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Opening our minds for a change

A story of initiating an organisational transformation at the Institute of Management Consultancy

By Barry Curnow and Tony Page

Unpublished draft, February 1999

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Just look at the number of change programmes we all experience as part of our normal working lives and you realise that to change an organisation must be one of the hardest things imaginable. In the US, they struggled to bring about change at both IBM and Apple Computer through a succession of new CEOs each of whom administered huge shocks to the system. In the UK, merger and privatisation seem often to provide a trigger for change, but even in the face of such profound upheavals, change in attitudes and working practices may still not follow naturally or easily. Richard Branson, with all the advantages of the strong Virgin brand and a huge investment programme, has still to demonstrate that the rail service can be transformed. Bringing about change in hospitals, schools and or any human organisation brings many of the same difficulties: cynicism, hidden resistance, alienation, lip service, crippling anxiety, confusion, denial & disbelief.

Yet the rising pressure to change is relentless. We are living in a deregulated, free trade world where those comfort creating but frustrating barriers to global competition have been destroyed. If you have the money, you have the power to choose. We seem as consumers to demand ever newer, better, more cost-effective products and services. An organisation no longer grinds on endlessly just because it's always been there. It has to be relevant, as judged by the users of its services to survive.

So if you were taking up a leadership role in an organisation that had hit the buffers, given that change is notoriously difficult, how would you embark on the change process? Would you rely on the apparently certain methods of the project and programme management? Would you involve yourself in the rather complex art of engaging with people's hearts and minds?

If you were in a facilitator role to support and enable an organisational change process, how would you work with the leader(s) to find the best points of leverage, to raise ostrich heads from the sand, to question established assumptions, to create new understanding of how to remain viable and relevant, to mobilise people and resources. In short, how would you get people to open up for change?

Much has been written about the process of change, but, when you are a key player in a real change process, other people's accounts can seem to build a heroic or misleading story which disguises the plain truth, ignores the baffling complexities, misses the true defining moments, glosses over the critical go/no go decisions and the necessary pre-conditions for a successful change. In short, history often seems to be rewritten in a way that renders the real lessons inaccessible.

The authors of this piece were, along with many others who contributed in all sorts of ways, deeply involved in a change process by which an old and declining Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) was transformed into a new and relevant Institute of Management Consultancy during the period 1995-1998. We met up recently over lunch, in a London restaurant (with a tape recorder on the table!) to reflect on our experiences of this change programme, with an interest not in heroic, post-rationalisations, but to build a shared understanding of the true process which opened the opportunity for change at the Institute.

Our conversation covered some subtle but important signals and drivers, which, if you're involved in a current change process, whether as leader, facilitator, consultant or coach you may want either to remind yourself of, or if these are unfamiliar, to become sharply aware of, as they may be key determinants of your success.

After a brief summary of the context, we offer excerpts from our discussion containing the key insights we reached . The article closes with some thoughts and questions you can apply to your own current change programmes.

 

The context was …

In the middle of 1995, the retiring President of the IMC announced that the 32 year old institute was approaching a mid-life crisis. In his words it had "hit the buffers". Membership was falling, it was harder than ever to present the Institute as relevant to its membership. The incoming president undertook to launch a change programme and as a result, in March 1996, Tony was engaged as one of a team of three facilitators (alongside Jeremy Keeley and Vyla Rollins) in planning an awayday for the 35 strong IMC council. The awayday was to represent a wake-up call (change or die!) and to launch a series of teams which would produce needed action plans. Barry was present during the awayday as President-elect and shortly afterwards his one year term of office as President began.

Since then the IMC has undergone a radical and fundamental change programme. There is a new name, and a smaller, newly constituted council which is more focussed and representative of various membership groups. The decline in membership has been reversed and numbers are starting to rise with recruitment of new members 100% higher during the first half of 1998 than in 1997. Many large consulting firms have signed up to become certified training practices including major new entrants to the consulting field such as Shell and IBM, bringing with them large potential pools of new members. There are currently 17 provisional certified practices including PwC and KPMG. There are now 34 organisational affiliates, 215 registered practices and 3,800 individual members. The IMC has just been awarded Investors in People status for its internal training and development. Global firms like Shell are interested in internationally recognised competencies and accreditation, so the IMC is exporting its change and competency models to institutes in 27 countries world-wide. In short the IMC is starting to enjoy the harvest after three years of blood, sweat and toil.

 

What were our strongest recollections from this work together?

