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Our last day in New York it was pouring rain. We saw Manhattan at its greyest, however, still maintaining its charm. Mara and Suzanne, our running explorers, brought back coffee and our first time great donuts (that actually took us three failed tries of sorts and brands…).
We packed our bags, said goodbye to our beautiful apartment and had a last sip of coffee before we went uptown, for our meetings at Bank of America (Mara, Marloes, Lieve and Suzanne) and the UN (second visit, this time Joeri and Nancy went there). What we didn’t know then, was that we just had our last cup of coffee of that day. We had experienced it before, but after the meetings of today we know: it is not self-evident that there are coffee machines in the offices.
A meeting does not start with grabbing one. Getting a cup of coffee downstairs or in a coffee bar close by seems to be a small, social element during one’s working day. Joeri experienced the same while going to the UN. She desperately looked for a place to buy a coffee-to-go. She saw some people on the street drinking theirs. When asking them where she could buy one, it turned out you needed a UN-pass to get it. Getting a coffee accompanying our thinking during our appointments is often the first challenge of the day.
Towards a connected work environment
We had a great experience at the Bank of America. Located in Rockefeller Centre at the heart of Manhattan’s business district, we got to know a very typical American organisation: a large tower, the usual security check and an open-plan office with real cubicles. Just as we know them from the series Mad Men! There were these odd structured walls that Suzanne and Marloes couldn’t resist touching. Our host politely tried to ignore our childish curiosity. We were connected to the Bank via our colleague Luc Verheijen. Our host explained it was through our mutual acquaintance Dale: “We call him Mr. Connected. Wherever you go in the world someone knows Dale”.
Making use of the semi-formal moments
With blaring sirens of 5th avenue on the background, we had a conversation with several leadership development professionals. We focussed on the transition of the bank from a mechanistic approach to a more connected and human work environment. They experienced this as quite a challenge, being an organisation with over 250 000 employees. How to find a human connection without falling back to the mechanistic solutions? A solution seemed to lie in the semi formal meetings; at the bar, during airplane travels or while playing golf.
Then it was time to strengthen our own group connectedness on the semi formal flight from NYC to Austin. Where Lieve ordered a well-deserved cup of coffee. Leaving behind the high paced city of New York to arrive in relaxed and sunny Texas….
This weblog is part of series of blogs. At this moment, Mara Spruyt, Joeri Kabalt, Suzanne Verdonschot, Marloes de Jong and Lieve Scheepers visit the US. During this study tour we visit various organizations and scholars to learn more about the way organizational conversations contribute to change. We are conducting this research in cooperation with Nancy Dixon, a US researcher who studies and writes about collective sensemaking (nancydixonblog.com) in organizations. In this series of blogs we share our experiences.