Dialogue Education

This Customer Case focuses on the ongoing change process within a (very) large educational organization, and how dialogue with 1,000s of stakeholders shaped strategy. They are getting ready to adopt a curriculum based on professional tasks. The knowledge and skill development being taught will be constantly tailored to the professional tasks. This curriculum must represent a significant, policy-based issue and change process. This process is a substantial task, and the organization enlisted the help of several colleagues willing to commit to this and formed a project team. They first started to investigate whether there was a need for change and why they should change the training program. That preliminary process took quite some time. Once they decided this was the way to go, the next step was to reformulate the professional tasks. That is when CircleLytics Dialogue got involved.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

How to reach everyone? Through dialogue!

The professional tasks are the basis: what are the main ingredients of the teaching profession, and what tasks are involved? So, the team set out to gather answers from teachers within our educational organization, students and primary school teachers working in the field. This last group was essential to the organization because they do the actual work and the organization has much contact with them.

Organizational management: “In the past, we had used surveys, but the response was often low or not all target groups participated in similar numbers. The CircleLytics dialogue involves a broad group of people, so there’s no risk of always asking the same group of people for their opinions or the same people responding. The online dialogue’s attractiveness and high response rate provide a representative picture of the current state of affairs. The dialogue is innovative, reaches more people and provides a broad understanding of their answers and everyone’s appreciation for those answers.”

Good preparation helps achieve the desired response

They started by determining the right questions. That took some time, but the question design was essential to receive the answers that were needed. “We did not want to use the term ‘professional tasks’ because teachers in primary education do not use it, but we had to make clear that we were talking about professional tasks. The risk was that people within our organization would start to list their current professional tasks, which we wanted to avoid. Constructing the right question and determining who would send the e-mail message was a complicated assignment. CircleLytics provided the right guidance throughout the process. There was room for quick consultations, and we were well advised about what we should and shouldn’t do.”

“In the end, our dialogue consisted of two open questions and a profile question (closed, multiple choice). The first question was about the content of professional tasks; the second question left the respondent free to tell us more about their frustrations or desired changes. Both were open questions with a unique second round (dialogue), where participants appreciated each other’s answers. And finally, we wanted to know which target group the respondent belonged to.”

Positively surprised by the dialogue

The most striking result was the high response and the equal distribution among all target groups, which we are very pleased with. The questions were sent out to approximately 4,000 people, and 700 responded. That is a higher response than any survey we sent out before, and the qualitative value is extremely high. We got very positive reactions, and people felt heard and seen. In addition, the reliability is high: the response is twice the response required for reliable, representative research. The CircleLytics team also told us that the response rate increases even further once people get to know the dialogue process and experience that it really isn’t a survey and their opinions are really wanted.”

“For us, the outcomes of the dialogue feel like a victory. With these results, we now have a good picture of what is happening in all our target groups. This input has enabled us to give well-founded advice. We also actively promoted participation in advance. We visited people and told them that if they wanted to influence the future of this training program, they should seize this opportunity to participate in this dialogue.”

Read here also what health care institute Spaarne Gasthuis says re collaboration, team dialogues and manager actions.

Online dialogue and sentiment analysis: innovative approach

The organization continues: “The dialogue is entirely anonymous and it is inspiring because you see the responses of others. This also gives people different insights during the process; on closer inspection, they might prefer answers that differ from their own. This reflection is essential. The dialogue encourages you to think; I have not seen this implemented in this manner in our industry before. Preparation takes time because it takes time to think about what you want to know and to formulate the right open question. Next time we apply the process, we will be familiar with the platform!

Before we started, we informed colleagues in our educational institution that we intended to look for their input. I wasn’t familiar with the dialogue mechanism, and I am not very tech-savvy, but the platform is very easy-to-use. The collaboration was enjoyable. CircleLytics was easily accessible and quickly came up with solutions. After a thorough demonstration and patient explanation, I was quickly able to search the answers without difficulty. For instance, I can hide answers and build a top (and a bottom) 5 based on the top-rated options or words used. It’s very valuable to see in what context people use these words.”

“Our advice is fully supported by the responses from the collective. We cannot and do not want to ignore this. We are now waiting for certain committees to make their decisions, and then the work can resume based on newly formulated professional tasks. But now we know, from experience, that the right questions provide valuable answers that are supported by a representative target group. We highly recommend the CircleLytics Dialogue to other education colleagues and institutions.”

If you want to know more about what CircleLytics Dialogue can do for the commitment and retention of your people, your change procedures and your organization’s performance, please schedule your introduction meeting or demo now.

 

Plato Academie

CircleLytics Dialogue is widely used in education. CircleLytics is based on the science of collective intelligence and dialogue dynamics. They are not rushed by a workshop or digital session of one or more hours but can reflect on their answers, over several days, through two asynchronous online rounds. No video sessions, no survey, but actual dialogues.
Dialogues teach us to see each other’s perspectives, it creates nuances and leads to new common insights. That requires attention and time to reflect. The dialogue method enables quick group-supported decision-making, in a matters of days to a few weeks.

This blog is about the different ways that dialogue is applied in the field of education. The dialogue method has been applied at institutions such as Leiden University, University of Amsterdam, Breda University of Applied Sciences, ROC Mondriaan, InHolland University of Applied Sciences, Avans University of Applied Sciences, Kentalis (Special Education) and many primary and secondary schools. Working with groups ranging from dozens to thousands of participants.

Read more about one educational organization’s road to better performances “The dialogue feels like a true victory.”

