrophic, not just for the team but also for you as an individual and the knock on effect of an ineffective team will cause other teams to also falter and work less well together.

Some of the symptoms of a poor team working include
  1.  A lack of willingness to take responsibility and action.
  2. An inability to agree on goals as a group.
  3. The group doesn’t recognise the importance of attending to its own maintenance or it doesn’t feel confident that it can be managed effectively without external intervention.
  4. Members are fearful to speak out about how the group is behaving or how they experience it because they fear anger and hostility.
  5. Some members of the group feel that they are carrying others.
  6. There is a culture of blame and possibly scapegoating.
  7. The group engages in partisan or clique-ish behaviours.
  8. Members of the team covering their backs rather than getting on with each other or work.
  9. Group behaviours and communication are characterised by friction and disagreements. 
  10. There is a lack of respect for each other or for specific members in the group.
  11. There is poor communication within the group members and/or between them and other teams.
  12. The group mind-set is set for ‘problems’ rather than ‘challenges’, as a result they approach everything very negatively.
  13. There is a general air of inequality, which goes beyond levels of authority – e.g. personal relationships influencing the leader’s decisions and resource allocation.
  14. There is a lack of loyalty towards each another and celebration if one of the 'enemy' has a problem.
  15. Group members avoid being with each other which may include meetings.
  16. The level of efficiency and productiveness of poor and well below target. 
  17. Individuals in the group pursue their own needs even if they conflict with that of the group. 
  18. Some people in the group spend a lot of their energy working to make sure that their own ideas are prioritised.
  19. Meetings are difficult to manage and decisions hard to achieve unless taken by the leader because people are too busy interrupting each other to listen. 
  20. Members do not support each other unless they feel that they have something personal to gain fro

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Team Coaching

Question - What essential skills do HR specialists say that managers (at all levels) seem to lack?

Answer – The ability to coach teams.

We shouldn’t be surprised when we hear that HR Managers consistently identify poor team coaching skills as a significant weakness in management skills because few if any managers have been trained to address team performance through coaching.

When Peter Senge talked about the 5th discipline he identified team learning as an essential element. It is the idea that true learning involves being able to see beyond personal issues, and where members of a team are able to suspend assumptions and enter into genuine thinking together. Thinking and working together is at the heart of innovation, creativity and success.
Team learning is holism in practice, such that when you bring individuals together as a team they will be more, and will achieve more than when they were acting as mere individuals.

This is however a cautionary tale because the list of negative group dynamics can seem endless -  including group think, arguments and discord (storming), scape goating and enhancing group distinctiveness by exaggerating the differences between the in-group and the outgroup, negative impacts of group conformity (think Prisoner experiments and Abu Ghraib),  distraction-conflict, even competition within teams. Given all that can go wrong, and that work is increasingly happening in teams, it follows that something may need doing to help groups become the effective teams that organisations require today.

The rewards for effective team working are immense. Think back to the last time that you were part of a team that created something truly amazing. Most likely, you created this thing despite all the obstacles, barriers and challenges. At times it might have seemed an impossible task but you achieved it as a group nevertheless and the bonds between you strengthened. You shored each other up, you worked to your strengths and supported those who needed it in recognition of their greater learning needs. In the end you reached that zenith.

It may have taken a lot out of you but you still felt energised. The positive way you felt about yourself and what you could achieve went beyond what happened in the work environment and that feeling accompanied you home and into other social arenas.

Now just imagine if you could extend that feeling, and team working ability to other pieces of work and other challenges that face you at work. That is what team coaching helps you to do.

Team coaching is a collective learning tool that helps people who are part of a group become a reflective and effective team. It helps its members to set goals, successfully achieve them and develop the skills needed to perform well in the role, the team and beyond it. 

Tuesday 3 March 2015

What is Organisational Development?

In my early career I started life as a qualified trainer engaged in what was once called ‘capacity building’ and soon realised that I needed other knowledge and skills if I wanted to be able to impact organisations. So I learned about policy and change in organisations. That was followed by how to coach people to improve their effectiveness and wider performance, business transformation; leadership development and project management. I also quickly realised that this field I was entering involved a lot of different knowledge bases and skill sets, so if you ask most Organisational Development (OD) Consultants today you will find that they – like me - have taken a long time to grow into their roles.

 Organisational Development Consultants come from a wide background and my conversations with them over the years revealed a similar struggle to explain their work. Finding that they would be lost for words trying to explain what they did. Often they’d revert to summarising the tools that they used e.g. change management; training; coaching; facilitation; conflict resolution; work process redesigning rather than calling themselves a particular professional name.  Not a good way to impress a potential client and hopeless for the 30 second ‘elevator pitch’.

 For better or worse – for a while I was known as a Management Consultant. However whereas Management Consultants work with the leadership or management team - OD Consultants work with the whole organisation and they make themselves aware of other interdependences affecting the outcome of the project including those between the organisation’s structure processes and wider stakeholders.

 French describes OD as ‘A long-range effort to improve an organisation’s problem-solving capabilities and its ability to cope with changes in its external environment with the help of external or internal behavioural-scientist Consultants, or change agents as they are sometimes called.’

 For me one of the most important aspects of my OD role is that I leave the organisation better off in terms of the issue they have brought me in to address (so they are less likely to need me to deal with this type of problem again – i.e. sustainability) and that they have increased their problem solving skills - which are transferable to new situations. That’s why I like French’s definition so much better than many others (that focus on the tools that are used; the outcomes that are achieved or the approaches that are employed) that make no overt or covert reference to the underlying values of the Consultant and their profession.

Friday 22 April 2011



21st April 2011

arrival from afternoon onwards

Formal welcome The programme of the workshop Introduction to the UK and the city of Derby Activity - How we will work together Activity Sharing cultures – artefacts from home England and Britain English culture – folk dancing Morris dancers and celebrations Sample English food Hand out learning journals/diaries Small groups to work together for the final day’s in-house celebration.

England and Britain continued Visit to well dressing Similarities and differences (Activities) Caribbean Carnival The role of food in celebration Caribbean food how to make it etc Sample Caribbean food Dance Caribbean (have a go) About Caribbean carnivals and celebrations Making masks and costumes Small groups to work together for the final day’s in-house celebration Reflections – learning diary

Asian Mela The role of food in celebration Asian food how to make it etc Sample Asian food How to dance Bangrah (have a go) Asian dress (have a go) About Asian melas and celebrations Making masks and costumes Small groups to work together for the final day’s in-house celebration Reflections – learning diary 15/7/2011 Carnival procession Take costumes masks etc

Visit Mela Take costumes masks etc

Day off

Self-directed work on celebration for final session

Final day internal celebration– Theme = valuing diversity similarities and differences across Europe what we have learned and what we will do next (adult learning) Meal (attended by mayor) Formal presentation of certificates