Last year I was running a large number of short change management workshops for an organisation, touching on theory around their change management framework, but mainly facilitating discussions to help their people understand the issues they were facing. Having the space and time for everyone in the room to discuss these issues together was very valuable for this transforming organisation.
As we were getting to the end of the series of workshops, there was one group who were from a very different part of the business. I quickly realised that they didn’t actually know why they were in the workshop and they clearly didn’t have much information about the changes coming down the line or how they would be impacted by them. I could not run this session as I had run the previous ones, and realised that the material I had would not be particularly useful, apart from the short introductory ice-breaker. So I got them started on that.
For that event, I had an assistant trainer back-seating the session. When the group started the exercise, he came over to me looking very concerned and asked me what I was going to do. I thought about it and said ”I don’t know yet, but we’ve got 10 minutes and something will come to me”. He obviously wasn’t convinced, as he still looked very concerned.
There was a time when I felt I had to be the one with the answers. As a project manager I would work very long hours sitting at my desk figuring out what had to be done. After all that was what was expected from me, or so I thought. But somewhere along the line I’ve noticed a real shift has taken place. Things aren’t always simply black and white. It isn’t always clear cut, there is more complexity and uncertainty that we’re dealing with and many shades of grey. No single person can have all the answers in such an inter-connected and complex environment. As project managers, leaders, or consultants we don’t have to be the ones who ”tell” people the ”right answer”. But we need to be comfortable in that ”not-knowing” space and allow others to be a part of that space, so the answers can be worked out together in true collaboration and partnership. It’s surprising how willing people are to engage once they’re invited to be a part of that.
Back to my workshop, as the 10 minutes were coming to an end, I still didn’t know what to cover in the rest of the session. I asked the group to share what they needed to get value from the time that we were all together. They were a little reluctant at first, but one by one they voiced their concerns about the things that concerned them the most and we worked on each of these areas during the workshop. It was very powerful as some real shifts in thinking took place, ”magic moments” as I call them. And this all came out of that space of not-knowing.