Barry: Most memorable was the feeling of accountability, of being in the hot seat, and going into meetings not knowing what would happen. Reading through those extracts from your diary you sent me reminded me that many of these meetings were formative events at which we took go/no go decisions. We were creating the pre-conditions which will have determined the Institute's future, but from this distance these may at best appear as footnotes in history. Unfortunately, we never have the luxury of knowing what would have happened if we hadn’t done this or that.

Tony: For me, I strongly remember the unfolding experience of the first awayday at the Civil Service College in Sunningdale. This was April 1996, immediately before you took up office as President. It was the first time the IMC had held an awayday since 1988. That is eight years! We began late one Friday afternoon with various presentations from Council Members setting out why the IMC must change. Three of us were facilitating. Council Members told us they were unhappy, experiencing their council meetings as very frustrating, but in spite of this dissatisfaction with the current state, we experienced a lot of anger, hostility, confusion and negativity in the early stages of the meeting. I felt Council Members were saying "let's not talk about that" and questioning our role, saying "we don't need facilitators". At different times during the awayday each of the facilitators seemed to sink under this weight, feeling unwelcome or inadequate, beginning to doubt if we were being effective and whether we should even be there.

Around 5am on Saturday I awoke, my head filled with thoughts, questions and ideas about the day before us. Early in the morning session I remember talking to the large group about the emotions in the process of change and setting out a plan for the day. The anger seemed to have lifted at this point. There was rapt attention. People seemed willing to be led, as if they wanted to make the most of the day ahead. There followed a round of small group work and presentations aimed at exposing the issues.

At lunchtime I remember you saying to me "the cork is out of the bottle now". I picked up from you, Barry, a sense of rising risk, danger, uncertainty, loss of control. After all, you were in about a month due to start chairing the Council as incoming President. We both sensed some possibility of anarchy and that the Institute could self-destruct. None of us really knew what would happen that afternoon or afterwards.

The afternoon turned out to be easier than we expected and involved quite constructive action planning in small groups. By late Saturday afternoon following the concluding presentations people seemed to be going away happier, with concrete action plans and, by and large, a shared sense of commitment to making fundamental change…and some of us were relieved noticing how close we had come to the brink!

 

What were the defining moments in the change process?

Barry: During the summer there were a series of quite confusing meetings of the Transition Management Board, leading up to a defining moment at a Council meeting in September 1996 when we sought support for a budget to appoint a Change Programme Manager. This budget was the largest ever financial commitment the IMC had made: it represented over half the IMC's reserves. There were two rounds of voting: the first to appoint a Programme Manager and the second to commit the budget needed. Each time the 35 council members voted unanimously for the proposal. Each time you could feel the level of belief and commitment to the change rising, cranking upwards to a new level. With these tangible commitments, the change process was starting to feel more and more real.

After this I remember a long phase of flogging round the regions, running roadshows to sell the change programme to members throughout the country. I remember hostility being expressed towards staff at the centre and using my authority as President, trying to hold it all together: the Council, the members and the staff.

One year as President is such a short time! Towards the end of my year the process was by no means secure: we had some newly elected members on Council, who had not been to the awayday and did not appear to buy into the change programme. Since Council only meets four times a year, it was perhaps not easy for newcomers fully to misunderstand what we were doing and why. We realised we needed another awayday to pick up the momentum following the arrival of the another new President in the middle of 1997.

Following my year as President, I had handed over the reins and shifted emphasis to rebuilding my own business which had suffered somewhat from my attention being on the IMC. In the year that followed, due mainly to the efforts of others, most of the real tangible changes were defined and proposed for members to vote on.

I remember another defining moment at the Council meeting in April 1998 when we were hearing the results of the members voting. When we realised we had enough proxy votes on the table supporting proposed changes to the name and constitution, there was a huge sense of relief. Unusually there were smiles, a sense of openness and renewed confidence. Many of us felt vindicated because the membership at large was finally throwing its weight behind the great raft of proposed changes. There was to be a new name (the Institute of Management Consultancy), with a new inclusive approach, a new relevance, a new director general, a new, slimmed down council, new categories of membership based upon newly defined criteria…in short a brand new Institute.

I realised that we had, for at least two years since the Sunningdale awayday, been feeling exposed, living with a sense of vulnerability, that what we had staked our reputations on could fail, and now finally we could move happily ahead into a new phase of life.

 

Who were the key contributors?

