Moving up the Clamshell Model:
History of MG Taylor's Central Florida Venture
James B. Smethurst
The Clamshell model referred to in
this article, addresses various levels of Transition Management from supporting
events through creating ValueWebs™. The model was developed in Spring
of 1996 by a small MG Taylor team charged to define levels of "fitness"
in our work.
There are places, we've all run across them, that seem to have a life
of their own. Strange things occur in the human world around them, years
or even centuries pass, the intent of the original users is forgotten,
but the spaces themselves seem determined to follow their own destiny.
In the history of MG Taylor Corporation, it is the Orlando Management
Center that is emerging as this kind of magical space. After years of
dissociation from the MG Taylor network, the OMC now seems to be generating
a driving new force for the future of MG Taylor.
Built in 1985, the OMC is among the older generation of MG Taylor Management
Center® Environments. In its day, it was a flagship Center. It boasts
the first generation of articulating WorkWall. Forty-five participants
can sit comfortably in the Radiant Room, and through various arrangements
of folding walls and seating, the Radiant Room can achieve almost any
"feel" one could want--tight and focused, relaxed and light,
or even theatrical.
This Center was born before many of the trademarks of MG Taylor's current
WorkFurniture system were designed. There are no curved WorkWall
units . None of the furniture rolls like today's FoundationSeries
system does. Yet the OMC is distinctly MG Taylor, and even today, twelve
years after its construction, first-time visitors have been known to exclaim
that this center is "decades ahead of its time!"
Originally designed for the Acacia Group as one of five Management Center
environments built nationwide, the OMC began its life designing insurance
solutions for Acacia Group and its clients. Within a few years, MG Taylor
itself took over the operation of the center, and worked with it own clients
on projects ranging from health care to commerce to the Orlando, City
of Light Project whose highlight was a series of nine one-day DesignShop
events with nine separate participant groups of about 50 people each.
When MG Taylor left the center, the owner of the building in which the
OMC lives, CNL Group, happily took over the space. For six years CNL has
been using the OMC for meetings, workshops, training, presentations, negotiations
and any number of other activities.
That is the brief history of the OMC itself. As a history, it is not
extraordinary. It has been operated by three separate companies using
three different philosophies about work and work processes. It is only
when we introduce the human element that the intrigue begins to emerge.
Bryan Coffman, who ran the OMC while it was operated by MG Taylor, elected
to stay in Orlando when MG Taylor moved on to other projects. He worked
for CNL itself until the summer of 1996, when he rejoined MG Taylor to
develop its website and the Journal of Transition Management. As you have
no doubt noticed, this project turned out to be a pretty hefty one. Once
the scope and scale of the website became clear, and once he recognized
that "group genius" requires more than one person, Bryan sent
a message to the MG Taylor network requesting assistance on the JoTM project.
In the first very strange occurrence of this story, I wound up being the
Now, I won't belabor the details, but there is absolutely no "logical"
reason I should be in Orlando today. By all rights, in fact, I "should"
be in Morocco. But like I said, I won't belabor the details. Exploring
the MG Taylor® philosophy and Modeling Language, designing workshops,
and learning how to craft web pages was too great an opportunity to pass
up. Besides, Bryan and I had worked very closely on a few short projects
and discovered that we could co-design tremendously well. All in all,
it seemed like a good decision, so I moved to Orlando (from the Hilton
Head knOwhere Store) to be able to work face-to-face. Little did I realize
that I was to be the only person associated with this venture who had
not been initially attracted by the OMC.
Our third team member, you see, was originally a participant during several
design events at the OMC during its MG Taylor years. Brenda Eckmair, an
architect by trade, first encountered MG Taylor while participating in
DesignSession processes for both Disney (her employer) and for the Parent
Resource Center in Orlando. Years after these events, when Brenda left
Disney in 1996, she began working with MG Taylor as a Knowledge Worker
during DesignShop events and as a project manager for a number of activities.