Key reasons why the Education System applies CircleLytics Dialogue

Democratize decision-making

The reason for using CircleLytics Dialogue is usually that organizations want to shape their participatory policy, improving their democratic work processes. Sometimes this is prompted by a direct reason: students or employees who exert pressure and express their opinions, but do so in a disorganized manner, or at unforeseen moments. That type of feedback is usually not very useful. You do not want small biased groups, which may not be representative, to dictate the agenda with their behavior, whether or not through (social) media, a joint signed call for action or a letter, etc.

Innovation: moving forward

Another reason is that organizations want to innovate, look for new forms of work. This is driven by three factors in particular. Firstly, remote working and the development of online education is forcing us to look for new forms of work. This is done to stimulate collaboration, learning and listening, brainstorming, decision-making, implementation, and accountability. Secondly, existing forms of working, such as a group meeting or sending out surveys, have already been digitalized. Technology such as the online dialogue puts people and their interactions about issues at the center of the discussion, and makes it possible to scale this up to tens of thousands of participants. This is what we call co-creation. The power of collaboration plus the power ofDialoog Dialogue digital possibilities unlocks the special, collective intelligence of groups of people. If you want to consult more (scientific) backgrounds on this subject, you can do so here, or by reading the book ‘On Dialogue’, by physicist and philosopher David Bohm.

 

Policymakers, teachers, employees and students are tired of filling out surveys. This fatigue is not because they receive so many surveys, or the length of the surveys. Our records, and research by institutions like Gallup, shows that they are particularly annoyed by the closed questions. The lack of interest in the participants’ actual personal opinions and experiences has an opposite effect: it has seriously damaged the reputation of surveys as a means of reaching people. People love getting attention and being taken seriously. Through social media, they have become accustomed to the democratic process of voicing your opinion, and they don’t expect any obstacles when doing so. This means that, for participative and representative decision-making, and to create broad support for your decisions, you should not wait and see how and where small groups of people express themselves. You should be the one actually organizing this information gathering. Technology allows you to do this with large groups, even with many thousands of participants. Clients in education and other sectors are looking for new ways to conduct high-quality, more reliable but also scalable, research.

Read here also our blog over ‘Which working  method? Meeting or Dialogue?’

Leadership & the intelligence of the collective

The third factor is related to leadership, and to modern views on the engagement of employees, teachers and students. The idea is to modernize leadership styles to better address issues in which employees play a more determining role than previously thought. Subjects such as listening to the organization, deep democracy, serving leadership, but also agile leadership are playing an increasingly important role. This requires new resources; you cannot solve new challenges with old resources.

We often work for organizations that understand the concepts of deep democracy and expect us to apply it. The minority opinion is actively not oppressed by the majority. This is important to maintain a balance and keep the dialogue going. This means that people can learn from each other, and can jointly and in stages achieve something better. Check out how Sandra Bouckaert, DD expert par excellence, applies dialogue and digital implementation of deep democracy. We work for institutions with a wide range of leadership styles and cultures. As a result, the topics may be asked differently by customers. It can range from “we are planning on ABC, what obstacle could hinder its implementation and how do we remove that obstacle?” (especially top-down, bottom-up for implementation) to “we ask you to brainstorm with us about XYZ and jointly determine the most supported choices” (bottom-up policy and decision-making).

For inspiration, we share these case studies with you. These are actual examples from education practice; they demonstrate how to unlock the power of collective intelligence, the wisdom of the group, and enjoy the combined benefits:

  • people like to take part: they enjoy being allowed to give their opinion and learn from each other
  • you can gather more and reliable insights in just a couple of days, two weeks at the most
  • you prevent your organization from going into ‘resistance mode’ because you have shown openness
  • no analytical background is needed to understand and use the results immediately.

 

1 Policy-making

You can involve hundreds or even thousands of participants in formulating policies. You can appeal to the people who are the real eyes and ears of the internal organization and the external market. By doing a broad inventory, you prevent yourself from relying on the usual suspects and allowing bias and established assumptions in your new policy, without re-examining them first. You can perceive developments in the environment – such as opportunities, threats, new options, internationalizations – faster and better when you see them through the eyes of many, rather than just your own. Except, of course, if you want to let your view of things dominate for some reason. For example, you can ask about these new developments, how they see things in 5-10 years’ time, what the institution must retain and why, which spearheads they see for this and that, etc. In this phase, you probably tell participants that your explorations are just that, and that you are not yet making decisions. That could be the next phase, in which you use the dialogues to ask for support, thus organizing support for your intended policy. Sometimes participants are asked about a ‘potentially insurmountable objection’ and, if supported by others in the second round of the dialogue, this will lead to some very welcome adjustments.

 

A closely related topic:

2 Policy evaluation and adjustment

The purchase of a new bicycle shed on campus is a quite static affair. There is not much opportunity to adjust any decisions on this subject. You can retrieve online input and ideas from a group and have those influence your decision. You build it and that’s that. However, most decisions affect the context in which the decision was taken. And the context itself is likely to change. What’s more, your decisions will encourage new behavior. Either it leads to positive behavior to implement what has been decided on, or it causes negative behavior you didn’t take into account. If you involved people during the dialogues in the development stage of policy-making, you knew beforehand where you’d encounter resistance and where there would be support, and you would have taken both sides into account. This prevents opposition afterwards. But if you didn’t, you might also have to deal with potentially serious new and negative behavior.

In short: non-static issues are dynamic, to some degree, so you stay alert. How? By asking those involved about what is having a visible effect, what requires some attention or tightening, and what can be improved. This makes it easy to adjust, quickly and with support. In addition, you and the stakeholders can detect early and regularly where new risks arise and whether they have observed changes that may have an impact. This way, you will not be surprised by any development, and you will remain in control of the situation.

