David Sibbet | Collaboration Strategies
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I was saddened to hear that my friend and colleague Allan Drexler passed away recently. He was 88. In the 1980s, he and I co-developed the Drexler/Sibbet Team Performance Model® (Model) and the facilitative methods and tools connected with it. Without Allan we would not have this model. The depth of his field experience with teams, coupled with his deep understanding of group dynamics developed in sensitivity training work at National Training Labs, kept the work grounded in the real world of working teams.

How the Work Beganteamperformancesketchtalk

I first met Allan in 1982, when I gave a workshop about facilitation that included Arthur M. Young’s Theory of Process. Allan shared a team-building model he had developed with Jack Gibb, an influential social science researcher, and Marv Weisbord, a thought leader in organizational development. It laid out predictable questions people ask when joining a group: Why are we here? Who are you? What are we doing? How will we work together? (The model is illustrated here in a Sketchtalk I did on the subject).

At that time Allan was working extensively with matrix-type organizations. He invited me to explore writing a book on the subject as well as collaborating with him in his General Mills client work. A year of productive work together led to our offering a Creating and Leading High Performing Teams workshop through National Training Labs. Ultimately we led five of these workshops. We also involved Russ Forrester, who co-led the program with Allan well into the 2000s.

drexlerhistorysmall

This graphic is a composite of journal drawings over the years I worked with Allan on developing the Team Performance Model

The idea of integrating Allan’s model with Process Theory emerged in the process of designing that program for teams. I realized that the Gibb, Drexler, Weisbord Team Building Model mapped perfectly onto the first stages of Process Theory, in which I was immersed. I had a hunch that the Theory of Process would also describe what happens after a team forms. Allan had been using another model for contracting to describe this part of the process.

Aligning on Nomenclature

Allan loved dialogue, to which he brought a keen wit and the tenacity of a true New Yorker. We had ongoing and robust debate over every element of the emerging Team Performance Model, especially around nomenclature. For example, the word “commitment” is frequently used to represent a willingness to enter emotionally into a process or relationship. It also applies to the very bottom line kinds of commitments involved in contracts and joint ventures. We came to agree that we wanted the word “commitment” to reflect the more concrete aspects of financial, calendar and staff commitments—the essentials in getting real results. Likewise we chose the word “trust” to define the second stage when people are assessing “who” they are working with. A popular Tuchman model of teaming calls this stage “storming,” but we felt that pointing to trust was more universally useful.

Supporting Meaningful Conversations

The Model was developed hand in hand with an assessment tool we called the Team Performance Inventory, co-created with Russ Forrester, who had been trained in assessment work. Allan’s insight was that the real value of these tools was to initiate the right conversations on the team. He believed that that real teamwork developed through engagement and mutual understanding .He also knew from his long experience that people trust data and consider it “valid” if it comes from them, rather than from an outside observer. Because people’s answers to written questions are deeply embedded in their widely varying assumptions and interpretations, dialogue about what the assessment answers actually mean is the active catalyst for involvement.

As we developed the Inventory, we agreed that people would need indicators of the behaviors and characteristics for each of the seven stages—both for issues that have been successfully “resolved” and issues that remain “unresolved.” These indicators became the basis of the team assessments that were developed later.

The Team Leader Guide

In addition to the Model and the Inventory, we created a Team Leader Guide featuring a compilation of the best practices that The Grove and Allan had developed over the years. After gaining clarity about what was working and not working in their team, people were invited to try some new practices that addressed how they mutually agreed they would like to improve their team’s performance.

Grounded in Clear Agreements

As I reflect back on all I learned from Allan, I keep thinking about the care with which he would introduce these tools to clients. He believed strongly that creating a “social contract” with leaders and teams about what they hoped to accomplish was key to creating an environment for having truly deep discussions that could change behavior and performance. He would insist that team leaders be fully enrolled in the aim of creating a rich dialogue, while avoiding any kind of performance management in which people would be evaluated or disciplined as a result of taking the Inventory. Allan felt it was equally important to “contract” with the team itself about how they would approach taking the assessment and participating in a team improvement meeting. To this day the importance of these social contracts remains a feature in my own consulting, thanks to his coaching.

Because Allan lived on the East Coast and travel was always a feature of our collaboration, we eventually developed separate practices with these tools. He and his colleague Russ Forester went on to develop several additional tools, as did The Grove. We agreed to sustain the Model by consensus and not make changes to it without dialogue. Our achievement in that area is part of why the tools have become so widely used.

 

I’m writing to share about a wonderful collaboration with Alan Briskin and Amy Lenzo creating a new “gyrocompass” image for their on-line, six session series on Activating Collective Wisdom, launching this June. The Five Practices of Collective Wisdom is a distillation of work Alan Briskin has been doing over many years on the subject. How this image came to be is a wonderful story of emergent creativity.

Some Context

Gyrocompassv5The collaboration began in Germany last year at the Leading as Sacred Practice (LASP) Retreat held at the Beuerhof Farm in the Vulcan Eifel region of Germany East of Cologne. Alan presented about these five practices and led a rich inquiry into what is deep listening, as well as how to suspend certainty, welcome emergence, keep the whole system in mind and prepare for the extraordinary when working with groups. I graphically recorded the session. Read more…

ds_2017_journal_image_01_2017As the new year begins, I am pleased to introduce my newly revamped website at davidsibbet.com. It’s the same URL as before, with lots of new content from my work seeding the field of visual facilitation. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Fusing Visual and Dialogic Practice

Looking ahead in 2017: for years The Grove had as its tag line “transforming the art and practice of collaboration worldwide.” Our work has helped countless organizations and has generated a whole field of visual practice. Now the ‘valley of concerns’ has deepened, and we need to reach further. People who actually know how to collaborate will be needed more than ever.

This is why The Grove will be launching our new membership support network, the Global Learning & Exchange Network (the GLEN) in the next few months. The GLEN will focus on change practitioners—internal and external leaders and process consultants—who feel called to step up to the problems of our time with collaborative approaches. Not all participants will be visual practitioners. Some are steeped in dialogic practice. We believe that empowering people to work expertly with both modalities will advance the field.

Read more…

trump_clinton_vote“This is what our democracy stands for, the smooth transition of power.” Obama’s words came in the deliberate, stately cadence that we’ve all heard so many times over the last eight years. “I’ve asked my team to do everything possible to ensure that the new President elect can hit the ground running” he said. “George Bush’s team did that for us when we took office.”

We are going to miss this intelligent, civilized man and his family. Riding waves of populist anger, the quintessential infotainment tongue surfer is our next President. And where will this take us all?

As a student and practitioner of change, I hold a few assumptions as I think about all this.

Read more…