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The constructive interactions technique moves a team over the performance tipping point

We have developed the constructive interactions technique to coach a team to change its interactions and reach the constructive interactions tipping point  to improve its performance over a period of a few months. Our technique combines the following modules:
  1. Increasing the ratio of enquiries to advocacies (E/A) 
  2. Guiding the team to increase its alignment 
  3. Based on first results from A and B, helping the team members to become aware of their systems dynamic
  4. Focusing team members on reducing defensiveness

This technique is largely based on Action Learning.

This technique is explained with the following case example: 

Daniel, the country manager of a global measurement equipment company, was confronted with eroding margins for almost all the product lines his company – and industry – were selling. The different BUs operating in this small European country each had their sales force even though there was a strong overlap in the client population they visited. And the country management team composed of BU managers and shared functions managers, resulted from a 3 year old merger between different management cultures. Daniel knew that cost reductions, mainly in the overlapping sales forces, were a must over the medium term. But the readiness of the BU managers to create shared approaches for sales and marketing and their joint team effectiveness was very low.

So Daniel hired a business team coach to improve the performance of the BU managers’ team. The team coach used Action Learning to rapidly increase the team enquiry/advocacy (E/A) and the team alignment (actions A and B above). He asked the team to follow these two simple rules while they continued to work on their real issues:

  1. Use a statement only in response to a question, otherwise use an open question
  2. The team must reach consensus before moving to the next issue resolution phase:
    [a] issue definition – [b] solution(s) – [c] action planning

But despite some successes in raising the E/A ratio, the team continued to exhibit poor performance in terms of agenda management, lack of clear decisions and low mutual trust. So, using concrete observations made during the first meetings, the coach helped the team see and understand its own dynamic: an adapted version of the system described in root team building issue and in constructive interactions tipping point (action C above). As a result, all team members held a serious discussion over one of their major “un-discussable” issue: lack of mutual trust.

At the end of the next meeting on sales force planning, Daniel concluded: “We have accomplished more in this 3-hour-meeting than during the last 9 months !”. This was the first concrete example of a high performance meeting: significant parts of the meeting with a C/D ratio over 3, the tipping point for constructive interactions (action D above).

Over the following 3 months, other “un-discussable” topics were discussed: delegation between Daniel and the BU managers, the responsibility of the BU managers’ behaviours in low employee satisfaction compared to other countries … Daniel saw a steady increase in constructive interactions (C/D ratio moving sometimes again over 3) and increase in mutual trust to plan and act together on the sales cost structure.






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