3 Educational programs and quality

Clients test whether educational programs are sustainable. They want to know how education connect to the business world, how quality is assessed, what can be improved, does it attract students, would researchers and teachers want to participate? Our clients in education ask their internal and external stakeholders for feedforward. They combine this with the numbers about the students’ influx and outflow, student satisfaction, teacher retention, success and drop-out rates. They gather feedback and feedforward from alumni and the business community. Both groups greatly appreciate being more engaged, feeling more involved, and sharing what they see and know. The institution can emphasize and even develop new modules and program components based on co-creation with its stakeholders. Several clients are using the platform.

4 Graduation, research, PhD

Students must do research. To this end, they use methods for testing hypotheses, etc. Accurate data is critical. They mostly use interviews, and above all they use surveys. However, people suffer from ‘survey fatigue’; the number of responses is decreasing and surveys tend to create bias. Those with the most outspoken opinions may be those who, through closed questions, experience that you do not take them seriously. In that case, you lose the most important insights, and your response comes from the remaining group. This undermines the reliability of your research. For each research or project you set up through the platform of CircleLytics, you will determine per question which scale is applicable, whether you explicitly ask for an open answer, and whether you start that unique second round. You can also use the platform to ask ‘regular’ closed questions, such as profile questions that are often required for research. CircleLytics Dialogue offers the functionalities that the most advanced survey tools also present, but on top of that, it offers something unique that the others don’t: the processing of open answers in a second dialogue round, where others assess and rate those answers on their substantive value.

The platform is also used to co-create research goals, determine focal points and set priorities with as many participants as desired. This often includes external stakeholders or foreign collaboration partners. That, too, is something you can achieve digitally, but not physically.

5 Modern leadership and human capital policy

From the perspective of leadership and modern human capital policy, you want your organization and projects to be handled differently than before. You’ll want to do away with the old ‘survey’ method, or add deeper layers to it. Employees want to be involved; they want to be taken seriously, and leadership wants to respect and take into account everyone’s diversity of thoughts. You want to invest in employee engagement and experience. Our clients have noticed that regular dialogues strengthen these important objectives and increase people’s willingness to stay with the organization. By asking questions about how they experience equal opportunities for themselves and others, how the culture can be improved, the elements they are proud of, what are surprising reasons to stay or leave, etc. The dialogue respects and embraces the diversity of thought; it is 100% inclusive. It asks everyone’s opinion anonymously. This creates a culture that motivates work and collaboration, a culture where you lead and learn the common language of the organization, the shared values, etc.

 

In line with this …

6 Research among & engaging of students

Don’t forget: surveys are no longer popular. However, asking essential open questions and some scoring questions is. This relatively straightforward step provides qualitative insights that survey platforms such as Qualtrics and SurveyMonkey cannot offer. That is one of the reasons many of our clients are using our services, in addition to or replacing these platforms. They are applying CircleLytics’ better options, not in the least because we managed to make ‘participating in research’ fun again. And if it’s fun and valuable (because of the unique and critical 2nd round), you can approach and engage students more frequently. You can ask them to provide feedback/feedforward on lectures, teachers, websites, catalogues, education, practical work, events, campus setup, etc. Focus on mainly open-ended questions, only a few at a time and learn from their qualitative insights.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

7 Don’t forget the alumni!

The alumni are underrated. They are very sympathetic to your institution, have built a strong working life, and represent a diversity of organizations. It is a great opportunity, exploring their continued learning needs and learning more about the market trends and developments. This enables you to improve your relationship with them, collect valuable content and use the information about the changes they notice in their working life. You can also discover what they consider valuable events and why, so you can improve attendance.

8 Recognition and appreciation

This is a tricky topic for institutions. Various institutions are investigating and developing policies on this topic with their staff. The second round of the online dialogue ensures that participants listen to each other’s opinions, learn from them, rate their appreciation and provide useful explanations. Any nuance in difficult debates is based on a diversity of perspectives. Don’t forget: a new policy can have significant new, unknown effects on behavior. In turn, this behavior can affect quality, culture and retention. Research can also lead to lingering discontent due to forces that are only emerging after you introduce new policies. We therefore recommend regular checks for recognition and appreciation and how these aspects are perceived. Which elements are considered consequences, and which are opportunities to adjust?

9 Let’s not forget about the primary process: education

Using CircleLytics, you can set challenges for groups of students or pupils. The challenges you set them, and the solutions they come up with, are discussed during multiple rounds. They get to apply what they have learned in practice right away. As a teacher, you get more grip on sustainability. You can ensure your students and pupils can really grasp the theory of the concepts. You also see how they approach, solve, and think about your challenge. That makes them better prepared for a future that is more digital and requires virtual collaboration with new technologies. So, it’s best to start early!

10 Employee participation

You cán and must harness the power of the people. Not only using education, leadership and HR, but also through employee participation (EP). The rules for employee engagement in education can differ from country to country. In general, such as in The Netherlands, an employee council has the right to engage all relevant employees to advice leadership regarding a variety of topics and draft-decisions. For EP to be effective, you need a periodic or ad hoc instrument to reach (a very large group of) your employees. CircleLytics has proven to be excellent for this: all the polls, surveys, and newsletters cannot compete with the rejuvenation of employee participation. CircleLytics’ impact is easy to achieve, and management teams and employees are clearly noticing it.

If you have been inspired by the way that other educational institutions make impact with dialogue & collective intelligence, now is the time to plan your introduction meeting with us.

gemeente burgerparticipatie

According to Harry te Riele of TransitieFocus, if there is one party that will gain ground in complex decision-making in the coming years, it is the citizen. For the Energy Vision for the municipality of Tilburg, he and a team of professionals relied on wisdom of the crowd, or collective intelligence, also known as co-creation. The knowledge and vision of one and a half thousand residents provided food for thought for a select reflective group. In this blog, He explains why the Tilburg municipality decided not to use the citizens’ informal council (focus group of up to 1,000 people, based on a drawing) as originally requested. Some advantages and disadvantages of the hybrid construction, of online and offline dialogue, are discussed. Finally, he advises the public administration to experiment with this new participation-construction.