Brenda, however, was not the only participant from the OMC who remembered
MG Taylor fondly. Beginning during the summer of 1997, several former
participants began making contact with MG Taylor again. Some are with
CNL Group and have been working in and around the Center frequently. Many
have had little to no contact with MG Taylor since their respective events.
Most are in much different positions than they were six or seven years
ago when they first encountered MG Taylor. Nevertheless, all of these
people now want access to the tool they discovered years ago. Some want
to use the OMC environment. More want to build their own environments.
And almost all recognize that it is MG Taylor's processes in conjunction
with the environments that make both the environments and the processes
What this means is that Brenda, Bryan and I have suddenly found ourselves
in a much different position than we had anticipated at the beginning
of the summer. From being on the fringe of MG Taylor's client activity
and focusing on Networker education and internal workshops, we have suddenly
engaged in a number of client relationships that have seriously shifted
our understandings of MG Taylor's processes, tools and environments. From
providers of task-level services, we have become venture managers.
This shift in thinking can be demonstrated by the Clamshell Model. This
model was developed in the spring of 1996 by a team of Knowledge Workers
who had gathered to look at the issue of fitness in the MG Taylor network.
(Not physical fitness, of course, but rather "fitness" in terms
of skills, understandings and learning paths.) The Clamshell presents
five perspectives from which Networkers can operate--Supporting an Event,
Creating an Event, Creating a Relationship, Creating an Enterprise, and
Creating a ValueWeb.
[For more information on the glyphs, see the Business
of Enterprise model and the Learning
|Support an Event
||On this level, the event KreW concentrates on ensuring that the
tasks required to create a successful event are carried out: document,
take care of logistics, set the environment, create the journal,
etc. When the event is over, the job is done. This is the level
of a Knowledge Worker.
|Create an Event
||Designing an event (DesignShop, DesignSession, etc.) that will
achieve the goals that are set out for it requires a deeper understanding
of MG Taylor's processes and philosophies. It is important to understand
the demands of each of the tasks involved in supporting the event,
but the event designer must act from a higher level than those who
are focused on tasks. This is the level of the Process
|Create a Relationship
||Those involved in a relationship with the client understand the
event in a much different way. The event is just one step in a longer
process through which the client is going. The relationship-builder
must discover what ends the client wishes to reach with the event
and then must work to ensure that those ends are met. Beyond the
event, the relationship-builder must help the client tie the event
back into their own processes and history. To effectively build
relationships in the MG Taylor model, this person must be a Transition
|Create an Enterprise
||At the enterprise level, suddenly our subject has skin in the
game. To view an event from the level of the enterprise that depends
on that event is to see an entirely different activity. The event
must live up to the standards the enterprise has set, yet it must
also satisfy the client. The event is but one in a large number
of events in the history and future of the enterprise, yet it could
also be the one that could provide an opportunity for growth or
the recipe for collapse. An enterprise is a dense and complex web
of relationships that must be managed for its own benefit and growth.
|Create a ValueWeb
||Operating from this perspective means working to grow the collective
pie, rather than merely trying to cut a larger piece of a pre-existing
pie. At this level, there is no "us/them" dichotomy. Even
"competitors" in the same industry can work together to
grow the industry, and if the industry grows, then there will be
more for industry members to share. Operating from this broad venture
perspective makes an event (especially a DesignShop event with its
diversity of participants) appear to be full of untapped opportunities
for new events, new relationships and new enterprises. This is where
opportunity lies. This is the realm of Venture Management.
What the opportunities in Orlando have created is a chance for us (Bryan,
Brenda and me) to make a quick jump from supporters and creators of events
to creators of a ValueWeb. Currently, MG Taylor's permanent resources
in Florida are limited, although we draw upon the entire network for support.
Nationally, our network of Knowledge Workers is concentrated around our
three KnOwhere Stores and a few other pockets around the country, none
of which are in Florida. Our nearest MG Taylor-operated Management Center
is in Hilton Head, SC, which is five hours away by car. We may have an
opportunity to build many Management Centers in Florida over the next
several years, and the volume of work in this geographic area is leading
to a natural expansion of the MG Taylor team in Central Florida.
