Radio Interview — Creating Vibrant Organizations to Drive Performance Through Ecosynomics

Past-cast Series — Seeing relevance in earlier publications

ISC President Jim Ritchie-Dunham, ISC Contributing Fellow Christoph Hinske, and World GBC senior advisor James Drinkwater were interviewed on the radio today about how to drive performance through vibrant agreements by Maureen Metcalf. You can access the 1-hour interview from Maureen’s Internet-radio talk show “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” at (http://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/86848/creating-vibrant-organizations-to-drive-performance-ecosynomics#.VcPBswmazIM.facebook).
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Guest post — Is My Company Vibrant? A Case Study

Guest post by Maureen Metcalf

I met Jim Ritchie-Dunham and learned about Harmonic Vibrancy research when a highly regarded colleague, Terri O’Fallon, asked me to participate in a study. Terri is one of those people who is always involved in something interesting so I responded. Additionally, the request came as part of a research study Jim was doing on vibrancy and I personally love to participate in leading research to contribute to and learn about the latest thinking in organizational effectiveness.

Taking the Assessment

I took an individual assessment with Metcalf & Associates as the company I was evaluating. I found the assessment and results interesting, and because of our scores I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Jim, the lead researcher. After our conversation, I was committed to learning more—and support his research— as it seemed as if he was making a unique and important contribution to the field of organizational effectiveness and organizational leadership.

Creating a Vibrant MBA Class

My next step was to require that my graduate students take the assessment for multiple organizations to both build the database and to help them begin to get a feel for which organizations are most effective and which are least. We also tried an experiment in which students evaluated the class environment at the end of the semester (after grades were finalized). My personal research question was: Could we create a vibrant organization in an MBA class in the relatively limited length of a semester? Interestingly, the answer was yes. While we needed to refine a few of the questions, overall, we could all participate in a process to build a vibrant organization in a short period of time. I love the idea that the class could not learn only the theory; they could also have the actual experience of being in a vibrant organization during the class. Then the question was what they could do to create this for themselves. We asked some students with particularly high scores to participate in the research.

Improving Our Organizational Vibrancy

My next challenge was to see if I had created a vibrant organization within my own company. I certainly thought it was vibrant—but what did others think? Again, we were a company that did not perfectly fit the profile, but I decided to test us before going out to our clients. I have committed us to being a learning lab, a company that tests new ideas on ourselves, and proves them valid and useful before going to our clients. As the owner of the company this was intriguing because while the feedback was about the company it was also very personal—it was about the company I had created and about me as a leader.

So, the moment of truth; I selected my key team members and invited them to complete the survey. Like those in most organizations, some people responded immediately and others required several reminders. The end result was seven responses from our core team.

Metcalf Survey Results

Our scores were high in six of the seven categories. In the seventh, “process of innovation” we scored a four on a scale of one to five. This would not seem terrible except that our company tag line is Inspiring Leadership Innovation. What were we doing wrong? What was I doing wrong? I thought we were very innovative. We had published a very well-received book about innovative leadership that won an International Book Award in 2012 for Best Business Reference Book and we were in the process of writing several workbooks that also won multiple awards. How could we possibly be lacking innovation? What I learned was that we balanced innovation with meeting client goals. We are both innovative and focused on client results. As a company with limited resources, we were balancing the very real limitations of our resources including the time we had to commit to innovating versus the time we had to deliver impeccable results every day to our clients.

This helped me see that we were on the right track—and while I will still strive for a higher score, I understand our results and envision our opportunities to grow. One of the best outcomes of this assessment was the very candid conversation I had with this group. I learned that I held some assumptions about how we were working that were not true; specifically, I assumed people did not want to get together regularly because of their busy schedules. I learned that they did want to spend more time together as a group (which we have now done). Some of our gatherings are social in nature and allow for people to informally incubate ideas that will move us forward. Additionally, the team is deepening their relationships with one another.

I have appreciated the insight from this assessment. We have implemented changes and in other areas it validated that we are on the right track. Each participant had the opportunity to express an individual perspective as well as hear perspectives from others, building our shared sense of what we want from our organization. Round two of the assessment is in the plan for 2014. For now, we are using this assessment with our clients and getting great results. In an upcoming blog, I’ll share the results working with a client.

Maureen Metcalf, the CEO of Metcalf & Associates, is author of Innovative Leadership Fieldbookan award-winner in the 2012 International Book Awards for Business: Reference Book.  Partnering with the Institute for Strategic Clarity, she brings the work of organizational vibrancy to groups in Ohio.

Guest post — Invitation to Organizational Vibrancy with Maureen Metcalf

Guest post by Maureen Metcalf

[Note from Jim R-D.  ISC’s network of colleagues from around the world is finding many ways to engage you in the experience of vibrancy and outcomes of abundance.  This invitation comes from our colleague Maureen in Ohio.]

In this post, we invite you to experience greater organizational vibrancy and business results. We define organizational vibrancy and invite you to get involved by taking a vibrancy assessment. An understanding of vibrancy along with your assessment scores will support you in choosing agreements that allow you to flourish.

