Short Term Practicum: Consulting for Strategy Development

FisherLead Instructor: Fisher Qua ’06

Course Overview: 

This practicum places students in the role of organizational strategy consultants. Students will apply skills, practices, and methods that enable effective collaboration for developing strategy. Students will examine how strategy helps groups prepare to respond adaptively to future uncertainties, volatility and complexity. In addition, we will compare different ways of researching, developing, and implementing organizational strategy. Simultaneously, students will experience and become familiar/fluent with methods and practices for organizing groups to make progress on complex challenges – like developing strategies for the future. Once immersed in both the what of strategy and the how of facilitating groups to shape strategy together, students will apply the methods, practices, and skills to a specific strategy consulting project for Bates’ Residence Life and Health Education team.

Class Meeting Times: M-Th 9-11:30, 1-2:30; F 8:30 quick breakfast meeting

Learning Goals:

Having completed the practicum, students will be able to:

  • Apply Liberating Structures design methods and other participatory approaches to group interactions
  • Select methods and practices that match a specific purpose
  • Link and string methods together within an interaction to achieve an intended goal or objective
  • Identify and manage the constraints associated with a project or challenge-at-hand
  • Assess opportunities for inviting more people to participate collaboratively in strategy development
  • Define future uncertainties and help groups through the messy process of identifying options for responding to those scenarios
  • Design, deliver and facilitate group interactions of different types – from the classroom to the boardroom – that productively include more people and utilize a wider dynamic range of collective intelligence
  • Quickly stop counter-productive behaviors that prevent themselves and others from making progress together

Course Products and Deliverables

  • Student designed and facilitated strategy planning session engaging stakeholders in the Res Life and Health Education project
  • Artifacts from the course may include:
    • Reflective practice writings
    • Strategy documentation
    • Design and planning materials
    • Project scoping, client proposal, and ‘contracting’ agreements
    • Self and team management methods for navigating conflict, keeping status updated, and addressing interpersonal challenges

GEC Credit: The Collaborative Project, Public Health

Brief Bio of the Practitioner

With a background in history, modern dance, athletics, community farming, the culinary arts, and both nonprofit and higher education administration and management, Fisher brings an eclectic mix of skills to his work. He is the principal practitioner of Back Loop Consulting in Seattle, WA. He describes the consultancy as follows:

It’s taken me a while, but finally I understand that people rarely understand why they are doing something. I do not count myself among the lucky few. With that admission out of the way, Back Loop is my way of inviting others to “go-forward-toward” their own explorations of the unknown.

Prior to consulting, he led innovation initiatives at the Washington Health Foundation which resulted in a portfolio of products, services and relationships that currently sustain 3/4 of the organization’s staff and budget. He holds a BA from Bates, (almost) an MA in Higher Education Administration from the University of Michigan and an M.Ed. in Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership from the University of Washington.