13: BUSINESS EXPERIENCE
Welcome to the 13th post in our Journey in Dialog. Dialog contributes to feelings of ownership, motivation and sustainability. All are important for businesses to be successful.
MIT professor, Peter Senge, introduced the business world to dialog. He said we learn when we suspend assumptions and think together. Our sensitivity becomes a fine net able to gather subtle meanings.
The executives of an organization, for which the TLDM chairman was the CEO and for which I was a consultant, spent a year reading and reflecting on Senge’s book. After reflecting, we then dug into what it would mean for us to use dialog in that business. After an acquisition, during a meeting that lasted several days, we had dialog sessions with the new executives after dinner each night to explore the best ways to integrate the assets of the acquired company into the new. It made the acquisition go much better.
In my consultations in Europe, I had a client who was Jewish, German and a leading engineer in England where he had migrated after the time of Hitler. He was not a “touchy-feely” kind of guy. He asked me to help him with a challenge. He was tasked with consolidating three companies that had been competitors. They were headquartered in France, Wales and the U.S. The mission was to bring together employees, plants, products, patents, offices, customers and cultures that would provide a competitive advantage in their world-wide business. The leaders of the three companies could be ordered to accomplish this mission, but my client recognized the need for sustainable contributions and motivation.
To make this happen was a challenge for me. With a lot of shuttle diplomacy, I engaged in substantive dialog with each group building bridges as they became possible. We celebrated success in a meeting with the key people from each group. There was considerable satisfaction and commitment to future progress.
A company with a long history of a particular product recognized the need for a related new product line. The decisions about this challenge were clouded by many unknown variables. As this company’s consultants, a colleague and I recommended a process we learned from a mentor friend.
We had a multi-day, off-site meeting that included several disciplines and even a group of corporate directors. The model was based on a jury trial. Initial research provided a pro-con decision to be made. Pro and con advocates came with data as well as experts to make their cases. Directors and senior executives comprised the jury.
The purpose of the session was not to make a decision, but to provide the Board and executives with many dimensions to be considered in the decisions. It was a fun experience and stimulated a lot of creativity. The decision makers followed with substantive dialog to reshape the company’s direction.
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i Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization