Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Are We Getting Smarter?

My experience has taught me that Organization Development work is seldom short. Often OD work is long haul work.

In an e-mail posting to ODNET, OD consultant Bea Carson related some research she has done about marathon runners. When an OD project runs anywhere from a year to several years, the OD practitioner should do what Bea recommended in her posting about marathons:

- Have a vision and a plan, with goals and mileposts for checking progress along the way

- Communicate the vision and plan to others so that everyone knows

- Have a learning orientation so that set-backs do not derail the plan

To expand a bit from Bea's last point, having a learning orientation also means:

- Continuously learning along the way

- Making sure that the learning is 360, i.e., that you are learning from all key stakeholders

- Feeding the lessons being learned back into the thought process of the team that is guiding the project

- Making appropriate course corrections based on the learning

One of the measures of effective OD work, I believe, is that the participants say that they learned some things. And, as a result of the work, they have applied what was learned toward improving the operation.

As a colleague of mine used to say, "We got smarter."

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/31/06

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Have You Ever Seen A Woonerf?

Though the word may sound like something from Alice Through the Looking Glass, a woonerf is actually a Dutch word for "living street." An idea that has caught on in Europe, a woonerf is a shared community space where pedestrians, cars, trucks, cyclists and skateboarders use the same thoroughfare.

I remember dining at a restaurant one August night in Rome, near the Vatican, where our table was off the curb. We were sitting in semi-dark in the cobblestone street. Across the narrow street was another restaurant, also with tables in the street. Cars and even trucks would slowly rumble by us, the driver usually giving a smile and a wave.

At first I was apprehensive about this arrangement, but as our delightful Roman evening went on, I lost the fear of being run over. Apparently, this was how things were done.

A woonerf has a calming effect. According to blogger Ma Carr:

"[A] typical woonerf has no traffic signals, a very low speed limit, and many features to prevent cars from moving quickly or in a straight line. These features might be large planters, parking spaces on alternating sides of the road and curving road designs. Data show lower accident rates, improved traffic flow, as well as increased business for shops near them."

At the Learning Circuits Blog, Big Dog himself, Don Clark, compares the idea of a woonerf to the design of learning processes.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/30/06

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day Remembering . . .

My father was an infantryman who fought the Nazis in World War II. He started off in North Africa, then to Sicily, and then on to Italy where his regiment, known as the Blue Devils, were the first Allies in Rome. He went on into northern Italy, then to Greece.

He did not say much about his experiences during the war. Just a few things that he would repeat over the years:

- War is hell.

- I'll never go camping.

- Patton was a great general.

On the first, I imagine he saw a lot of death in his travels. On the second, after two years sleeping out of doors, he had had enough. On the third, my dad always felt that the world would have turned out very differently if the "powers that be" had let Patton drive on to Berlin as he wanted to do.

Imagine if that had happened. If the Russians had not seized Berlin. If there had not been an East Germany. Maybe there would never have been an Iron Curtain.

Patton was a great general, but he was a frustrated leader, limited and leashed and held back by those above him who called the shots.

I wonder if my dad identified with Patton in this respect. After the war, my father joined the police force here in New Brunswick, NJ, and after a long career, became captain and finally chief of detectives. He had some friends in high places, but he felt frustrated by the deal-makers and politicians. Eventually, after years of loyal and meritorious service to the city, he retired. Then the local politicians betrayed him by destroying the career of his eldest son, my brother who had followed my dad into public service to the city.

My father: a kid who became a warrior. A cop who became a captain and chief. A father of six children. A player, coach, and umpire. A mentor and leader. A servant of the public good.

Remembering . . . George James Seamon (1924 - 2003)

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/29/06

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Something I Am Good At

A fellow jobhunter told me today that I am "good with figuring out stuff when there are no directions."

That made my day.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/25/06

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More Remarkable Meetings

More Remarkable Meetings

Last year, when I started my job search, I posted a couple of entries about meetings with remarkable people who, like spirit guides, provided me with wisdom for the journey.

Here are two more from the past weeks....

Rude Awakening
Last Thursday morning, I trekked up to Parsippany for an early networking meeting where the guest speaker was going to address ageism (that is, the fact that employers don't want you if you are over 50, too experienced, and earning too much).

The speaker, a retained headhunter and a seasoned veteran of the corporate world, gave us a bracing message. Yes, ageism is a fact. Get over it. And get on with it, meaning get on with your search.

Two essential ingredients that he stressed were: having a plan (much like a sales plan) and knowing your accomplishments.

Brewed Awakenings
Yesterday, I met with a local training consultant for networking over a "cup o' coffee" (I actually ordered a green tea smoothie instead) at a place called Brewed Awakenings. Great name for a coffee spot!

Her message to me was, It's all about relationships. Building them, maintaining them. Connecting with people at a human level.

Additionally, it's about being nice. And helpful. Even when it's not returned in kind.


Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/16/06

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What Makes A Virtual Team Effective?

A reality in 21st century organizations is the need for effective virtual teams. What goes into making these teams work?

I was part of a successful virtual team that operated for about three years. It was the group of OD practitioners that wrote Chapter 27, on practicing internal OD, for Roland Sullivan's book Practicing Organization Development - A Guide for Consultants, 2nd Edition.

We had members in several organizations and various states here in the U.S., as well as at least one member in Europe.