Involving citizens – betting all chips on focus groups and townhalls?

In the Netherlands, climate debates and environmental discussions have increased the call for the involvement of ordinary citizens in complex decision-making processes. The term citizen consultation is often used in this context. In some cities, this has unlocked the creativity and ownership that decision-makers have been looking for. Certainly, when board members assured the participants that their input weighed heavily in the decision-making, groups started to work seriously. So, should we be betting all chips on the informal citizens’ council or other versions of focus groups and town halls?

No, that’s not a wise thing to do. As we have seen in other transitions, a long period of variation and selection is now beginning for ‘decision-making’, which will probably eventually lead to a transition of public administration. He himself thinks that the next step is the use of the crowd, of a group size without limit, where everyone can share their thoughts, participate, and listen to and learn from each other.

The system is stable as long as it is supported – what about representative democracy?

Let’s go back to the basis. Every social system has disadvantages. If you build a house, someone else cannot walk their dog there. If everyone puts a lock on their bicycle, people lose their keys every day. If a country uses natural gas, it will experience burns, explosions and earthquakes. If you give cars free reign in the city, it will immediately become inaccessible for playing children and the elderly who are suffering from dementia.

Regardless of its scale, a system remains dynamically stable as long as people feel its advantages outweigh its disadvantages. It is reaffirmed every day – repeatedly deployed, repaired and brought up to date with limited modifications. Once, every now-familiar system was an innovation. It fought its way in and became a factor of significance when it scaled up. Society adjusted to it and gradually people became so familiar with it that they no longer realized the disadvantages, nor the doubts and sometimes fierce discussions when it was introduced. They only surface again when the system is changed – sometimes generations later.

For example, as the electric car scales up, many are noticing that it requires 70% less maintenance, can be powered by solar energy, accelerates faster than petrol, is quiet, clean and can be updated remotely. It communicates with other cars and infrastructure, bringing relaxed travel and far fewer deaths within reach. The time-honoured dealer network proves unnecessary. The new construction for remote mobility is no longer a collection of rods, pistons, diesel and V-belts. It is a computer with wheels that, for the first time in a century and a half, does not smell and that you can park in your hallway if necessary. And yes, even the electric variant has its drawbacks, but the advantages outweigh them – at least in the perception of a rapidly growing group of people.

Reading all of this, how is our democracy doing? Which of its drawbacks did we forget long ago? Te Riele has a go at it.

Dialogue with citizens

Read here our blog over “Customer Case: Education: The Results of the Dialogue Truly Feel Like a Victory.”

Emancipation of citizens was also foreseeable in decision-making transitions

It is well known that citizens and residents played a role in the Dutch urban renewal in the 1970s and 1980s and in exposing environmental scandals. However, involving citizens in transitions – major social system changes – was virgin territory when the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (in Dutch: Ministry of VROM) published a research / position paper: Een Wereld en een Wil/NMP4 in 2001. After that publication, the ministry asked Te Riele to link substantive transitions to decision-making itself. The answer was a vision in which they criticize how triple helix networks bring together scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians and civil servants for decision-making on transitions, but not those who are actually at the heart of the matter: ordinary people and their ability to stand up for a nice life. To make the foreseeable systemic changes towards sustainability run smoothly, they proposed 21 years ago to give ordinary people (‘citizens/consumers’) a full place in decision-making on transitions. For them, the question is not if but how.

The ministry of VROM, however, was eliminated. The strategists behind the NEPP4 dispersed to other ministries and the EU and their plea for commitment to system innovations came to a halt. Along other lines, however, visions, experiments and publications on linking ordinary people to governance grew worldwide. Smart Cities were combined with IT. Countries such as Singapore, Spain, Canada, Taiwan and Norway formed the leading group. In the Netherlands, however, IT did not play a special role in the recent deployment of citizens – think of local energy debates and area visions.

Back to the municipality of Tilburg.

Tilburg’s Energy Vision: “We are thinking of a citizens’ council”.

When, in the spring of 2021, the Tilburg city council asks the Municipal Executive for more involvement of homeowners in their Energy Vision, organizing a citizens’ council is in the cards. The municipality is thinking of about twenty selected residents who will give their opinion on the Energy Vision and stay on until it is adopted in December.

With the (recent) “Malieveld protest”, the tractors on the highways, the occupied national institute RIVM and the threats on the internet still fresh in their minds, Te Riele and his colleague Esther van der Valk propose a different construction. They support a select reflection group with wisdom of the crowd, i.e. collective intelligence. Below are their arguments and how it worked out in practice.

  1. When things get grim, it is ethically irresponsible to have ordinary citizens deal with it. In the vision phase of the heat transition, our first argument against a citizens’ council alone is that there is hardly any social friction. This can change as soon as homeowners are obliged to invest. In the awkward situation that then arises, it is ethically irresponsible to have a small group of citizens deal with it, not to mention the political risk for the Municipal executive. They suggested that the municipality set up a – what was soon called – TilburgerTafel (Tilburg Table ed.) of twenty people to back them up with online dialogues based on open-ended questions and many citizens.

Per dialogue, many Tilburg citizens (they write: “preferably thousands”) anonymously answered questions about the Energy Vision. Their anonymized answers are passed on by CircleLytics Dialogue in small portions to other homeowners, with the request to rank them and provide comments.

