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  • Writer's pictureMarc Breetzke, M.A., M.A.

Workshops don't change anything

The 3 wrong reasons to facilitate transformation and change workshops

It seems counterintuitive to proclaim as a consultant, a trainer, and a facilitator of workshops that they seemingly don't work. Then why is it that so many companies pay huge sums of money to conduct them? Most businesses do it for the wrong reasons.

There's a difference between defining change and producing it.

One of the first reasons why businesses buy the idea of workshops creating change is, that these events create a false sense of accomplishment. We sit together, we talk, we know it's business time. We write stuff down and we have a good feeling doing it. If we aren't careful, however, we miss the point: The idea is not to think that having gone through the event has accomplished anything, yet. Instead, the whole purpose of those workshops is to define, design and develop (sometimes even explore) the change, we want to accomplish (that still has to happen after the event).

Workshops don't give structure, but they require it.

Sometimes, transformation initiatives seem overwhelming at the beginning. They are huge tasks with vague objectives and hardly tangible action steps. In order to create a better idea of what to do, a workshop often seems like a good idea. However, the results usually disappoint. Why? Because the workshop - if not facilitated by an expert - lacks structure. A bunch of people get together to discuss in an uncoordinated fashion how to move forward - and nobody has answers themselves. Chaos is the consequence. Actions, goals, tactics, strategies, culture,... they all get mixed up and in the end this exchange leads to frustration and resentment to change. The objective of a good transformation workshop, however, is to have the opposite effect: to produce motivation, anticipation, and clarity. This outcome requires preparation including giving a structure to the workshop.

Transformation happens through repeated communication and new behavior.

As businesses start initiatives, e.g., to adapt to new technologies and therefore to prepare their teams for the changing times, they walk into a trap: They believe that workshops are valid means to communicate and therefore enforce the change. However, as soon as the workshop ends, half of the content that was discussed is forgotten. By the next Monday, it's business as usual. Executives and managers are stunned by the ineffectiveness of the workshops. Actual change in behavior and attitude only happens by repetition, leading by example and praising preferred behavior. Managers can back up these measures by communicating success stories. A workshop as a one-time-event is destined to fail in executing change because of its very nature.

How have workshops helped (or not) in the past in your company? Did they achieve the desired clarity or goals, and did they produce lasting change? I am eager to hear from you here or on LinkedIn.

About the author:

Marc Breetzke, M.A., M.A. is the founder of MB Inspirations and Europe's leading strategy expert. He works as a consultant, trainer, coach, speaker, and lecturer all over the world for large, international businesses (e.g. Fortune 500) and leaders. He studied Strategic Communications in Germany and in the United States. Today, he operates from his head-office in Stuttgart, Germany.

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