Practice & Management  

Project Pack: EPA/ORD Leadership Initiative

The Leadership Summit

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency - Office of Research and Development
We invite you to enjoy a 20 minute video presentation of the EPA-ORD's leadership summit "Igniting Leadership at All Levels: Working Together To Ensure The Earth's Vitality".

Topic: "Igniting Leadership at All Levels: Working Together To Ensure The Earth's Vitality"- A Leadership Summit This Leadership initiative was dreamed, designed and executed by US EPA's Office of Research and Development, under the auspices of the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Management.

Purpose: The purpose of ORD's Leadership Initiative is to revitalize the workforce of over 2,000 scientists, engineers and administrative staff at a time in history which demands that we do more to protect human health and the environment. The urgency of our mission requires that ORD advance the science to better support environmental policy and regulatory safeguards. Due to an approaching retirement phase of more than 1/3 of the current staff population and the importance of attracting and retaining key young talent, ORD began looking for innovative ways to enrich and enliven the organizational culture. The ORD Leadership Coalition began the process to find an approach that could work for ORD.

Approach: The ORD Leadership Coalition Action Team (LCAT), a subset of the Coalition, decided on the appreciative process to set in motion the organizational culture change needed. The investigation of principles and practices of Appreciative Inquiry began an in- depth understanding of its application for the Leadership Coalition and the organization at large. After multiple sessions using Experiential Learning to underscore the principles of AI, the entire Coalition agreed to a Leadership Summit to be scheduled early in 2003. The following narrative examines the rationale for using Appreciative Inquiry as a means for culture change as well as the steps undertaken to begin the change process currently underway. Background, The Journey, The Leadership Summit, Post Summit, and outcomes thus far, examine our community discovering itself, dreaming together, and designing change efforts to be influenced by destiny to ensure the earth's vitality.

Background: EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) mission is to conduct leading-edge research and foster the sound use of science and technology to fulfil EPA's mission to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment. By providing the scientific foundation for the Agency's policies, regulations, and programs, ORD provides EPA and the American people with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about risks to human health and the environment and opportunities to mitigate or prevent these risks.

Since the ORD reorganization in 1995, ORD management has pursued creative initiatives including, five Organizational Climate Surveys, three large group meetings, one for managers, one for administrative staff and a Science Forum for scientists/engineers, pilot efforts on 360 degree survey, ORD vision and Strategic Plan and scores of improvement projects. Fall, 2002, marked the beginning of a broad coalition of ORD managers, scientists, engineers and administrative staff who met together to consider "leadership" ORD-wide, at every level. This Leadership Coalition worked together for almost a year and adapted the appreciative approach to address organizational culture change.

In developing and designing the "appreciative" approach and to begin working on a transformational change for ORD's 2000 employees, twenty-nine staff from the Leadership Coalition elected to take the actions necessary to begin the journey. The group called the Leadership Coalition Action Team (LCAT), met periodically throughout the Summer and Fall, 2002 and during this time together the LCAT adopted the Appreciative Inquiry process and utilized the 4-D theory of Discovery, Dream, Design and Destiny. Specific understanding of the AI process was brought forward in an explicit way by utilizing Experiential Learning to punctuate the four phased process. The LCAT worked together to understand the process through strengthened teamwork and the understanding of personal and individual leadership, empathy, mutual trust and understanding. The work during this period enable the LCAT to build a vision for what needed to be done on a large scale. This time was almost a microcosm of what the plan needed to be for ORD at large. With the help of external Contractors and Dr. David Cooperridder, Case Western Reserve University, the LCAT discovered, dreamed, designed and talked about the impact of ORD's destiny on the world. Meeting with the full Leadership Coalition, the LCAT positioned their plan by having the whole group experience Appreciative Inquiry with some experiential learning. The entire Leadership Coalition agreed with the LCAT and the decision to bring this approach to ORD at large was made. It was decided to that an AI Summit would be produced.

As part of discovering our past as an organization, we adopted the McKinsey "Seven-S" Model for organizations which includes the components Strategy, Staff, Style, Skills, Systems, Structure, and Shared Values. Against these elements we designed a 16 foot wall hanging using a vertical column for each of the seven S's and across the top we divided a time line into the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000's. Staff from all across the ORD network were asked to remember and share the past events, accomplishments, the "best" elements of the decades as they remembered. The highlights of the ORD past, by decade, against each elements provided a remarkable backdrop for understanding highlights as people understood them. This opportunity for remembering was heralded positively by most ORD staff with only a few skeptics here and there. Several Labs inserted an eighth "S" for Science. where scientific discoveries, new technology or scientific breakthrough were listed throughout the various decades. The wall hangings were placed in central areas within each of our Labs, Centers and Offices for a duration of 3 months. Prior to the January Summit all information was consolidated into a rich understanding of each of the EPA/ORD decades and served as a "Discovery" reference at the Leadership Summit.

