Archive for the ‘Consulting News’ Category

Engaging the whole organization around sustainability: It needs bringing CR and Change practitioners together!

October 17, 2010

About time for another blogpost – this one will be about CSR/Sustainability and change, and how practitioners from both sides need to work together. The urgency to write about this arose from attending the sustainability-focused Ashridge conference ‘Leading Organisations of Tomorrow’ ( last week.

Attending the conference and engaging in many conversations with fellow practitioners made me realize what my own advocacy is really about: engaging the whole organization around sustainability. I believe that CSR/Sustainability can only work, move out of a marginal position and achieve scale, if it is looked at  – and implemented as – a long-term change initiative for the whole organization.

But here’s the current reality:

While the few exceptional organizations have managed engagement well, CSR/Sustainability managers/directors in the majority of organizations are faced with the task of engaging the whole organization around sustainability – and don’t have a clue how to do that creatively, professionally and effectively. How do they go about it, other than, simply speaking, holding a ppt presentation for the board and pushing information mails on information-overloaded employees? They are also supposed to effectively dialogue and engage with external stakeholder groups – and so many I have met are scared of that, as they simply don’t know how to effectively engage in difficult conversations that might center around conflict.

Change/OD consultants, whether in-house or external, could be really helpful in all of these contexts, and many of them care personally about the topic of sustainability. However, there still seems to be deep fragmentation between these circles – a fragmentation that urgently needs to be bridged, in my opinion.

Interestingly, one company that really stood out with a different approach here already in the middle of the Noughties was O2 in Germany: They had the change consultants right there as members of their CR Steering Group. Great!

Change/OD consultants already work inside organizations on issues around culture and values, inclusive strategy development, and various change initiatives. They tend to be excellent and sensitive facilitators, also capable of providing a safe environment for difficult stakeholder conversations. Strangely enough, the fewest of them seem to have looked at sustainability as a long-term change initiative for the whole organization. At the conference last week, I noticed that many of them, in their own understanding of sustainability, seem to be in the ‘late majority’ segment for that topic …

At the conference, a company-internal OD consultant said: “I really want to get involved with the sustainability topic. I think I want to put it on the agenda of a workshop with top leaders in the company I’ll be running soon.”

I asked: “What about the CSR/Sustainability people in your company? Do you know each other? Have you ever talked with them?” Her answer was that a) she did not know them/had never met them and b) she did not want to involve them in designing that topic for her workshop. I was left puzzled …

On the other hand, I would assume that most CSR/Sustainability managers don’t know what good change/OD consultants can help them with: Effective engagement of both the board and of employees internally, and of other stakeholder groups externally, through e.g. interviews and facilitated online ‘jams’, workshops and focus groups, thinking and inquiring together, Future Search or Appreciative Inquiry initiatives, inclusive strategy and innovation work, and so on. The CSR/Sustainability people could get into highly effective engagement initiatives together with in-house or external people who really know their way around such engagement, and who bring the required training, experience, pedagogy, methodologies and ‘tools’.

Effectively engaging the board, middle management and employees in general creates buy-in from everybody in the organisation, creates opportunities for sustainability becoming part of organizational culture and values, for employees taking ownership for sustainability in their respective functions, and for employees contributing lots of innovation potential around sustainability. Effectively engaging external stakeholders creates improved understanding, might resolve conflicts, and can also contribute a lot of innovation potential.

CSR/Sustainability managers, when shown what change/OD consultants can do in working together with them, tend to lean back, visibly relax, and breathe a huge sigh of relief, saying “why did you not tell me earlier? where have you been all this time? when can we start working together?”

On the other hand, change/OD consultants who also care about sustainability (be it ecological sustainability, sustainable employee relations or sustainable leadership) can find here a really meaningful and fulfilling field of own engagement.

What’s missing, I find, are large-scale opportunities – e.g. workshops, conferences – to bring the two circles together: for getting to know each other, for generating improved mutual understanding, and for mutual exploration of opportunities.

Why am I passionate about this topic? As said at the beginning, if we want to achieve much-needed scale and effective implementation of organization sustainability, in my understanding it is the only way forward. Ongoing fragmentation will not get us there.

When I brought this up at the conference, the lead facilitator asked back: “Would you be willing to take this project on?” Well yes, I would. I’ve decided to really look into this and try to make it happen for next year. Collaborators most welcome!



Global heads of citizenship for leading multinational companies have registered for Boston College course that I’ll facilitate

September 21, 2010

When we first came up with the idea, we were not sure how many people would register. Now, as Boston College tells me, they “have to fight people off” – there are more people wanting to register than they can offer seats on the program! And it’s great people – I look forward to meeting and working with them. Quite a few are the global heads of Community Involvement for leading multinational companies.

The program is the Community Involvement Leadership Academy, offering experienced Community Involvement practitioners additional, also experiential, training in leadership, change, influencing and persuasion, difficult stakeholder conversations, and social innovation.

The CI Leadership Academy is taking place November 8 to 12 at Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. My co-facilitators will be two of the Center’s much-loved trainers, Ron Brown and Bea Boccalandro. Looking forward to working with them! Special treat: Three of Boston College’s top academic lecturers will each run a session. More on this soon …

If you’d like to read more, check out the Boston College website here:’s-educational-programs-latest-catalog-released/

Or get in touch with me!