Barry: There were so many people who played an important part in this: at least four past Presidents, all members of council since 1996, the Treasurer, the Executive Director and all the paid staff, the facilitators at the 1996 and 1997 awaydays, the visiting speakers at both awaydays, a paid Programme Manager, numerous members active in regions throughout the UK….too many people are involved in this to mention individually.

I particularly remember one council member who really believed in change and convinced me the IMC had to do this. He brought a great sense of urgency. He believed in a particular model of change. He was much more directive than me, and said to me once: "you have this curious inclusive style. You kind of involve everyone, bring them in, genuinely listen to them….but through your social skills you always get what you want in the end anyway". Whilst I have quite a different outlook to him, I think he helped convince me and others how important this change programme was.

The Treasurer contributed in a quiet kind of way. His decision to support the risk of funding the Programme Manager, committing about half the Institute's reserves to this, caused others to come on board.

Tony: There is no doubt our approach was inclusive. As facilitator I often find myself wondering who do we need to include. Who is a stakeholder affected by this but lacking a voice, or not physically in the room while we are running a meeting or workshop. In this case we did think deeply about the various stakeholders: members, staff, council, users of consultancy services and so on. At both awaydays, staff, council and members were directly involved. The small group work allowed participants to focus on and represent the needs of each stakeholder group. We tried to understand the reasons why people volunteer unpaid time and enthusiasm to the IMC, attending meetings, serving on regional and national committees and so on. There were also some special awaydays for staff.

Barry: In spite of all the efforts to include others, there was a time when the Executive Director and I felt we were having to work quite a lot on our own, without much support. Occasionally we came to another council member or to you Tony for strategic advice, but often we felt quite isolated and exposed.

I was quite exhausted when I handed over the reins to my successor. Fortunately the incoming President entered with a new burst of energy. He was a man for our times! He began his year with a second awayday, which was very successful in getting Council Members working in teams focussed on producing action quickly, which in due course delivered the tangible proposals that were supported by members.

 

How did the facilitators and leaders work together?

Tony: While all this was going on you and I were in many meetings together, but in a way we were having a separate experience that was conditioned by the roles we were in: me as one of the facilitators, you as a leader. I believe that the more accurately I can understand these parallel experiences, then the more effective I can be on future occasions, and perhaps it is this that we want to convey as our core learning for others involved in change. Inevitably there is a huge element of guesswork in this kind of collaboration. In a sense we were both working in the dark.

Barry: After the awayday, during the summer of '96, you attended the meetings of the sub-group of Council we called the Transitional Management Board (TMB). I usually felt pretty bewildered at the start of these meetings about where we were in the change process. But as a result of your engagement with me and us, what emerged was an understanding of where we were on the map and a clearer sense of direction.

In all our meetings together, whether in a group or one-to-one, there the genuine possibility that things could go either way: North or South, success or failure, progress or impasse. At the end of each meeting I had a feeling of understanding and comfort, knowing what you have to do next.

Tony: All the time I had a very clear idea that it was up to you and your colleagues to be making decisions and taking actions away, not me.

Barry: I remember at the September 1996 Council meeting you and your two facilitator colleagues questioning whether you really had a role to play, and I agree how different the experience can be for partners in the very same process. I don't think you realised at the time the tremendous significance you had. The impact of your involvement was huge. Even though you did not have to explicitly intervene a great deal for the first couple of hours, you were engaged throughout. The fact of your engagement underlined the seriousness of the change intent and brought everyone's attention to the change process itself. You represented a continuity and a reassurance: you had been present at the awayday five months earlier, and during the summer you worked with the TMB, helping us make decisions about how to proceed. Your influence was subtle but by being there you helped the case for change and the plan to become established in people's minds.

Tony: You are describing a symbolic role, to do with the facilitators "being there" rather than actually "doing anything". We were holding the boundaries, a sort of a conscience or reminder for Council, also providing a bit of reassurance and some kind of safety net. We were allowing and requiring new conversations to happen in Council to do with change and a new world, and quietly inhibiting the familiar old conversations that tend to keep recycling themselves in any group. I'm struck by the subtlety of this enabling process. It is not straightforward to describe, explain or proceduralise.

Barry: You can't proceduralise it. It is not a procedural matter. It is about being and engaging and processing and relating and understanding. I guess this is what we are seeking to understand in this conversation.

 

Consulting as a WOW experience

Tony: I have become interested in consulting as a WOW experience, as a highly productive partnership, something deeply collaborative, creative, synergistic which arises from the contact, the conversation, the relationship with the client. This WOW possibility for consulting is hard to describe. It is a conversation between a client and consultant that enables the new thing to happen that neither one of them could have previously envisaged…

Barry: I'm interested in that possibility for consulting at the WOW level. It raises the question of where, how, by what chemistry does the WOW arise…and can you have the WOW without all the other stuff, the down time. Can you package WOW or is it a product of some other kind of process?

