Interview with Chris Stagg- Chris Stagg is a facilitator in the field of change and leadership. His current clients include Eurotunnel and Allied Domecq. He was recently involved in a research broject entitled “Creativity in Management” working as a facilitator with SEOS Displays. CENTRIM evaluated the research programme. Here CENTRIM’s Paul Levy talks to him about his innovative approach to facilitating change and innovation in organisations.
Paul Question – What do you think are the main concerns in organisations at the moment?
Chris – It’s very much concerned with gathering a sense of direction, identifying where organisations want to go, creating a vision, developing a capacity to involve people, their hearts and minds, and then realising that vision. Much of it is about shared values. You have to really communicate these values within organisations.
Paul Question – Why don’t organisations know where they want to go?
Chris – Organisations think they do know, certain projects give them a sense of changing direction and creating a need for change of direction – a need for flexibility of response. In the short term. People tend to get stuck in the short term. , they feel they do have a sense of direction. But in the long term its necessary to get a sense of values and vision.
Paul Question – What are organisations doing where people don’t feel valued?
Chris – This resolves largely to people management –presenting vision to people, that generates excitement. Its about creating a narrative, a kind of “story” on a strategic level. At managerial level, certain skills on people management are not present yet are needed i.e. reassuring, understanding feelings, concerns, reaching out to people. Understanding the human dimension and not just the business side of it.
Paul Question – Why would an organisation need to go outside to get help for change?
Chris – Well, outsiders bring a different perspective – and also certain skills to bear on organisational issues/problems from outside the organisation’s practice. Getting that new perspective, a new philosophy can help deal with many internal problems.
Paul Question – Why have consultants got such a bad press?
Chris – There are a variety of reasons. There are several or many consultants that have not “delivered the goods” yet have asked for a lot of money! There is also the classic case of people not liking the message and therefore blaming the messenger. I do organisational development and facilitation of an organisation’s processes helping them to get where they want to go. It really requires an inclusive approach helping organisations to muster their resources and focus on what needs to be done. Many consults don’t offer this inclusivity.
Paul Question – So, do consultants not bring in the needed answers?
Chris – I think there is a Technique and process principle here. An organisation’s best resources are the people who work there. But this resource cannot always necessarily be accessed within the organisation. Communication is often cited as a problem. So, bringing someone in skilled in facilitating communication and interaction, actually empowers people, using different processes to access this fundamental resource.
Paul Question – So your approach is about self-healing rather than a traditional doctor patient relationship?
Chris – The buzzwords are holistic, synergistic. Enabling access of potential ideas, which are there and not often capable of successfully being activated. Communication is a vital process and involves lot of skills. The need to create a common purpose, creating a shared vision is key. Innovative change involves outlining a narrative, a developing story of the organisation’s past, present and future. Change is all about realising this common vision.
Paul Question – Give us a flavour how you would work with an organisation
I work using of a lot of discussion, diagnostic activities, I use certain process from the creative arts and apply to the problem. Role play, metaphor and storytelling for example. I use interactive processes through workshops and actualise and activate human communication processes. For example, one process is an activity called the 3 dimensional debate, a discussion exercise based around issues of organisational change, physicalised in the workshop space. It a dynamic way to generate ideas for problems to be solved.
Paul Question – How might you draw from creative arts?
Chris – A metaphor exercise, for example, has a direct bearing on how organisations see themselves, where they are now eg militaristic, sports related, a metaphor of that kind, they may need a different metaphor to help the organisation move forward.
An organisation might to see itself as a brain, this could offer up a lot of understanding, both of the strengths and weaknesses of that perspective.
Paul Question – Doesn’t this make people uncomfortable?
Chris – Yes. The way in which we work with people is key – the discomfort can be brought up with emphasising, appreciating the pain and embracing new ways of working, this is done through the workshop process.
Paul Question – Do you get people who says you are nuts?
Chris – I’ve never had that experience. It is more with anticipation than experience of the work; it creates anxiety and cause hostility. Initial concerns in participants do not linger – this way of working activates areas of themselves, areas that are not usually used to exploring and may have laid dormant for a number of years.
Paul Question – You’ve worked as a theatre director, are there any parallels between performing in arts and in business?
Chris – Creative processes at work are similar to theatre performance. Theatre is all about putting on a show – a performance. There is a process to facilitate that; there is a model, a metaphor with the process of production in industry and commerce. People are required to perform in industry and commerce, which can be very comparable to excellent theatre performance.
Paul Question – What are the key benefits?
Chris – Shedding new light, bringing in perspective, an understanding human potential, individually and collectively. An organisation needs to read itself in new ways and understand. Story telling and theatre offers an interpretation of life, through these fresh interpretations, gaining the ability to see traditional problems in new ways.
Interviewed carried out by Paul Levy
To contact Chris directly, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his web site at www.chrisstagg.com