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Thursday 18 August 2016

Get the most out of a partnership's latency phase: think about it differently

I have previously written about what I call a partnership's Latency Phase. Essentially, it is a period during a partnership's development within which progress towards results seems very slow or indeed non-existent.

This happens because partners' attention and energy becomes focused upon specific questions about the partnership's interests and goals, its overall credibility and resourcefulness and the competing needs and expectations of partners.        

I identified five ways in which partners can address these questions and effectively manage the latency phase, making it more likely to become a springboard towards achieving their partnership's potential. (To read the full article, which is also a chapter in my book 'Sleeping with the Enemy', click here.)

The five ways identified focus mainly upon addressing trust and relationship issues between partners, acknowledging and addressing partners' differing needs and expectations and managing perceptions about what constitutes progress and what needs to be done by when.    

Recently, I read How to Create an Exponential Mindset by Mark Bonchek. This article highlights that as well as addressing the above issues and changing perceptions, partners also need to change the way they think.

Most of us, because of our education and training, think in in an incremental way: we think logically and methodically about how we can make things better; we seek to see steady straight-line progress towards our goals.

When steady progress cannot so readily be seen, as during a partnership's Latency Phase, an incremental mindset can quickly lead to frustration. This frustration can then cause partners to rush through the Latency Phase without dealing with its issues. In more extreme cases partners may dismiss the worth of the partnership and make a swift and probably premature exit from it.

The incremental way of thinking creates an expectation gap between what the partnership seems to be achieving and what we perceive it should be achieving.   

To effectively negotiate our way through a partnership's Latency Phase we need to develop what Mark Bonchek calls an exponential mindset or way of thinking: a way of thinking that accepts and works with initial uncertainty and apparently slow progress in order to achieve increasingly speedy and significant progress later on.   

Many partnerships are formed to address issues that are messy and difficult and which no single organisation has been able to address effectively using traditional mainstream approaches. Therefore rather than finding ways to make things better, the partners are expected to find ways to do things differently.

Doing things differently requires finding different people to work with in different ways, finding different ways of combining new and existing (and sometimes unexpected) resources, and being open to different and probably unforeseen opportunities and solutions which appear 'as-and-when' and sometimes in parallel. (Specifically, it requires creating ever-increasing triangles of trust and influence and speculating in new partners and apparent side-issues.)

Rather than seeking to see steady progress towards foreseeable goals, partners need to see their way through the apparent lack of straight line obvious progress. This process takes time and its outcomes are unpredictable. If, however, partners do see it through they can eventually find themselves travelling increasingly speedily up an ever-increasing exponential curve leading towards a vast array of new and innovative ways of doing things.

The exponential way of thinking encourages us to accept very slow initial progress as a necessary precondition for eventually achieving things increasingly quickly, effectively and, most importantly, innovatively.

(To find out how to develop an exponential mindset read Mark Bonchek's article, the link to which is given above.)

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Clearing the filters and joining the dots: encouraging experts to work collaboratively

Groups of experts can often find it a challenge to think across sectors and work collaboratively.

This is because, very understandably, their training and experiences condition them to see other sectors related to and impacting upon their work through the biased filters of their own expertise and specialisms.         

Here is a great example of how to encourage a group of experts to adjust their filters and begin seeing and 'joining the dots' between the differing sectors that impact upon their work:    

The example is from part of the IMPARTS Project (which seeks to integrate mental and physical healthcare in research, training and clinical services in several major London hospitals).
The example highlights three key things:
  1. The power that one strong and emotive issue has to increase awareness and catalyse collaboration and action.
  2. The importance of introducing and analysing strong and emotive issues in a ways that are credible for the intended audience.
  3. Reinforcing key messages with personal experiences, case studies and role-plays. 
The strong and emotive issue selected for attention was the effect of mental illness upon physical health and life expectancy. 

The audience, consisting of experienced and expert health professionals, was presented with research which suggested that (on average) people suffering from mental illness would suffer more physical illness and die ten years earlier than others in the population.

Very importantly, this expert audience was encouraged to look beneath the shocking headline statistics and analyse and assess the research supporting them. A widely accepted and credible assessment tool from was used to do this. 

The process of methodically and objectively analysing the research, identifying its strengths and weaknesses and then assessing the validity of its findings greatly enhanced the confidence the health professionals had in it.

Once this confidence in the research had been created, its key messages and recommendations could be reinforced through the sharing of personal experiences (which, having been convinced of their relevance and importance, people were now willing to share) and the use of participative case studies and role-plays (which, again having been convinced of their relevance and importance, people were now willing to do).

So, to encourage expert audiences to think across sectors and behave collaboratively do the following:
  • Focus upon a strong and emotive issue.
  • Make it credible and believable in their eyes.
  • Reinforce key messages with personal stories and memorable case studies and role-plays.
This will help clear the filters and join the dots!