After his five Regional visits to review results from their Region’s Group Workplace Assessment, Rodd arranged for all 75 of his people to get together in one central location. He was prepared to present the most important results that related to the entire group, starting with their top three strengths:
“We start and end our meetings on time,” Rodd said. “Hooray! And… we use measures to track our performance too – another plus. Not to mention that we put clear due-dates and deadlines on the assignments we give to each other. This is wonderful to know what we’re doing right. Give yourselves a round of applause!”
They did. When the noise died down, Rodd asked, “Are you ready to see the top three problems?” The room groaned, then laughed. Their three problems are very common in many organizations:
- Equipment or systems are outdated.
- Changes are implemented without discussing them with the people whose jobs will be affected by the change.
- There are significant differences in the work people do.
He had people move to one of the three different sections he had set up in the room – each section with table-top signs that said #1, #2, or #3. This allowed smaller groups of eight or nine people to discuss one issue and capture their ideas. When everyone was seated, Rodd put a new PowerPoint slide up on the screen, showing a slide summarizing the four productive conversations.
“At each of your tables, I want you to look at the issue you have been assigned and ask yourselves one question: ‘Which of these conversations is missing?’, then make some notes on how you think we could change our communications to reduce or eliminate that issue. Each of you also has a flier in front of you, summarizing the details of those conversations so you can really dive in. Any questions?”
There was just one: “Could changing our communication really change these issues?”
Rodd’s answer was, “Yes, I have seen it happen. Just play with it a while and you’ll see what opens up.”
Before the day was out, each table had produced a plan of action, and would share it with the whole room. It was a high-energy afternoon, with people practicing the use of productive conversations in various situations that were all too familiar in their workplace.
At the end of the day, one Regional supervisor stood up and spoke. “This is amazing. I have never seen the power of a full-fledged request before. I think if we could just learn how to do that, 90% of our troubles would be over.” She received a healthy round of applause as well as two calls of “Amen!”.