Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Factors for having successful Large Scale Interventions

In March 2011 I had the pleasure to visit the Phd Graduation ceremony of Tonnie van der Zouwen at the Tilburg University. There she presented the main conclusions of her publication "Building an evidence based practical guide to Large Scale Interventions".  Main question in her research was "What are the key factors for having a successful Large Scale Intervention (LSI), that can contribute to sustainable change?"

Factors for a successful LSI
Sofar worldwide the Open Space method, Future Search and World Café are the most applied Large Scale Intervention (LSI) techniques. For her research Tonnie van der Zouwen compared a number of Open Space events where she was involved as a facilitator.  Some of the events were successful and generated sustainable results and changes. Other events were less successful and did not attribute to drastic changes or other ways of co-operation between partners.  Based on her comparison she came up with seven key factors, which can make a LSI successful in realising sustainable change:
  1. Be consistent in applying the principles of the LSI-methods (Open Space, Future Search, World Café) as a facilitator. The more you get away from the basics, the less effective they are;
  2. The system of partners and stakeholders most be ready and prepared for a LSI intervention. The leaders must be open to share decision making power and be prepared to listen to input and contributions  from stakeholders;
  3. The LSI must be worth the investment and doing. A LSI has a lot of risks, when it fails. It can kill the belief in the benefit of participation;
  4. The facilitator should work on what is possible in regards to possibilities and ambitions. A situational approach having an optimal match between situation, the task (goals of the LSI) and the process is essential;
  5. Having the right people at the right time in the meeting is one of the most critical conditions for success;
  6. A good preperation, where the key stakeholders take responsibility for making a contribution and showing ownership at the LSI,  is another essential component for success.   Face-to-face preperation meetings are essential in advance of the LSI;
  7. Sustainable change must be maintained. The strength of LSI is the aspect of collective learning and exchange. However, after service and follow-up is definitely needed to continue the process of learning and exchange. The key stakeholders have a responsibility in this process.

Lessons for my own work practise
These 7 key success factors were very helpful for me to reflect on a number of the Open Space sessions, I facilitated during the past five years. Some of them generated a process of change. However, I also facilitated an Open Space intervention in which I noticed a number of particular situations which hindered an successful outcome:
  • Only 2 groupleaders, in an event having 60 participants, took a leadership role in the discussions;
  • The atmosphere was rather passive;
  • A number of key participants (two important group leaders) cancelled their participation only a few days before the meeting. Their substitute representatives did not have much influence to make proposals or decide for their leaders;
  • Since the project, funded by a big donor agency, was ending some of the key leaders were already looking for another job.  However, participants did not feel the topic of job security was appropriate and safe for discussion during this meeting.   People felt the idealistic goal was more fitted for discussion at this meeting.

Approximately 1 year after this event, the number of new developed initiatives between the partners that were involved in the open space meeting are still limited and the spin off is relatively low. Of course the event also generated some positive results. Best practices were exchanged and new approaches on multi-stakeholder processes were promoted and duplicated in some regions.  However, when I had applied some of the 7 key factors for LSI,  I believe the Open Space event would have generated more results.

Looking back at this event, the publication of Tonnie van der Zouwen has helped me to consider to be more critical as facilitator during the preperation of an Open Space event. What I learned and will do differently the next time:
  • Challenge the leaders in advance of the meeting to be present and prepare burning issues they would like to discuss during the Open Space;
  • Involve the leaders in setting up, the design and preparing the open space.
  • Consider cancelling the open space meeting in consultation with my principal/ client, when key leaders do not show up and participate in the meeting;  
  • Address the behaviour and atmosphere I observed as facilitator during the meeting and give it back to the group on how they would like to deal with this.

If you are involved in organizing or facilitating LSI event,  I would recommend reading "Building an evidence based practical guide to Large Scale Interventions" - Tonnie van der Zouwen.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The value of doubting

Is the belief, you think you have the right answer? Or is the right answer, a belief that is challenged all the time? 

