The HR Juggler

Day 44: Exhibition

Posted on: January 13, 2013


All of these guest posts have been very different throughout the series. Today’s is no exception to that and is written by Sandy Wilkie, also known as @LizardVanilla.


I have been entertained and inspired by the quality of guest blogs assembled by Alison through her HR Advent Blog feature on Twitter. It is clear that 2012 has been a personal and professional journey for many HR practitioners; and 2013 offers the promise of further progress on our journey with new stories to be written through our ideas, actions and deeds.

Grateful to be given the opportunity to contribute a piece, I wanted to reflect the journey and stories theme by using the technique of ‘Metasaga’. This was developed by Kate Coutts, a headteacher from the Shetland Islands. She defines it as follows:

“Metasaga is a journey through the culture, heritage and physical landscape. It allows leaders at all levels to engage in deep self- reflection by exploring their environment. It utilises a strengths-based, whole system approach to evaluate how they operate as leaders and the performance of the organisation they lead. It makes leaders at all levels reframe their thinking using metaphor, narrative, tradition and artefacts found in their own physical environment. It combines the business techniques of non-directive coaching, dialogue and appreciative inquiry with the traditional storytelling teaching of our culture,be that the Norse saga or Gaelic ‘sgeul’.”

As an OD technique, Metasaga involves defining a trail, path or journey along which are specific physical artefacts. The journey guide then invites their fellow travellers to stop at each artefact, pause, observe, interpret and then respond to a question on a related organisational theme to encourage deep reflection and learning.

Undertaking such a physical journey may well be a possible activity for a future HR Tweetup in 2013. In lieu of this, I decided to trace a route around 5 artefacts on display within the wonderful Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery (@KelvingroveArt) in the west-end of Glasgow. So as your virtual festive guide, I invite you to join this short visual journey.

Exhibit One

sandy 1 

Temple Wood artefacts; Beaker Vessel, 3 arrowheads & scraper from Cist Burial, 2500-1500 BC, Temple Wood, Kilmartin Glen, Argyll.

Every organisational culture (and sub-culture) has relics, artefacts and stories deeply embedded within. It is possible to change and shift the culture, but this needs to be approached through understanding the past through techniques like Appreciative Inquiry. If we acknowledge by understanding our organisational history, we can map the present cultural landscape and start to move towards a future desired state.

 Q1, CULTURE:  Can you recognise the artefacts & stories within your own organisation; can you create a current-state cultural map as the baseline towards defining a desired future-state?


Exhibit Two

 sandy 2

Phantom, Oil on canvas, Alison Watt, 2007 (influenced by C17th Spanish artist Zurberán)

It is essential to draw employees into the organisational strategy, values and direction. They need to feel part of a workplace community, need to feel connected. And it needs to be a genuine two-way relationship built on shared beliefs and trust. They need the comfort, confidence and stretch that comes from effective leadership. And if the conditions and culture are right, this will give them identity, purpose, a voice, reassurance, resilience and a sense of well-being.

Q2, ENGAGEMENT: What does your organisation do that engages and envelops your employees with ‘sculptural folds of clothing’ so that they can supported and empowered to be their very best?


Exhibit Three

sandy 3 

The Heads, an installation designed by Sophie Cave, Event Communications; manufactured in fibreglass by MDM of London (2006)

Leadership is a complex, multifaceted art; it can be considered as distinct from Management which is often drawn from scientific principles. Leaders need to be engaging followers, onlookers and other stakeholders. But effective leadership engagement starts from the ethics & values within. Effective leadership that creates heathy organisational cultures need to be authentic, adaptive, creative, strategic and transparent.

Q3, LEADERSHIP: How truly open and empowering are the leaders within your organisation; do they avoid hidden agendas and actively role model a leadership style that is not two-faced or shadow in nature?


Exhibits Four & Five

Sandy 4 Sandy 5 

Place de l’Institut, Paris / View from a Window – City Scene,  Oil on plywood, back-to-back paintings by Anne Redpath, c.1949

In developing a deep understanding of organisations, it is important to look beyond the obvious, behind the public/political facade, see the real opportunities for innovation and change. Often the unintended consequences of creativity (the reverse of the picture) can be more interesting than what is presented at first (on the front). Applying less-than-obvious or lateral solutions to real people & process issues can have real impact on organisational effectiveness.

Q4, CREATIVITY: Where does the creativity within your own team or organisation get nurtured; which of your leaders are allowing talented employees the space, time and permission to experiment as their contribution to the future performance & sustainability of the organisation?

I hope you have enjoyed this short taster of Metasaga. Stop a while, make time to ponder the questions. Then go forth in 2013, create HR influence and make a real difference to individuals, teams and organisations. Be the change you seek to make happen; create a positive workplace culture for the future.

A Guid New Year…


5 Responses to "Day 44: Exhibition"

These blogs really keep giving on all levels. Today, something new for me to explore, thank you so much.

I’m liking this – a lot! Thanks – Doug.

Bri;lliant, fresh ways of looking at things that provide new insights – thank you

Reblogged this on lizardvanilla and commented:
Forgot I’d done this piece on Metasaga in late 2012 😉

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