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Changing with the MA: Partcipant Insights

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In today’s episode, Sebastien de Morelos and Andrew Grenfell, participants from our MA programme, had a chat about their experiences. They talked about how the programme changed their professional lives and made them think differently about work and personal life.
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Sebastien de Morelos 0:00
Hi, my name is Sebastien de Morelos. I’m an organisational development consultant and member of the first cohort on this MA in people in organisational development. I’m here with Andrew..

Andrew Grenfell 0:19
Hi. I’m Andrew Grenfell. I am a transformation and strategy management consultant in the NHS. And I’m also on the first cohort of the Maven master’s programme.

Sebastien de Morelos 0:35
So we’re,we’re here because we wanted to talk about our experience on the course. It’s been, what is it now, Andrew, we’re just over a year and a half in. And we’re entering our fourth module and we were pondering the question, what would we say to someone who was considering joining this programme in the future? So Andrew, what would you say to someone who was considering doing this programme?

Andrew Grenfell 1:08
That’s a great question. It’s a great question. It’s a great question. And I hate it, because I don’t know who the person is that I’m supposed to be talking to. And I think I would say different things to different people and because it can be, it can be so many different things. And one of the features of the programme has been, in each module six month module, we divide into two action learning sets of about five or six people.And those learning sets have for me been places where I’ve been challenged to really confront or start to confront in many cases, what the question means for me, in my actual work in my actual life, and to watch the other people around me grapple with those same questions, and everyone has been asking very different questions of themselves.

It’s not been a question of how can we all learn to use the same techniques, actually, as the programme has gone on people’s inquiries and people’s focuses, and people’s sources of inspiration and learning have diverged. So there’s as many different experiences of the masters and sets of value that that people can get as there are people on it. And in some ways, that is an answer to the question. If you want something that is going to give you a standardised toolkit or set of approaches to give you and those around you a sense of confidence that you know how to do change, or whatever it is that you’re trying to do, then it won’t give you much reassurance, and it won’t give you much or maybe any standardisation.

But if you are looking to have more of an impact in what you’re doing, and you’re willing to pay attention to what you really do now, and what you might want to change about that, then I think it will give you a really profound set of experiences to open your eyes. And which will, which will change you I don’t think you can come out of it unchanged. If you can stick it, then then you will get quite a lot from it. We were talking I think it might have been in our most recent action learning set, in fact, about somebody made a distinction between changing and change.

Were often people talk about change as a thing that’s supposed to happen. But without ever really thinking or wanting anyone to change as a part of that change. So I think if you want to do change as an abstract noun, might not be so good. But if you want to change and facilitate changing of people and systems around you, then I think it’s it’s it’s pretty potent.

Sebastien de Morelos 4:39
I think that’s very powerful statement actually, in terms of what I see as one of the main focuses throughout this course. And I recognise that this focus on the process of change and and going deep into what that actually means. Not just In terms of what one might associate, in the field of organisational developments, with changing organisations, changing structures, moving people around almost like moving pieces on a chess set, thinking strategically thinking in an abstract way about change, but actually really getting down low and dirty about what change means for each of and every one of us, as people who are affected by this change. And I recognise that process has been central to our experience throughout the programme.

I was really struck in your answer to the question, what would you say to someone who was considering doing the programme, how you came back again, again, it was like a recurring leitmotif of you and you and you. And it is very much about where am I in the system. That is, for me, part of what makes this programme so exciting, is without falling into any sort of narcissism is what I mean is that if you really want to think about the system and changing, you are in the system, and therefore you need to think about what the change means, both for yourself as much as for the people you’re working around with. And that I think is what makes this programme, so transformative.

Andrew Grenfell 6:36
One of the light motifs of Mayvin, I think and of the master’s programme has been the idea of the here and now. And what I like in what you just said, Is that you, you drew out my use of the word you. Second person, and you turned it into the first person you said I that’s very here and now and Sebastian, I wonder if you’d be willing to share a bit? Where are you now in your organisation or system? And how has that changed since you started the course?

Sebastien de Morelos 7:09
Yeah, that’s a really well as we know, very figural question. So I mentioned at the start, I’m, I’m an organisational development consultant, I work in a local government organisation where I have been for ever since 2015, there’s something about the programme that has dramatically altered my way of approaching some of the very deeply embedded sticky problems that this local government organisations has been wrestling with for quite a long time.