No sooner said than done. After six weeks, the team was able to feed the TilburgerTafel with anonymized, ranked and supported responses from the first 700 Udenhouters, Berkel-Enschotters, Biezemortelers and Tilburg citizens, with top and bottom lists of most embraced and most rejected responses, as well as arguments for and against. This gives the TilburgerTafel a flying start and a fundamentally different one. In four months’ time, the group will meet six times to reflect on intermediate results, follow-up questions and fragments for the citizens’ advice. During the seventh, they will address specific dilemmas together with councillors. Members of the Tafel handed over their citizens’ advice on the spot in 56 large-format slides (see photo). A journalist from the Brabants Dagblad observes the strong group cohesion with amazement.

Meanwhile, fed by thousands of ranked answers and comments, the TilburgerTafel is much stronger in its advice. A high level of satisfaction among the participants in the online dialogue (8.5 on a scale of 10) further strengthens this position. When council members frequently quote statements and recommendations from the citizens’ advice in their debates, explicitly compliment the TilburgerTafel and unanimously adopt the Heat Vision, the participants will feel that they have participated in something worthwhile!

  1. Twenty people do not cover 70,000 households. Besides the ethical consideration, there is a second reason to use digital tools and collective and artificial intelligence. A citizens’ council cannot cover the diversity of 70,000 households, let alone in combination with the investment space per family, the basic attitude of the homeowner towards the entire heat transition and other peculiarities. With collective intelligence and CircleLytics Dialogue, this becomes easier. Diversity, majorities, minorities, clusters, deviating opinions, aversion to change in general; when using deliberately, open-ended questions you can get them to surface relatively easily. By larding the citizens’ advice with hundreds of literal answers, every subgroup feels seen, even if it is a minority and the council chooses a different route than it advocates. Decision-makers on their side get authentic material on their tablet or computer, with quality regarding process and content including a lot of spelling and stylistic errors. From now on, the policy can differentiate more precisely: by neighbourhood, income situation, house type, year of construction, psychological attitude, claimed autonomy and other key issues.

In order to get a feel for the deviation of the TilburgerTafel from the average homeowner, both responded to a few questions about the weighting of values. The TilburgerTafel turned out to be slightly greener than the average online participant and incorporated this awareness into its advice. From the very first Tafel meeting, a coordinator derived fragments for the citizens’ advice from the discussions. In the four months that followed, these became more complete, broader and deeper. The process progressed along three tracks: knowledge and trust between the members of the TilburgerTafel, regarding depth, breadth and design of the citizen advice and a growing relation between the municipality and eventually more than one and a half thousand participating Tilburg citizens, spread over the neighbourhoods of the city. Upon completion, the officials also have a list of residents who say they will become active in their neighbourhood for the Neighbourhood Implementation Plan.

  1. Draw does not automatically produce a group that solves complex problems. Those interested in the TilburgerTafel registered after calls in old and new media. From the sixty candidates, they chose twenty. Why did they refuse a draw? To reduce the risk that this group of 20 members is ill-equipped for complex problem solving. Whereas transition thinking at the turn of the century focused on frontrunners, it gradually became clear to Esther van der Valk and Te Riele that the dynamics of growth are strongly influenced by those who naturally feel at home in the upper half of the S-curve (growth curve). In other words: a transition goes as fast as those who do not want to grow. Smooth transitions require cooperation between people who are divided along the growth curve. This will result in better quality decisions. A decision that is supported by more people.

A second reason for not drawing lots is that people and matter are both important in a transition. A TilburgerTafel consisting of both people-attached and matter-attached characters covers the content of the problem as a group, as well as the social processes required to find a new direction. Here too, a small group runs the risk of missing this balance. In online dialogues in which 1500 Tilburg residents participate, these balances are not a problem and, looking back, we see this confirmed in the distribution of types of answers and comments.

Finally, Te Riele indicates that it makes a difference whether a group member is a specialist on a part of the growth curve or naturally has an overview of the whole, i.e. from creation through growth, exploitation and decline to dismantling. In a transition, all these processes occur simultaneously. As far as TransitieFocus is concerned, the TilburgerTafel should therefore have a variety of characters: 1) explorers and perpetuators, 2) people- and content-oriented characters and 3) specialists on the growth curve and generalists. Literature on complex problem-solving suggests that such a cognitively diverse group will produce faster and better results. From sixty applications, we formed a citywide group of twenty. Using playful introductory questions, we checked them at the outset for cognitive diversity. Years of experience with transition assessments are an advantage at such times, says TransitieFocus.

  1. The importance of open dialogues. So, a cognitively diverse group, strengthened by thousands of answers from three online dialogues with the city. Why did they ask open-ended questions in those dialogues instead of the more common polls and surveys? The answer lies first of all in the concept of dialogue. Dialogue is about learning from other people’s points of view and then rethinking your own. Dialogue is therefore about change. The Tilburg answers indeed show how large groups sometimes shift their opinions after reading 20, 40 or even more answers from others. By asking open-ended questions and allowing others to assess their answers, the city increases cohesion among thousands of people. In this way, decision-making progresses at this early stage. Polls and surveys do not do this. The literature on participation also points out that asking questions conveys an open attitude and trust – an essential feature of transitions in which various parties have to face the future together.
  2. Polarization is lurking. Back to the summer of 2021. As the TilburgerTafel progresses, it turns out that extreme answers – positive and negative – are judged by other homeowners as being of little use. As a result, the process did not become bogged down in deadlocks caused by flanking positions. The discussion runs through a nuanced midfield. Because of the absence of one moment and one place where ‘IT’ should happen (a meeting / workshop), the explosion of contagious enthusiasm that may characterize a citizens’ council may be lacking. Tilburg is more characterized by anonymity, tranquillity and time for reflection. Notifying the police, for instance, is not necessary. Officials, the council committee and boards are gradually warmed up with intermediate results.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Extreme answers do of course come in. The coordinator includes them in the advice as an illustration, but these extreme views do not hijack the discussion. Moreover, by making the thousands of answers and comments on them available to all Tilburg residents in one Excel file, everyone can check the choices of the coordinator afterwards. For dyslexics, a Word version is online.

