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CRfATE
"If you seriously examine any action, you find there are always two
sides of it: the side from which you can explain it and the side from
which you can produce it."

action, you find there are always two Royal Bank of Canada. Several have
sides of it: the side from which you can placed their upper-level managers in
explain it and the side from which you TTl's Center for Management Design.
can produce it. After a recent two-day At $35,000 per manager, these corpo-
rise in the stock market, for example, I rations are paying to be trained and
read an article that masterfully de- licensed to use the TTl technology in-
scribed that rise, analyzed it, and ex- side their own organizations. The cen-
plained it. However, even though I ter alternates four two-week training
now fully understand what happened, sessions with on-site courses at the
I am not going to bet my life savings on contracting organization for a year.
my ability to predict the next one . NEW POSSIBILITIES. Forget the man .
"In individual and organizational Forget the organization around him.
performance, most of us attempt to Explore a bit of the thinking that Wer-
produce action by working in the af- ner Erhard and his colleagues are gen-
ter-the-fact realm of description , anal- erating. Take a walk on the leading
ysis, explanation , and prescripti o n. edge.
Rarely do we consider that producing This thinking and language are dif-
an action requires a whole different ficult for the uninitiated to grasp . Even
way of looking at it. If you want to have after many conversations over the last
a dramatic impact on performance, you retired it in 1984 . The next year he four years with his associates, atten-
need access to the source of action ." introduced a new program for indi- dance at a three-day workshop with an
A spectator can describe what I'm viduals-"the Forum ," which has affiliate, and discussions with Mr.
doing on the tennis court. He is living drawn tens of thousands of partici- Erhard himself, I find it tough to con-
in the realm of evaluation and expla- pants. vey the "message" to others. That
nation-but I'm playing in the world Now, working in a new organiza- makes it next to impossible to put it in
of action. While there is a relationship tion devoted tomanagementandorgan- writing, but I'll explore the possibility
between his description and what is izations , he has captured serious of expressing some of it in near-con-
occurring on the court, the two are attention among business and govern- ventional terms without reducing its
clearly not the same. ment officials. At the invitation of the value.
We seldom think about this sort of Soviet Government and with the sup- The best way seems to present a few
distinction, but "failing to make this port of the U. S. State Dept., he has key distinctions in the TTl vocabulary:
simple distinction can lead us to being been working with Soviet managers "A manager gets paid for the future
satisfied with an explanation about and educational leaders since 1981. which isn't going to happen other-
action and may hide from our view the Consultants are listening to what he wise." Although pay may be based on
source of action," says Mr. Erhard. has to say, and some have joined ranks past performance, what the company is
EXECUTIVE TRAINING. Werner to help him advance a new model of really counting on is the manager's
Erhard is not in the tennis-coaching what management is all about. intervening in some way to change the
business . Rather, he is in the business I have been exposed to some of his future course of events. "Managers
of coaching executives to empower thinking through several of his affili- need powerful access to the future, and
themselves and those with whom they ates before and since they joined his not the predictable future," says Mr.
work . Interest on the part of some newest venture, Transformational Erhard . "While most managers spend
corporate leaders in the possibility of Technologies Inc. (TTl). Fifty estab- their time attempting to predict the
individual and organizational break- lished consulting firms have now pur- future accurately-and while that's
throughs in performance has created a chased franchises in the northern Cal- valuable-the best managers are able
marke t for his services. ifornia-based network, which is dedi- to generate a future which was not
Some people discount the man as a cated to creating a new frame of refer- going to happen otherwise-that is, a
rip-off artist; others regard him as a ence for management thinking. future which was not predictable."
leading-edge thinker in the fi e ld of TTl affiliates have worked with such Managers tend to think of them-
human performance a nd effectiveness. companies as GM, GE, Procter & Gam- selves as making choices among op-
More than a half million people par- ble, TRW, Lockheed, Weyerhaeuser, tions available to them. Mr . Erhard
ticipated in his est training before h e Manville Corp., Philip Morris, and the makes a distinction between options