I mean, some of it, and I’m not going to go into the detail, because that’s not what this this particular conversation is about. But some of it is familiar, because it’s general to local government and the exercising of local governments across the country. But there’s some things that as a local governments here in this specific context, are very, very challenging. Again, without going into too much detail. This organisation is undergone trauma. I think there’s no other word to describe it. Better, and, and you and your team as well. Indeed, my team has undergone trauma.

And it’s been endemic throughout this organisation. So what I’m experiencing directly and personally, I know, other people have experienced in their teams, all around me people that as an organisational development, consultancy, delivering internal support, I’m supposed to be able to go out and help. So there’s some real deep ethical issues that have come up through my self reflection in this course around how can I be of help to people who are experiencing that trauma? Who, whose purpose am I serving as an organisational development consultant when I’m going to address these issues? And how do I empower those teams? How do those teams and I always have to be careful when I use the word empowering? How do those individuals within teams empower themselves through feeling able to step into a space where they can have an open and honest conversation around the issues that they’re dealing with?

Regardless of their position, regardless of the hierarchy? All these issues have been coming up in my work and And what this course has enabled me to do is to really look at what I need to think about in my own behaviour in the filters that I bring, that I apply, when I walk into those spaces, with people experiencing these issues, and my outlook has moved on from where it was, what is it now a year and a half, two years ago. I can describe it in many ways. But to give one example, there’s this notion that has come up over the time of the Masters where we talk about power, and we talk about where power lies within organisations and, and how power then manifests in change situations, as we often are called upon to, to address. And part of my work has been looking at where my power sometimes gets in the way, some respects my exercising, sizing my own power as an OD consultant or to look even more deeply as a white male, professional in an organisational context, such as this local government, how does that get in the way of just actually inviting other people to the table, actually giving them a sense of agency of being involved in the process of change? What do I need to think about what do I need to do? What do I need to say sometimes to be able to actually allow for those voices to be heard? Or unheard, as the case may be? Yeah, I think that’s, that’s one example. I can I can share among many,

Andrew Grenfell 12:06
is very powerful, Sebastian, and I can see, as you’re talking, we’re on. We’re talking on Microsoft Teams. And I can see that you’re in your, your Council offices, and I can see you becoming quite moved. And I see that emotions running across you as you’re describing it. And it, it brings up for me, is this something worth doing, if you are in an organisation in meltdown, an organisation that is in the process of being traumatised or experiencing trauma, if you are maybe at the coalface of a deeply troubled organisation. And and it brings to mind some of the conversations that have come up in our most recent module. Thinking about the future of organising where my experience to some of the questions around AI and human computer interfaces has been to feel quite angry. Because I my experience in the NHS is often that we’re a million miles from any fancy exotic AI management plans. Actually, the lived experience is that digital technology is expensive, slow and makes things harder, as much as it does make things better. And I wonder, would you would we recommend this course for people in organisations that like ours are often really struggling to do the basics?

Sebastien de Morelos 14:05
That’s a good question. And I can only answer it from my perspective. So I would say unequivocally yes. And that comes from appreciating the strength that I’ve drawn, personally, from having joined the course and formed part of a learning community are very open minded, challenging, and deeply interesting people who allow me to frame my world in a different way and provides their inputs and their insights. You mentioned the action learning sets. I think they’re absolutely central to this course. And they’re such for strength, because we get to work together, listen to each other deeply. We develop compassion, we develop empathy. We then go on to provide each other with insights that I think shift us in ways that are sometimes unpredictable, and unexpected. And I see how those moments have, for me often served as stepping stones, as I’m negotiating the quagmire under my feet of frustrations, people, relationships, politics, tensions that inevitably arise in a traumatised organisation. So yeah, is my answer is my short answer, after my long answer. What about you, Andrew, what do you what are your thoughts on them?