Successful? Drawbacks? Ready? Future?

Was the test of Model Tilburg successful? Many think so. Is the construction without disadvantages? Of course not. It was a hell of a job. Everything had to be invented, the team made mistakes. Some of them could not go on holiday and because of the Corona pandemic almost everything had to be put online. Some members never met each other live.

Is this scalable? Yes, it is. However, in Tilburg, politicians and officials gave the team exceptional freedom and trust. I’m extremely curious to see whether Model T will work with other teams, in other cities and on other transition issues.

Is Tilburg ready now? No. The team saw the trust between parties grow. With a heat transition that will take decades, it is unwise to abandon the dialogue structure now that the global vision has been established. A long-term relationship of trust between the municipality and entering and remaining in dialogue with thousands of residents and the parties around them could prove crucial as soon as the transition lands on doorsteps. The future? If this innovation scales up, sooner or later it will rub off on the usual routines. If Model T succeeds in solving forgotten and new problems that our traditional representative democracy can barely cope with, the latter will be painfully curtailed. The outcome of that struggle depends on the wisdom of those who decide. Te Riele would personally recommend Model Tilburg to them.

Contact Harry te Riele or Esther van der Valk from TransitieFocus here or contact the CircleLytics team here.

(This is an adaptation of an article that appeared in the Dutch magazine Ruimte + Wonen, nr 1, 2022, published by Aeneas).

 

Agility

Stimulating curiosity and being open to other points of view

Cutting, pasting and making decisions. In a nutshell, this is what Mark Nijssen and his company De organisatieontwerpers do for organizations in the public and semi-public sector. Especially organizations such as municipalities, health and safety institutions, health and safety service providers, participation companies, etc. When the organizational structure changes, a lot changes in other areas such as teams, decision trees and processes within organizations. During this process, he uses CircleLytics Dialogue to collect the opinions of various stakeholders and to make people aware of the need to ‘look outside’, literally outside the organization, as well as outside their team, their department. In other words, different perspectives. It also shows whether a plan devised by the management team is in line with what the employees want or need: interaction between and balancing of top-down and bottom-up. With this information, he continues the process of organizational change. The accumulated involvement of employees and especially their valuable input is a wonderful starting point and increases agility.

Focus on participation and agility

Mark: “I like a participative approach. That is why I invite people within organizations to be curious about the outside world. This includes the principle of deliberately asking open-ended questions and inviting them to share experiences with colleagues. What do you see, what do you think, what moves you? I try to get organizations to take a conscious, broad look. That takes guts, because it asks for information inside and outside the organization and calls for action. The dialogue will give you the most appreciated answers (top 5) and the least appreciated (bottom 5). I share both, because you can also get valuable information from the bottom 5. This way, you can immediately see whether a well-thought-out idea is indeed well received within the organization. You can test and sharpen top-down ideas, but I also use open-ended questions to collect bottom-up ideas or images. CircleLytics Dialogue measures the sentiment on ideas and opinions of others. Everyone learns from this, and everything is ranked in order of importance, support.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

I regularly receive requests from organizations that have implemented a change in strategy, or that have issues regarding cooperation. Of course, a management team already has a certain idea, but it is important to test whether this also fits with the needs of the organization and its employees. As management team, having tunnel vision is a pitfall, so it’s important to stimulate curiosity and gain knowledge from your own employees.

 

Dialogue is not just about gaining support for a decision. In the context of remaining curious, it makes sense to ask the employees based on their expertise: How do you see this situation? They have built up a lot of know-how. People who have been working for the organization for a long time can tell you a lot, but the fresh view of new people is also important. Talk to people who seem to be in resistance. Because often they are not – and sometimes they are – but they have valuable experiences and insights anyway. Ask them how they view the issue and listen carefully to their solutions. Through the online dialogue, you see a positive influence from groups that are willing to participate, to groups that are resisting. This is how you increase the agility of their thinking: by letting them learn from the opinions of others. It really is a waste not to use built-up knowledge and experience within an organization. And it’s better to do it now than later when it’s too late, for example during the implementation, and they turn out to be right after all, or want to be…

Read here also our blog “The next step in employee listening is called dialogue!”

Agile organization

Wendbaarheid Organisatieontwerp

Another aspect you need as an organization is agility. I recently published a book about this: ‘Organiseren op je Voorvoeten’ (organizing on your toes, ed.), in which I used the metaphor of a tennis player. You’re on your toes with an inquisitive gaze, curious about what is coming.  This is how you prepare for unexpected situations, which is what an agile organization does. I also mentioned dialogue in this book, precisely because it fits in with my vision of allowing everyone to participate. You don’t have to rely on assumptions; it’s even risky to ‘fill in the blanks’. With the dialogue, you can ask people directly. You can do so in a way that arouses curiosity and allows you to reach everyone at the same time.

By asking one or a few appropriate, open-ended questions, you will receive the right answers, with which you can continue the process. To get to that one question, I always use a design team. What do we really want to know? It’s important that we stay away from management language and that the question can only be explained in one way. In the context of agility, we often use the question ‘what do you see happening in the outside world that all your colleagues should also know? ‘. We then come to an open-ended and also concrete question in which they get a maximum of 220 characters to answer this question in the 1st round. This is how you can ‘force’ employees to answer only the most important things. In the second round, they can ‘go wild’ and score and appreciate the many answers from others.

