Leader Volume 9, Number 12
Caridas is president of Caridas Consulting Group in Houston, TX
(phone 713-629-5692; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.flowmanagement.net).
organizations thrive when they maximize what they know.
Results depend on the collective talents and creativity of
people. How can
you get the best from your most valuable resource—your people?
Participation is the key.
creativity are crucial to unleash people’s talent and generate a
compelling sense of purpose.
Research indicates that shareholder value is increased when
employee participation is improved. Participation encourages
people to take ownership and become responsible for creating
creates higher morale, retains top talent, and improves the bottom
line. Strategies that
increase participation also reduce stress, create energy, and
motivate people to contribute to the success of the business.
• What elements of your business encourage participation and,
therefore, greater commitment from your people to contribute
• How can you draw on participation from all levels of your
organization to improve your business strategies?
• How can you use participative strategies to motivate people
and achieve excellence?
field-tested strategies that generate results are “open
systems,” “search conference,” and “flow.”
They help organizations anticipate change, create flexible
plans and improve their ability to be active and adaptive.
An open systems
approach provides a framework for scanning the external
environment, learning from that environment, and adapting plans,
designs, and services in response.
scenario illustrates the advantages of an open systems approach.
A furniture company anticipates that a new generation of
buyers will not be interested in luxury, but rather in utility and
clean lines. Because
this company anticipates a shift in taste, they can incorporate
the changing market into their production line and become
An open systems
approach recognizes that an organization’s plan influences the
environment, enabling an organization to set trends for their
industry. An open
systems approach helps a business anticipate and adapt to change.
It assists leadership in creating a learning organization
that will thrive. People learn in a dynamic environment. They want to contribute to the success of a business through
creative ideas and an active relationship with the business
A leader must
focus on the external environment and encourage everyone in the
organization to think strategically.
The design of a
search conference translates the concept of open systems into a
planning and learning environment.
Search conference is a practical tool that makes open
systems come alive. It is a planning method that fosters full participation,
cooperation, and learning toward the most desirable future of an
create a plan and take responsibility for implementing it.
People commit to plans they have put effort into creating.
For example, a
company can conduct a search conference to utilize input from
clients to improve a product line or develop new services.
The environmental scan of a search conference can be used
continuously to examine the business climate for opportunities and
conference begins with the group learning about its changing
the group searches through its past and present to develop the
most desirable future. Then they develop strategies and action plans that they will
conference is unique, requiring special planning and design.
There are no set activities to take off the shelf and dust
off for simple use. The
activities are designed to fit each context, and the generic
method is to ask:
• What changes are important to the company’s future?
• What is the desirable future of the company?
• What is our company’s history?
• What should we keep, drop and create?
• What are our strategies?
• What are we doing to implement those strategies?
Components of the
search conference can be modified and used continuously by an
example, as decisions are made, people can check them against the
changing reality of the external business environment. At
Microsoft, search conferences are used to promote innovation and
new product development. They have conducted over 35 of these
strategic planning sessions over the past four years.
Flow is a state
of consciousness so focused that it amounts to total absorption in
an activity. It
provides a sense of discovery, a creative feeling of pushing to
higher levels of performance, into a new reality.
Athletes call it the zone.
Why would an
organization want to design their work environment to promote
flow? In today’s
labor market, organizations want to attract and retain top talent.
Work environments that create flow promote greater job
satisfaction and higher performance.
Being satisfied with work may once have been a concern for
an individual only, but now such satisfaction is crucial to the
employer’s bottom line results.
experience flow in their job learn and grow in their work, find
more enjoyment, and feel their abilities are stretched.
Flow creates conditions where people are truly empowered
and are motivated to work. When
people experience flow, they become more committed, productive and
To create a flow
experience, the following conditions are necessary:
• Clear, challenging yet attainable goals
• Challenges matching individual skills
• Concentration and focus
• Loss of self-consciousness
Transformation of time (In other words, “time flies”)