Mike runs a highly successful organization that has made significant progress against its strategic goals over the past 18 months. Now, the leadership team is looking forward to determine what they need to put in place organizationally (and what barriers they need to remove) to accomplish some very aggressive goals. To support this process, Mike asked the leadership team to take the organizational vibrancy assessment. Each leader provided an individual response and the data were synthesized to create an organizational picture from which he determined recommended organizational changes. These results are part of the next leadership off-site to plan for the upcoming year. The information gathered was very helpful in identifying very specific actions and will also help leaders revise how they look at organizational change. One of the most valuable elements of the vibrancy assessment is helping leaders change their paradigm about leading change to be more comprehensive.

Organizational Vibrancy – We know the positive feeling we experience in places we love to go, homes we enjoy visiting, conversations we relish. We call this experience of vitality “exuberance and flourishing community vibrancy.” People feel it and seek greater vibrancy, whether consciously or subconsciously, to guide their interactions with others. To enable organizations to attract and retain the best talent, and engage in the most effective business practices,  Jim Ritchie-Dunham, President and researcher at the Institute for Strategic Clarity and an adjunct researcher at Harvard, created a study to identify key factors that could help us improve our overall organizational vibrancy and outcomes. You can use the survey findings to guide your actions in improving your organizational vibrancy. This study is part of Dr. Ritchie-Dunham’s ongoing research, and is being offered at no cost to you, your organization, or participants in your organization.

Why Care? By understanding where your organization excels and where it falls short, you will be able to address challenges and build on your strengths to create more vibrancy and greater success. Our goal is to support vibrant, sustainable organizations that will attract and retain the best talent, and continue to build a sustainable community that will renew itself for the next 100 years and beyond.

Questions. If people care about the vibrancy they experience in an organization, and it is an attractor for business and talent, what are its characteristics? Can people discern higher and lower levels of it? What is the role of leadership in the experience of vibrancy in a group? Do all groups within an organization have access to this higher vibrancy or does it depend on the resources the group has?  Does this higher vibrancy lead to stronger, more sustainable outcomes?

What We See. Jim Ritchie-Dunham and the research team from the Institute for Strategic Clarity, including leaders from diverse disciplines, have surveyed over 1,400 individuals about the groups in which they participate. The survey participants and the data told an interesting story. In some of the groups, the survey participants experienced total scarcity, in others some scarcity and some vibrancy, and in still others they experienced deep vibrancy. They told us that in the groups where they experienced greater vibrancy, they also experienced a higher quality in the group’s leadership. They also shared that where they experienced greater overall vibrancy, they experienced a greater connection to five key elements:

  1. self
  2. others
  3. the group
  4. process of innovation
  5. source of creativity

The interesting and counter-intuitive finding is that these relationships are experienced at similar levels of health: when any relationship is strong, the others are also relatively strong, and when any relationship is weak, the other relationships are also relatively weak.

Implications. These findings fly directly in the face of prevailing theories of economics, where one relationship (e.g., the self, the other, the group, nature, spirit) prevails over all relationships. If there are, indeed, groups where people experience a deeper vibrancy, and these groups seem to have similar characteristics, what does this mean for how we engage in groups together? Can we, as an organization, identify these characteristics and the organizations that have them? How do we share best practices with other groups within the community to raise the overall community vibrancy measure? How do we create tools to help organizations within our community increase their vibrancy, as the drive to improved vibrancy will happen with one organization at a time?

How Will We Do This in the Long Term? We are just undertaking the data-gathering phase of this plan. After we have a comprehensive picture of the organizational vibrancy experienced across seven key dimensions, we will create a more concrete action plan with our clients. Our initial plan includes the following:

  • Gather data using the vibrancy assessment
  • Identify top performing organizations across multiple sectors (city and state government, business and nonprofit)
  • Create approaches for top performing organizations to share their best practices and tools
  • Create tools for medium and lower performing organizations that will allow them to become high performing organizations (the nature of the tools and method of sharing will depend on the survey results and interest among participants). We will ask for your input to determine what will best support your success.

Next Steps.  Invest 10 to 15 minutes to take the free survey.  If you are unable to click the link from this document, please cut and paste http://instituteforstrategicclarity.org/take-the-survey/ into your browser.

What You Get Back Personally.  For everyone who takes the online assessment, you will receive an online response that contains a spider chart of five key dimensions (relationship to self, other, group, process of innovation, source of creativity).

Follow-up Actions upon Study Completion. Jim Ritchie-Dunham has agreed to do the initial data collection and feedback at no charge to the participants. He will use this data to build his research database. Should you choose to take action after the data collection, we will formulate a proposal for next steps based on the survey findings and report feedback. There is no obligation to engage in follow-up work.

Maureen Metcalf, the CEO of Metcalf & Associates, is author of Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, an award-winner in the 2012 International Book Awards for Business: Reference Book.  Partnering with the Institute for Strategic Clarity, she brings the work of organizational vibrancy to groups in Ohio.