An important question that comes up, especially once a group has tasted the power of well-hosted conversations, is “How do we sustain the results?” While answers to this question vary, depending on the context, a few patterns are helpful to notice.
The second thing that must be sustained is co-learning. If we are engaging in innovative work and learning and creating new things, teams must cultivate and maintain a learning edge together. Co-learning is different from having experts on tap. When a team discovers new things together, they become skilled at learning and innovation. They become resourceful when faced with the unknown and they can make good use of experts, rather than relying on experts for answers. For years the work of Peter Senge has focused on building learning organizations, and this is why. Sustaining learning over time means training together and continuing to improve,
Finally sustained results need to rely on sustaining relationships. Great work will often come undone where team members are not able to work resourcefully in relationship. This does not mean that everyone must agree all the time. Rather it means that teams of people need to become skillful at hosting difference, dissent and conflict. We call this skill “friendship” because it depends on a commitment to one another that transcends differences. Teams that work well as friends are able to use differences to generate diversity. Diversity of perspectives, ideas and approaches leads to resilient and sustained results.
Overarching these three factors is commitment. Results can only be sustained where there is a commitment from one or more core callers to ensuring that the process continues and becomes developmental. We have seen many efforts fizzle away where there was no core commitment in the system. If everyone on a team is doing work off the side of their desk, and no one has responsibility for sustaining the results, the chances are high that good work will go for naught.
Balancing all of these things gives the best chance for the results of good meetings to be sustained through the life of a project. We sometimes talk about the Art of Hosting becoming an operating system in larger scale strategic initiatives. It can become a way of work - a sustained stage of development - when these factors are in place.
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