Results as substantiated advice

The outcomes of dialogues are always input for physical meetings with the design team and management team. I use several dialogues within an organizational design process and the further along we are in the process, the more concrete we can ask about certain situations. The results do not stand alone, they are valuable within a larger and broader process that often leads to a plan for the organization. In addition, the results of the dialogue give us a well-founded advice, because we have given everyone the opportunity to provide input. This results in better-quality conversations, which in turn lead to a better-fitting end result. And more agility. That is why I have been using dialogue in my services for years and why I can recommend it wholeheartedly.”

Contact Mark Nijssen of the Organisatieontwerpers (The Netherlands).

During change, there is a 3 to 4 times higher chance of employees getting disengaged or even leaving. Successful change and improvement do not happen overnight, but without them you are nowhere. You need structure – a conscious approach – in order to bring about change and improvements. Not just once, but continuously. People’s engagement is critical to this; you want to understand their keenest insights, knowledge and points for improvement, and more importantly; you want to show them that you consider them important. After all, change is permanent, a constant. Continuous improvement is the name of the game. The PDCA model is a much-used approach. PDCA gives structure to your continuous change and improvement process. In this blog we will explain how to use CircleLytics Dialogue successfully in PDCA. This ensures (short) cyclical feedforward. No change without employees. Change fails or succeeds mainly because of people. And without their data and insights, or unreliable data, you will not achieve successful change. The quality of the input of this feedforward and feedback determines your success. We will explain how CircleLytics helps you to obtain high quality data from stakeholders, such as and mainly employees, to prevent bias, mistakes and missed opportunities. It will also help to prepare the people involved for your change and secure their involvement. The tool is especially suitable for regular, (short) cyclical qualitative and quantitative feedback and feedforward.

 

How does PDCA work again?

PDCA stands for Plan – Do – Check – Act; a structural, cyclical approach in continuous improvement programmes. It ensures that you continuously and systematically pay attention to the steps needed to structurally solve problems. You can read more about the background of the PDCA model here. We describe all steps and explain how other organizations use CircleLytics for this purpose. In addition to tools, continuous change also requires a culture of continuous learning; being open to something better and repeating it. CircleLytics ensures organizations of efficient, effective feedback cycles, to achieve this culture and finally bring the necessary insights to the table. This cannot be achieved, or only to a lesser degree, using other tools and interventions, such as stand-ups, project meetings, and certainly not surveys. Our blog Survey or dialogue explains why this is so.

 

The different phases

Plan: identification of the problem and formulation of a supported plan for improvement

Do: implement actions, involving all relevant people

Check: evaluation of results, progress and analysis of deviations on the basis of data

Act: adjust activities based on the Check phase and make improvements sustainable.

 

 

Step 1: do you understand the problem and why?

In this step, you identify and analyse problems. Remember what Einstein said: “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” So spend ample time on this step, because a lack of attention now, will work against you later. Ask open questions: who, what, where, how, when and why? Look for the why behind the problem by, for example, using the technique of asking the why question 3 – 5 times. This will prevent your team from focusing on symptoms and consequences, rather than causes. There are also other techniques for root cause analysis, such as Pareto-analysis, Fishbone analysis, Fault Tree analysis, etc. CircleLytics is a suitable tool for all these techniques with questions tailored to these analysis variants. By seeking feedback from a wider group than the project team or the hired or internal consultant, you can look beyond your own scope. You can also break through the hierarchical relationships in your organization by ignoring those you involve in the anonymous feedback. Next, you can start to fine-tune a plan based on that problem identification.

 

Ask the largest, relevant group for each step of PDCA

Two know more than one. And many more than two know even more. CircleLytics ensures that you easily involve the largest possible, relevant group in the relevant phase. This ensures that you will receive the richest input with the least bias towards what really matters. This is called the wisdom of crowd, or collective intelligence. Ask this group rock-solid questions and let them respond in two anonymous rounds, with equal room and voice for everyone. Our White Paper helps you to design these rock-solid questions yourself, but make it easy on yourself: CircleLytics has plenty of questions ready for you. You will collect qualitative, indispensable feedback. Subsequently, this feedback is prioritized by the group itself in our unique 2nd round, giving it meaning. This 2nd round is critical and does not take place simultaneously with the 1st round. This ensures that participants can learn and reflect on feedback from others. This way of structuring feedback yields the most intelligence (see our post on this with Google research or watch the collective intelligence playlist on our YouTube channel).

 

Some important advantages of involving the largest possible group:

  • a cross-silo group, across departments; diversity provides the richest input
  • break through the hierarchy by inviting participants “of all layers”.
  • this also ensures high involvement, co-responsibility and early buy-in
  • this ensures that people’s ‘brains’ are already switched on for change: the growth mindset.

We recommend a small group for questions that can only be answered by people from that specific small group (management group, MT, sounding board group, etc). This could concern budget or the deployment of people. For all other subjects, involving the largest possible, relevant group will yield the best results. As mentioned above, you can bypass the hierarchy. After two rounds in CircleLytics, you can directly read and apply the combined results, which have been further enriched by natural language processing and artificial intelligence techniques. The results can be intelligently filtered and broken down according to hierarchical levels, function groups, ages, length of service, role in the change, department, etc. This allows you to see how different subgroups may view things differently. The strength of the 2nd round of CircleLytics is that it is anonymous, and participants learn from each other’s (different) opinions. This ensures that the diversity of opinions and perspectives is as great as possible, which is exactly what you want to answer your questions in the smartest way possible.

Stappen van dialoog en feedback

[Photo: Round 1: open questions that touch the core. Time to reflect, no time pressure, anonymous. Round 2: all opinions back to participants in small sets; they prioritise these using scores and textual enhancements. Round 3: Dashboard shows bundled wisdom of the group; extra analysis tools and report using AI/text analysis.]