Tony: The way I experience this is, if I take a literal and left brain, logical view of what I should do as a consultant and what should be the agenda for a meeting with a client, I will probably stop the WOW happening unintentionally. So I need to allow a "possibility space" for that WOW: I cannot require it to happen or determine that it will happen. I can only hold open the possibility. To be specific this means there must be some open-ended time in each meeting. I think it is probably significant that I did not spend much time preparing for any of our meetings at this time. My intention for the meeting was loosely held. I needed to have an objective and agenda but to treat it as your meeting, to devote most of my energy to listening and responding in real time, being willing for my rough agenda to be ditched. Maybe it employing the Zen idea of "beginners mind" whilst maintaining engagement and credibility with the client, and without appearing as a moron.

Barry: You have a kind of broad goal rather than a specific wish list of precise, definable outcomes.

Tony: I think so. I can't say much more about it than that. You have to do just enough preparation to contain your anxiety, … and to contain the client's anxiety, if they are anxious. Anxiety is an enemy of WOW. You can only package, or bottle "WOW consulting" within these very broad parameters….but you can recognise when it has occurred because it leaves both client and consultant with the feeling that something positive, unique and significant has happened that neither one of them would have been able to do separately. I remember the high feeling after the September 1996 Council meeting: the sense that after everyone on council being really focussed, we had ended up in a very different and much better place at the end. I remember the Executive Director saying "I have worked with Council for 10 years now and I have never seen such a spirit of co-operation". Someone else told me our facilitation was very subtle but as a result the case for change was very well-established.

Barry: What I was experiencing fits my definition of a consultant as someone who enables the client to do something that the client could not do if the consultant was not there. Your being there enabled us to do things that we could not have done if you weren't there…as well as making some more specific interventions to consolidate progress and move Council further along.

 

Coping with many roles for the change leader

Barry: Another specific example of your contribution as facilitator was when you asked me to make explicit the number of roles I was performing as President in the change programme.

Tony: Yes. I felt you were trying to do too much in one of the TMB meetings, that others were confused about which role you were performing and that somehow this was inhibiting us all.

Barry: At the next meeting of TMB I dealt with it by deciding to simply say and make explicit that there were all these roles, and that we needed to be aware of it, that it was not ideal, but that was the way it was, that I could not do all of them at once, although they were all vested in the role of President at this time. Also that this was part of the reason for having facilitators involved.

Tony: Do you remember what all these roles were?

Barry: Well there was the Figurehead as leader of the profession, Leader of the institute, Chair of the Council, Chair of TMB and Champion of the change process. There may be one or two others….

 

What motivates a leader and a facilitator during the opening phases of a change process?

Tony: Normally I work for a daily fee. Invoices paid each month, apart from providing needed cash, sort of proves to me that the client values what we are doing. This maintains and reinforces my motivation. Privately, at various points in the work at the IMC, particularly during the difficult moments in the April 1996 awayday, I wondered why as facilitators we were willing to go through this for no fee and just a few bottles of wine promised as reward. I suppose I felt honoured in some way to be asked to facilitate, pleased that someone noticed I might be able to make a valuable contribution. I anticipated the possibility of some recognition, but I also expected this might provide quite a rich, albeit unpaid, learning experience, following a change process all the way through, without the client having to justify paying the fee for each meeting. We did of course receive public recognition later when you published our names and thanked us in the journal.

Barry: This question causes me to consider why I became President. I had previously been President of the Institute of Personnel Management at a time of great upheaval and change. Perhaps this gave me confidence when I was approached to become involved with IMC, but at some point I must have decided IMC was a cause worth fighting for, because when you look at it, the risks were huge. If I’d known the true scale of risks involved I’m not sure I’d have taken it on. It is a part-time, unpaid role, but to do it properly just "gobbles you up" using up time you need on other projects to earn your living. Lots of others had been President before me, and a couple more since, but at that time I felt needed, I was concerned for the future of the IMC and I rose to the needs of the situation.

Looking back to my time as President of the Institute of Personnel Management I still take a quiet satisfaction years later feeling events have proved me right, or at least, not wrong. At the same time, isn't it interesting how the different players see it differently, even though they were an equal part of the equation?

