Lori Draper, the Vice President at a bank, attended an early version of a Convergent Facilitation workshop and put what she learned into practice immediately when her boss assigned her the project of reorganizing the layout at one of the bank’s branches.
On her first visit to the branch, she could see that the configuration of the desks, cubicles, and private offices wasn’t working for the customers and most of the personnel. Business bankers and the staff who assisted them had large cubicles in the front of the branch. A new customer who wanted to open a personal checking account would wait in the line for the tellers only to be redirected to the back where the personnel who took care of this responsibility were crammed in small cubicles.
Lori made an initial plan for moving everybody around but realized that the people who had in some cases worked there for 20 years would probably have ideas that would be far more informed than hers. She was also energized by the prospect of having a change that would be met with resistance. She told her boss that she wanted to solicit their input. He said, “What a mess that meeting will be! Everyone will be complaining and talking over each other. They’ll only come up with reasons why this move is a bad idea, not solutions for the task at hand. Just tell them how you want it done and have them live with it.” Despite his strong doubts, he agreed to let her try the process she wanted.
She convened an initial meeting in which she told everybody at the branch that the floor plan would be changing and she wanted their participation in a meeting the following week to create a proposal. She presented to them the criteria they might want to consider in creating proposals: more customer convenience, smoother traffic flow, and privacy for confidential conversation.
Of the 17 people who worked at the branch, 13 attended the second meeting and eight people brought in detailed proposals that included measurements and plans for accessibility for people with disabilities.
Everybody enjoyed the pizza Lori brought and then they went to work. First they reviewed Lori’s initial list of the needs that the final plan would need to meet to yield the best results for everyone, and added cost containment to it.
They then made a grid and evaluated each proposal by checking off the boxes for the needs each fulfilled. It became clear to everyone that one plan met the most needs. The winning plan was actually created by a business banker who moved HIMSELF to a smaller cubicle in the back of the branch. Even the people who weren’t happy to move their offices weren’t angry because they could see how their own inconvenience served the collective purpose.