Sunday, 8 November 2015

How often do we think deeply about what we are doing? A purposeful visioning process Part 1

"Close your eyes while I read the first draft of your vision..."
After seven hours of deep thinking, classic brainstorming and 10/4 voting, I closed my eyes along with fifteen fellow principals. While our inspirational facilitator slowly read through the one page draft vision document, I immediately felt a sense of connection and empowerment. I was not alone. Everyone of us in the room could hear our voice and our words reflected in this authentic document that is the first draft of the guiding light for the New Zealand Catholic Primary Principal's Association (NZCPPA). Along with agreed values, it was the articulation of actions that immediately brought the vision to life.

Being an active participant and contributor during the NZCPPA Visioning Day in Auckland was a privilege. Starting the day at 8:30 am and having the first draft of an authentic vision ready to review by 3:30pm was made possible by the purposefully planned work of our skilled facilitator and principal Mary Wilson.
Here are my notes and photos of slides from this powerful experience. I believe they capture the essence of the day and will be a guide for reflection for fellow principals and leaders:

Visioning can come about in three ways - telling, consulting and co creation. Co creation is the model that works and the model we used with Mary. She explained that many principals find co creation the hardest as they aren't involved. Instead they are gifted with a one page vision that will truly belong to the community. It is an authentic living document. The principal becomes the caretaker of the vision and then promotes and actions it.
Principals at work during the visioning process
As an executive association who meet for only twelve days per year, it is important to ensure time together is maximised. Probe inquiry questions (deep and specific questions) are prepared by the facilitator in relation to all documents connected with the school or business (eg. school website, prospectus). An organisation might be given seventy probes as an outcome of exploring the key documents and then they are narrowed down to eight to ten questions to be used over two days. The NZCPPA have a specific and global job and four probes suited the one day session. These were the probe questions taken from potentially ten questions based on the literature from the NZCPPA:
  • What must we do to ensure we initiate and participate in educational debate and policy development reflecting our Catholic ethos ?
  • What systems and structures do we need to provide a collective voice for Catholic principals at national level ?
  • What systems and structures do we need to ensure our time together throughout the year is used for its maximum impact in leading the NZCPPA ?
  • What are the most effective ways to communicate with our principals to ensure we clearly communicate and consult ?
Classic brainstorming, 10/4 voting and the 'golden rule' of no discussion enable the day to be a purposeful 'idea generation' day. This is exactly what it was.

Classic Brainstorming
The recorder or leader of the group writes down verbatim what each person says in response to the probe question. You can pass but there can be no discussion. Everyone in the group gets a chance to respond and you keep going round the group. The questions and the responses are all numbered. The next step is to ask if anything needs to be clarified and the person who owns the response can give one explanation. Then the leader asks the group if any of the responses are the same or similar and these can be linked together (with affirmation from the responders).
10/4 voting
Mary believes this is the best consensus tool. Everyone has ten votes and can only spend ten votes in any one round. These are recorded by tally marks and the recorder gets a chance to vote too. The next step is to calculate and circle the top three responses from the group. People end up having deep thought because they can't get into discussion. Each group follows the same process and the top three responses are collated into a new document. Everyone then gets a chance to have a final private vote. As Mary explained, "The cream rises to the top". You can use this process with children as well. No one can take over, everyone has equal voice and equal vote.

Final votes and collation of responses
Everyone receives a two page sheet of the top responses and can make ten private votes on the paper. These are collated on a master page. The leaders get together and formulate the first draft based on the top responses by creating paragraphs around the big themes. Everyone then gets a chance to critique this on their own by crossing out parts of it or circling key points. Any suggestions are written on the back and these changes contribute to second draft. For the vision to become alive, it's important that it is written in the present tense and not the future tense.
Life cycle of an organisation - Forming, storming, norming and performing
A. Forming Stage 
This involves intellectual collaboration and is exciting and tiring. Skilled consensus is used to reach a decision and create a shared vision.
B. Storming Stage 
This is a battle between ego and we go. Robust debate is about putting your ego to one side and listening to other people. It is vital to surface and air concerns and have the courage to address them.
C. Norming Stage
New values and beliefs begin to form. We are all a footprint of the life we have lived. This is where norming around an organisations core values develop. It is always important to unpack the core values at the beginning of each year and develop a two sentence definition of what each of the values mean. Alignment begins in the norming stage and you get a collective confidence about how you act in the workplace.
Leadership is around influence. 33% influence is necessary to make change happen. Resistors do the 'black hat' thinking for you and it is important to talk to them each day. Leadership teams shouldn't offer solutions, instead ask the question - 'What's your 
question ?' or say 'Help me to understand..'. This is a great way to start a challenging conversation. Let the silence do the lifting.. don't leap in and offer solutions or answers.
D. Performing Stage
Openness and honesty is important. We learn from our mistakes in a continuous cycle of learning and improvement.
The Magic Line
It is worth having and A3 laminate version of this displayed on the wall in your workplace. It gives ownership, accountability and responsibility to everyone. Every morning we can make a decision to lead our life above or below the line. We need to focus on ourselves and not others and decide where we are. We need to think about what takes us below the line and what we can do to help others get back above the line. 
Core Values
It is important to identify at least four values and unpack their meaning. The values become a way of living and working together to realise the vision. The values need to be recorded as action statements rather than words. They can also be voted on using the 10/4 voting process.
             
       
This is the slide of the NZCPPA values before we voted to take them from nine to five values.
Leadership and Management Model
Make sure the systems and structures are aligned with the vision to be above the line. The higher up the levels of perspective (on the left of the slide) the more leverage we have. Values and beliefs need to become mental models for the vision to be lived. 

This visioning process is a valuable, deep and respectful reflection tool. I look forward to utilising my learning from this experience in my own workplace and beyond.
Action without vision is only passing time, vision without action is merely daydreaming, but vision with action can change the world.
Part 2 of this process is available at this link. 

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