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How can you deliver impactful development when you don't have time?

When is a programme, not a programme? A client recently said ‘we don’t have time or budget for a traditional programme and we have a large number of colleagues to reach. Could Mayvin create something with impact using just two short sessions?' The answer was yes! Tony and Carolyn explain how.
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Claire Newell  00:38

In today's episode, our principal consultants, Tony Nicholls and Carolyn Norgate, talk all things programmes. When is a programme, a programme? A client came to us recently saying "we don't have time or budget for a traditional programme, could Mayvin deliver something meaningful and impactful with just two two-hour workshops with all their leaders?". And the answer was yes. Tony and Carolyn explain how talking through the key elements of our programmes that are consistent from the small bite-size workshops, right up to our full-length accredited traditional programmes and our Masters. I'll give you a sneaky spoiler. It's all to do with the programme being relevant to their current context, not abstracted from their real work, their real job. I'll hand you over. Thanks.


Tony Nicholls  01:47

So good morning. Good morning. It's an early one. It is indeed. And we're here to talk about programmes and the like.


Carolyn Norgate  01:55

Development in general, I guess. Yes. And what we're noticing, in terms of what clients need right now. We've always run programmes. Yes. We've got a long history of running. I guess what you would conventionally think of as a programme. Yes. So over by that when I say conventionally mean, that programme over a period of time.


Tony Nicholls  02:17

Yeah, sort of six to 12 months, regular workshop style interventions, learning set learning sets, sometimes accredited, with a subject matter or an area of expertise that needs developing, like leadership or management or organisation development or business partnering or consulting. 


Carolyn Norgate  02:36

Yeah. Yeah, there's a huge place for that. There's a depth of learning about practice, practice based learning, which is one of our kind of key USPS, I guess. 


Tony Nicholls  02:49

Yeah, well, yeah. Specifically, why we're here today, I think, is to talk about the programmes, but also how things are shifting in our practice and our offer, because of the things that we're noticing in terms of our client offer. 


Carolyn Norgate  03:04

So what are you noticing? I think coming, I'm noticing the pressure, for pace, to seeing just how much people have got to do, it's a cliche to say, well, we want you to do more with less, but that's exactly what's happening. And, you know, since I think Brexit, preparations for Brexit in the UK, and globally, pandemic, there just seems to be a pressure to do more, and at pace, and I can see the pressure in people. And that's partly creating anxiety, stress, burnout in some cases, but it's also preventing those, what were already small gaps for people, to just pause and learn and reflect on practice and to develop practice. It's even more pressured. How about you?  All of that. A lot of our clients are in the public sector. So that "more with less" has been, sort of, 15 years almost now, for differing reasons, austerity, Brexit. There's something around talented skilled leaders, who, in the kind of heat of that, organisations are saying to us, we've done lots of leadership development, and it's just not quite supporting people in the way that we want to support them at the moment, and it's not, and or, it's not shifting the dial in terms of how we respond to market conditions, policy landscape, of needs of the citizen, you know, whichever, whichever kind of one or more that you're facing into, so that I think means people are looking for something slightly different at the moment.


Tony Nicholls  04:54

Yeah, as I reflect now, I'm thinking about the shift to crisis mode that happened during the pandemic that I don't think a lot of organisations have been able to shift out of, back into, if there is such a thing as "business as usual" but a more empowered democratic process of, or involved process of organising, it seems to be stuck a little bit in crisis mode, which is creating, I think, stress and a sense of disempowerment, a sense of loss of agency, which then adds to that personal sense of anxiety around worth and value and purpose. I think the other thing I find myself talking about a lot with clients is a general level of anxiety given where we are in the world and where we're heading. And that sense that human species got to do something pretty rapid. And politicians don't seem to be moving that rapidly, we're able to move that rapidly. So where are we headed? And what are we headed for? So there's a sense of anxiety there, I think, which is an existential crisis that is under underlying all of that, which I think people bring to work, which isn't talked about.


