Archive for April, 2014

Re-United – the 1992 Committee

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

© Reuters

Music bands reform on a reasonably regular basis – usually with the aim of making as much money over as short a period of time as possible. As I write this, Fleetwood Mac are soon to tour with Christine McVie back in the line-up, re-creating the band as it was for the Rumours album, and there is talk that Oasis are about to reform after five years apart. Similarly, Monty Python are taking the same approach in July this year – quite openly with the exactly same financial objective – with their “One down, five to go” shows.

And in the same way that Monty Python are down to 5 out of its 6 members, through the sad death of Graham Chapman, Manchester United’s  Class of ‘92 are too, but in a different way. Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt have bought Salford City FC, keen to offer support to a local football venture, whilst David Beckham is creating a different vision in Miami.

More immediate than that, however, is their re-united presence at Old Trafford. The short reign of David Moyes is over and Ryan Giggs is in charge. Phil Neville – one of Moyes’ assistants – has been retained; he’s not to blame apparently, he can’t be – he’s a part of the Class of ’92 – what is now being referred to as the 1992 Committee. Paul Scholes has returned this week, too, and Nicky Butt is more involved. That only leaves Gary Neville, but he may well be there commentating for Sky whilst also being part way through his football coaching badges.

The scene is set – for a thunderous atmosphere at the game against Norwich later today. But the logic and theory for such an atmosphere doesn’t add up – it is completely irrational. Giggs has far less experience as a manager than Moyes, and is apparently not being considered for the permanent role. His lieutenants do not have much more experience. So what do they have? They have three things.

Being the 1992 Committee. They are that home grown crop of players who were central to United’s successes between roughly 1995 and 2010. They are the history that the supporters yearn for – they played completely differently to how Moyes’ teams played. They are seen as the saviours – both potentially on the pitch and because the rumours are that they are leading a bid to buy Manchester United back from the Glazers. In the week we have celebrated St George’s Day, they are returning to slay some dragons.

Symbolism. Giggs moved his pre-match press conference back to the time and place that Sir Alex held them. The news channels were running a picture of the four of them together – Giggs, Scholes, Phil Neville and Butt – there could have been more as there are more coaches (for example, the goalkeeping coach who has been retained as he has helped De Gea considerably). But just the four in the photograph.

Use of Emotional intelligence. When exploring EI in speeches, I often use Henry V’s St Crispin’s Day monologue, or some of Barak Obama’s, but what about Ryan Giggs’ press conference?

“I am proud, I am happy and a little nervous” (Self-awareness).

“My mind-set is on Norwich first and then the remaining three games”, and It’s been a frustrating season and I want to end it on a high” (Self-management).

“I can’t wait for Saturday – I know the place will be rocking and know the fans will be behind us” and “My philosophy is the Manchester United philosophy,” (Social awareness).

“I’d like to thank David [Moyes] for giving me my first chance in coaching” and “I trust the players, I know what they are capable of and I want them to go out and show it against Norwich” (Relationship Management).

He was clear and passionate about what he wants to achieve: “I want players to play with passion, speed, tempo and be brave, with imagination, all the things that are expected of a Manchester United player. I want to see goals, tackles, players taking players on and getting the crowd up. I want the passion that should come with being a Manchester United player”.

Whatever happens during the game, the atmosphere and build up will be electric. Not for any rational reasons – purely for emotional ones. It will demonstrate the power of emotion attachments and symbols. Who knows what the result will be – I don’t (and I have published this before the game) – but it has huge potential based on emotional motivation.

Will it be another example of how dreams, potential and belief can be brought to fruition in completely irrational ways?

My son was in a class of 18 two weekends ago at St George’s, the FA HQ. He was on a coaching course. When the un-named guest speaker arrived, it was Ryan Giggs – to be assessed for his UEFA ‘A’ Coaching qualifications. (As an aside, I wonder whether he will have been more nervous for that or his first game in charge?).

I asked Alex whether he said anything to Giggs at the end of the session; “I just shook his hand and said that I hoped he got his goal for the season … (Giggs is the only person to have scored in every season since the Premier League was introduced in 1991) … and he said that it would be good but he was running out of games”.

Perhaps, just perhaps …

Paul

De-briefing animals, drummers and Shakespeare

Monday, April 14th, 2014

W. C. Fields said, “Never work with Children or animals”. Is this a brilliant aphorism, or did it just indicate he didn’t have the best skill set for such situations? More importantly, how applicable is this to learning methodologies?

