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Case Study: brokering a new way of working

My objective in this assignment was to help this organisation leverage its presence in a specific geographic location. Various departments and internal teams operate in the region, contacting external stakeholders to establish agreements on which projects to pursue and which themes to prioritise in external debates. The team I joined had been in place for some time but had not realised its full potential to provide the anticipated organisational results - more efficiencies, improved public advocacy, and increased government participation.

To change how the team worked and how other departments interacted with us, I began by gathering varied perspectives on what the team should do. In brief, I started trying to make sense of all the departments', team members', and external stakeholders' various goals and incentives. I tried to figure out what common themes different stakeholders were interested in and their issues of concern. After three months and hundreds of meetings, my team and I sorted through the pain points to determine which ones we could assist and help address and which we couldn't.

These data points began to shape the team's vision of what it would do and why the future would look different if we worked differently. In sensemaking talks, I began to offer this vision as "what if we did this" or "what if we could provide this". This technique deepened the sensemaking process, assisting us in articulating where we were heading and gaining support for our ideas.

As the vision evolved, the next task was to consider what skills and resources were missing in the team necessary to deliver the goal. To bridge these gaps, some of which were resource-related, I collaborated with operational teams, occasionally begging and borrowing resources to deliver. Resources became less of an issue as we gained momentum and could pitch our benefits to senior leadership, but this took time. It was all about creating relationships, listening, and trust at first, so people could see how we were fixing their difficulties.

To build the skills required to deliver the vision, I used a mix of coaching and positive reinforcement. One major technical expert excelled at networking and engagement but struggled with reporting. Another was well-connected to a diverse range of external stakeholders, could contribute to sensemaking but needed assistance with reporting and maintaining the FCO job. The administrator needed encouragement to go above their function and become a central point for coordinating the strategy and keeping us on track.

After putting the vision and skills together, I needed to sell it and the corresponding action plan within the organisation and external stakeholders. I emphasised the benefits to the organisation when describing the vision - a more coordinated approach, where information is shared, saves transaction costs while improving information quality and our ability to lobby external parties. I engaged at a very high level to create support, taking advantage of every opportunity to illustrate the value of the team and visions and generating opportunities for team members to shine and obtain promotions. Furthermore, I solicited feedback from our stakeholders regularly, iterating our strategy and actions based on the developing objectives of our major users while also responding to a changing external environment.

This transformation resulted in a significant improvement in the organisation's influence in the region, with greater links into government and business and significantly increased trust. As the organisation recognised our success, the team was enlarged to take on greater responsibilities and became a critical pillar in managing the organisation's activities in the location.


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