Carolyn Norgate  06:02

Yeah, absolutely. I think that is, is playing in and more locally, there's the challenges of how we work, you know, even to the you know, what was quite a disruption at the point of the pandemic, around homeworking, but for organisations that don't have heavy frontline service delivery, they're still working that through. Yeah, that's, you know, that creates a kind of localised anxiety, I think as well. So that those shifts in scale, and the really big picture, what's happening in the world, what's happening in Europe, the West, what's happening in the UK? What's happening for our organisation? What's happening in my part of this organisation? I think leaders are really squeezed.


Tony Nicholls  06:48

Yeah, I'm just sat here literally thinking, if I was somebody else listening, "what's that got to do with development programmes?", because, you know, surely development programmes about developing, I don't know, running a good one to one conversation or making good decisions in the boardroom. What we're suggesting here is that it's much more than that it is, it is being able to personally understand and make sense of and cope with all of these pressures, such that one can show up authentically, and with some presence and with some authority, but also that a leader can lead and help their people through this through these moments of crisis. So and that's what we believe development programmes are about as well as providing some of the basic tools and techniques of leadership and management and organisation development perhaps and business partnering.


Carolyn Norgate  07:45

So shall I just tell a story of a recent bit of work we've been doing, which I think, links to some of what we've been talking about.  So we had a client in the midst of a three way organisational merger. Three large organisations, and none of them insignificant in themselves, right in the midst of it at that point where phases of redeployment are going through and and that sort of trickle through the different tiers of the organisation. So a lot of quite painful stuff going on,  A lot of issues around the new identity of the formed organisation. And the process in the system kind of takes over. And so their question to us was, "No one has much time. We don't, we can't, we don't need a full bells and whistles long term programme. And we haven't got the budget to invest in 1000 1500, senior leaders to go through that kind of programme right now. They don't have the time, we don't have the budget. But we need to help them think about their own transition. And we need to help them think about the transition their people are going through. What can you do?"


Tony Nicholls  08:16

I'm sure 


Carolyn Norgate  08:58

What about and they they'd kind of come up with the bones of a skeleton of a structure. But the question was, how can we make this meaningful? So if we had if everyone had a session around their own transition session around, maybe and we're thinking about bridges transition model, a session, which was more about leading others through this, they'll have to be online because people are spread around the country. And that support, you know, that makes it more cost effective. And probably 20 to 30 people per session. What can we do that's going to have quality in it? And that's very different to a to a standard programme where you can bring people into a room, spend time get to know each other, build trust, make the safe, make, you know, do the sort of things you would do on a longer term programme to make the space safe. And I think what we found is you can you can make space safe, you can bring people together in a way that helps them to slow down in that pressure cooker that we've just been talking about. So they're, they're caught in the, the delivery work of the system world of their organisations. So what we noticed was bringing them in, giving them lots of breakout space where they could check in with each other, as importantly check in with themselves. 


Tony Nicholls  10:29

That's that's the big one for me. How am I? 


Carolyn Norgate  10:31

Yeah, yeah, how am I? What's it gonna take for me to be present today? Not a question that people get asked every day, or asked themselves. You know, I think about my life when I was an internal and quite often in, often leading in L&D, and OD and those sorts of spaces, and those points where you realise how present am I really being to myself? Or how much am I just going from meeting to meeting to meeting? Yeah, so yeah, that it's giving people a space to re-engage with their practice as a leader, and really engage with the story of what they were working through in their transition, and find a place where they could refind their own agency as leaders. And one of the things that's really interesting is these were senior people, very senior people. So everyone else was projecting onto them, an awful lot of agency. And what they didn't feel like they had in this change process was agency. And it was quite a hierarchical system, the hierarchy kicks in, people, people lose that. Yeah. So in just a couple of hours, twice, I mean, this was two chunks. So two phases, picking up the group, which was about two and a half thousand people. So about 100 sessions, 50 in the first group, in that thinking about me, 50 thinking about our team. So you, you can work at pace. And in the working at pace, you enable people to slow down and engage with themselves, their practice and really start thinking through how do I want to lead in this? As opposed to showing up and just doing cutting through? Which, you know, of course, is good enough. They're all doing more than a good enough job. But, yeah, that that moment, a series of moments when sort of slow down and start noticing. Yeah, um, you talk about that in your book a lot, that process of noticing