(The team was: Allan Foss, David Lipsky, Allen Orr, Bev Scott, Terrence Seamon, Julie Smendzuik-O'Brien, Anna Tavis, Dale Wissman, and Catherine Woods.)

We communicated primarily via a special Yahoo Group and e-mail, with an occasional conference call. We also divided into sub-teams to tackle parts of our project. (If we had known about wikis, we probably would have had one.)

What helped us to be a successful virtual team in acheiving our goal? A few thoughts...

- Engagement: We were all happy to be part of this team. We were excited by the opportunity to add value to our field.

- Challenge: We were empowered to tackle our topic, the practice of OD as an internal consultant, in whatever way we thought best.

- Diversity: We were a diverse crew. Lots of experience, lots of wisdom. We were turned on by the enthusiasm and talents of our fellow team members. We knew, that if we could harness the diverse viewpoints of all on the team, we would have a rich chapter.

- Leadership: We were given direction and encouragement by Roland that kept us pumped. Additionally, one of our team (Allan Foss) kept us informed and kept us going, organizing our efforts so that a final product was delivered.

Can any generalities be gleaned from this case?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/11/06

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Spirituality Matters

Blogger Astha has an interesting entry about the importance of spirituality:

“Fundamentally . . . what spirituality is about . . . is the underpinning principle which emphasizes that there is greatness inherent in man which has not yet manifested itself. Swami Vivekananda once said that but 90% of our existence is subject to the sphere of rationality. Spirituality is not irrational. It just allows us to concede there is more to us than we know, and more to the universe than we perceive.”

I agree.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, there is more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of in most people's philosophy.

Life is sacred. We are sacred.

The problem with our modern, secular, materialistic, political world is that ...

- we are numbed
- we forget who we are, what we are
- we fall asleep
- we drift
- we get buried

To me, spirituality is our calling. For all people, everywhere. The calling that beckons us to awake, to "rise from our graves" so to speak.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/09/06

Monday, May 08, 2006

Wild Wild Wiki

Wild Wild Wiki

Freelance writer Elizabeth Svoboda has written a piece about wikipedia for the IEEE Spectrum magazine.

With the controversy that swirled back in January as her starting point, Svoboda explores the uniquely democratic nature (i.e., openness, decentralization, and collaboration) of wikis:

"As the first-ever major reference work with a democratic premise—that anyone can contribute an article or edit an entry—Wikipedia has generated shared scholarly efforts to rival those of any literary or philosophical movement in history. Its signature strength, however, is also its greatest vulnerability."

And for this article, she interviewed Yours Truly, a wikipedian since 2003.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/08/2006

Friday, May 05, 2006

A Sense of Agency

In the corporate world, we often speak of someone "having a sense of urgency." That is, you understand the expectations of others, especially having to do with deliverables and their associated deadlines. In descriptive terms, a person with a sense of urgency moves quickly to get things done ahead of schedule if possible.

But, until the other day (thanks to blogger Astha), I had not heard the phrase "a sense of agency." What is that? And is it important?

The concept of a sense of agency seems to arise out of philosophy (Wittgenstein) and continue into psychology (e.g. studies of autism).

In a nutshell, it is the sense one has of being the owner of one's actions and decisions. The language of agency has the sound of intention and of initiative: “I did.” “I chose.” “I decided.”

Sounds like the language of a leader, no?

A person with a sense of agency, then, is someone who takes ownership. It's someone who takes responsibility for what they are accountable for. Someone who takes action.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, posted 05/05/06

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Inspiration and Organization Development

Inspiration: "Breathing in" some stimulating influence such as music, fresh air, a flower garden, or the ideas of another person.

Such inspiration can lead to a new idea of our own. Thus inspired, our creative thinking is stimulated and we have the makings of a breakthrough.

As I write these words, it seems to me that OD work is inspirational. Not in a stereotypical religious sense, though we may sometimes quote an appropriate passage from scripture in our communication with a client.

OD work is inspirational in the sense that we are helping the client to breath in a stimulating influence intended to provoke a different path in thinking.

What a beautiful sunny day in central New Jersey

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/04/06

Monday, May 01, 2006

Principles of Improvisation

From creativity catalyst Michelle, at her blog The Fertile Unknown:

"These are 5 common principles of improvisational theater, without which an improvised scene could not effectively move forward:
1. Yes And
2. Make everyone else look good
3. Be changed by what is said and what happens
4. Shared agenda and shared focus
5. Serve the good of the whole"

Imagine applying these principles to organizations and to leadership.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/01/06
Deconstructing Here We Are. Now What?

Blogger Starbucker (aka Terry St. Marie) asked me how I came up with the title of my blog.

My blog name (Here We Are. Now What?) came to me (meaning, it just popped into my head) one day when I was tinkering with my previous blog.

Sometimes I get ideas that way. Do you? I wonder where ideas come from? Do they come from somewhere within the Self? Do they sometimes come from outside the Self? If they do, where do they originate?

It may seem strange to ask such questions. I'm a spiritual seeker sort of person. I believe in a Higher Power (a creator), a higher purpose (stewardship), and a calling (what I am called to do).

As for what it means:

- "Here We Are" says that each person finds himself or herself situated somewhere on this Earth, and

- "Now What" says that it is up to each person to decode life's meaning and decide what we are going to do here on Earth to make this world a better place.

My mother used to say, "Life is what you make it."

I am trying my best to follow her wisdom day in and day out.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/01/06