Andrew Grenfell 15:59
Yeah, I think I would say yes, as well. I mean, perhaps unsurprisingly, we both made it most of the way through two years already. And actually, it’s been a long journey. For me to get this far. I was very glad that Mayvin offered a modular approach. And so my initial commitment really was just to the first year, I didn’t particularly think that I would continue to the second year, I’m really glad that I have. And the changes that I’m starting to see, are actually, in some cases, not the changes that I thought I wanted to see. So what’s not happening is that I’ve got this great and super easy to market and sell and explain set of new capabilities. But what is happening is that one thing that I’m starting to notice is, as I start to notice more of what I’m experiencing, that idea of use of self, and what I’m feeling, and to realise that words like fear, and excitement, and anger, are actually present, those things are present at work, whether you name them or not. I’m starting to be able to do more with those things and have slightly different or actually really quite dramatically different conversations. Sometimes I’m finding that I’m rattling ages and getting difficult things. But sometimes I’m finding that I’m connecting with different people in different ways, with a real empathy and appreciation that I think I might have struggled to achieve before. So again, it comes back to change versus changing. It’s not making me better at writing a project plan. But it is making me more likely to negotiate some of those, for example, initial conversations in such a way that the opportunity for personal changing becomes more present for me, but also for my clients and colleagues. And it’s making me feel much more physically and emotionally and intellectually grounded in the reality of what I’m doing.

Sebastien de Morelos 18:34
Do you feel there’s a clear boundary between the work that you’re doing professionally, and the work that we’re undertaking as part of this course? Or do you feel that there’s a blurred line between the two,

Andrew Grenfell 18:53
it’s a very blurred line. I introduced myself as being a strategy and transformation consultants in the NHS. And that’s actually only a part of the truth because I also work part time as a psychotherapist. And for a long time, I thought the only part of my work that this course is relevant to is my quote unquote organisational work. And it was quite hard to find the connections because it wasn’t talking about strategy and transformational consultancy. And as the course has gone on, I’ve realised that actually this is really about how I use myself in service of a system that I’m part of, or, or work or trying to, kind of support. And, and doing that involves being really attuned to what’s happening in that system and what’s happening in me as part of that system. And those skills. don’t recognise organisation law revision practice boundaries, they are relevant in any organisation, they’re relevant in a therapy relationship. They’re relevant in my relationships at home. So I think my experience has been that a lot of boundaries have dissolved, have been dissolving, as the course has gone on. And there’s a lot more interchange between all of the different worlds that I inhabit.

Sebastien de Morelos 20:32
I perceive it very much the same, I don’t see a line drawn between the work that we’ve done as part of the course and the work that I’m undertaking here. And that’s, in some respects, I think, perhaps defied my expectations. I think I went into the course at the start thinking that would be a clear boundary. And it was very quickly that I found that boundary melted. And that’s been a really positive realisation. And I’m very happy that I’m inhabiting a world where actually the two can co-habit. So yeah, I think we’ve we’ve we’ve gone round that question.

Andrew Grenfell 21:25
Have we answered the questions that we needed to answer, Sebastian? Have we been compliant?

Sebastien de Morelos 21:30
Have we been compliant? Have we complied? Or have we really completely turned this structure on its head? In which case? Well, you’re just gonna have to live with it, folks.

Andrew Grenfell 21:39
We have, I think we have to be honest, I’ve been remembering in these last few moments, you gave me some feedback on my first essay, and module one, about developing my practice, which was a totally foreign concept, to me, the idea of having a practice, and you use the words to, to describe the nature of what I was trying to do. You said it was quite punk.

Sebastien de Morelos 22:12
I’m going to quickly interrupt here guys to clarify, the word is punk. And then punk rock.

Andrew Grenfell 22:19
Yes. And that was quite an important moment for me, because what you were conveying or what I took from that was, I mean, in a sense, it was totally devoid of content, right? You were not giving substantive feedback in the way that I might previously have thought about it. But what you were doing was you were giving me a, an experience, you were giving me an embodied response, I think and you were making quite an artful response to, to my probably not very artful cogitations and kind of connecting it with this sort of set of attitudes and, and subculture and music. And engaging in that kind of way. The freedom to do that than the mischievousness to do that was, I think, was quite an early turning point for me in realising what just what was potentially opening up, what it could look like to inquire to explore in a way that was open to delight as well as insight.

Sebastien de Morelos 23:43
Or a great I like I love that I love the that expression of that invitation to be open to delight, as well as insights. And I think we should just leave it at that has an invitation for anyone who might consider it. Great to join a programme such as this MA. What do you say?

Andrew Grenfell 24:10
I say? Yes.

Sebastien de Morelos 24:11
All right. Well, on that note, let’s wrap up. Goodbye.

Andrew Grenfell 24:16
Goodbye, Sebastian. What a pleasure to talk to you.

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