At the last TMB, the outgoing President thanked me and several others in his farewell speech. He said I had played a quiet but to him very important role. He referred to my "avuncular inclusiveness", and said "that really was how you led us". This was not how I thought of my contribution but I think he meant it. He also added that during his time as President he had been directive because he felt that is what we needed.

 

What repeating behaviours, habits, patterns and themes have you become aware of?

Tony: I'm struck by how some aspects of what you describe at IMC are so similar to your earlier experiences at IPM. I'm struck by how we are observing repeating patterns of human behaviour….that in some ways these were rooted in you, the individual, and in some ways in the institution, in the norms, the social reality, the shared worldview that you and the people around you in both institutions had become immersed in. Something to do with how people engage as President, Council Members, Director, or Executive in the life of these institutions.

Barry: You're right. Why is that?

Tony: The points of continuity are that these are both professional institutions that share some similarities of structure, membership and so on. And there is also the fact that you personally are involved in both situations. So there is a pattern that may come from you and a pattern that may come from the institution.

Barry: Yes, and there is a personal, subjective pattern in each case that I recognise: I feel as I do and did, before, during and after.

Tony: Would you say there are insights that you carry from the first experience that changed the way you engaged in the second?

Barry: Yes I'm sure there were

Tony: Is it possible that each experience you had, and any person has, offers up certain insights and leaves certain things not yet understood, and the not-yet-understood things tend to recur as unintended patterns while for the things that we have insight around, we have choice around whether to repeat the pattern or to depart from it

Barry: Yes I believe that is so. We are talking about the power of the shadow side of the organisation….

Tony: …and of the person. Does that also suggest a role for the consultant in some kind of bringing awareness to patterns, helping the client to achieve insights that give them a choice, almost in a therapeutic way. It is not far from a therapeutic model, this sort of thinking, is it?

Barry: No it is very close.

Tony: So you have an individual who is living through the intense experiences of being a leader and their efficacy is tied up with being able to understand the experiences they have already had and being able to make choices about the new situations they are in, based on experience, but also based on seeing clearly the situation they are now in and in what respects it is similar and in what respects it is different.

Barry: I wondered if I had been too much of the consultant in my roles as President, but perhaps it is the consultant's lot to do the initial, low key and less visible loosening up work, then to allow others to move in after you to take the process forward.

I really believe in what we've done. I really believe we gave it our best shot. I'm not going to lose any sleep over what we didn't do. I take great hope for the future of the Institute. It can and should be what its potential now enables. I also take some lessons about my world view and the transience of many of these things. I am quite struck and affected by the re-writing of history. ..not just because it affects me, but because I care. And the elusive nature of proper recognition for this type of work - that slightly saddens me.

 

What do you take from this experience?

Tony: Leaving the role is a fairly intense experience, isn't it?

Barry: Yes, and I notice my successor living through this now. It can be rather bewildering: one day the staff are still willing, helping and supporting you and the next day it is all over and have transferred their allegiances to the next President!

So what do I take with me? This thing has been unique and valuable, but also baffling! Obviously there is a professional satisfaction. I do know quite a lot about how these places function. I know how to pull certain strings. I know what not to do. I understand the generics, but I'm not sure I completely understand what it's all about.

Tony: Do you want to do something similar elsewhere?

Barry: Not in the same way. I'm evaluating what I do to develop the international opportunities for the IMC's competency model , but this links back to your earlier question why does one get involved with this? Yes, it is partly to make a contribution, partly to learn and grow and be involved, but it is partly because one does want professional recognition for what is good in what one does. And perhaps it is also tied into a deeper, older ethos of public service.

 

Where is the organisation now, and where is it heading?

Tony: Reflecting on this makes me very interested in the front-end working needed in any organisation to open the opportunity for change, in effect to open up people's minds to the change programme. Others including the Programme Manager and your successor as President moved in after us at IMC to develop the more tangible and specific, downstream deliverables and that process is still underway. Our front-end work is, I think, a special but often unappreciated art, and it is risky.

Perhaps the April 1996 awayday was the first real opening of the possibility for change at the IMC. The meeting was brimming with emotion, risk, opportunity, none of us knowing how it would turn out. It required moving to the brink. I do not believe the IMC would have made the progress it has without such a deeply unsettling experience. You said at lunchtime that day "The cork is off the bottle, the genie is out. Now this thing has a momentum of its on own. No one will get that genie back in."