52 INDUSTRY WEEK/JUNE 15, 1987


"While most managers spend their time attempting to predict the
future accurately-and while that's valuable-the best managers are
able to generate a future which was not going to happen
otherwise . ... "

and possibilities. An option, he says, is no real breakthrough in their per-


an alternative that you develop out of formance. That's because, according to
your past-out of experience . A possi- the TTl view, a breakthrough comes
bility, on the other hand, comes from only when working in that realm
your commitment to the future. It called "the source of action."
comes at you. It does, however, have to Mr. Erhard explains: "You can alter
be consistent with the past. In retro- people's performance, if you've got
spect, it makes sense . Otherwise, it's enough time, with information and
just a pipe drea}l1. knowledge. You can do it, if you've got
BUILDING A FUTURE. In training ex- enough time, with experience or beat-
ecutives to generate the future, the TTl ing them over the head . But if you
approach is to invite them to consider want a breakthrough in people's ac-
first that the future for which they get tions, you have got to alter the way the
paid actually exists somewhere before world occurs for them ."
it happens . It exists in conversation, "See people as a conversation." For
Mr . Erhard suggests. The organiza- the most part, we manage people as if
tion's future "exists in the conversation they wex:e a collection of abilities,
of its management-like a spoken vi- skills, and personality traits. Accord-
sion, for example." ing to the TTl technology, seeing peo-
Outstanding managers can begin also in individuals' minds. ple in this way leaves them and you
building the future through The mood or tone of these con- with no powerful access to per-
"conversation for possibility." This is versations and the underlying assess- formance . To get at the source of ac-
where they really get leverage on peo- ments and commitments add up to a tion, TTl practitioners ask executives to
ple's actions. They begin to generate picture of "reality," or what Mr. Erhard regard people as conversations.
new futures. "Once a future has been prefers to call "the clearing." This Since the way the world occurs for
created in a conversation for possi- clearing determines how the world people is shaped by the conversations
bility, the resources of the organiza- and their role in it shows up for people . they are, seeing them as conversations
tion and the reality with which it must Thinking of the organization as a gives us access to altering the way the
deal begin to show up differently for network of conversations gives the world occurs for them. You may be a
people . They begin to see new ways to people in the organization a better conversation for being uncoordinated
employ the resources and begin to see handle for dealing with culture . "No or being graceful, for being un-
new openings in the reality," Mr . one is left trying to manipulate moods. trainable or being open to new
Erhard observes. No one is left with the near-impossible thoughts. Once you consider that you
"An organization is a network of task of imbuing people with new qual- are a conversation, you have access to
conversations." Management is wres- ities . This takes the mystery out of yourself. You can begin to change your
tling with ways to define and improve 'corporate culture.' You have a ready reality, yourself, and your future by
"corporate culture." But what does the way of accessing it. You can change the changing the conversation.
term refer to? Even the best answers 'corporate culture' by accessing the Mr. Erhard describes a demonstra-
have been a bit vague, and they have conversation," says Mr. Erhard. tion with an executive participating in
offered little help in coming to grips ALTERING REALITY. But how do we one of his workshops. "1 asked for a
with culture . In Mr. Erhard's view, a change a conversation or a network of person who was a bit uncoordinated to
better way to view culture is in terms of conversations? A series of other playa game of catch with me . The
a network of conversations . By that he Erhard distinctions suggests an ap- woman who volunteered was demon-
means the conversations in any orga- proach. strating that she was uncoordinated
nization about what is and is not being "People's actions are always per- because, no matter how slowly I threw
done, what should and shouldn't be fectly correlated to the way the world the ball to her, she usually missed it."
done, what can and can't be done, what occurs for them." Even the manager Then he said, "Forget about catching
certain individuals are and what they who explains to people what needs to the ball. We' re going to playa new
are not, and what they should and be done, describes what actions to take, game and the object of it is for you to
shouldn't be . These conversations go and educates or trains them finds that, tell me which way the ball is spinning
on not only between individuals but while performance improves, there's when it comes toward you."

