Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Collaborative Leadership - Going underground!

Draining my renewable energy
After a frustrating four months we appear to have an air source heating system at our house which effectively (and we hope efficiently) powers our heating and hot water. The process of specification, installation and commissioning of this new "state of the art" renewable energy system has been a long and arduous process to endure. It's been a classic case of the need for the leaders of the manufacturer, supplier and installation teams to demonstrate collaborative leadership.
In the book by David Archer and Alex Cameron, "Collaborative Leadership - How to succeed in an interconnected world" the authors state that collaborative leadership is "about delivering results across boundaries"

Points of Interdependence
I recommend that the leaders involved in our heating system sit down and discuss how they can work collaboratively in the future to save time, energy and stress for their teams and their customers. A
few concepts from Archer and Cameron's book are useful to any leader in today's interconnected world. 
I was amazed to read in Archer and Cameron's book that the management of London underground is organised around the different tube lines, so the people who work on the Jubilee line are managed by a different organisation than say the Victoria line. This is fine for most of the time, but at an interchange station - Green Park, for example staff need to know how the Jubilee, Victoria and Piccadilly lines are running and need to be kept up to date on all three. This point of interdependence is critical because if a breakdown occurs somewhere along one of the lines, trains and stations start to get very crowded and a point of interdependence comes into play - the platform edge.
The platform edge is one of the points at greatest risk to the system for obvious reasons - a packed commuter train opening its doors at a station which is also packed with commuters could have serious implications.  So therefore leaders need to work out what are their own points of interdependence and what needs to be communicated, when and how between partnerships. So, it's a good idea to pinpoint your own"Green Parks" and know where your potential "platform edges" lie in order to focus management time and effort and where you can leave (and trust) individual partners to do their own thing well.

A final thought from the book, in a letter from jail in 1963, Martin Luther King wrote "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly"

Drained of all energy
Unfortunately, I am writing this dressed in two fleeces and a woolly hat as our underfloor heating system is still not working - apparently it's a commmunication failure somewhere in the system....

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Appreciative Inquiry - Conversations with real purpose

I really like a definition of coaching by Julie Starr, which is that coaching is "a conversation with a purpose" Coaching centres around asking useful questions which cause people to move on.
Appreciative Inquiry (often known as AI) takes the same approach. AI was developed by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the 1980s. The approach is based on the premise that
"organisations change in the direction in which they inquire.’
So an organisation which inquires into problems will keep finding problems but an organisation which attempts to appreciate what is best in itself will discover more and more that is good. It can then to use these discoveries to build a new future where the best becomes more common Cooperrider and Srivastva contrast the commonplace notion that, ―organising is a problem to be solved‖ with the appreciative proposition that, ―organising is a miracle to be embraced.
Inquiry into organisational life, they say, should have four characteristics. It should be:
  • Appreciative
  • Applicable
  • Provocative
  • Collaborative
The Four D Cycle
Appreciative Inquiry 4 D Cycle

Appreciative Inquiry is a particular way of asking questions and envisioning the future that
fosters positive relationships and builds on the basic goodness in a person, a situation, or an
organization. In so doing, it enhances a system's capacity for collaboration and change.
Appreciative Inquiry uses a cycle of 4 processes focusing on:
1. DISCOVER: The identification of organisational processes that work well.

2. DREAM: The envisioning of processes that would work well in the future.

3. DESIGN: Planning and prioritising processes that would work well.

4. DESTINY (or DELIVER): The implementation (execution) of the proposed design.

The basic idea is to build organisations around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn't. It is the opposite of problem solving. Instead of focusing on gaps and inadequacies
to remediate skills or practices.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Team building - Do good and feel good!

Creating Social Capital
Funny how memories flood back sometimes.... I remember painting the walls of my Sunday School at Hollinwood Working Men's Bible Mission as one of the best Team Building activities of my life! It was a frenetic activity that involved anyone who turned up and was a great opportunity to "do good and feel good!" Forty years on, the memory is as clear as ever.