Having doubts is part of our daily lifes. If I am cycling to Amsterdam,   I assume that the signboards are guiding me towards the right direction. But what if I did not notice a signboard on the road?   Or if somebody changed the directions of the signboard having the intention to mislead cyclists? Or did a thunderstorm destroy the signboard?  Or what if a roadblock leads me towards a cycling path withouth roadsigns in a forest?  Am I still  100 % sure I am heading towards my final destination: Amsterdam!?  It are the first signs of doubt....
Watch the video:  The value of doubting - a first test about dealing with certainty and doubts:
The music, 'Fast legs, slow head', is produced by Omar Meza; e-mail. yoshihatsukatana@gmail.com

Having doubts has a number of advantages:
1.  Connectivity:   It helps to get meaningful contact with other people
2.  Challenging beliefs:  It helps to challenge values and beliefs.  Is my perspective of the world the right perspective?  or does a new insight, help me to look issues from a new perspective?  And what does that tell about myself?
3. Trust on qualities of other people:  Is it me who always has to give the right answer ?  or am I open-minded to trust  on others who might have (hidden) qualities,  that help the team to get the right answer?   Sometimes it is good not to know,  so you can rely on trusted people who might know the solution.

Of course there are many other advantages about 'having doubts'.   If you like to share more advantages about doubts, please post a message at this blog..........

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A question is a motor for development!

'A question is a motor for development!'   This is the main phrase which struck me, while reading the 'Handbook Developing as Professional'   written by Carolien de Monchy.  The handbook is very useful for professionals who have a passion for learning and developing.
A continuous changing world is challenging the today's professional, to update his knowledge and capacities constantly.  Three dimensions are influencing the development of the today's professional:   A dynamic environment of changing knowledge and technologies,  the changing  perspectives in the organisational working surrounding and the changing demands from clients.

Talent and discipline
The book starts with an interesting metaphor.  Somebody throws coffee at the floor and  calls 'All wasted talents are flowing at the floor! What a pity!'   'How come wasted talents are at the floor?'  asks the author.  'When the coffee is flowing at the floor, it is wasted.  However, when the coffee is in a cup, it has value!'   It is the same how we use our talents as a professional.  When we don't have the discipline to update and develop our knowledge and skills, we waste our talents and capacities.  Becoming a professional requires discipline and structure.   If you don't practise, or don't ask for feedback from peer-colleagues or clients,  the chances that you will become successful in your domain of work will be limited.  Nowadays, the modern professional is creating and maintaining his own learning environment.

See video (in Dutch) where Carolien de Monchy explains about balancing the three perspectives in professional development - intro for IAF-BNL Conference, 23rd September, 2011

Outside and inside questions
There are many ways to develop as a professional.   You can attend a training,  read some interesting books and literature, participate in online communities,  become member and participate in a professional organisation,  share experiences in a peer-to-peer coachingsgroup ,  consult a coach, mentor or a senior and join a knowledge creation group.  

Curiosity, passion and asking questions are key for development.   With the outside questions, you can obtain progress on your discovery learning path by consulting your surroundings.  So where do I get my learning needs  fullfilled?  What kind of feedback do I get from my surrounding?  What are my qualities and what are my pitfalls?   And how do I develop my capacities?   The outside questions are the ones that can be answered by the environment of people and organisations which are surrounded by you.
The inside questions are the ones, that can only be answered by yourself.  What are my beliefs?  Why am I on this world?  What do I want to contribute to the world? (your own mission statement)  What is my identity?  What is my self-image?  And where do I want to go? (your vision)  What are my goals in life? (the spiritual dimension). 

Exercise 'Association Diary'
The 'Handbook Developing as Professional'  has some interesting exercises in helping you to get some outside and inside questions answered.  The one that was most appealing to me is the 'Association Diary'.   Some steps for this exercise:

  • For two or three weeks write down every day a diary with associations that come up in your mind;
  • After these weeks,  do three weeks something else.  So, don't open or write in the diary and take some distance;
  • Finally, after 4 - 6 weeks,  read through what you have written down in your diary and try to identify (look for) some patterns
  • Then, write a letter to yourself or a friend phrasing /your learning,  your intentions or your beliefs.

An experience that caught my eye, was a person saying:  'After recalling the words and text I wrote down, I felt it was a bit boring,  until I recognized it was the voice of my mother.  I was noticing a pattern in my words!   When I realized this, it felt like a relief and I was able to take a distance and let go this pattern!'

Create time for reflection
Taking regular time for reflection is a useful hint which I take from the Handbook.  For example:

  • Create space (1 or 2 hours a week)  in your agenda to reflect;
  • Make a date with yourself.  So do something with yourself, so that you can give yourself a relaxing treat.  Consider this appointment with yourself as important and valuable time and do not offer this time for another appointment;
  • Evaluate at least every quarter.