Tony Nicholls  12:35

 Yeah, I'm picking out the elements there that are the current, the similarities between what we're beginning to call these bite size interventions, we may think of a different word for that but that's what we've got at the moment, isn't it, compared to the programmes, and it's worth unpicking what you've got there, because we've talked about programmes being smaller groups, maybe 10, 12, 14 people over a six to 12 month period, maybe sort of eight to 10 interventions, formal interventions, plus work in between. Some of them accredited, so they've got reading to do and papers to write, compared with two two-hour workshops. But if you look closely enough, what I'm hearing is that there's the elements as well. So for example, we're still content in the workshops, the Bite Size workshops, she talked about transition models, so there was still some theory input that they could take away and make sense of their world around. And then there was also that space for reflection on practice, the slowing down, the noticing, the very important process of noticing what's going on for me, but also what's going on for others, and how are we in relationship with each other? I guess there was also the peer based support, and challenge. So challenge high-support, so a safe space for colleagues to offer each other reflections on their presence, and to talk about practice. And I guess, on both of those, I'm assuming that the real work was in the room as well. So they were they were reflecting on their actual decisions they were about to make and the relationships they had in that moment in time or had to develop, or the next conversation that we're going to have. So it was it was not abstract abstracted from the real work, the real work in the room as well. Yeah. They're all important elements I think, I find in this work, both whether it be a long term programme or a three year master's programme, or a two hour workshop or a 90 minute workshop, very important elements.


Carolyn Norgate  14:35

Yeah, I think there's, there's different layers of what we've discovered in different ways we've been working. So everything going online through the period of time with the pandemic, a lot of people, I think, were really concerned I think about some of the work we do with the Civil Service programmes with learning sets in them. So a programme of 12, 14 people and a learning set might be somewhere between five and seven people, really deep engagement with practice, half an hour airtime minimum purpose, and how would that be online for people? And I think people were surprised that the levels of openness, vulnerability, trust, could be there in an online setting. And it was about us as facilitators, working with the group to set the conditions to make that okay. Yeah. So I think we all we, with our clients, we learned that that is doable, we did. And continue to do work in the in the online space with many clients in that way. And I think what we're now learning, with our clients, is you can set the conditions for that kind of serious engagement with your practice, as a, as a leader, as a practitioner, in a relatively short amount of time, if you set the conditions, but they'd still around. So how am I thinking about this? How is this relevant to me right now, that meeting I've got this afternoon, that tricky situation that I'm dealing with? So that it's, it's giving people that sense of potency. 


Tony Nicholls  16:15

Yeah and I think it's about them feeling heard as well, even though technically, there isn't actually anybody listening to them necessarily, because each person's there to reflect on their own story and practice. But somehow, they still feel hurt, even if they are saying to themselves, well, I heard myself, I noticed myself in that moment, and I noticed how urgent I think everything is and I've noticed how I'm not slowing down to listen to people or being fully engaged in relationship. And so there's something about slowing down, being heard,  hearing themselves, noticing where they're at. I think the something else I heard in what you're talking about there is action and reflection. So that that's a very important pairing that we get into our programmes and into our bite size interventions now. So lots of reflection, as we've just spoken about into small groups plenary, an opportunity to slow down and notice and reflect on practice. How am I showing up? How am I coping with this? But also then some action which is partly in the room itself, so they're beginning to engage with each other in a way that's different to how they might ordinarily engage. They're bringing inquiry, they're bringing appreciation into the conversation they're bringing some slowing down and some noticing together. So there's some action taking place in the actual intervention itself, which then sets them up to shift their practice when they go out of the room. So there's an invitation to do something differently when they leave the room. And that that's really important, we find in terms of successful programmes and interventions is this iterative process of action and reflection that we develop in them in leaders and managers. 