People determine the success of change

As mentioned in the introduction, people are the essence of your change. People perform or prevent actions. A review study in the International Journal of Strategic Change Management, highlights the main reasons for the failure of change and read also more about leadership’s role and behaviour and its impact on implementation of change.  More important than those of a strategic nature, is the people factor and HR/HCM policy. The most important are:

  • lack of involvement and participation
  • resistance to change
  • lack of motivation and satisfaction
  • fear of losing their job
  • low confidence.

Examples of questions in the Plan phase

We will immediately show you how our two-round method will benefit you. We do this with an example question: “What do you think is the real core of the problem and can you explain it in more detail? “The CircleLytics tool collects the answers anonymously, and in the second round, participants will score each other’s analysis and the most supported responses will be revealed. In the second round, you immediately ask for their explanation, for example with the question “Do you think this is the problem to work on now, why? This way, you will dig very deep in a period of 3-5 working days, with 10 or even 1,000 people. So, you ask everyone who knows something about the problem or the point to be improved, or who is or will be affected by change because of the actions to be taken. You secure the above critical advantages: richest input, buy-in and openness to change.

The above example can be realized in a few working days in two rounds. You can go through the real-time results yourself or together and follow up with the next step, looking for solutions and improvements. You can also set up a second feedback loop of two rounds with CircleLytics Dialogue, if the first results still raise questions. By the way, other sample questions are available depending on your situation, such as:

“What do you think we should focus on and why?

What should we do first to cope with [losses, customer churn, system crashes, …] and why?

 

Looking for improvements

You will now select the most prioritized problems that your team supports. Again, present these to the largest, relevant group. Remember that employees are eager to respond to open questions that are relevant to their work and well-being. Not asking them is not an option.

 

A follow-up question might now be: “For each problem identified, can you think about how you would solve it; what do you think is a valuable, achievable, strong improvement? “In the second round, they can score up or down so many improvements made by others and, when asked, explain “How would you make this improvement measurable? ” or “What is most needed to realize this? or for example “What should we not do or do less of to realize this improvement successfully? “. Your result is a compilation of the most supported improvements per problem and a compact overview of the explanations for this, such as how you measure this, what is needed most and what you have to do to make it work.

 

Now you can start planning.

 

Towards a plan with a basis of support

A plan without support from the broad group of stakeholders is doomed to fail along the way. Did you know that research has shown that 90% of lean-development projects fail? Therefore, our advice is to present your plan again to the largest, relevant group of stakeholders. You can ask the effective question: “Do you support this plan? If yes,  support your answer by indicating what convinces you most and, if no, explain what you consider to be an insurmountable objection and your alternative.”

Through the 2nd unique round, participants learn from each other’s insights, give support, and you learn whether there are objections that are serious and need improvement. You can iterate this 2 or 3 times if you want. This will result in a supported plan. You can complete these iterations in 1-4 working days if you need speed. Remember that change requires attention, especially in the Plan phase.

 

Now let’s get to work and keep checking!

Your sound, efficient approach results in a supported plan and in concrete actions to be carried out. In the implementation (Do phase), it is important to measure (Check phase) how this is going. You can either immediately start implementing on a large scale, or start with small-scale, experimental steps. In both cases, you monitor the success. You will build in fast, regular feedback loops. You will ask questions like: “How involved are you (still) in ABC change and can you explain this? “. In this feedback loop with CircleLytics you will ask: “What makes us deviate from our planning at the moment? “And in the second round of this question: “Which analysis of others regarding the deviation from our planning do you support, and how do you think we can adjust this? “. You can also apply lean models to carry out this kind of analysis and make adjustments, such as the Fishbone analysis that we mentioned above.

 

You always collect the feedback from the largest, relevant group of people involved in the implementation, certainly not just from the project group. This is how you avoid tunnel vision, in addition to the aforementioned advantages. Depending on the duration, complexity and milestones/measuring points of your original plan, you carry out a feedback loop 1 to more than 10 times. For these phases too, questions are available like the ones above. Because CircleLytics collects the feedback in a broad and anonymous way, and learns from what people support and reject, you will get reliable data. Without this data, you cannot check or adjust.

 

The Act phase; start adjusting now!

You check to know what, why and how needs to be adjusted. Adjustments prevent you from overlooking new circumstances or things that are going differently in practice. You also make sure that the change becomes anchored, sustainable. The regular feedback loops, the dialogues with those involved, ensure that the behaviour of people is brought in line with the required change. You don’t want a relapse.

Where things do go well, investigate the possibilities for standardization. Ask questions like: “What is structurally going well and can we regulate outside the project? “. In the second round, you can ask participants “Which points do you support and how and where do you think you can make them sustainable in the organisation“. In this phase, and on the basis of these reliable insights, you can come to the sustainability of new working methods, tasks, required behaviour, etc.

 

CircleLytics Dialogue; instant feedback for your PDCA cycle

CircleLytics Dialogue provides reliable feedback data, buy-in and openness for change from all stakeholders. You can deploy CircleLytics via consultants, who work on your (lean / change) projects, or engage them directly by contacting us. You can also ask HR to facilitate this tool. They are familiar with the enormous power, the positive effect on the involvement of employees and they know the big difference with (unwanted) surveys. We will show you a demo in 15-30 minutes and discuss a few customer cases. You can use the tool on the same day and start and continue in every phase of the PDCA cycle. You can use the tool once, but typically you want to set up an iterative process to realize change, sustainability and alignment of behaviour.

Contact us today to get started tomorrow.

 

Back to top
Close Offcanvas Sidebar