Professional development through social media
An increasing number of Professionals are now deepening their professional knowledge through discussion groups as Linkedin and Yammer.  The book 'En_Nu_Online'  written by Joitske Hulsebosch and Sibrenne Wagenaar is complementary to the 'Handbook Developing as Professional'  written by Carolien de Monchy.   Daily I read some interesting articles and watch some amazing video's through links which I receive at my twitter account @koolwijk.   A lot of practical knowledge I gain through following discussions at a number of Linkedin groups.  When I am getting stuck and need advice from a peer-colleague I consult my colleages by an e-mail or a phone call.  And when I can not directly get my question answered through my first circle of colleagues, I put my question at a Linkedin group.  It is amazing how many people are willing to assist and share their knowledge.   As Carolien de Monchy is mentioning,  asking a question is a motor for development!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The art of making short video messages

The last couple of weeks, I have been involved in making one-minute video messages as part of the preperation of the IAF-Benelux Conference 'Facilitation as a {2nd} profession.  The conference will take place on the 23rd September, 2011 at Kontakt der Kontinenten in Soesterberg, The Netherlands. The event has 24 workshops and aims to have approximately 150 participants. My role is to make short video messages, where the workshop presenters explain in one minute what they will do and what participants can expect.  In addition, testimonials are filmed where participants from previous IAF-Benelux conferences share some inspirational stories.
See video ( in Dutch)  of one of the testimonials:

Conditions to be created by the client
Making a short video message is an art.  There are six conditions that need to be created by your interviewee or client, before taping the video interview.
1.   A space with enough light:  Ensure that the interview takes place in a room or a setting, where there is enough light.
2.  Prevent disturbing noises:  The interview should not be distracted by disturbing noises such as cars, people talking on the background, machines or other distracting noises, which do not add any value to the video.
3.  Prevent a space with too much wind:   A windy surrounding affects the audio quality of the video. Make sure that the interview is done outside the wind, so that the voice recording goes smoothly.
4. Decor is part of the story:  Before the interview takes place, the interviewee is recommended to think through what he would like to show on the background. Posters, facilitation materials or a surrounding where the interviewee peforms his services can already tell part of the story.
5.  Match the dressing with the audience:  Dressing and clothes are also part of communication.  The dress of the interviewee should match, the needs and perceptions of the target group.  Therefore, remind the interviewee to wear the proper clothing during the interview.
6.  Prepare the interviewee what he is going to tell:  A telephone call or an e-mail with a number of questions, are a helpful way to get the client prepared what he is going to tell in one minute.

Conditions to be ensured by the videomaker
So on a number of aspects for a successful video interview, you depend on your client/ interviewee. However, as  videomaker you have control on a number of situations:
1.  Take time to warm up:   Plan at least 2 - 3 hours for an interview.  Normally it is advisable to talk first half an hour with the client, before you start to make video's.  A cup of coffee and a small conversation can be helpful on to finetune the video interview.  Making a one-minute interview is hard work for both the interviewee as well as the videomaker.
2.  Create a relaxed atmosphere during the interview:  Spontanity does not come by itself.  Allow the interviewee to make mistakes while talking and phrasing the message to the camera.  Normally it takes 4 - 5 times to tape the same video message.   Afterwards the videomaker can edit and compile different parts of a videomessage, to a fluent video story.
3.  Check the videotapes together:  Always, check with your client the video tapes, you have been making.   It happens regularly that the interviewee still would like to correct some slight details in the interview.   For example the decor,  the hair, lipstick or the message.   Checking the videotapes together, therefore allows to make some additional video material.  In this case, it is not much of an hindrance to redo the interview another 2 - 3 times.
4. Ask for comments while or after editing:   While or after editing, give the client one or two opportunities to respond and provide input for corrections.  Normally I advise a client to collect feedback from a couple of colleagues or friends. One or a maximum of two rounds can help to optimize the quality of the video message.  Be careful that the client does not get unlimited opportunities to correct the movie.   The danger is that it can create a lot of frustration on both sides. Normally a maximum of 2 rounds of corrections is sufficient.
5.  Have the right equipment:   Make sure you have the right equipment.  Nowadays, with user friendly, relatively low cost and good quality digital video camera's (JVC, Sony, Canon),  you can document successfull interviews to be published at youtube, vimeo or websites.  Make sure the camera has high density digital recording and that the audio is of good quality. It is also convenient to have a camera tripod.  This prevents you from making video's with a shaking hand. 

Up to the 23rd September 2011 Simon Koolwijk and Marc van Seters  will continue to publish the short video messages at the IAF-Benelux Conference site:   'Facilitation as a {2nd} profession'  and at the Youtube Channel of IAF-Benelux.