Below are brief descriptions of representative Catalyze Collaboration! sessions from the over 300 sessions performed to date in over 30 countries.  Workshops vary from 1/2 to 2 days and have included from 10 to 350 people.  

Benefits are often difficult to measure because workshops usually take place at the outset of a change program.   The core benefit of each example below is:  Total team alignment on a brilliant new strategy.   Each different but each a powerful experience that brought results.

Benefits - dollar

Use Cases:

  1. Insurance Company I.T. Project Initiation
  2. Toy and Game Company – Transformation and Global Alignment
  3. Homeland Security in Less-Developed Countries
  4. Chemical Company Supply Chain Optimization
  5. Software Company Process Change and TQM Program
  6. Corporate Facilities Management
  7. Government decentralization


  1. Insight into the concerns of clients and other stakeholders
  2. Agreement on process weaknesses and setting visions for change
  3. Innovative, jointly owned strategies
  4. Team alignment and commitment to execute
  5. Resistance to change eliminated
  6. Quality improved
  7. Financial savings

1. Insurance Company I.T. Project Initiation

Insurance company cubicles


The HR leader in a mid-sized insurance company was concerned as I.T was about to start a re-write of their claims system.  It would be a massive project and affect 80% of employees and all of their customers.  The last time this system had been touched it caused an avalanche of client complaints, stressed workers to the point that many quit. It was delivered at three times the cost estimate and eight months late.  They needed a lot of things, but the first was a big bump in collaboration skills.

The work and feedback

The Catalyze Collaboration! workshop included IT, Users and executives.  Early on, they took advantage of the open forum in small, mixed groups to vent their frustrations.  Then they started developing a degree of mutual understanding as they analyzed the problems in the current operation and constructed their vision for the future.  The path forward focused on avoiding a recurrence of the problems encountered with the previous system implementation and went on to devise ways to circumvent new obstacles that had arisen.  By the end of the workshop, participants were very conscious they were all in the same boat.  They had improved relationships between groups and most importantly, by visualizing their ideal operation and path forward, they had established a contract among the three parties that was unequivocal.

Net result and benefits

The visual contract proved to be an asset and contributed to the new system going in close to on time and budget.  The relationships between IT and users increased significantly and contributed to improved functioning of their systems steering committee.

More on I.T. projects is available in the ebook Leading from the Middle (pg 14).


2. Toy and Games Company Transformation and Global Alignment

Toys and games


The Asia-Pacific division of an international toy and game company was going through a transformation process and had recently completed a workforce consolidation.  Staff morale was a sensitive issue as the senior management team (SMT) began planning for the next phase of change, globalization.

The SMT and their direct reports wanted to engage employees in a collaboration to co-create their future.  They chose a Catalyze Collaboration! workshop using Metaphor Mapping because they saw it as the best tool for the task.  They were confident that their multi-cultural team would be invigorated by its visual symbols and metaphors and gain the imaginative thinking and the good communication they needed.

The work and feedback

A two day Mapping session for 70 people fully achieved management’s goals as they agreed on the weaknesses in their current operation, a vision of an ideal operations process and a strategy to make the changes and align with the corporate vision.  The approach was so successful that by the end of the session, the SMT decided each member would cascade the same type workshop to their respective teams.  Those highly participative sessions involved 120 additional people and took place two months later.  The global strategy and the SMT’s high level vision for the region were introduced and the departmental teams constructed detailed maps of how their respective functions would change to fit into the regional and corporate visions.

Net result and benefits

The Mapping workshops made a positive impact on morale while achieving their alignment goals. But, they did far more than what was anticipated… While SMT members were building their vision and strategy maps, they conceived and agreed structural change in “real-time”.  While a number of departments realized there were ways they could improve operations, the QA and Engineering groups found such extensive synergies that they decided to merge their units and regain capabilities lost during the downsizing phase.

The bottom line financial return on the sessions is not available but is forecast at many times the session costs.  Feedback from both management and other participants was glowing.


3. Homeland Security in Less-Developed Countries

Developing country national security


Catalyze Collaboration! was used to facilitate building cross function teams in Morocco, Jordan, Serbia, Moldova, Lebanon, Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal and Albania.  The goals of the national governments and international agencies sponsoring the work were to reduce the risk of incidents and mitigate any impact from toxic materials such as chemicals, biologic, radiological or nuclear materials.  They needed government agencies, universities, businesses and community leaders to coordinate together and establish new processes and innovative approaches to increase security.   Success could be achieved only with unprecedented levels of communication and cooperation among groups that seldom worked together.  They needed each group to adopt their goals as their own, commit to the initial set up of processes and give it ongoing focus.