The Journey: Before the actual Summit could occur, the LCAT deliberated over the topic for the Summit and embarked on a series of meetings together to discover the best from ORD's past, to identify our Positive Core, to pose provocative propositions, and to hammer out "Igniting Leadership at Every Level: Working Together to Ensure the Earth's Vitality." The LCAT also decided to undertake a series of PreSummit interview with random ORD staff. In all, over 300 personal interviews were held. There were 90 interviewers and the reflections and themes that resulted were used as a resource at the Leadership Summit in January. This action of going back again to the organization at large created high interest in the work to be addressed at the Summit. Staff and managers were eager to be interviewed with many of the interviews continuing well beyond the deadline for analysis and in fact, well after the Summit, itself. The energy of connecting with the best of the past with another was truly transformational.

On January 12, 2003, ORD began its formal journey of cultural transformation at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel with a 3½-day Appreciative Inquiry Summit entitled "Igniting Leadership at All Levels: Working Together to Ensure the Earth's Vitality" Over 300 ORD employees and outside stakeholders came together to work through the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) process to identify ORD's strengths and begin constructing a collective vision of what ORD could look like in the near future. Dr. David Cooperrider of Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management, provided the academic foundation for Appreciative Inquiry and its application. Facilitating lively sessions which began with paired interviews, the 300 participants worked together in small groups and utilized "open space" to represent more that 59 ideas. The participants self-managed their discussions, merged similar ideas and collapsed initiatives as they saw fit. The energy and high spirit to create these new projects was exciting and highly creative.

The Leadership Summit culminated in attendees proposing 40 specific pilot projects targeted toward such goals as stimulating research collaboration across ORD, engendering trust, enhancing internal and external communication of ORD research, strengthening ORD's links to the public through marketing and education, creating cross-training opportunities to provide both a more well-rounded workforce and vitally needed assistance, and mentoring the next generation.

The Leadership Summit Appreciative Inquiry Summits bring together a large, representative cross-section of an organization's internal and external stakeholders to identify and build upon the organization's positive core." The process for stimulating this creative dialog involves the "4 D" Cycle, which provides the basic framework for the meeting agenda . Below are highlights of how the 4-D Cycle was used at the ORD Leadership Summit. Highlights include:

  • Calls to action by ORD's Assistant Administrator, Dr. Paul Gilman and Deputy Administrator for Management, Henry Longest II, who emphasized their support for the Leadership Initiative and underscored the need for all staff taking the personal responsibility for creating and achieving ORD's future.
  • Presentations by the US Navy and Roadway Express on their successes with the AI process
  • A discussion between Dr. Gilman and David Regeski (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Foresight and Governance Project) about the future of science in ORD
  • Follow-up lecture by Dave Regeski on the need for anticipatory thinking in managing technology and its impact on the environment and human health
  • An exciting presentation by Dr. Frank Barrett, US Navy, on the dynamics of improvisational jazz groups as a metaphor for an organizational culture that stimulates high levels of creativity.

Highlights from ORD's Summit

Day 1 - Discovery
  • Attendees follow the worksheet and conduct one-on-one interviews with people they do not know.
  • Interview pairs reconvene into groups of 8 - 10 to share highlight stories and search for patterns and "root causes of success."
  • The groups individually synthesize their patterns into a creative metaphor to communicate their concept of ORD's "positive core."
  • Groups describe their metaphors to the larger audience.

Day 2 - Dream and Design

  • The small groups share interview stories and discoveries about images of ORD in the future (2005-2010).
  • Groups create a collective image of ORD in 2010 and design a creative way (e.g., skit, work of art, magazine cover story) to present the image to the entire audience.
  • Facilitators extract "organizational elements" (e.g., "Positive Climate of Trust, Respect, and Enthusiasm") from the previous activities and post them around the room.
  • Attendees gather around the elements of interest in groups of 8 to draft a "Provocative Proposition," a picture of what that element would look like in the context of the desired future.
  • Groups report the draft propositions to the entire audience. The drafts are transcribed and compiled into a handout for distribution the next morning.

