Making Connections

We partner with you to develop a culture of connection; this results in excellence in the aspects of your work that hinge on communication, collaboration and teamwork. This results in excellence in communication, collaboration and teamwork across your organization, and with your partners.

Services and projects related to our work in building your culture of connection include:

Meeting Support Services – We make your meetings work

Cross Organization Conversations

International Communication and Collaboration

Managing virtual connections to streamline the Interview Process

Meeting Ready Offices / Meeting Ready Staff

Timezone friendly training & support from our office in Vienna

Case Study: Building the Framework for a Lasting Peace – a Cross Organization Conversation

Meeting Support Services

We are keenly aware of how important it is that you get your meetings right and we have years of experience in helping to make that happen.

To meet this need we provide a full suite of Meeting Support Services. In addition to your staff and governance team, Meeting Supportive Services can be leveraged strategically to forge stronger connections with your key partners.

Meeting Formats include:

Meetings, presentations, discussions, meetings that occur mostly “in the room” (think Board Meetings), interviews, readings, concerts, large conferences including multi-day events, meetings with international connections, keynote speeches, meetings in which participants share and collaborate on documents such as working groups

The Tools we deploy include:

Meeting Solutions and Initiatives that we provide include:

  • Cross Organization Conversations
  • Interviews with candidates and/or search committee members joining from around the world
  • Developing Meeting Ready Offices & Staff
  • Conference room design and upgrades
  • Insuring that you have affordable, appropriate, effective gear

Facilitating effective remote connections to meeting is, of course, a hot topic these days and is transforming the way we all work. We have extensive experience with making these connections successful, whether across  town or across time zones.

We understand the importance of finding the sweet spot for virtual connections within the culture of how you and your staff work, meet and share. There is still a place for being in the room, to sharing full days and meals. And there is a tremendous value in having your country rep in Nigeria join the meeting of your leadership team; and skip the flight, the hotels and the unplanned and unscheduled disruption of their work.

We will also work with you to ensure that the suite of applications and technologies you deploy are the right fit for your organizational culture and needs.

We can work with you to identify the right balance between virtual and in person meetings, and to integrate virtual connections where they make sense.

LTA has an office in Vienna, offering time zone friendly training and support for your staff in the field in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and six hours closer to Asia.

We have been immersed in this craft at the American Friends Service Committee for the past 9 years and in 2012 we were asked to formally created the Meeting Support Services (MSS) project at the AFSC. Our team has taken on 90% of the work related to meeting support. In doing this we have allowed the Program staff to stay focused on their work in the field, and have shifted the burden of meeting support away from the core IT team.

We work closely with the entire AFSC Staff, Board, and key Committees to sharpen their vision, develop necessary skills, and prepare for and deliver successful meetings.

Cross Organization Conversations

Issues involving the direction and strategy of your entire organization have a level of importance and complexity where they are often both of timely interest to all staff members, and require the input of diverse voices. Cross Organization Conversations are designed to address these kinds of topics in a way that is effective, inclusive and economical – delivering sharp, clear key strategies and messages and ensuring buy-in from your stakeholders.

Using the successful method we have developed for holding this kind of Conversation, we have worked with our clients to:

  • Identify key strategic goals to guide program planning and the direction of new initiatives
  • Reveal linkages between existing program work and opportunities for fruitful collaboration
  • Hone in on key messages and themes for outreach and fundraising and/ or to structure major events

LTA can work with you to envision the dynamics then hammer out the logistics.

Through this work, we have found that Cross Organization Conversations provide an invaluable source of information to inform strategic decisions in way that reflects and embodies work being done on the ground, the direction in which staff members and other key stakeholders wish to move, and develop effective messaging to engage with partners and stakeholders.

Participating in the small-group sessions that make up the Conversation enables staff members to have real input in decisions that affect their work and in doing so, creates a sense of buy-in and esprit. At the same time,  they provide  a valuable way to develop and hone your organizational brand.

Through our experience we have developed a set of best practices that ensure your Conversation is both effective and enjoyable for all involved.

We can guide you throughout all aspects of this process. As well as providing technical and logistical support we bring a team with insight into facets of what can be a complex undertaking, including:

  • Recruiting and scheduling participants into session
  • Training and orienting effective facilitators in this specific process
  • Extracting and analyzing themes that emerge and their relevance for your work

For an example see Projects: Building a Framework for a Lasting Peace

International Communications and Collaboration

Organizations that span countries, continents and time zones face a particular set of challenges; technical, cultural, and temporal.

International Connections

Lighthouse technology Associates is experienced in facilitating international communications and collaboration and we can offer support in implementing effective strategies including:

  • Offering routine testing and troubleshooting for staff who might have tenuous connections, including determining and testing alternatives ahead of scheduled conferences or meetings
  • Offering solutions that make it possible to dial participants into a meeting via their land-line or mobile phone. Training staff to use these features, for example to connect participants with a weak internet connection but relatively reliable local phone service. Note this can also be used to shift the cost of a call from the caller to your central office.
  • Helping Staff stay on top of timezone changes
    • We provide our clients with twice a year alerts about changes in daylight savings around the world
    • Note that Europe switches over one week ahead of the US, Arizona and Hawaii don’t change, and that all around the world you will find anomalies
  • Training staff to use Skype effectively as a supplemental technology

International Inclusion

In addition to technological solutions we can advise you in implementing practices which promote full inclusion of international staff.