The work and feedback

Metaphor Mapping workshops of approximately 20 people each initiated team formation and achieved agreement on an array of issues including identification and assessment of risks,  strategies to prevent and respond, new public safety organization structures, operations process design and control.  Participants included decision makers,  middle managers,  senior military and intelligence officers and subject matter specialists. Open and constructive dialog led to generation of agreed maps and written strategies.   In spite of not having worked closely together before,  groups were energized, demonstrated mutual respect and stated a desire to continue to work together in the interests of the citizenry.  Working languages included English, French, Serbian, Russian and Arabic.  Because Metaphor Mapping is a visual method, the participants could work in local languages and the need for interpreters was minimal.

Participants’ Comments:
“It makes you change your own picture of how things work”
“It would have been good to do this before we argued so much about direction last year”
“A picture is worth a thousand words and a map is worth a million!”
“We’ve done many different exercises, but this was the most interactive”
“Mapping is hard work, even if it looks playful”
“This is stretching for your mind”
“The best part of the strategy session was the mapping.  Building the little maps made everybody think and talk.”

Sponsors’ Comments:
 “If you want people to get it and feel different, do Mapping. It worked for all of us!” (Aide to a government Minister)
“This is an effective tool.  We’ll use it in other planning situations.” (Colonel, Internal Security)
“I will apply this immediately in incident preparation exercises” (Head of transportation safety management)

Net result and benefit

It’s far too early to claim that overall goals will be achieved.  However, national team building started effectively as visibly shown by a constructive interaction of team members, initiation of planning and commitment to establish measures and controls.  Maps and written narratives documented the team’s work and were reviewed by senior government officials and accepted as the foundation for new communications and operations structures.


4. Chemical Company – Trans-Atlantic Supply Chain Optimization

Chemical plant 1


The corporate supply chain manager of a petrochemicals company was concerned that transatlantic bulk materials handling was not operating at a high quality standard. A fragmented, product-oriented approach was being taken and there was a lack of understanding of equipment requirements. Customer service was erratic and the number of tank containers had grown more than 300 percent in the past two years.

He believed the total costs not visible and there was an exposure to safety incidents since there was no overall management/ownership for the function. While U.S.-Europe cooperation had been adequate on an operating level, relations were cooler on the planning and managerial level. A new level of teamwork was needed.

The work and feedback

There were three types of stakeholders.

  • The U.S. logistics specialists and managers were fully knowledge­able in the technical aspects of bulk cargo shipment but saw their main duties as ending when ships left port.
  • European logistics specialists knew their local situations but had avoided taking the time to get to know the people and problems on the U.S. side. Essential information often arrived after the material.
  • The supply chain improvement project leader had some back­ground in transatlantic issues and had been scheduled to look into the problem, but he was now being transferred to a new function. His replacement needed to meet the players and gain a firsthand understanding of the situation.

A Catalyze Collaboration! approach was selected for a 15 person workshop.  It was chosen because the participants needed a view of the whole situation, had to keep focused on the problem, and had to avoid discussion diversions into other areas. Its teambuilding characteristics were also a major consideration.

Net result and benefits

The corporate and regional representatives from both sides of the Atlantic formed into a cohesive unit with mutual esteem and personal appreciation by the end of the session. Together they specified a new organization responsible for cost-effective global transport of bulk materials. Specifically, they agreed to plans for

  • Improved customer service through better equipment availability, on-time delivery, and communications
  • Improved control through a centralized system for data access, identifying technical expertise, and minimizing equipment needs
  • Reducing total expense by $5M/year.

Because of the broad participation at the workshop, the corporate and regional representatives immediately achieved senior management approval for the resources and systems development expenses needed to make the recommended changes.


5. Software Company – I.T. Process Change and TQM Program

Digital symbol


Senior management at a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based software company decided they had been burned enough by unreliable systems and network infrastructure, late projects, unresponsive staff and high cost I.T. They made it known they wanted a higher quality operation and change of attitude. This didn’t sit well with the I.T. staff which felt over-worked, un-supported by management, laboring under vague priorities and badgered by excessively demanding and unappreciative users.  People worked hard but discipline and collaboration were missing.

The work and feedback

The I.T. Director decided to first “put out the fire” and then install an overall TQM program to prevent a recurrence.  He threw the ball to his process engineering group who started by convening his direct reports and himself for a Catalyze Collaboration! session.  They mapped their view of the client hot-spots and problems with internal relationships, communications and attitudes at their root.  Over an intense three-week period, each functional area then mapped in detail the problems in their area. The top 25 managers came together to validate their subordinates work, consolidate it into a single map, set priorities and create a vision of how they wanted to operate within 6 months.  The managers all signed the vision map to show their solidarity.  They then developed strategy maps for realigning functions, coordinating globally, internal control systems and roll out of a full TQM system.  The vision map was later presented to the entire organization and each group tasked to build their own vision map consistent with the overall vision and strategy map..

