Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Bottom-up Technography

Author:Bernie DeKoven
Posted:3/26/1999; 9:36:26 AM
Msg #:4560 (In response to 3596)
Prev/Next:4559 / 4561

Your description of the Campbell's meeting reminds me of an experience I had many years ago while facilitating a strategic planning meeting for a large hotel chain.

In planning the intervention for the Swissotel in Boston, Bob Aubrey and I realized that the people who are closest to the customer are the lowest in the hierarchy: bell boys, maids, desk clerks, valets.

Wwe decided to begin the planning by interviewing those people, en masse. We worked with them in two shifts of about 75 people each. We projected the computer onto a large screen (12 x 8 feet) and asked people to tell us: 1) anything they really liked about working at the hotel, and 2) anything that they could think of that was keeping them from doing a good job.

We did this using an outliner (MORE, on the Macintosh), adding everyone's input without editorial comment. We had two categories, so if someone thought of a "good" thing while we were discussing the "bad," we could re-open that category and add the comment. We did the same thing for the second group, starting out again with a blank outline.

Off-line, we combined and sorted the comments in alphabetical order. This made sure that there were no implied connections between ideas or contributors.

We then held a meeting with middle management. We gave each a hardcopy of the outline, and projected the live copy. We then asked middle management to help us cluster the input into categories. They authored the categories as higher level topics, with the lower level consisting of all the related input. We then asked them to edit the categories into simple statements.

Though we asked them specifically not to come up with solutions, from time to time they couldn't withhold themselves, so we created a new category of "suggested solutions." (The "technique" here is that, rather than creating all that negativity by telling people their comments are off-task, you simply create a category and absorb their contributions. It's a big time and temper saving strategy that comes along with technography.)

Then we held a meeting with the upper level management. We printed out a document that contained only the higher level categories from the middle management, but projected the entire document so that we could, when needed, trace the source. Their task was to come up with strategies for implementing the solutions recommended by the middle management.

When we finished, we had a strategic plan that reflected and responded to everyone's thinking. We printed out the entire document, the strategies on the first level in bold, the tactical suggestions on the second level and the initial input on the third. We added three blank pages on the end, bound them, and had a signing and champagne party for the entire staff.

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