As companies look to invest their CSR time and energy in team building activities that have the best possible pay back many are turning to Team Building for Charity. In their paper, EMPLOYEE VOLUNTEERING AND SOCIAL CAPITAL: CONTRIBUTIONS TO CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, Judy N. Muthuri et al (2007) state that " Benefits claimed by employee volunteers include sharing knowledge, acquiring new skills, insights into community issues, new perspectives on their own business and inner satisfaction. The volunteers also build internal networks which become supports in the workplace and contribute to further volunteer recruitment."
So when you are thinking about a Team Building activity which adds real value to the individual, your organisation and the chosen charity consider the Social Capital Matrix below

Creating Co-operation
"Those involved evealed that their capacity to cooperate depends on bringing some comparative advantage into the relationship. Thus companies partner charities because they are reputable and have expertise regarding social issues. They partner brokers because of their networking competencies. They partner employees because they can actualise the employee volunteering programmes. These relationships are characterised by mutual dependence with actors taking risks in investing their time and resources for a shared goal with no assurance of future benefits. In this web of employee volunteering  interactions, cooperative behaviour is cultivated, the existing social structure is exploited and new social capital is created"

Contact us f or Team Building ideas to enable your team to do good, feel good and increase cooperation.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Bloom's taxonomy and Moodle

This is useful when designing a programme of learning.

Learning to love Moodle

Here is a great example of a Moodle site at

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Not everything in the garden is Rosicrucian

Do you know what the Rosicrucian cipher looks like?  If you don't, I guess that you would Google it. 

The Wiki definition is and defines it as "The pigpen cipher (sometimes referred to as the masonic cipher, Freemason's cipher, or Rosicrucian cipher) is a geometric simple substitution cipher which exchanges letters for symbols which are fragments of a grid"

I have been surprised this week by how many people in the UK (13.9 million) have never used a computer, nor been Online.  This was brought into focus as my company ran an experiential team event for 20 people, the vast majority of whom almost ran away screaming when we brought out laptops to assist the learning process.  Only one person was brave enough to use the internet to search for the Rosicrucian Cipher, which would crack the code to give the all important "key to the bar".  The team comprised "Comfortable Off Liners"

Other examples of "Off Liners" this week are:
  1. A close colleague, "Gill" who still has her secretary print off his emails as she is unable/unwilling to learn how to use email.
  2. A friend who has to go to the library to read her emails as she cannot get the broadband to work at home
  3. Attempting to run training sessions at three local venues which had to be abandoned because the WiFi connection was not working
It strikes me that we are trying to decipher the Online code, which comprises a mix of a lack of competence and confidence along with the ability to get the technology working. As designers of blended learning we need to develop practical ways to encourage and support the "Off Liners" to be comfortable "On Liners".

This week my company begins its quest to encourage 1000 people to become "On Liners using the easy and enjoyable e-learning modules on

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

How to handle complexity and how to prepare for the unexpected - A checklist approach

We have four light switches in our hallway.  Every morning, I try at least two before I switch on the right light.  Should I mark the switches?

Yesterday, I gave my partner the alarm code to my office, so that he could (very kindly) finish off some decorating work.  My only way to remember the code is visual.  I look at the keypad and punch in the numbers unconsciously.  So, he is surprised when I cannot remember the numbers and in what sequence.  Well, he rang from his mobile with the sound of the alarm (which was blasting VERY LOUDLY) and desperately punching in the numbers I had given him.  Unfortunately, only a call to my colleague confirmed that I had given him the right numbers, but in the wrong order!  Should I have the code along with all my usernames and passwords tattooed on my arm?

We all make mistakes and some key questions in designing blended learning are:
  • How do we handle complexity?
  • How do you prepare yourself for the unexpected?
  • How do you do it well and not just a tick box exercise?

A checklist can help. 
According to a report in the Telegraph recently, 82 patients underwent operations on wrong part of body.  The World Health Organisation has devised a surgical checklist, similar to pre-flight checks between pilots, designed to eliminate errors through miscommunication.
Many NHS trusts have adopted the WHO checklist as a routine safety measure.

What checklists would help you in everyday life and what would a checklist for designing and delivering blended learning look like?  Watch this space!