Thursday, July 15, 2004

Abandonment retreat

Business Times p.B1
Thursday, July 15, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Abandonment retreat

WHENEVER I talk about Abandonment Retreat (AR), I notice that people get uncomfortable. I read emotions of either sadness, panic, anxiety, shock, aghast, confusion, disgust, fear, caution, being overwhelmed, bored, surprised, suspicion, or even mischief or guilt suddenly cover their face. No way, Jose!

Understandably because doing so represents a break in tradition. Traditions are usually etched in memory and in the heart. I am sure that you still have tons of pictures chronicling your life from when you were born to your latest experience. They are neatly tucked into photo albums collecting dust in the living room or forgotten in your closets together with other memorabilia. When you are gone, who will look at them? Yet, you cling to them and wouldn’t even think of getting rid of them.

How many pieces of clothing, shoessesses and many others, do you have that you don’t anymore use? It’s time for general cleaning or, as in a new business parlance, an Abandonment Retreat.

In managing change, concentration is given to the transition—that awkward gap between the now and then, the present and the future, the old and the new, the last one and the next, the here and there, the letting go and the coming to terms—because it is considered crucial to the success of any new initiative.

Let us focus on the now first and do an Abandonment Retreat. Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute reminds, “You want to take action every day, not sit around waiting for something to happen.”

Shiela Campbell and Merianne Liteman, authors of Retreats that Work, started the idea of ARs in the workplace. They emphasize the one important requirement before going into an AR is that your organization needs to be very clear about your strategic intent and direction, i.e., your organization vision, mission, values and goals (VMVG). It is also critical the AR participants are clear about this VMVG to guide them which way your organization is heading and more importantly which direction it is renouncing. This will enable all participants to march to the same beat, row to the same direction. “This important discussion is key because it helps clarify the activities that will really get the organization where it’s going and those that are marginal.”

In an AR, participants examine processes, not people. They decide where a process contributes to the achievement of your VMVG and adds value to your customers and your organization. If you look purposefully around your work station, you will see a lot of materials, tools, equipment, supplies, etc. that are part of a process that have already served their useful time. These items occupy a lot of expensive real estate and they clutter your space and your mind. Most often they impede your creativity. It will be a waste not to use these items; hence, you stick to the old system and you waste more.

Take your hiring process as an example. This comprises defining competencies and results expected of that particular job, selecting mode and channel of making known your job opening, initial screening, application forms, interviews, shortlisting, selection, hiring on probationary status, orientation, training and regularization.

There is no law that prevents you from hiring your own friends, family and relatives or their friends, family and relatives, too. However, if they are not qualified and don’t have the proper motivation, it could be costly to be hiring, training and eventually keeping or firing them.

Cut the vicious cycle by examining your entire hiring process and philosophy with the intent of abandoning those areas that are not serving your VMVG well.

Karen Beckwith, vice president of Ceridian Corp., advises, “Just because you made the choice once doesn’t mean you have to live with it forever.”

(Moje Ramos-Aquino, the president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp., facilitates organization and human resources development initiatives. Please email her your feedback at

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