Carolyn Norgate  18:01

I think that's the sweet spot. Because if you're buying this, and we've both been in that situation, we've been on the other side


Tony Nicholls  18:08

We have indeed


Carolyn Norgate  18:09

You've got your your exec colleagues, your chief exec, you know, how's this going to make a difference in practice? You know, what's, what am I going to see the next couple of weeks? From my clinical leaders, you know, from me in hospitals, you know, from, you know, corporates that you were in, yeah. And that, so the action bit is where there's the you know, there is some pointiness


Tony Nicholls  18:31

So should there be 


Carolyn Norgate  18:34

Yeah, yeah. So, so when we talk about slowing down and reflecting, it's in service of, absolutely in service of, and therefore, how, how is what I'm doing as a leader and how I'm being as a leader, needing to, and when I say shift, it might be a micro shift, it might be something quite small, and just how you engage with that colleague or that person in your team, there might just be something that you do slightly different that unlocks a course of action. Yes. That has been stuck for a period or just hasn't been attended to because in that, in that, that busyness and that pace, there just hasn't been the thinking time to figure out and just need to come at that at a slightly different angle, and that'll help things start to move through and unlock it. So yeah, that that's, that's I think the most I use the word sweet spots earlier. But I also think it's the kind of paradox of, there is inevitably pace and momentum. And in order to, to be in that, well, there needs to be some points of slowing down, there needs to be some reflection points. And it's almost as if, sort of, as we were sitting down with groups of leaders on those sessions, it's almost as if they'd forgotten that brief periods of slowing, hearing from each other, learning from each other, learning from their own experience, enables them to actually move, probably a bit faster, faster. Go slow today to help. Exactly yeah, exactly. But it's it is, it's it's really critical that that in service of process that notice not, you know, not just noticing how I am, how I'm showing up, but in service of doing this job, in service of working through those next four challenges that are going to get us to wherever that particular point, for example, delivery of that thing, that element of the merger, whatever it is.


Tony Nicholls  20:39

I think we've discovered that the difference that makes a difference there is, is not content for contents sake. So developing leadership, delivering management, developing OD business partnering, there are standard models and tools and techniques we can introduce and we do. But there's also an opportunity, through the facilitators experience, to notice what is coming up in the room, when you're talking to a group of people, leaders, managers, experts, and introducing some thinking, a paper, a model, a concept that is just right for them because of their particular context. So that's the other part for me is that it's making sure the programmes and the interventions, bite sized interventions, are local and timely, so that their context enters the room with them and we adapt to that, and we bring in our experience, our case studies, our quotes, that are pertinent to that context. And of course, I think it's about our presence as well. So what I think we're I'm circling around here is that I think it is hugely important that buyers of programmes pay attention to who's going to be facilitating these programmes. Do they understand this sort of practice based approach to development? And are they able to bring in the relevant case studies and examples and experience into the room? And can they, as you've said earlier on, very quickly, help people feel comfortable and safe enough to start to offer vulnerability and, and, and bring humility into the room is very important. That brings me to a, you know, a thing we hear so often, and I'm sure we said it, when we were on the other side of the fence, was "we're too busy to do programmes, we're too busy to do development, we've got a merger going on, we've got a transformation of the organisation going on acquisition, etc." If you think about development, as in a practice through a practice based learning lens, that is the ideal time to be doing some development, because you've got some really critical work going on in the organisation, and a perfect



sandpit in which people can play to do the real work of transitions, transformations, mergers, acquisitions, that's the point where you do some, some development work, whether it be a large programme, a traditional programme, or whether it be a bite sized intervention. That's, that's for me the ideal space to do it. So use use the opportunity of transformation and change to do the development rather than wait for it to somehow pause and slow down because it won't. No, it seems to be not slowing down at the moment. In fact, if anything it's getting, it's getting faster, the pace of change. 


