It was a Thursday morning when I walked into the tasting room of a wine market in the west loop area of Chicago. I was there to facilitate an organizational review for a well- known law firm, and to help prepare staff to finish the year strong with a great performance in the fourth quarter.
As I ticked past the bottles of wine and made my way to the meeting room, I couldn’t help but think about the many ways to hold effective annual organizational reviews. Of course, there is the complex and often fear-provoking financial review via PowerPoint version—that often inspires employees to feel under-appreciated and overworked. Worse, it can inspire fear and an insidious desire for some to look for work elsewhere.
Then there is the elaborate annual post-mortem version held in the fourth quarter designed to look like a pep talk, but that often leaves employees with information but no actionable steps. While these are well intended, I find that many clients complain that nothing new transpired from the meeting.
Back at the wine market, I set up music, materials and corny (but enjoyable) games to set the stage for a relaxed and open dialogue. Since the group size would be under 20, I had created an agenda to accommodate plenty of time for short presentations on data, responsive dialogue, hands-on activities and action planning.
The meetings flowed out as I had anticipated. The corny but useful games broke the ice; the short (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off) bits of shared data and business models provoked deep dialogue. I used a real-time voting process to “take the pulse of the firm” and gather opinions anonymously around sensitive issues that needed to be addressed. We left time for action steps and outlined near-term priorities.
And here’s the thing…we achieved a sense of authenticity and shared vulnerability, and more willingness to take corrective actions that is lacking in most information-driven organizational reviews.
It is critical to ask people in your organization to step outside their task-centered lives and look at what I call “stop the work and look at how you are working.” Adults learn better in a low-key environment with stressors lowered, engaging dialogue, and hands-on activities. A session, designed and facilitated the right way, fuels the group to achieve difficult goals.
Here is my recipe for success when it’s time to review performance and leverage near-term opportunities in your organization:
- Hold your meeting in a low-key location.
- Hire a facilitator who can design and lead the session.
- Do your homework-I conducted interviews with partners and key staff to get a handle on important issue.
- Develop an agenda that won’t overwhelm the group and includes breakouts, downtime, and time for dialogue or informal conversations.
- Structure the day to achieve the outcomes you want, and make sure there are action steps that can be implemented after the session.
CLI designs and facilitates training, coaching and strategy development. Visit our website at www.corplearning.com or call us at 1.800. 203.6734.