SFBTA 2010 – Banff, Canada

Kinnear Centre for Creativity and Innovation - where the conference was held

In the backdrop: the Kinnear Centre for Creativity & Innovation, the Conference Venue

This year the SFBTA (Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association) conference was held in Banff, Alberta – in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, in one of the most amazing Natural Parks that North America has to offer.

Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate: it was snowing and overcast most of the time, with temperatures well below zero (C and F). On the other hand, this might have been a blessing in disguise: less tempted to roam around, participants all pretty much stayed in the warm and cozy Banff Centre, a fact that favored workshop attendance and the forming of new great professional connections.

What follows is a very personal account of the highlights of the SFBTA 2010 Conference based on my own experiences and interests – the good, the excellent and the just OK.

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The Management Myth

I made my living as a coach in Organizational Development projects by exploiting the weaknesses of management consulting.

Let me explain.

Here is how the story usually went:

a) Big Shot consulting firm sells Company XYZ the idea that company XYZ absolutely NEEDS to become a X-organization, or else! For X, substitute : a learning organization, a customer-driven organization, a lean organization…

b) The manufacturing sites of Company XYZ are swarmed by  groups of young and bright consultants, typically just out of college, who analyze production flows, interview managers and pore over documents and procedures.

c) The output of the consultants is a hefty document (often hundreds of pages, with lots of graphs and charts – from here on referred to as The Bible) which is handed to the local management by XYZ Headquarters in a ceremony of one sort or the other, with the attached directive: this is how you should work, this is how you should be organized, by [a certain number of] months.

d) Local management is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cryptic data contained in The Bible and goes through a phase of desperation.

e) Local management, sometimes with outside help, sometimes on its own, finally manages to extract some actionable meaning out of The Bible and  tries to implement some of the deduced recommendations

f) After a series of failures, it becomes clear to local management that they have been hoodwinked.  There is a difference between real people and the neat boxes that represent them in those nice charts drawn by the slick consultants; there is a difference between real interactions  and those single arrows that in The Bible are supposed to capture the complex web of relations. Still, local management needs to implement something and show to Headquarters they became a paradigm of the X organization.

g) Enter Paolo Terni as a Coach – basically I am asked to “make it work”.
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