Generating the Space that Enables People to Engage

If you want people to actively engage with and shape a change initiative, you have to create an environment that enables them to do so.

If you want a group of people to work as a generative aligned eco-system (e.g. Team, Project, Community, Company, Organisation), you have to enable them to shape their working environment together.

“How can we accelerate the process of connecting at a deep meaningful level, to enable us to focus on our business questions more quickly and effectively?”
… was the client challenge at the start of a Post-Merger Integration process in 2002 that encouraged me to begin developing cultureQs.

At first glance, the Question may appear rather straightforward – “Let’s get to know each other better to help us find easier ways to cooperate.” Closer examination however, indicates the depth, breadth and appeal of the Question. The client was a vastly experienced Senior Vice-President of a global engineering corporation who had worked in high-pressure environments around the world for over 20 years. He’d experienced the real business challenges first hand and was keen to address the relational complexity at the core of our interactions.

Deep meaningful interaction requires:

While it would be stretching credibility to claim that a friendly workplace automatically leads to better business results, it is realistic to highlight a couple of no-brainers related to the impact of engagement on business results:

  1. When people fully engage (engagement is intrinsic) with each other with their work, they will go the “extra mile” and this will impact results positively.
  2. When people engage, they will actively contribute to developing and implementing effective strategies and business processes.
  3. People need a reason to engage (i.e. we can never assume or expect engagement).
  4. People need to feel valued in order to engage.
  5. People need to trust in order to feel able to bring their whole self into the situation.
  6. There is always untapped potential in any group.

If a group can uncover and tap into potential while focusing on their initiative, results will improve. Assuming the group contains people with the appropriate skills and knowledge, how could they not?
The impact of engagement on business results cannot be meaningfully measured separately from other influencers.

Our complex world is defined by relationships … relationships with one another and our environment. It’s impossible to see all or even most of the interrelated influencers of our interactions with one another: the mesh is far too complex. Each individual, each unit, each interaction contains so many intermeshed layers that classical data analysis is pointless. The strongest influencer of reaction is intuition. This needs space.

In Corporations and Organisations everywhere, the challenge of getting people – teams and groups aligned with each other and the business is ever-present … and a prerequisite for leveraging potential and using resources effectively.
This is the challenge that cultureQs addresses.

cultureQs is a Change and Integration Accelerator that that uses powerful questions to inspire participants to reflect on the foundations of their beliefs, attitudes and behaviours.
While engaging in deep meaningful conversations, people connect quickly, enabling the invisible borders that hinder collaboration to fall away.
Wasteful conflict is reduced; people (re-)focus on the personal and professional questions that matter; innovative potential is released and performance is enhanced.

While it may seem that cultureQs is about the Questions, this is misleading. It is about the group interaction in a dialogic space using the Powerful Questions to initiate conversations, while focused on a real business challenge. By simply working with the natural complexity in the system, it opens the dialogic space that opens the conversations.

As with any powerful approach, the secret to the success of an initiative that uses cultureQs is not in the tool itself, rather in (a) how it is embedded into a process focused on achieving the desired results, and (b) the quality of facilitation.

When thoughtfully embedded into a process, cultureQs enables clients to build a solid generative collaborative platform in just one day – far more quickly, intensively and effectively than conventional approaches.

Embedding cultureQs into an Engagement Process

The process in a nutshell …

Phase 0: The Need
Consultations and conversations to ascertain the current situation, history, needs, intentions, purpose, challenges, key people and any other relevant information to enable designing a process to meet client needs. The ‘Business Question’ is formulated with the client. The client owns the Question.

Phase 1: Invitation
An Invitation is only an invitation if perceived to be genuine. People need to sense an invitation to actively engage with any change or integration initiative, and this invitation must come from the leadership.

Phase 2: Focus and Orientation
The critical introductory phase of any intervention that uses cultureQs includes: the client invitation, the Business Question, the invitation to participate, clarification of purpose and process.

Phase 3: Alignment
Alignment occurs while groups are using cultureQs.
(i) The group’s engagement with the Questions with each other … Meaningful Conversations (‘playing’ cultureQs).
(ii) Sense-making – a skilled facilitator enables the group to bring all their insights to the surface. Perspectives expand. Change is already occurring, consciously or otherwise. Shift happens. The group realigns towards the Core Business Question.

Phase 4: Engagement
Using the insights from the alignment phase and with a focus on their Core Business Question, the group defines how it wants to work together. They own their process and engage with it. Agreements are documented and explicit commitment is encouraged.

Phase 5: DOing
With the foundation of their alignment and engagement work, groups and teams return to their everyday working environment … engaging with one another and their work far more productively. Quality Conversations take the place of ‘discussions’ … “Wasteful conflict is reduced; people (re-)focus on the personal and professional questions that matter; innovative potential is released and performance is enhanced.”

A classic intervention in which cultureQs is embedded, consists of phases two, three and four.
The time required for phases 2 and 3 is approximately 3 hours.
Phase 4 generally takes 2 to 4 hours depending on the complexity of the situation, the group and the starting point.


In less than one day, the group has connected at a deep meaningful level, is aligned, and has enabled themselves to commit to engage together on their initiative or project … working with the inherent complexity.

Examples of projects where this approach has been successfully used:

If you want people to engage, focus, trust them, and give them space to work.

You can download this blog as a pdf here: Generating the Space that Enables People to Engage