Sister Lilian Vernyuy was one of our global authors contributing case studies In the book Listening Helping Learning: Core Competencies of Process Consulting. It is one of my favorites because her case reminds us not every business gets to function in a Western-style market economy with the rule of law and property rights. It also reminds us of the grit, resets, and adaptiveness it takes for a Maestro-level leader to establish and mature an enterprise so that others can run it after our stewardship (listening adaptively is one of Process Consulting's core competencies). Her case study follows my signature below.
Sister Lilian agreed to an interview for the Society for Process Consulting two years ago, and I was finally able to meet her in person last year while she was in the States for additional theological study. Sister Lilian's entrepreneurial spirit accompanies her vocation as a religious, a nurse, and a multi-lingual retirement home administrator, especially during the COVID years that required the deepest level of adaptive listening.
A good Process Design identifies and articulates the WHY, WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and HOW of a process an organization determines to follow. What might you want to know or add to what Lilian describes in this case study—a composite portrait drawn from several scenarios? How would you respond to the discussion questions?
Running a Business in Wartime
Why are we engaged in this? Continuity and the future of the NGWAVE Construction Company are uncertain, and the proprietors are anxious about the prevailing situation. Measures to prevent a disastrous end of this enterprise have not been identified, explored, and adopted. To respond to this precarious situation, the owners want to put alternative plans and strategies in place that can move the business forward. This revival and growth plan is required to be in place by June of next year as they are unsure of how much longer the current war will last.
Who plays what role as we engage in adaptive conversation about this?
The proprietors of NGWAVE Company intend to review their belief systems and problem-solving approach while being open to embracing new ways and
opportunities as they decide on what to do to revive and grow their business.
The proprietors will collaborate with their management and technical teams, workers, and stakeholders for insights, understanding, cooperation, and buy-in.
The Process Consultant will facilitate the discussions among and between the proprietors, management and technical teams, workers, and stakeholders.
The Process Consultant will listen and engage them in action, then further reflect on the actions taken to identify where and what adjustments are or may be required. Gaining clarity and making adjustments will lead the proprietors, teams, workers, and stakeholders to engage in new actions that align with the options and strategies considered best to revive and grow their company.
The proprietors, teams, workers, and stakeholders will be assisted by the Process Consultant to assess and adopt necessary amendments resulting from the lessons learned that will enhance their decision-making.
The proprietors of NGWAVE Company will assume the payment of all the expenditures related to the entire process.
The Company secretariat, supervised by the project manager, will ensure smooth communication to and from all parties involved.
What criteria will we consider in order to know that we succeeded?
-Establish and seal a revival and growth plan by the end of June next year.
-Adopt specific and well-defined activities, options, and strategies.
-Ensure that a good relationship exists between the Process Consultant and members of the company, and that a Process Design has been formed.
-Ensure that the proprietors and all parties involved are satisfied, happy about, and committed to the decisions made.
When do we wish this work to be completed?
-Beginning in January, the Process Consultant will meet monthly with each involved group as indicated by the schedule drawn with the management team to discuss and adopt proposals towards company revival and growth.
-By the end of March, the first draft of the road map towards concrete strategies, options and plans with the Process Consultant will be completed.
-In April and May, feasibility studies where indicated will be completed.
-During May and June, any adjustments made will be documented and a final execution plan will be updated and established.
-By the end of June, the proprietors of NGWAVE Company will have a complete document detailing the actions and way forward for their company.
Where will this work be conducted? The venue for the meetings and deliberations will be the La Verna Spiritual Centre, Nkwen in Bamenda. The environment is conducive, convenient, secure, accessible, and close to the Company’s headquarters.
How will this work be conducted?
-The Process Consultant will draw up and sign an Agreement with the proprietors on the work and payment modalities.
-A sequence of activities will be established. The Process Consultant will meet with the proprietors, management team, technical staff, technical team, and stakeholders at designated times.
-In the monthly meetings with the various groups of people, the Process Consultant will listen as they share their ideas and proposals on how to resolve the prevailing challenges. Questions will be asked for clarity of meaning and context to enhance a broader and shared understanding. The Process Consultant will ensure that assumptions, prejudgments, and miscommunications are avoided or resolved if they creep in. This will keep the conversation focused on the real situation.
-Key questions will be asked that will enhance reflection that can inspire better decisions. The questions may also help the proprietors, employees, and stakeholders to be flexible in adapting and adjusting to new ways and new ideas that can lead to the improvement, revival, and growth of the company.
-The Process Consultant, the proprietors, and all the parties involved will ensure that the stipulated timelines are duly respected.
-The implementation of the revival plan is envisaged to begin no later than the end of July.
-Follow-up evaluation and documentation of lessons learned will take place in October, and adjustments made accordingly to ensure the continuity of the company’s mission.
IN LISTENING ADAPTIVELY: the Process Consultant sets out to accompany the Client and in companionship, offers them help to identify, accept, and adjust their way of thinking, beliefs, and actions to the actual reality as they work towards transformation. In this journey, the Consultant listens to get a full grip of the core and buried meaning of what the Client is saying while triggering them to keep in touch with the real situation without getting stuck on prefixed ideas.
—Lilian Vernyuy
1. In a setting where the Process Consultant works with so many groups of people, what challenges can they face, and how can these be managed?
2. How might adaptive listening be useful in volatile and uncertainty-filled scenarios like this one?
3. Looking at the process followed by the Process Consultant, proprietors, and other collaborators, what are the strengths of the process? How do you see adaptive listening being integrated? What additional ideas can be added to improve and make this process more complete and successful?
4. What additional skills could the Process Consultant and the Client consider when working in a war-torn situation?
Mark L. Vincent
Post by Mark L. Vincent
December 19, 2023
I walk alongside leaders, listening to understand their challenges, and helping them lead healthy organizations that flourish.