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Trans-Org Reection Paper

Marco Cassone MSOD 620 Dr Chris Worley




For our third practicum held in Beijing,
China, we were tasked with designing
and implementing a 2.5 day intervention
for a trans-organizational system [TS].
Overtly, our primary client system was the
Chinese Association of NGOs (CANGO),
a network of approximately 100 non-
government organizations operating
across China. For our specic 2.5-day
workshop, we worked with eight
organizations. Other systems involved in the experience included the Blue Team of
fellow cohort students collaborating together as well as the faculty and steering
committee of the MSOD program itself.

Data was collected from several sources, including a case study on former CANGO
leadership development initiatives as well as discussions with the client system. Our
understanding of client needs was claried by input from MSOD alumni (Paul Wang,
Ashley Carson, and Patrice Pederson) and from Dr. Chris Worley.

Based on client needs, the objectives of
the intervention were three-fold: 1)
leadership development, 2) network
development, and 3) capacity building
around strategic planning as it relates to
collaboration at a network level. To meet
these objectives, our Blue Team choose
a hybrid approach incorporating the
following blended criteria:

The creation of engaging, interactive exercise/intervention
The introduction of new framework/concepts that could be used in participants
workplaces as well as during the
intervention itself
An understanding of how to better
leverage their network for resources
and new possibilities, as well as what
contributes to network sustainability
A sense of the potential of and for
collaboration in their network
A visual depiction of the complexity of
co-existing network perspectives
A shared, possible vision of the future of the network
A map of potential interdependent solutions showing them how to get there

Key learning: In transorganization development, one of the most important
outcomes is to shift perspective up to the level of the TS. One of the most
common pitfalls, therefore, is allowing diagnostic conversations to get stuck at
the unit of analysis where they are most comfortableat the level of the team,
department, or organization. A blind spot to acknowledge is the temptation for OD
practitioners to want to address presenting problems at the organizational level.

For the most part, CANGO
participants had little experience
with leadership roles, and their
collective perspective did not see,
value, or access the potential of
their network. Furthermore, issues
participants faced did not reach
far beyond the level of individual
or work team concerns.

All things considered, our overarching goal was a single leadership development
workshop that built individual capacity in strategic planning while growing the
collective perspective enough to explore potential at the network level.

To accomplish this, we combined didactic
and experiential learning approaches. In
addition to a case study prepared by
Antonia Nicols, our team presented two
culturally-appropriate formal lectures:
Egan and Lahls four vertical leadership
capabilities, lead on Day 1 by Emily
Spivey, and an overview of networks and
collaboration that I presented on Day 2.

The body of information shared in these lectures became the foundation upon
which experiential learning could take place. A World Caf intervention was lead
by Helen Scalise on Day 1 to facilitate discussion and create themes around
challenges. A quadrant prototyping and role-playing exercise was lead by Antonia
Nicols on Day 2 to expand available solutions and improve strategic planning and
implementation skills. And on Day 3, I lead participants in drawing the potential of
their guanxi (as in, relationship)
network map, followed by a fun
and highly-interactive collaboration
exercise lead by Dawnet Beverly
called, Beeping Squares.

Results were excellent. The team
incorporated real time evaluations,
including non-verbal participant
body language and client system
feedback about our process. As we debriefed at the end of each day, we used
evaluation data to help adjust the design of the next day. A particularly
noteworthy team success was the continual reinforcement of key learning points
interwoven with ongoing client discussion. The output became a unique and
cohesive, overarching workshop conversation that tied together learning across
all exercises, yet was precisely tailored to the level of the client.

One challenge the team faced was that critical information about the client
system had been inadvertently withheld from the team during our preparation for
China. Our workshop design made the
assumption that much-requested
leadership development and strategic
planning components would be applied to
participants in leadership positions within
the CANGO network. We did not realize
that most of the room had never held a
leadership role until halfway through our
rst day. While our team client contact
had attended (as a steering committee
observer) a few intervention design calls in preparation for China, it had not
occurred to her in observer mode that this kind of participant information would
be crucial in intervention design choices. At the end of Day 1, the team was
somewhat crestfallen to realize we had designed for different participants than
were in front of us. Ultimately, however, we used this new information not only to
pivot, but to tighten and enhance our product for Day 2 and 3. In fact, it was likely
the extra care to tie all concepts to the level of the participants present that
helped us create such a cohesive workshop narrative.

Regarding my personal experience and contribution to our nal product, I can
share the following, which touches on some of my point of view as well.
Deadlines, seemingly high-pressure scenarios, and VUCA circumstances will
cause human systems to give inappropriate value to extraverts over introverts, to
action-oriented or task-driven personalities over conceptual/relational thinkers,
and to those who can accomplish tasks quickly over those who may need time or
to be allowed to make and learn from mistakes. I am the latter in each of these
cases, which resulted in a particularly frustrating experience for me leading up to
China. It also meant the majority of our decisions did not benet from a diversity
of perspective, and the way we went about creating our team intervention on
network interdependence and collaboration was ironically neither interdependent
nor collaborative.

Collaboration is hard. Where coordination
may be more of a science, collaboration
is more of an art. Facing volatility,
uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity of
VUCA environments causes people to
unknowingly fall back on science and
lose touch with the art of collaboration.

What I am still struggling with is where to take responsibility for my personal
experience. Early on, I asked diagnostic questions at the network level, which
were sidestepped. Later, I raised issues about the need to shift perspective up a
level in the system, but this was not valued or understood. Feeling unheard and
voiceless going into China put me in a space of extreme self-doubt. There was a
period where I questioned whether I should stay in the MSOD program.

On the positive, once I presented my intervention components centered on
networks, collaboration, and interdependence, the team got it. All team members
and adjunct faculty, Phyllis Saltzman,
gave me excellent reviews on my
contribution. In particular, I demonstrably
embodied leadership authenticity in my
interaction with team and clients. I was
complemented for the humor I infused in
my facilitation and the perceptiveness
and care I showed for participants. All in
all, I am very proud of the Marco that
showed up for this unit of work.