Scenario: Distrusting Culture

As an action learning coach, how would you handle the following situation: A year earlier there was a merger in the organization. All fun elements had been stopped – picnics, team outings and were replaced with ridged procedures. The team was tasked with determining was to bring back fun in the work place. The top HR person on the team is convinced it can’t happen and derails every idea.

Tags: Action Leaning, Action Learning Coach, WIAL, WIAL Action Learning, WIAL Talk

Comments (3)

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    Catherine Sandler


    I would let the interaction run for 10 minutes or so and then intervene using the script and ask the group members to write down how they think we are doing on a 1-10 scale and share their scores. Then I would ask what they think we are doing well and then what they think we could do better. I would hope that this would allow other participants to surface the issue and explore it further.

    I would hold in mind the fact that the senior HR person’s scepticism may be negative and unhelpful but it may also represent an important element of the group’s exploration of the challenge they have been given. It’s likely that many members of the organisation are feeling angry and demoralised by the bruising period following the merger and that these emotions need to be shared before the group is ready to shift its focus to improving the situation.

    Depending on how well the work proceeded after the ‘how are we doing’ review, I might intervene quite soon to remind the group of the problem they have been given by asking them to write down their definition and sharing it. I would ask if we have agreement, yes or no (or close). I think this process could also help to surface the issue of how the challenge was perceived and experienced by all members of the group.

    If the group was rushing to solutions before everyone was engaged with the problem itself, I would intervene to observe that many possible solutions were being put forward but I wasn’t sure that the challenge itself had been accepted by everyone in the group. I would ask what the impact is of this on the work of the group and how they would like to address it.

    My overall aim would be to avoid playing into the polarising effect of the HR person by singling out their behaviour and instead to regard his/her attitude as reflecting an important dynamic in the wider organisational situation and something which the group should be helped to acknowledge, understand and address. This would ultimately lead to valuable learning and a better solution to the problem than if the group either ignored, or was cowed by, one member and/or rushed to premature solutions.

    Depending how the work proceeded following the review of how well we are doing, I might inter

  • Avatar

    Wang Juan


    Cultural conflict is a relatively implicit problem. When I observe that some people in team activities are always taking the problem off track, I will raise the following questions to attract the attention of the team. I have observed the recurrence of certain actions when it comes to an issue. Have any of you noticed this phenomenon?
    How do team members view this phenomenon (if anyone notices it)?
    Team coaches should try to bring the sensitive topics to the surface and ask the further questions.
    Which team members can share what problems will arise from the current situation?
    What will happen if these problems are not solved?

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    govind singhal


    I will pause the session.

    In case the HR person in the team is the problem presenter then I will have a private conversation with the member. I will request him/her to respond to the questions without additional comments and record the action item.

    Else if the HR person in the team is one of the members to contribute to the solution, I will remind him/her of the ground rule to make a statement only in response to a question.

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