It is easy for an organization with headquarters in the US or Europe to become “centric” around your location, your time of day, your holidays.

We’ve developed effective ways to integrate staff around the world and create an environment and organizational culture that is conducive to collaboration across the entire organization – especially techniques for holding meetings that deploy technology and extend over time zones.

For example we’ve developed a successful protocol for holding essential meetings in two sessions, providing participants access to a convenient session, including live Q & A,  no matter where they are around the world.

In addition LTA enhances the standard documentation and training suite by offering plain-language documents and a glossary of common technical terms for ESL staff.

These efforts send a clear message to international staff that they are valued members of your organization. Effectively including international staff in your work creates possibilities to forge strong working relationships across regions and opens doors to more organization-wide programmatic work.

Managing virtual connections to streamline the Interview Process

Introducing audio and video conferencing to the interview process can help streamline the logistics and lead to significant savings, while still providing the ‘in the room’ feel and giving your search committee solid ground to make their selection. Candidates, committee members, or a mix of both can join an interview remotely.

Still, no matter how you choose to conduct the interview process, confidentiality for the candidates, secure and timed access to each session, and providing a level playing field all remain key considerations. We bring knowledge and experience in both the sensitivities around holding interviews, and the techniques required to make the process go smoothly.

For example, we can work with you during the interview process to:

Control timing and access: If your Audio Conference application provides a Dial Out option that allows you to dial a participant into a call yourself, this can allow you to be in control of exactly when a remote participant joins their interview call. This prevents candidates from accidentally interrupting other sessions and allows you to control the flow during a day of interviews. If you do not have this technology in place we can work with your to introduce it and use it effectively.

Add a personal component to remote interviews:  If the candidate is in a room with members of the committee and other committee members join via video conference, it is standard practice the use a ‘room camera’ that allows the virtual participants to see the room, the candidate, and their colleagues in the room. In this case we have found that it can be very helpful to add an additional ‘candidate cam’, providing a close-up view of the candidate. This set-up allows committee members attending remotely to experience the candidates’ reactions in much the same way as their colleagues in the room.

Meeting Ready Offices/Meeting Ready Staff – intro

Meeting Ready Offices

The Libyan Delegation meets with AFSC staff in the meeting-ready Rufus Jones Room.

The Libyan Delegation meets with AFSC staff in the meeting-ready Rufus Jones Room.

Well designed meeting spaces that are ready when you need them are critical to holding effective meetings, and therefore vital to your organization’s work.

Enabling staff to use your intranet to directly schedule the appropriate spaces, resources and support they need for their meetings will enhance their confidence in feeling meeting ready and make it possible to coordinate meetings more efficiently – both in your main office and in satellite offices across your organization.

We can work with you get all offices within your organization meeting ready, including the home offices of key staff.

Meeting Ready Offices require Meeting Ready Staff.

Some staff will simply need to learn to join and participate in meetings.  We can work with them to quickly get them up to speed on the basics of specific platforms, and offer small group or individual training and/ or refresher sessions on as as-needed basis.

We provide simple hands-on orientations and access to straightforward training materials and sessions for all staff.

Some staff members will also want to be able to organize and host their own meetings, deliver presentations, manage their audio, web or video conferences independently, or even organize and facilitate a Cross Organizational Conversation.

For staff members seeking deeper and more robust knowledge and experience in using meeting technologies we support, we offer in-depth training sessions and ongoing support at the appropriate level.

At the AFSC, such staff members have become valuable partners in testing new technologies and exploring new and innovative uses for the technologies we deploy.

For a full discussion of our Meeting Ready Offices / Meeting Ready Staff work, click here.

Timezone friendly training & support from our office in Vienna

LTA has an office in Vienna which works closely with staff working in Africa, Europe, the Middle East – and is six hours closer to staff in Asia. This allows us to build strong partnerships with those teams.

We also have an English as a Second Language expert on our team who has helped us to develop plain language versions of key documentation for ESL staff, and a glossary explaining commonly used technical terms.

Building a Framework for a Lasting Peace I

The Lighthouse team contributed to the vision, and provided technical and logistical leadership, and support for the Building the Framework for a Lasting Peace Project at the American Friends Service Committee.

We refer to this as a Cross Organization Conversation.

This project used the Star Cafe, AFSC’s intranet to publish the current draft of the Framework; a Star Cafe sign up list to help organize participants; a series of Small Group video conferences to discuss the Framework and to gain insight and buy-in from the staff; and extracting and summarizing key points and recommendations to capture the major ideas and themes that came forward.

Throughout the project we worked closely with Mary Zerkel, Director of Praxis/ Economic Justice and Leader of the AFSC’s Wage Peace Program, and Peter Lems, Program Officer for Integration and Impact, to first envision the dynamics and then address the logistics or designing a practical project yielding tangible results.

This included both designing and formalizing a set of steps for holding effective Cross Organizational Conversations, and developing a facilitator training protocol, which has proved effective for preparing excellent facilitators for a wide range of projects, such as Google Hangouts On Air.

“Framework” was a broad success; drew praise from Shan Cretin, the General Secretary at the AFSC; and culminated in a fishbowl small group session at a Board Program Committee Meeting (Mary & Peter facilitating from Chicago) that helped energize the AFSC Board around the project. “Framework” was a major building block for a new Strategic Plan.  LTA’s leadership and work played a central and pivotal part in this success.

For more background on this Project, see this in our eJournal.