- The quality of the conversation determines the speed of the work: One of Work-Thru's key benefits is that its facilitated format achieves a fast consensus on critical issues that would otherwise remain unresolved in endless political debates.
- There is nothing as powerful as getting everybody "in the same room at the same time": Both the Work-Thrus and the Town Hall Conference Calls demonstrate that complex and difficult issues can only be resolved when the full diversity of different points of view are part of a common collaborative conversation.
- The most untapped resource in most companies is the collective knowledge of its own people: This most valuable resource is already fully paid for; however, accessing collective knowledge is only possible if business leaders learn how to facilitate collective learning processes.
To answer your questions:
When I was with BCBS, these tools were used only in the FEP program - the FEP leadership team was another example of "Mavericks At Work," that you and William C. Taylor wrote about in your book. We were clearly mavericks, and not mainstream. However, since leaving BCBS three years ago to build a practice around these tools, I have had the opportunity to facilitate Work-Thrus for several BCBS organizations.
Work-Thrus have been used in other contexts. For example, they have been used by a small start-up firm to define its strategic direction, and they will be used in the late summer to bring together a diverse group of teachers, students, millennials, former administrators, business executives, parents, and grandparents to explore possibilities for creating a Digital Age learning system using the technologies of mass collaboration. I am looking forward to seeing what emerges from this group.
You are correct in characterizing Work-Thrus and Town Hall Conference Calls as "emergent and inclusive." And I agree that complex business organizations, such as the Girl Scouts of America, are perfect venues for these tools. In fact, as an increasing number of executives suddenly find themselves responsible for leading complex business alliances, I believe that the combination of Work-Thrus and Town Hall Conference Calls can help these leaders answer the question: How do you manage when you have no practical authority over many geographically dispersed workers in fast-changing markets?
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Rod, Thanks so much for this great story. You've made me even more curious about the combined mechanism of the Work-Thru and Town Hall Conference Call. Were those tools used in other ways across BCBS--and/or have you since used them in other contexts? This approach to more emergent and inclusive direction setting reminds me very much of Kathy Cloninger's approach when she came on as CEO of Girls Scouts of the USA and asked herself the question: how do you set a new and galvanizing strategy for an organization that is essentially 3.5 million strong (including girls and volunteers)? One of her pathways forward was relentless and creative communication (from videos to conference calls to town hall and open space meetings) and a total openness and inventiveness when it came to developing mechanisms for participation and collective action. She said to me "I'll try anything."
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