What do I mean by understanding diversity and offering mutuality?

April 25, 2010

These days, there is a lot of talk about diversity – and yet I still often feel like there is limited understanding of the notion. Diversity is about more than age or gender, cultural origin (I don’t like the notion of ‘race’, as I consider it a political concept) or religious background, sexual or political orientation, physical or mental ability, socio-economic status  – ultimately it is about respecting each and every person, being and nature as having a right to be and to exist in their own unique and complex ways, defining their own views and their own identity. To me, it extends to understanding that a person does not remain the same over years, but can be different and evolving every single day. I’d like to go as far as to suggest taking nobody for granted, not assuming we ‘know’ somebody, but remaining open and curious – towards your nearest and dearest just as well as towards friends and colleagues or strangers – and to ask every day anew: “Who are you today? What matters to you today?” This is about respect. It is about acceptance. It is about inclusion, and about granting everybody a sense of belonging and a right to participation. It is about something called ‘intersubjectivity’ – seeing, understanding and respecting the other person as a subject in themselves, with their own identity. This is different from perceiving the other person, being or nature as an ‘object’ – which would be about projecting our own meaning-making about them on them (and themhaving no – potentially corrective – voice in that).

These days, we hear about inter-cultural competence. I’d like to lobby for inter-diversity competence, for inter-subjective competence. (With the latter, I thought I might have come up with a slightly odd notion, but I googled it and found indeed a book refering to the same notion: ‘Cosmopolitics – thinking and feeling beyond the nation’, by Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins.)

If we each engage in this mutual give-and-take of understanding each other in our highly diverse and complex identities and ways – of seeing the world, making our own meaning and creating our lives – if we all offer each other this kind of understanding, respect and inclusion, then that is about mutuality.

These days, mutuality is the most important thing to me – I find that no relationship of any kind can be satisfying if there isn’t sufficient mutuality offered. To me, this is so in personal relationships just as well as in professional connections. We need it between lovers, between parents and children, between friends and neighbors, between co-workers, between superiors and the people reporting to them, between organisations and their stakeholders, between nation states. If one keeps giving and the other one does not reciprocate or reciprocates badly, the balance is off. I find it is important that we pay attention to always balancing out the mutuality account, in a good way.

I guess these are the two biggest things moving me these days – seeing and understanding each other in our everyday-anew complex identities, and offering each other positive mutuality.

As my wonderful tutor in university, Caryn Vanstone, once said: “We are always in relation. We cannot not be in relation. What matters is the quality of the relationship.” And as mentioned above, that extends beyond people – to all beings, and to nature.

Attending Intl. Corporate Citizenship Conference in Boston, April 11-13

April 22, 2010

It’s been 5 years since I last attended the annual International Corporate Citizenship Conference in Boston. Thank you so much to Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship for inviting me! I got to introduce our book ‘Corporate Community Involvement: The Definitive Guide’ and got to co-facilitate a session. Saw familiar faces again (e.g. Billy Brittingham, Colleen Olphert, Chris Pinney, Angela Kang), met those who I had previously only heard on the phone (e.g. Eileen Blinstrub, Emily Weiner) and made wonderful new contacts (e.g. Phil Clawson, Greg Mangum). Also great fun to meet F2F with fellow Tweeters Chris Jarvis and Ashley Jablow. And I was grateful for the opportunity to thank Brad Googins personally for having so kindly and generously endorsed our book!

In terms of sessions, I enjoyed the breadth of content – there was something for those interested in philanthropy just as well as for those interested in social innovation and entrepreneurship. My personal favorite was Nate Garvis with his talk on ‘Naked Civics’ – one memorable quote: “The law now is the public conversation, building a culture, and that becomes the law.”

My special treat was a conversation with Phil Mirvis and his lovely wife Mary Jo Hatch, an organisational psychologist and an organisational theorist respectively. Wonderful new insights on underbounded and overbounded systems from Phil and reading recommendations on organisational identity from Mary Jo – both topics that I’m currently interested in as part of my ongoing learning around organisation consulting …

And then it was hilarious listening to Nadira Hira and her insights on Gen Y – it was great that she was so straightforwardly outspoken! And I found that a lot of the things Gen Yers expect and take for granted relationally is what I promote in my consulting as the new path for organisations to take. Hopefully, with Gen Y growing up, the whole approach will go inevitably mainstream: with a relaxed work culture, a relational approach, bottom-up participatory input, etc. Useful quote from her, equally regarding customers, stakeholders, employees: “Retention is impacted by building bonds.”

Finally, did I mention that the food was *incredible*?

For more, see the conference recap page here:

For those who could not buy our book at the bookseller’s table at the conference, given it was sold out so quickly, go to to buy with one click.

New consulting partner: Darius M. Ghiai

November 13, 2009

I’m happy to share that I have started working together with Darius M. Ghiai, owner of Commitis ( – an excellent and experienced change consultant and leadership coach with a warm heart, passion for his work and for people, and deep human understanding. He can really help people and organisations grow. Together, we’ll next help a multimillion-Euro cross-sector partnership to constructively enhance and improve their working relationship.