In my last blog post, where I described how to get the best out of the use of actors as a learning methodology, one of the points I covered was the importance of the de-brief and how to structure it in order to maximise the learning.

The de-brief itself is too often seen as not being particularly important. This is evident from events I have attended where it has been implemented poorly. This results in reduced learning, varying degrees of frustration for the learners and ultimately a failure to gain the benefit from the financial and time investment.

I have seen horses, drums and Shakespeare used to name just three methodologies – and in cases where these have been used, I have seen some poor quality de-briefs.

These interventions are “Low reality, high process content” learning methodologies. In other words, the “Low reality” indicates that the methodology has little or no relevance to the knowledge or skills of the participants (e.g. shop managers working with horses, office managers learning to play drums). This means that the individuals feel little or no group pressure to succeed in front of colleagues as they are not situations they would face in the workplace. It also means that there is a level playing field in that there is no workplace knowledge or skills required in order to take part. These factors also make the methodology “high process content”. This means that the methodology can lead to a rich seam of learning due to the removal of the described pressures – the result being relaxed participants whose inhibitions have been removed. The participants immerse themselves in the task. This type of methodology is particularly powerful in terms of self-development and team development, and will often focus on attitudes and behaviours.

The use of actors to assist the same managers to be more effective when conducting interviews or running team meetings (as described in the previous post) would be an example of the opposite methodology – “High reality, low process content”. The reality is high, because the situations are tailored to the managers’ work situations through, for example, context and language. The process content in these situations is low as they are predominantly about knowledge, understanding and skills – how to complete the task more effectively. There is less potential for profound self-development and less likelihood of a person changing their awareness of themselves due to participants generally being less relaxed and a little more inhibited – because they know their peers may well be assessing their workplace competence, and the intended focus is around a workplace activity.

Both methodologies are powerful; but for different reasons, and the correct type needs to be chosen. And as previously mentioned, it’s the de-brief that is the key – and one type is generally a lot easier to debrief than the other …

The “High reality, low process content” tends to be the easier to debrief. This is because there is a script, probably some models or theories to include, and it can be predicted to some degree as to the potential outcomes and learning points.

Little of this anticipated de-brief content is available for the “Low reality, high process content” methodology – if de-briefed effectively. The facilitator or de-briefer has to work with the ‘live data’ generated – and this is where many of the providers of this type of activity fall down. They often plan on what they expect to come out of the activity and even have their learning points ready prepared – thus making what happened in the activity fit within their debrief. This can devalue the methodology, and confuse the learners as it doesn’t fit with their experience – thus making any learning less meaningful.

As Abraham Maslow pointed out, “lf you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail”.

Why does this happen?

1)      The facilitator is concerned that perhaps no ‘live data’ will be generated, or they will not be able to make the duration of the de-brief worthwhile – which leads to them deciding on the strands for the de-brief or creating the learning points beforehand. As a consequence they do not listen to or see what is really happening during the activity.

2)      The facilitator has a situationally dysfunctional mind-set. They approach the methodology with an “I need to handle” or “I must handle” mind-set. This leads to them adopting the approach described in point 1 above. In order to de-brief it well, the facilitator requires the skills and confidence to enable them to have the “I can handle” mind-set. This leads to the intrapersonal discussion that there will be ‘live data’ and they will be able to de-brief great learning, thus meaning that they don’t script themselves. They approach the de-brief objectively and with an open-mind, using only data generated. And they usually end up having to decide what not to include – rather than worrying about how much there will be to de-brief – as there are so many potential learning points.

Perhaps in the acting world, Fields was correct – certainly for situations where there is a strict script. There is, however, a strong case for using methodologies which generate unpredictable learning – but the time, place and facilitator need to be right.

Next time someone offers you a wonderfully innovative methodology, don’t get carried away by the methodology itself. Spend time checking on the skills of the person who will de-brief it – then you will find out whether it has the potential to be a wonderful methodology or just a frustratingly wasted investment.

Paul

 

All the world’s a stage …

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

… wrote William Shakespeare in “As You Like It”. I have used actors in learning and development interventions on a number of occasions over the past 20 years. Actors have assisted me in different ways, such as acting out business scenarios between themselves, and interacting individually with delegates. I have also seen others use them in innovative and powerful ways, such as Olivier Mythodrama where the facilitator or trainer is also a skilled Shakespearean actor. As Sanford Meisner said, “An ounce of behaviour is worth a pound of words”.

