Moving up the Clamshell Model:
History of MG Taylor's Central Florida Venture

James B. Smethurst


Editor's Note:

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 assistant.

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 powerful.

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 Path model.]

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 Facilitator.
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 Manager.
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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