Carolyn Norgate  23:16

I think what's fascinating about that scenario you've just talked about is the development is happening. And what's frustrating or saddening, or both, is the missing the maximising of it because, of course, if you're implementing, you know, a completely new IT infrastructure that's transforming every element of how you do business, if you're going through a merger, or whatever it is, people are going to be developing their practice. And they're often doing that in quite an unconscious way. And therefore, it's a bit slow, and it's a bit sticky, and they're not noticing. And so, you know, give people the opportunity to notice, 


Tony Nicholls  24:01

Do it more consciously


Carolyn Norgate  24:02

Do it more consciously, bring a bit of methodology to that, to help them focus and help them make sense of it as they're doing it. Thinking about some of the programmes we've run in the civil service, you know, they ran all through pandemic, which also was the various stages of Brexit going on at the same time, and that that process of bringing their their real work stuff was absolutely critical to huge amounts of people. Yeah. I remember you, I think you were involved in a piece of work before I joined Mayvin with one of the government departments that was right in the heat of, of that work in a running three parallel options, or, you know, for almost almost three work streams around the different kinds of Brexit deal we might end up in and the complexity of that, and the leaders saying, you know, in the midst of this, you know, to her leadership cohort, all we can do is learn and inviting us in to support them in that the framework. Yeah, methodology. Yeah, yeah. And to be a bit more conscious and given space and permission to notice and permission to deal with the stickiness of it and acknowledge it. 


Tony Nicholls  25:15

Absolutely. And that makes me think about when is a programme a programme? Because we think of programmes we say programme, and we use the word programme and I think often, most of the time people think about a, a training programme where people go out of the office into a workshop and do something over a period of time, or an off site workshop, if it's one intervention or two and I think what we're talking about there is, is a programme can be simply a methodology, a container which encourages reflection and learning as as you do your actual work. So it's an on the job type support mechanism. 


Carolyn Norgate  25:53

Yeah, absolutely. It's building the, again, an individual to organisational capacity to engage in different kinds of conversations. I was with a leadership group a couple of months, maybe longer, ago, we got into a conversation around some quite sticky stuff. My role in facilitating it was that I'd catalysed it. And it was probably the second or third time of working with this group. So what was really good to see was that they were talking to each other and not through me. But of course, I'm I spend limited amount of time with them. And one of the questions I paused at one point, I said, How are we doing? And is this? Is this common? How is this conversation different to one that you might have on your in your weekly SMT type meetings, and the the response was it's entirely different. It goes back to setting those conditions. So setting the conditions of slowing down, they had a bit more time for check in. So between my role as facilitator, and them showing up, ready to work differently, and becoming more present to themselves, and each other, through that process meant they can get into that different quality of conversation. I think that how do we facilitate groups that don't normally come together? So you know, go back to the example I was talking earlier on, the other benefit of that was the peer support, but peers that didn't necessarily know each other, you know, building the social fabric of the organisation, and realising that colleagues are having very similar experiences to you. And, you know, on the one hand, there's reassurance and relief in that and there's also huge amounts of support that can be gained from that as well in terms of those peer groups, and that choosing to trust each other, when you don't necessarily have close day to day bonds with each other. 


