Discussion forum for members of the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

How can we promote deeper communication in organizations?

Our June 13 program meeting was “Going Around in Circles II”. This was a revised version of our very popular May 2005 “Circles I” meeting. Both programs provided experiential learning on Dialogue Circles, Learning Circles, Speaking Circles, and Study Circles.

These techniques offer powerful tools for improving communication at the personal, team, or organizational level. Inasmuch as they are (somewhat like, say, swimming) only capable of being learned by doing them, the chance to experience and compare them provided a virtually unique opportunity that was much appreciated by those attending.

This time we did things somewhat differently than in the predecessor program, which was done in our “four presentations given twice” format. On this occasion, we had a first round in which participants had their choice of Dialogue, Speaking, or Study circles, followed by a second round in which we had a Learning Circle whose topic was comparing the experience of the three other forms of communication.

In the Learning Circle, we reflected on our prior circular experience, considering what feelings it brought about, how it differed from our usual conversations, and what we would take from it for application in our personal and work lives. We then compared our thoughts, first in pairs and then in groups.

One point that was the subject of much discussion was the difficulty in introducing these practices in the workplace. In part, this seems due to the novelty of the methods; they are not easy either to describe or to show. Moreover, in environments in which emphasis is put on results and the “bottom line,” advocates of what are perceived as slower and more indirect methodologies have a hard time making their case.

Indeed, when we’ve covered these topics in other Learning Group meetings, the biggest problem does seem to be “there is not enough time”. This problem was also the topic of the June 6 meeting of our Deeper Inquiry Group.

Accordingly, we’ve posed as our Question of the Month, “How can promote deeper communication in organizations?” Of course many of the other issues that arise in relation to these techniques are also very worth discussing. So let’s hear what our members and presenters think!

Jim Murphy

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Jump Start Your Consulting - Final Report

Jump Start Your Consulting with Bruce Katcher of Discovery Surveys

*Session 6*

Building a Sustainable Business

In the last of our gastro-seminars, Bruce revealed his recipe for building a business that lasts. Here are the key ingredients:

1. Leverage – use content, contacts, knowledge in as many ways as possible

2. Discipline – stay focused and follow through.

3. Fear - of poverty or working for the man, etc

4. Fight loneliness – by getting involved with professional associations, colleagues

5. Develop New Service lines – keep innovating

6. Set Long Term Goals – go beyond your one-year plan

7. Know when to punt
8. Say 'No' to work (appropriately)

9. Invest in your business, make decisions ahead of time

10. Get an accountant

The lunchtime piece de resistance was Bruce’s favorite East meets West recipe, a delicious hot, sweet and spicy, creamy curried sweet potato soup. Symbolically, I saw it as a fitting final piece of advice: do what you love to do, keep different elements of your life in balance, and even when there is sweetness, you may still have to reach for the Kleenex from time to time.

Thanks, Bruce, the group, and the ODLG, for an enjoyable and enlightening experience.


Fredia Woolf, Principal
Woolf Consulting
contact me at: fwoolf@woolfconsulting.com

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Jump Start Your Consulting - Fifth Report

Jump Start Your Consulting with Bruce Katcher of Discovery Surveys

Session 5

This week, our topic was How to Sustain your Marketing Program

Marketing a consulting business takes discipline and follow through. The first two questions you have to ask yourself are: What’s the budget? What’s the plan? Bruce has a number of suggestions to keep you on track and to build awareness of your business.

1. Create an activity spreadsheet

• Each column represents a month
• Each row is color coded for different service lines or marketing activities eg monthly newsletter, mailing to network, three articles, four free speeches, send holiday card
• Keep it on your screen all the time – and check off as you do them
• Ask yourself: What can I do on a regular basis?

2. Write an e-zine/electronic newsletter

• Brainstorm a list of topics, items that interest you and will give value.
• Create a template eg problem solution format, start with a statistic, think of a catchy title
• Start by sending it to the people you know, then it will grow (caution: it must be useful)
• Have the discipline to keep to a monthly deadline.
• Use it to build your brand – include logo, photo. Consistency helps.
• Create a procedure. As your list grows, you may need to hire an editor and a webmaster. There are services such as Topica or Constant Contact which make sending e-newsletters very simple.
• Offer people the option to unsubscribe, rather than to subscribe
Potential drawbacks:
o Is it still appropriate in 2006 – it is no longer novel?
o You have to be always thinking: What’s the next topic?
o Spam filters and bouncebacks
o It is a lot of hard work
But don’t be discouraged.
• Remember to be sure it is useful and keep it short.
• Content can be recycled – book form, podcasts, workshop etc.
• Links on newsletter to blog, website

3. Network

• Create a list of people who are critical to your business
• Think of 50 people who could refer business to you
• When should you contact them? How? (send an article, phone, lunch etc) How often?–
• What organizations can you join?
• Find one to three to be active in. Committee work pays off in many ways
1) organizations for learning - to help you stay at the top of your field
2) other consultants – share how to bill, build referrals, social part
3) prospects –some are tough eg you may have to be licensed; other welcome suppliers, vendors, consultants. Professional associations, chambers of commerce etc
• Follow up after you’ve met people
• Set small goals eg meet 2 people - and follow up immediately.

4. Advertise in selected publication

5. Give speeches, for example 3 times in the year

6. Write articles or papers - push yourself to call editors

7. Send direct mail – create postcards (vistaprint.com do oversized ones) and send a few each week to your target market.

8. Make cold calls – they work for every business, but you have to be willing to do this.

9. Build your contact database – whichever method you use, manage it actively.

Any and all of the above will build your marketing program.

And after all this inspiring – yet intimidating for those of us who can slip up from time to time in the self-discipline department – advice, we were ready to adjourn for lunch. But, once again, self-discipline was the theme. Challenged by my last comment about calories, Bruce headed to his weight watchers recipe book for lunch. The good news was that the vegetable quiche he turned out was very tasty. As was the Asian fusion salad he created with Boston lettuce, avocado, cranberries, walnuts and blue cheese, with a five-spice sesame oil dressing. And dessert was brought from my favorite European style bakery in Brighton.


Fredia Woolf
Woolf Consulting

Contact me at: fwoolf@woolfconsulting.com