JUNE 15. 1987!INDUSTRY WEEK 54


"We're giving management something that empowers the skills they
already have-not for incremental improvement but for
breakthroughs. "

She studied each toss carefully, call- declaration actually establishes some-
ing out the direction of spin. In time, thing. It establishes a future as a possi-
the others in the room became aware of bility to which you are committed."
what was happening. She was catching NEW OPENNESS. TTl and its affili-
the ball every time even though it was ates don't claim to have the ultimate
being thrown faster and faster. answer to creating breakthroughs.
In the first round, suggests Mr . They don't offer an alternative to what
Erhard, she was a conversation for good managers are already doing be-
being uncoordinated and unathletic. cause "the people we've had a chance
Inside that conversation the ball oc- to work with are good people. They are
curred for her as tiny arid moving at already producing results. We're
supersonic speeds. "Her actions were giving management something that
perfectly organized to deal with a ball empowers the skills they already
that couldn't be caught because of its have-not for incremental im-
size and speed." provement but for breakthroughs."
In the second round she was a con- I have talked with several of these
versation for being intelligent, per- managers; they report improvements
ceptive, and articulate. Inside that con- in output and quality that go well be-
versation the ball occurred big enough yond any targets they would normally
and slow enough to handle; her actions quest-which would give the people have set even in their highest hopes. A
were correlated to that, and she caught with whom they work a clear oppor- common denominator that I detect is a
the ball every time. tunity to decline, make a counteroffer, new openness to possibility that leads
ACTION'S CORE. Breakthrough re- or commit themselves by making a directly to seeing possibility in others
sults can be produced by working at promise to produce what is requested. and helping them go for it . This takes
the source of action. "However," Mr. "The unit of management work is the activity far out of the self-help
Erhard cautions, "a manager has to be conversation." When you are actually arena where Mr. Erhard's fame began.
able to shift from one realm to another. managing, you are in a conversation. New techniques and new tech-
If he's talking to the stockholders, he The conversation may be a con- nologies are offering far more poten-
has to deal in the realm of explanation versation with yourself, with those to tial than can be utilized by managers
and understanding . But if he's work- whom you are accountable, or with who simply extend the past rather than
ing with employees to create break- those who report to you . You may be strive for breakthroughs. Unfortu-
throughs in performance, he needs to speaking or writing. nately, says Mr. Erhard, most people in
operate in the realm of the source of Most managers would say that their organizations are committed primarily
action." work is making decisions. But what is a to looking good "because the structure
"There are times when speaking is decision? "A decision is a person say- we give them makes it a better deal to
action." In the TTl vocabulary there ing something (to himself or to some- be careful with your commitments and
are several kinds of conversation. One one else). A decision is a person speak- not produce an achievement than to be
is "conversation for action." It differs ing as action in th e form called bold in your commitments and, maybe,
from much of our conversation which 'declaration.' fall a bit short of your vision-but still
reports, describes, explains, or repre- "In a meeting," says Mr. Erhard, produce a breakthrough."
sents. "When you say 'chair: a chair "what you hear all too often is a lack of I am aware that Mr. Erhard and his
does not come out of your mouth . The action. You hear situations and events associates may be creating just another
word represents something. But when being represented . You hear people system of thinking that comes and
you say 'I promise: what comes out of describing and explaining, but you goes. On the other hand, I'll watch
your mouth is a promise. To promise is hear no action. You can impact that closely to see if they can lead a signifi-
to act. And a promise becomes the meeting by acting . You can move that cant number of managers to the indi-
opening for action," says Mr. Erhard . meeting by making a request. You can vidual and organizational break-
A request, likewise, is an action. move that meeting by making a prom- throughs needed to keep up with the
Most executives talk about what ought ise. You can move that meeting by times. To use an expression they fre-
to be done . But they fail to commit making a declaration. quently employ-"consider the possi-
themselves by making a direct re- "Speaking as action in the form of a bility." •

57 INDUSTRY WEEKI JUNE 15, 1987