Tony Nicholls  27:45

I guess you were talking about impact. Because as buyers, we will be asking the question, where's the value for money? Where's the impact? And I think we started by saying, there's a lot of frustration out there, I'm noticing a lot of increasing frustration around a lack of impact on programmes. And talking to buyers of programmes, helping them notice that the impact is, is somehow not going to magically appear through the whole system suddenly shifting, but will will emerge through the micro practices of the people coming off these programmes, who will have, there will be some immediate impact, because they're having slightly different conversations, they're noticing slightly differently what's going on, they're more consciously entering into decision making processes. So that will be immediate. And it's then the ripple effect of that. And as you say, if you're also bringing peer groups together, that don't usually work together, you're then altering the social fabric of the social fabric of the organisation, that has an impact, developing communities of practice that have a common language around certain things. All of these things go to have a more systemic have a systemic impact on organisations, that's the golden egg, isn't it? That's what we're really looking for. That, that we see, we see individuals who were transformed by these interventions, some of them quite quickly, who then go on to impact their organisation through the relationships they have in, especially if they're more senior, they have that impact at senior levels. So impact is definitely there. And our approach to evaluation, I guess, is is to be, we call we talked about, always be evaluating don't we we evaluate from from the word go. What's different today? What's going to be different tomorrow, but also what's the long term impact of these programmes? And you know, that, as you say, we've been doing this for over 10 years now and we're still in touch with people who came on programmes 10 years ago when they quite often say, still the best programme I've ever been on, life changing, transformational in terms of my career progression, and perhaps most satisfying is the impact it has on their ability to feel more to find their agency again, as you say, revisit their agency find the permission they already have, and to make it impact in their world, positive impact in their world. That's, that's very satisfying to hear. They feel better about themselves, more confident about themselves, less anxious and they've learned how to do that. We ran some workshops and webinars recently with a large client. And I was, many of the people in the room have already been on our programmes, already knew the content we were delivering, but came because they knew it would be a great space to slow down and reflect in amongst all of the chaos that they were finding themselves in. So they, that's just shows how much they value the space, as well as the actual content.


Carolyn Norgate  30:33

Two things came up for me as I was listening to you; one was, there's often a phrase I use when people are really starting to engage with their practices about undertaking taking themselves in their practice seriously. And I think that's partly what happens. But I also think they they feel taken seriously by their organisation, when they're in a space like this, that they feel like their organisation, values them, and there's always a symbolic value to a programme, so that that symbolic value can dissipate very quickly, if the programme isn't really all, you know, as you say, what's the programme, it might just be, you know, a couple of hours, if that doesn't really take seriously their experience. So I think one of the things we've been noticing in the bite size is you can take the experience of the individual and the organisation deadly seriously, and that they, people feel witnessed, they feel heard. And if you do these at scale, you've also got the impact of, you know, the potential impact from an OD perspective, of this is what we're thematically this sort of hearing, this is what you might want to start paying attention to. So that whole notion of taking oneself being taken seriously, the impact that can have on an organisation, I think that was the one thing. And then the other thing that I think is related to that, but slightly different. The word that was ringing out to me as I was listening to you was coherence. So individually, feeling more coherent as a practitioner, as a leader. There's a almost a settling that you can sometimes see people as they, as they just have a bit more time and a bit more reflection space. Yes. Going back to that in order to be able to see a clearer path through what they can do. So there's that individual coherence. But what then happens is there's a bit more of an organisational coherence as well, that comes through this kind of process, where I think talking to clients, there's, there's that sort of slightly intangible impact around, you know, is it alignment, you know, the people seem more aligned to people, you know, people are talking, you know, they're asking less about what the vision is, because they've figured it out in relation to their area. But for me, the kind of headline of all of that is coherence, coherence at an organisational scale, but also an individual's scale.


Tony Nicholls  33:11

Good. So if people want to talk to us about programmes or bite size interventions, they can have a look on our website. Yeah. 


Carolyn Norgate  33:21

Yeah, yeah, you're on there. I'm on there. Our colleagues are on there. Give any of us a shout. Or come and have a chat, online, face to face. 


Tony Nicholls  33:30

And if you're interested in the Uber programme, then of course, we've got our masters, which is on Cohort Two now. Yeah. It's going very well. Yeah. Which is sort of a three year programme. But it's of course, a series of short bite sized interventions, I guess you could say that, made up into a coherent programme. 


Carolyn Norgate  33:49

Yeah. Year one is a postgraduate certificate, year two, well do then that with year two is the diploma, year three masters but people can do parts as well as the whole. 


Tony Nicholls  33:57

Yeah. And if they come on to one of our bite size interventions, they'll get a taste for what that programme, Uber programme looks like, the masters programme looks like because, to repeat, we've got the elements in both, that's what we're noticing. Yeah. Okay. That was good. Thank you. 


Carolyn Norgate  34:12

Thank you. Have a good day. 


Claire Newell  34:13

Thank you so much for listening to us today. And we hope to see you next time. Take care. Bye bye



bye bye. Welcome.



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