Couravel's Big Conversation @mikepounsford

A Big Conversation Q&A – aligning leaders using pictures

What’s the next best to attending an event? Seeing the effect of it afterwards and being able to ask questions.

Case in point: I recently missed the prototype of an exciting new facilitation format. Pioneered by long-standing collaborator Mike Pounsford, a Certified Professional Facilitator. The aim was to help leaders align around a shared challenge. 

To make up for it – we caught up over a coffee. Here’s the Q&A:

Q: You brought 15 leaders together to solve a complex issue – using a fresh approach – what was it?

A: We developed a visual narrative and added some killer questions. This enabled us to explore how our organisations need to respond to the changes. Challenges coming at us as a result of disruptive technologies and digital transformation. We literally created a Big Picture! We could then use it as a platform for engaging, open and challenging conversations. Deliberate dialogue about what the future holds for us as individuals – and for our businesses.

Q: Alignment using pictures – interesting! Can you sketch out how this idea came about?

A: We have known for years – since our time in the caves – of the power of pictures and their role in illustrating great stories. Our brains process visual information at a much faster rate than the written word, and stories activate more parts of our brain.

Storytelling is often seen as a communication tool to be used by leaders to influence an audience. But some of the most powerful applications of strategic storytelling involve groups of people from all levels and disciplines. How? By sharing their stories and linking these to a higher strategic narrative. Global organisations such as the charity Oxfam; New Look – the fashion retailer; TUI – the travel company; GSK – the pharmaceutical giant and BAE Systems – the defence and engineering business – have all developed meaning and purpose for their people by encouraging people to tell their stories to each other.

Q: How did the leaders respond?

A: The feedback was fantastic. And so was the learning because we recognised the potential to help each of these leaders to engage with their colleagues and peers. The issue is often not working out what to do but working out how to build and sustain momentum to make the changes. That is the secret of this approach. Watch the video to the end!

Nice work. Here’s a brief video setting out the flow:

You can learn more about Mike’s work at, follow him @mikepounsford and connect with him on LinkedIn.


Four worthwhile events coming up

What has London, DC and Paris got in common? A set of diverse but interesting events – all can help you think about new ways to engage, enable and align people.

To paraphrase a proverb: if you want to go fast, go alone – if you want to go far, go to one of these – or perhaps all four:

What does it take to align behind change - webinar banner

Our next webinar

‘Change is the only constant’

So asserted Heraclitus a couple of millennia ago – and it holds true today. Yet, some studies suggest that as many as 70% of change programmes fail.

What does it take to align people behind change?

We’re here to help improve your chances by aligning people, resources and effort using accessible tools and techniques. Through three practical case studies we’ll show how leaders in organisations large and small have created the conditions for people to align behind change.

We’ll walk through proven methodologies and also take your burning questions.

Register now.

2017 03 #Eurocomm17 Reviewing The Past to Prepare for the Future

Top tweets from Adapt • Invent • Evolve: Reviewing the Past to Prepare for the Future @ #Eurocomm17






Read the full write up

What does it take for people to align behind change?

This is the question that brought together 69 facilitation, communications and change management professionals over two one-hour twitter chats last October during International Facilitation Week – and Martin Gilbraith and I are now doing a follow-up for 2016 in the form of a webinar.

During the session we will:

  • invite you to share some of your own experience and insights on what can be done to help people to align together to make change happen.
  • share six top tips and tools that were shared during the twitter chats, and how the 4-level ‘ORID’ model of ICA’s ToP Focused Conversation method was applied to structure the process.
  • share examples of practical application including how over 1,000 IABC leaders were engaged, aligned and activated to extend the organisation’s reach and deepen its impact.

A particular aim for the session, as for the twitter chats, is to bring together facilitation, communications and change professionals, and all those with an interest in these fields, to connect with and learn from each.

You will also be invited to share ideas for topics for a pair of twitter chats during International Facilitation Week 2016, October 17-23. Feel free to tweet with the hashtag #FacWeekChat!

Register now on Eventbrite for the session on 17 October 2016.

An effective method to #alignyourorg

“How can I have more purposeful & productive conversations, bring out the wisdom of a group, encourage feedback between people, and reach shared awareness in meetings? How can I generate and weave together a diverse range of ideas, develop creative solutions and build a group consensus?”

Here’s our answer – skill up on your group facilitation. Our methods of choice here at Align come from the Technology of Participation.

Here’s a glimpse of what that training like that looks like in practice:

Learn with Align Your Org advisory board member Martin Gilbraith – book the upcoming course in Brussels:

The ToP Group Facilitation Methods course provides a structured introduction to the ‘Technology of Participation‘ Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods, which form the foundations of ToP Action PlanningToP Participatory Strategic Planning and other applications.

Now see some award-winning practitioners in action:

2012 08 08 Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo book maze @ RFH - picture by @michaelambjorn

Top reads for board members: daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly

A round-up of materials that can help you with your alignment work – this issue is focused on Alignment for the Boards but many of these insights apply across other areas of collaborative work.


If you’re want realtime updates, then here are some useful and relevant organisations and hashtags active on Twitter:

@EGBoard | @WOBUK | @tcbcorpgov | @SpencerStuart | @ClarksonCentre | @AICDirectors
#board | #governance | #corpgov | #corporategovernance

BoardSource has a daily newsletter called SmartBrief – very North America (and non-profit) focused, but worth a quick scan if you’re a newsletter junkie looking for a daily dose in your inbox.


Women on Boards in the UK have newsletter worth a browse – it includes vacancies. Got a good weekly newsletter to add here? Let us know @alignyourorg.


HBR's IdeaCast

The Spark is a worthwhile monthly newsletter round-up on governance from BoardSource, champions of the Stand for Your Mission campaign and more.

In hard-copy and on the web you’ll find Harvard Business Review. Topics of course go well beyond the board, but it is a useful way of keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the world of leadership and management. Personally I tend to take the shortcut as I cycle: I listen to their regular IdeaCast (should also be easy to find on iTunes etc).

Back in the governance specific arena there’s also Board Forward, collated by an association management firm.


Stanford Social Innovation Review

The Stanford Social Innovation Review also known as SSIR – is a worthwhile read.


Also, Boards – a quarterly publication from the Governance Centre of Excellence, a Canadian outfit, is worth a scan.

It comes out of a programme of the Ontario Hospital Association, yet many of their articles have application well beyond healthcare. Topics include:

If you’re looking for more regular updates, why not follow them on Twitter – and also check out some of their great tools and templates.


What’s missing from the above?

What are you reading to #alignyourorg?

Michael Ambjorn is Founder @alignyourorg | Chair @IABC – and this week you can find him in LA at #IABCLI.