Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Not Enough Time for ACT

I have just sent my participants into buckets of work with about 90 minutes to do their work. They will not make a breakthrough in 90 minutes, but they might have already made their breakthrough, so this time serves merely to formalize and socialize what they have already done. How much time is enough for ACT?

Recently, I have been weak in ACT. I've run outstanding Scan and Focus in recent events, but last week's event in London for a Bank and today's event in Milan for another bank, the ACT has suffered badly.

Last week, I had a client that was very familiar with the ASE and a sponsor team who genuinely co-designs with us. When they said, about 45 minutes into the work buckets, that they would rather circulate through the teams than have a formal check-in, I foolishly acquiesced. As a result, the teams spent more time reporting to them and to each other, moving from break-out to break-out, than they actually did working. The result was that they did outstanding work (perhaps the highest quality work of any client team I have worked with in the ASE) but since they felt (correctly) that they had wasted their time on the final afternoon, they did not appreciate the enormity of what they did. I have subsequently been ringing all the participants and they are only now (a week later) understanding the import of their work.

Today I have a small participant group that needs to take a few simple decisions in order to see the stage, agree the scope and 'non-negotiables' of a larger event next month. They have more-or-less taken those decisions and our objectives have been achieved. The Scan and Focus effectively prepared them for these decisions and the decisions themselves were taken collegiately (the core of their culture) in the synthesis conversation; a first for me. Thus, leaving them very little time to Act does in fact make sense, but it risks depriving them of the feeling of having achieved something important.

The session has gone extremely well, despite the too-short ACT, or perhaps because of it. After all, the purpose of the session was to take a few difficult decisions in order to un-block a complex project. They took those decisions during Focus, ratified them during synthesis, and formalized them during Act. Overall, quite a success.

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