To design these projects, to build a network of local Knowledge Workers,
to work with the clients we wish to work with, we may need to create a
new venture. This approach represents one future scenario, among many,
for MG Taylor's growth--a push of the Entrepreneurial
Button. The concept itself is reasonably straightforward: MG Taylor
Corporation will have an equity position in a new enterprise: the Transition
Managers Group of Orlando (TMGO). MG Taylor will support TMGO's conception
and initial growth until the young enterprise emerges from the other side
of the Entrepreneurial Button (before creating a legal entity) and heads
off on its own towards the Success phase. TMGO will be licensed to deliver
MG Taylor's processes to its customers. TMGO will also provide investment
opportunities for those who wish to support MG Taylor's growth in Florida.
This strategy does not imply a separation within the MG Taylor ValueWeb,
nor a "spinning off". It does represent a structural strategy
for adding radically to the growth of the web while streamlining and clarifying
operations. It takes the work in Central Florida out of a budget mentality
and into a balance sheet/income statement vantage point. TMGO will be
just another major node within the ValueWeb, like our KnOwhere stores,
and Athenaeum International.
In truth, the cross-pollination between TMGO and MG Taylor will be crucial
to the continued success of both. The development of the MG Taylor website,
for example, will be an essential component of TMGO's work with its own
clients. TMGO will also develop workshops and "middle market"
processes that can be adopted and adapted by MG Taylor and visa versa.
And, of course, members of the network can move freely between projects
that are funded and organized by either entity. By sharing projects and
employees, MG Taylor and TMGO will feed their individual learnings back
to each other, growing the collective body of knowledge.
This venture must grow quickly, but it must also be sent forward with
sufficient resources to be viable. Before launching this venture, then,
MG Taylor has insured that the 7
Domains are properly in place. First, the collective Body of Knowledge
represented by the TMGO team includes understanding the contents of this
entire website, how to steward and advocate a Management Center, the theory
and practice of the design of environments, the simultaneous management
of several large projects, to name the highlights. The team also represents
experience and understanding of MG Taylor's Processes, from the vantage
points of supporters, designers and participants. The team has demonstrated
a strong pattern of Education, in both learning and sharing of new ideas
with others through the series of 7 Domains® Workshops and through
the website itself. There are currently two MG Taylor Environments in
Orlando in which TMGO can work, and others are on the way. The team has
always provided its own Technical Systems to supplement those in the existing
environments, and we have already mentioned the Project Management experience
in the team. The final domain, then, is Venture Management. TMGO must
be viable, and this team (along with the help of the rest of the network)
must learn how to facilitate the transition to viability. It must add
value to MG Taylor, its own customers, Orlando, Florida, and the world.
Looked at from the perspective of complexity
theory, creating a new entity instead of absorbing the projects into
an existing entity, represents a diversification of the MG Taylor gene
pool. MG Taylor can only grow in so many directions at once. TMGO can
grow in directions that MG Taylor might choose to avoid or simply not
have time to explore. By diligently providing feedback, each organization
can enhance the body of knowledge of the other. Diligent feedback is almost
assured, too, because individuals in one organization often play roles
in the other as well. As more TMGO-like ventures sprout up in affiliation
with MG Taylor, the gene pool will expand exponentially, and true auto-catalysis
will emerge. Organizations acting locally, growing into markets as yet
untouched by MG Taylor, yet all tied together through feedback loops and
even individuals who float between organizations--this scenario could
represent one future of MG Taylor.
And all of this began with a Center, a magical place in which people
discovered the power of working together in ways they never dreamed of.
Years ago, MG Taylor presented itself to Orlando, staying long enough
to plant the seeds of Transition Management. The seeds are beginning to
sprout. The OMC (now the CNL Management Center) shines anew and the work
of Transition Management has begun!
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