Day 3 - Design and Destiny

Design Wrap-Up
  • Audience reviews each draft proposition and votes their level of concurrence with colored cards: green, if they basically agree; yellow, if they agree conditional on substantive editing; red, if they don't agree with the proposed direction. Audience then posts comments/suggestions on each draft for the authors' consideration.
  • Audience members are invited to make a 30-second proposal for a possible pilot project that will move ORD toward the future articulated in the provocative propositions.
  • Each pilot project proposal is posted indicating the location in which a breakout group will convene.
  • Audience members go to one or more breakout groups of interest during the allotted time.
  • Participants form self-managed groups and draft a purpose statement, a short description, and short- and long-term action plans.
Day 4 - Destiny Wrap-Up
  • For each draft pilot proposal, a group member makes a 2-minute presentation to the audience.
Post Summit An important undertaking by the LCAT is the framing of a "leadership institute" as a central body to continue the progress of the Summit and the Leadership Initiative in a way that is consistent with the ORD culture we seek to perpetuate. While we anticipate that it will take several months before we achieve management buy-in to this concept and that, during this time, the structure will likely evolve, certain basic principles, consistent with the espoused vision are emerging, including:
  • A dominant virtual component - i.e., that the "institute" should comprise a coalition of dedicated "networked" individuals in various locations rather than a centralized hierarchical structure of permanent employees
  • Inclusiveness - historically, the tendency within our current culture has been to offer opportunities only to those employees who fit selection criteria. This "institute" will be open to those with the interest and desire to apply whatever abilities they have to offer.
  • Minimal structure: Rather than waiting until a detailed plan is established, this virtual "institute" will begin operations immediately, with the idea of evolving and transforming as needs arise.
  • Responsiveness - To ensure changing needs are identified and addressed, the "institute" will remain in real-time communication with other stakeholders, including the LCAT, to ensure it is moving in the right direction.
  • Flexibility - not only in responsiveness, but in composition as ORD employees rotate in and out of the "institute," gaining the opportunity to experience "leadership at all levels" and to help develop the ORD of the future.
The 40 pilot projects defined in the Leadership Summit continue to emerge and are in varied forms of progress. The LCAT decided to "check-in" (v. Check on!) pilot conveners to assist or discuss options for consideration and to help bring the pilots forward. There have also been several new pilot projects which have emerged since January. The LCAT continues to offer "brainstorming " ideas on their weekly conference calls and the new conveners have been assisted in moving ahead. A meeting with LCAT members and conveners is being developed and planned for early Summer, 2003. The gathering will be an effort to look at where we are and where we need to be. We are designing an "AI on AI" format encompassing the AI, 4 Ds to continue the progress on the pilots as well as to discover, dream and design the next steps for ORD cultural transformation.
Igniting Leadership at All Levels
Working Together to Ensure the Earth's Vitality

Project Documents:
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Document Igniting Leadership at All Levels: Working Together To Ensure The Earth's Vitality (Jan 12, 2003)
"Igniting Leadership at All Levels: Working Together To Ensure The Earth's Vitality" is a 20 minute video presentation of the EPA Office of Research & Development's leadership summit. View the streadming video or download the video

Document EPA - Office of Research and Development (ORD) Poster of Upcoming Leadership Summit (Jan 2003)
Promotional Poster (pdf )
The EPA-ORD embarked upon a leadership initiative. As part of this effort a 300 person AI Summit was held in January 2003. This poster was created to help promote this AI Summit and invite participants to join in the exciting process.

Document Pre-Summit Task Chart - EPA/ORD Leadership Summit (Jan 2003)
Pre-Summit Task Chart (doc )
This document outlines the tasks and responsibilities leading up the the very successful Leadership Summit of the EPA's Office of Research and Development.

Document The EPA/ORD Leadership Initiative (Jan 2003)
Pre-Summit Conversations (pdf )
Interview Guide for the Pre-Summit Conversations (pdf )
This document outlines the themes and reflections that emerged from the pre-summit interviews/conversations with ORD staff. These data became the focal point of dialogue and planning before the large group AI Summit around leadership. Also included is the interview guide which was used to bring these conversations together.

Document ORD Leadership Summit: Igniting Leadership at all Levels: ORD Working to Ensure the Earth's Vitality (Jan 2003)
Agenda for Leadership Summit (pdf )
This document is the agenda-at-glance for the Leadership Summit held in Baltimore, Maryland in January 2003 for the EPA's Office of Research and Development.

Document EPA/ORD Leadership Summit Slide Presentations (Jan 2003)
PowerPoint Slides for the Leadership Summit - 2 (PPT )
This powerpoint slide presentation was the slides used to guide the AI Summit design and process for the Leadership Summit held in January 2003 for the EPA's Office of Research and Development.

Document ORD Leadership Summit Workbook (Jan 2003)
Igniting Leadership at all Levels: ORD Working Together to Ensure the Earth's Vitality (pdf )
This 22 page document is the Leadership Summit Participant Workbook from the EPA/ORD's AI initiative. It includes all the pages used during the summit.

Document EPA/ORD Post-Summit Feedback (Jan 2003)
Post-Summit Feedback (pdf )
Form Used to Collect Post-Summit Feedback (pdf )
Following the leadership summit, participants were asked to give feedback on their experience. Here are the results.

Document Graphic Images of the EPA/ORD Leadership Summit (Jan 2003)
Power Point slides - Graphics of the Leadership Summit (ppt )
The following powerpoint slides present the graphic illustrations that were produced throughout the ORD Leadership Summit in January 2003. Diana Arsenian, a Graphic Recorder, created these graphics as a way to capture the essence of the summit. Diana may be contacted at Diana Arsenian Graphic Facilitator 760 Market St. Ste 710 San Francisco, CA 94102 415.397.1971

Document EPA/ORD Post-Leadership Summit Slides (Jan 2003)
Post Summit Power Point Slides (ppt )
The EPA's Office of Research and Development embarked upon a Leadership Initiative to explore pervasive leadership at all levels of the organization. This power point slide presentation is a series of slides that tell the story of their Leadership Summit in Januaury 2003 in Baltimore Maryland with almost 300 people.

- Sponsored by the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University -
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