During the summer meetings in 1996 and later in your regional roadshow meetings you held the opportunity open, by challenging and listening, you included everyone and created ownership, withstanding the considerable pressures against change. It was natural at this stage for people to want to put their heads back in the sand, to revert to old conversations, nostalgia, denial and so on…and you as leader felt the pressure of holding onto the opportunity for change, holding that possibility space open.

Barry: Yes, we lived through a certain amount of struggle and pain that enabled the Institute to make the changes we have achieved today, but now there seems to be little awareness of the importance of this early phase.

Tony: By the second awayday in October 1997 the change process had moved on considerably. We began with a very effective warm-up and alignment activity, using a method called Appreciative Inquiry which created a lively buzz of conversation, a warm atmosphere, a sense of teamwork, confidence and strength and helped to bring new members in, whilst reminding the established people of the positive future we were building for the IMC. At dinner one Council Member who could not be present the following day said to everyone "Don't f--- about tomorrow!". This made me realise how much the change process had moved on. It was time for action, project teams, specific deliverables. If the 1996 awayday had provided the front-end, upstream, opening minds phase, then the 1997 awayday was more downstream, focussing Council Members' minds to seize the opportunity before time ran out and to produce tangible deliverables quickly.

There was already a lot more trust at the second awayday. The mood and the style of it was quite different. We treated Council Members as adults, letting them make grown-up choices about which groups they needed to be in at different times rather than ordering them around. This trust was I believe in large part a consequence of all that we had lived through together in the previous 12-18 months.

 

How well positioned do you now think the IMC is?

Barry: The new President has been regional chairman of one of the IMCs most successful regions and has personally contributed a great deal to the new strategy through developing the competency model on which the new strategy depends. We have now marketed the promise which has established the IMC as the standards authorisation and certification body for management consultants in the UK and now we have to deliver. Membership numbers are rising, and we have 500 new members this year, but we still have a long way to go before we achieve our ambitions.

Tony: We have previously discussed your vision of consulting as becoming "Strategic Counselling" and I feel this may be starting to happen. In a way this is how we worked together at the IMC, more in the new style of consultant as "thinking/speaking partner" rather than the traditional style of consultant as "expert/researcher/report-writer". I wonder if the IMC should now be providing a lead in terms of these new ways of thinking and operating as consultants and clients. Is this where the profession is heading?

When I think of many of the organisations I work it, "thinking/speaking partner" sort of fits the emerging human agenda. When the organisation seems to be breaking out of its old rigid mould, becoming more adaptable as an organism this is somehow tied up with being inclusive and less hostile to all the people it touches: employees, customers, suppliers, community etc. This operationalises the organisation's new needed capacity for continuous growth and change. Organisations are developing a kind of right brain competence: understanding patterns, rhythms, growth dynamics, emotions, relationships, people. Tomorrow's consulting could be less static and more relationship-based, emotionally intelligent, enabling organisations to be more flat and dynamic, more like the world wide web than the traditional, vertical, command and control silos.

To some consultants this emerging people agenda in consulting might still seem unreal, naive, irrelevant, touchy-feely, flaky or wacky…but I think this might be an important strand in the future of consulting and the IMC.

Barry: Yes, but I would say, right now, the Institute is better positioned. It has a real opportunity now, we have opened the doors, we have enhanced the capability and improved the positioning…but the Institute has not yet arrived. We are still putting in place the deliverables. The vision may not yet be completely there yet but success is now possible. Will it happen? I hope so.

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"I have permission to inform you that the buffer stops to which GK referred during his presidency are no longer a serious danger to the existence of the Institute. They have been torn up and demolished, and new tracks have been laid to take us into the 21st century with confidence.

We are all indebted to GK (past president 1994/5) for his timely warning, and we are indebted to PT (past president 1995/6) for starting the process of change, to Barry Curnow (past president 1996/7) for providing us all with the space and licence to create the new IMC, and I have been privileged to preside over virtually all of the changes."

Paul Lynch, past President, 1997/8, speech given at end of presidency, December 1998

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Update

Since the conversation reported in this article, the evidence in mounting that IMC has indeed entered a new phase, with membership numbers continuing to rise, and through the International Council of Management Consulting Institutes (ICMI), the change and competency models developed in the UK are being adopted world-wide.

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Questions for readers

What did you do to open the opportunity to change?

Who was involved?

Whose voice was not included…but should be?

What progress are you now making?

What are the subtle signs of people being on board?

How are the leaders and facilitators working together?

What patterns are you noticing in your own behaviour as leader or facilitator?

Where has your change process got to now, and where is your organisation heading?

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