Recently I have seen a couple of posts on HR and training forums asking about how to use actors effectively and whether any return on investment evaluation has been undertaken regarding their use. A very successful use of actors late last year led me to reflect on what works and what doesn’t when using this methodology – which is what prompted this blog post. And it’s not just me saying it was a success – the evaluation qualified the value and, more importantly, demonstrated how the use of actors had made such an impact on the transfer of learning to the workplace.

But it doesn’t always go smoothly – and I have witnessed situations several times where there has been little learning or the people running the event didn’t make the most from the opportunity. So how do you make it work well?

These are the key foundation stones – put these in place and you will build on them during the session, and so gain the maximum benefit from what can be both challenging and financially expensive. It can also be a hugely exciting and satisfying way to develop skills!

Lots of delegates have had experience of role playing with colleagues, and the majority of them do not talk about it being a positive experience. This can be for a number of reasons, but the main ones are that the colleagues ‘ham-acted’, the colleague role player attempted to help the delegate, and that the delegate didn’t find it very realistic. Consequently, you will probably find some reluctance or resistance, making it even more important to plan and deliver the intervention effectively.

Choose wisely There are a significant number of actors and groups of actors available, so how do you get to work with good ones? Personal recommendation is always a good start but not always an available option. When I recently required some in another part of the country, I searched the internet. I found several groups and then sought to understand two very significant points – had they carried out this sort of work before, and secondly, would they give me contact details of their previous customers so I could get references? It is important to use actors who have undertaken business or corporate work previously – it is very different to stage acting in that the actors have to be able to think on their feet and deal with the unknown. Your delegates will not be scripted.

Make the scenarios real and relevant You need your delegates to be able to immerse themselves into the role play, to be able to forget about everything else going on around them, to find it realistic. And all this is possible.

The first aspect of this is the writing of the scenario. It needs to be realistic – as close to what the delegate would experience as possible. This can be helped by the use of the same resources as the delegate would use in the workplace – for example real documentation or forms, signed by who they would expect to see them signed by.

Another point that is so easy to include, but sometimes so problematic if you don’t … all the names of people to be played by actors should be non-gender specific – Sam or Pat, for example – then you can be flexible with your choice of actors.

Give the actors context The other side of this is giving the actors as much information or experience as they need in order to be able to be natural. So, if they are required to be members of the organisation, they need to understand the language, the culture, the role they are playing, current internal issues, etc. This will enable them to act, and to act well – reacting realistically to the unexpected paths the delegates are sure to take them along. Good actors will want lots of this – they know how critical it is to the success or otherwise of the role playing. Once they have all this, leave them to play the roles – your starring role is running the de-brief. As John Malkovich said, “If you don’t interfere with me, I’ll always do something really good.”

Make scenarios win / win Creating challenging scenarios will assist in immersing the delegate into the role play. The more they have to think about in the scenario, the less they will be thinking about what else is happening outside of their interaction. Whilst they should be challenging, they must also be ‘winnable’. If there is no way the delegates can bring the matter or situation to a successful conclusion, they will justifiably not see it as a very useful learning experience.

The delegates meet the actors in role, not as themselves The first time I engaged with actors, I suggested that they should be introduced to the group at the start of the event, so that the group might feel more at ease with the role plays. The actors suggested against this as they said it would dilute the realism. I went with their suggestion, and whilst we didn’t test it both ways, I’m sure they were right.

The delegates met the actors when they walked into the room – as one of their staff. The delegates didn’t have to adjust, the actor was their member of staff.

Plan in at least twice as long for the debrief as the interaction The learning comes out in the debrief. To maximise the learning for all concerned you need to explore what happened, why it happened, overlay it with models and theories, explore what could have happened with a different approach, summaries the learning points, action plan … it takes time to do it well. And to make it as effective as possible, you need a good debrief structure …

Structure the de-brief effectively “Actors are all about entrances, but writers are all about exits” (Vincent H O’Neil).  Trainers are about exits, too. All the planning and preparation you have put in will not be maximised if your de-brief is unstructured. Debrief the delegate first – he or she is the person most likely to be affected, and feelings will dissipate most quickly. Affective Domain learning is often the most powerful, so don’t lose it!  Try this model – it has worked very well for me and many others over the years. And as you work through the model, if you ask the right questions, there will be very little need for you to make many learning points – your cast will of players will have made them. You might even think of yourself as the Director!

Using actors can be a powerful methodology, and in order to maximise the return on your investment of time, the delegates’ time and the cost of the actors, it needs to be managed effectively.

Try these tips. Let me know how they work. Are there any you would add?

Paul