Net Result and Benefits

Involving 60-70% of the IT staff in high-energy workshops drove fast results in high-profile areas while management prepared the foundation for a sustained TQM program.  Within a month of the first Mapping session, users were commenting that their service calls were answered quicker and more effectively and I.T. attitudes were becoming more positive.  Within four months, the I.T. department’s measures of client satisfaction were up and they were operating in a well-controlled environment with:

  • Globally agreed priorities
  • Mechanisms to ensure responsiveness to clients
  • Clear roles, responsibilities and measures
  • A vigorous continuous improvement program following the PDCA cycle and guided by Voice of Customer interviews. More than a dozen improvement efforts under way simultaneously over the following year. Virtually every person could describe the goals of l.T., their own responsibilities and measures and displayed a constructive attitude.

While a net financial impact was not estimated, several large investments were avoided as priorities were aligned and global operations more effectively coordinated.


6. Corporate Facilities Management – Cost Reduction and Role Change

Corporate facilities


The new director of corporate facilities management at a large conglomerate company was instructed by senior management to make major cost reductions.  Site managers had historically operated under the principle that “the tenant is king.” They provided services and facilities as requested and paid by internal charges to the tenants. The new director’s task was to understand the implications of the new cost reduction requirement, help the organization internalize it, and achieve the necessary savings while maintaining good tenant relations.

There were two types of stakeholders.

  • Tenants felt that, because they paid rent through internal charges, they had the right to make all key decisions about their facilities and services. Offices and facilities were generally only a small part of their total cost picture and they thought that a very comfortable work environment was a good means of achieving worker loyalty.
  • The 12 major site facility managers had always been measured on the degree of customer satisfaction and avoided confrontation. They were not clear what the new corporate directive meant to them and, therefore, felt unable to act on it.

The work and feedback

The director was concerned that the facilities organization historically had been very hierarchy conscious and she wanted her 12 key staff members to take the lead in addressing this issue. Because it was so important, she also wanted to be involved, but she was concerned that her presence would make the key staff members hesitant to speak their minds or might encourage them to delegate decisions back to her.

She chose to convene a two-day Catalyze Collaboration! workshop because it taught critical skills and created an environment where the group members could talk about new ideas without relying on her for answers and feeling that they shouldn’t challenge her.

Net result and benefits

The role change had been very unsettling for the site managers, but the mapping helped them deal with their concerns and construct a new operating mode and a transition plan. They started by building maps of their current operation. The paradigm of tenant supremacy quickly became clear but some weaknesses and inefficiencies also became evident. As the site managers realized that there probably was a better way to operate the facilities function, they became more motivated to let go of the cozy relationships that characterized their present state. They saw that, by taking on greater responsibilities and confronting some tenants, they could save the company a lot of money.

In their “ideal state” maps, the group showed an organization based on a new para­digm which reduced site autonomy. They then were able to identify a number of opportunities for consolidating facilities, hiring lower-cost contract operators, and restructuring their own assignments. Then they developed an action plan to communicate the new paradigm to facilities staff and tenants and to put in motion the cost-saving measures.

Several million dollars per year were realized from these measures. Tenants have not been uniformly happy about losing their autonomy, but they have accepted the new paradigm and day-to-day relationships have not been impaired.


7. Government Decentralization Workshop

Victoria Falls


The Government of Zambia and the World Bank sought a plan to reduce the government’s role in the economy from 60% to 35% of GNP and launched Zambian Public Sector Management Reform Programme.  The government needed broad national involvement and commitment to ensure that whatever the strategy, it could be implemented with full support of all economic sectors and regions without causing economic or social upheaval.  

The work and feedback

A series of pre-meetings with permanent secretaries and their staffs led to definition of 80 stakeholder attendees for a special three day Catalyze Collaboration!  workshop.  Attendees were invited from all sectors of the government and economy, including State, Military, Treasury, private sector, provincial administration, tribal chiefs, NGOs, AID groups, IMF and World Bank.  Mixed sub-groups mapped the current structure of the national economy on first day and gained agreement on weaknesses and opportunities.  On the second day, a similar exercise resulted in an agreed vision for how the economy would operate at 35% government participation.  Thought leadership surprisingly came from the military and tribal chiefs.  The President privately reviewed the findings at end of day two.

Net result and benefits

Day three resulted in the development of fully agreed actions and timetable for the transition.  It included:

  1. How the government would decentralize authority and sell businesses
  2. How planning, budgeting, and financial control would be improved
  3. How to improve personnel performance and redesign the reward system
  4. A layoff policy

Within a month of completion, the World Bank released $160M in funds to support the transition.