Once upon a time there was a team consisting of students from University of Eastern Finland. Their task was to create a development plan for a company called XX. They were really interested about this challenge and immediately decided to use dialogic methods discussed during the lectures. From the article ”Incubation managers roles in the co-innovation context” they understood that their role was to help the company owners to understand and formulate the problem themselves and coach them through this process.
Team members had a chance to hear real insights concerning consultancy work during the lectures. Visiting consultant addressed to the importance of formulating a right problem for the customer and creating a concrete project plan with strict timetables and steps. Consultant told them that timetable is always the biggest risk in this kind of projects. She also highlighted the importance of background information and listening to the customers. Team members decided to follow all these recommendations within their project.
Team visited the company in its premises. From the book “Strategically Networked Organization” written by their Professor Hanna Lehtimäki, they understood that they wanted to focus in the interview on the dynamics of the relationships in the organization, as the way information is shared and understood in the organization lies in these dynamics. They asked lot of questions about the team members, their roles and challenges and understood, that everyone in the organization was struggling with rush and unspecific direction. They also were able get the owner to speak really openly, as they encouraged her all the time of all the good things, they had done so far. The meeting was a success and team members felt they got what they needed to proceed.
After the interview, team members were supposed to formulate the problem for the customer. This was quite confusing stage for them, as there were so many development areas. Only after they made a cartoon of the situation, they understood that there was no point in fixing individual problems, as the biggest problem was a lack of clear direction.
As a result from the desk study and conversation with the owners of the company, team members were able to create a concrete action plan and address the key challenge of the company. They understood that the company was growing too fast and without a clear strategy and roles, members of the organization were not able to make right decisions concerning different business operations, daily tasks or prioritize development programs. Team members created a suggestion to create a clear strategy with the help of external consultant. They decided to convince the owners of the importance of strategy, by providing concrete development steps for different business operations and by addressing the challenge to prioritize these development initiatives without a clear direction. They decided to suggests, that the organization would involve all the employees in the strategy making as they had learned from the book, that everyone in the organization is a strategist and that the strategy evolves in the daily operations of the organization.
Team members realized the importance of personality and charisma of the consultant. They discussed, that consultancy relationship is always a dialogic relationship based on trust. They wanted to understand the concept of trust in more detail and decided to read about it from the book Professor of the course had written. From the book they found out, that trust can be divided in two different aspects. Affect-based trust refers to the trust that exist on an emotional level. Cognitive-Based trust refers to the trust a customer has about consultant’s expertise. Team members realized that they got along well with the owner, but there still was a lack of trust towards team’s ability to solve the problem because they were seen as students. Team took this as a challenge and decided to convince the company by providing a really clear development plan. Team members also learned that emotions are a big part of leading and owning a company. In their case, the company was like a baby to the owners, so it was really important, that team members referred to challenges and obstacles as gently as possible. And praised the owners for their strengths and opportunities.
In the end, the team was able to formulate growth plan for the company and concrete steps to proceed. Team members took a major step in their own personal growth path, as they understood what their role in the story was.
Their role was to be the coach in the story and let the company owners be the hero. When using appreciative and encouraging language to the owners, team members were able to convince the company, that by creating a clear strategy and direction, leading the organization will come much easier. And everyone lived happily ever after.