Involving Executives... LO13037

Mike Halperin (
Wed, 26 Mar 1997 17:10:00 -0640


How can change agents, with lower risk, maximize executives'
commitment to fund and participate in Organizational Learn-
ing and other change initiatives?

How can executives increase the validity and completeness of
the information on which they base funding and implementa-
tion decisions about Organizational Learning and other
change initiatives?


Collaborative Action Associates, Inc., recently completed its
second data-driven Forum focusing on "Effectively Involving
Executives in Organizational Learning and Change." This Second
Forum identified, discussed and demonstrated new ways for change
agents and executives to more openly and effectively collaborate
on organizational learning and change initiatives, while reducing
the political and financial risks involved.

Participants were invited first to complete a short on-line
survey to identify critical issues in engaging executives,
including productively accessing what is "difficult to discuss or
undiscussable" about effectively involving executives in organi-
zational change initiatives. This data served as an important
focal point for the actual telephone conference.

Some demographics: over 30 organizations responded to the
questionnaire. Organizational roles of respondents included
CEO's, other executives, "line" managers, internal consultants,
external consultants, academics, and individual contributors.
Many sectors were represented, including high-tech manufacturing,
software, steel, insurance, information technology, finance,
health care, training, OD consulting, universities and several
levels of government.

The responses were grouped to provide the Change Agent Perspec-
tive and the Executive Perspective.

Within the Change Agent Perspective we identified three major
categories of barriers:

1. Difficulty demonstrating and accurately measuring the effec-
tiveness and business value of organizational learning (OL).

2. Difficulty operationalizing OL and other change theories and

3. Unproductive reactions to organizational change (e.g., "not
invented here" syndrome).

Within the Executive Perspective we identified four major catego-
ries of barriers:

1. Need for measurable, tangible results.

2. Need to know that the organization is diagnosing and solving
the right business problems.

3. Need to be able to trust that the change agents will do the
right things.

4. Need to believe that the organization is ready for the

In the interactive telephone conference call that followed,
panelists discussed the data and their reactions and demonstrated
new ways for change agents and executives to more openly and
effectively collaborate on organizational learning and change
initiatives, while reducing the political and financial risks

The panelists in the Forum included:

DR. BRIAN BECKER, VP of Operations, Shamrock In-Home Health-
care, Rochester, Minn.

JAMES B. BALDWIN, President and CEO, Baldwin & Stone, Inc.,
Cambridge, Mass.

GRACE PASTIAK, Director - Network Systems Division, Tellabs,
Inc., Lisle, Illinois

GARY LOSPALUTO, Co-President and Founder, Collaborative
Action Associates, Inc., Medford, Mass.

JOHN R. SNYDER (moderator), VP-Southwest Region, Collabora-
tive Action Associates, Inc., Austin, Texas.

There were many rich threads in the discussion, including the
following highlights:

1. General Theme: Both executives and change agents had an
array of important issues regarding how to collaborate more
effectively to implement organizational learning and change
initiatives. One important recurring pattern that was
identified as being difficult to discuss openly was that
both executives and the change agents made private judgments
about each others' intent and effectiveness. Typically
these negative judgments were not discussed openly and
checked for accuracy, but were acted upon as if they were
true. This finding has been illustrated through this and
other CAA research as an important and costly obstacle to
effective collaboration and therefore to the success of
organizational learning and change initiatives.

2. Brian Becker: Speaking from his experience as both a change
agent and an executive, Brian described new collaboration
tools he has used with a range of co-workers, from board
members to front-line employees and customers. He told how
these tools allowed him to address the critical pattern
identified above and to provide new levels of value and
precision in organizational learning.

3. Grace Pastiak: She spoke about her experience implementing
collaborative tools that allow individuals to discuss what
previously was not openly discussed and identify hidden
errors in the processes of knowledge workers. She reported
that in a pilot to test these new tools, performance went
from a "17% error rate ... to a 99.9906% accuracy rate in
just 2 months ..." More broadly, "by slowing the organiza-
tion down [by using the collaborative tools] to look at
what's data and what's inference, we [Grace and her team]
were able to take certain processes that typically would
have taken 8, 12, 14 weeks and shrink them down to 2 weeks."

4. Jim Baldwin: As a CEO, Jim's biggest concern is that he may
not be hearing about the real issues in the organization.
Accurate and complete information is vital to good decision
making. The panel discussed how the collaborative tools
substantially increase executives' access to reliable infor-
mation by creating the safety people need in order to speak
candidly and with new precision.

5. Gary Lospaluto: Gary briefly described the evolution of the
collaborative tools. He and Jim spoke to the importance of
being able to demonstrate and measure the business value of
organizational learning and other change initiatives, start-
ing even in the initial meeting with the executive. Gary
briefly discussed how this is actually done.


The following information is available via email:

- Research Summary, including speaker bios and forum agenda
- Transcript from the teleconference

In addition, the meeting is available in audiotape at cost for
$10 per copy. If you would like any of this information, please
send an email request to:


Please mark your calendars for the next Forum. More details will
be forthcoming shortly - it should prove to be a very exciting
session! This series of implementation Forums provides a means
for high-value exchange of knowledge between those doing the day-
to-day work of transforming their organizations. The theme and
content of each Forum are based on input from participating

Thank for your interest in the Collaborative Forum. We look
forward to your participation.

Mike Halperin

Michael J. Halperin
Co-President PHONE: (617) 661-3420
Collaborative Action Associates FAX: (617) 322-7465
Nine Wolcott Park, Suite One EMAIL:
Medford, MA 02155

-- (Mike Halperin)

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