Live Process Images: Emotional Organigram

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One year after the merger of a large insurance company, another drastic savings

scheme was announced. The board of directors decided to travel to the main office

and inform the employees in nine individual meetings. The initial question

posed to us was: “Can you capture the participants’ immediate reactions in the coffee

break and make them visible directly after the presentation by the board?”

Process. After the chairman announced the cutbacks, the employees left the

room, many of them furious, frustrated, or paralyzed. The visualizer invited the

employees to express their views and their feelings. The reactions were intense and

emotional, as were the resulting images.

The visualizer drew their reactions (in less than one minute per image) and displayed

them for all to see. The plenum gathered again. The chairman fetched the

most critical images, took them to the platform, held them up, and commented

on them with great seriousness.

Quality Without a Name 409

Product In each of the nine meetings, a picture wall was created depicting the

heated topics. All nine picture walls together formed an emotional organigram,

that is, a graphic chart showing the interrelationships in the organization.

Remarks The fact that the images found their way to the chairman so quickly and

that he responded to them immediately and honestly was most unusual. The brain of

the board and the worker’s belly had found a way to connect with one another. The

images served as a barometer of public opinion. Communication had begun.

Small and flexible image cards are well suited to record reactions and opinions

at lightning speed and present them on site for interaction purposes.

Live Process Images: Large Group Drawing Action

One hundred fifty international facilitators from sixteen countries were expected

for the IAF annual conference near Amsterdam. The initial question from the conference

design team to us was:“How can the conference attendees get to know one

another and, at the same time, make their expectations of the conference known?”

We proposed a guided drawing action, which we had successfully tested in other

large groups.

Process The participants sat in groups of eight around “What Do You Expect”

templates (which are shown here); they were laughing and holding broad felt-tip

pens in their hands. The templates had been designed and printed in advance by

the visual facilitators.

The visual facilitators supervised the drawing activity and explained the rules.

Each person was to jot down his or her expectations of the conference on a sticky

note and attach it to the template. Each group then had twenty minutes to think

of an idea for a jointly drawn picture. The sticky notes were removed from the templates,

and off they went with their drawing (another twenty minutes). In conclusion,

the group was to give the picture a short title and write it on the template.

Directly following the drawing, the completed pictures were mounted at designated

places. The individual pictures were then explained by the members of the

conference design team who had not painted themselves.

“Oh, you did such a wonderful opening for the IAF! You could just see people

coming to life as they discussed their expectations and thought of ways to image

them. It created the right feeling for starting the conference. So this is a big hug

and thank you!” said Maureen Jenkins, representing the conference design team.

Product Within one hour, twenty posters were created that made the expectations

of the conference visually clear in a most impressive fashion.

Remarks Guided drawing actions allow a large group to focus on an important

question and answer it within one hour. But there is a caution here: trivial or

rhetorical questions result in trivial pictures and cause irritation in the underchallenged

groups.

Hundreds of participants can be activated at the same time and make use of the

wisdom in the groups. It is important to develop a specific template as well as to

acknowledge the finished product. Also important are the room conditions, space,

lighting, and display area.

The drawings are a good representation of the group results and keep the

process vivid in the minds of those involved, as well as sustaining the results.

The area of application is large.We have led drawing actions for a change

process kickoff with 300 information technology specialists, target development

with 130 scientists, and a strategy conference with 600 railroad labor unionists, all

of whom initially said, “I cannot draw!”

HOW TO LEARN

When we started visualizing years ago, everything was simple. Somebody explained

the rules: “First, a quick, roughly sketched image, one picture per thought; then

brief text in uppercase letters!”We took the colored felt-tip pens and off we went.

You see, one can visualize immediately—but not everybody can do it.

Once we needed several visualizers and tested the staff of an architect’s office.

Several efficient architects failed. They were not able to sort out the colors, could

not cope with the speed, and wrote too much text. Their knowledge was a hindrance

to them (ambitious artists often fail in the same manner). But a young

Kurd, intuitive, quick, filled with images, was a born visualizer.

We learned that everybody can draw and express themselves by means of pictures.

But not everybody can mirror group processes through images. Only some

have the talent, the inner willingness, and the courage to do this.

There is no formal educational program available for visual facilitators. Yet each

individual can try. Simply take cards and pens into a meeting and draw. If you

enjoy it, we, like other visual facilitators, offer workshops and seminars (that are

influenced by the respective method of working).We also recommend sitting in

on visualization sessions.

Perhaps a passion will arise. Then it means practice, practice, and practice again.

When it starts becoming professional, you will enter your own visual world.

IAF board member Jon Jenkins calls a visual facilitator a specialized species,

comparing him to a cardiologist. Is visual facilitating really more than the ability

to draw fast and nicely? Yes. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what

is essential is invisible to the eye” (Saint-Exupéry, 1991, p. 68).

In the foreground, visual facilitating requires the courage to be spontaneous

and risk a quick stroke of the pen; in the background, it requires listening, intuition,

love, sensitivity, creativity, knowledge, and experience.