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Animated Edition - Issues 1996 - 2001
All things to all people
Animated, Winter 1999. JABADAO began in 1985 with one woman. By July 1992 it had reached the point where serious reflection and reappraisal of all aspects of the company were required. Penny Greenland explains how management methods used to instigate change have become intrinsic in the company's current practice and income generating activity as they prepare to launch their own radical team-building package into the wider marketplace
We were now a four-woman team with 11 babies and small children between us, and we had just moved out of proper offices into my dining room because of a sudden and unforeseen financial disaster. However, despite the surrounding stresses and strains we were beginning to grasp, for the first time, the full potential of our work and we wanted to be able to achieve more.

As working women and mothers we thought that our organisational skills were pretty good. Any working parent knows you have to be good just to keep both worlds ticking over, but we wanted to make better use of our time and our individual skills. The prospect of reviewing the way we worked and facing the possibility of change was not easy (we were after all hanging on by our finger nails) so it was crucial that we find a way of working that felt comfortable. For the first part of the process, reflecting on the kind of organisation we wanted to be, we used Charles Handy's work in which he describes different organisational structures as tribes. (1) For the second part, we chose to work with Kedzie Penfield using Action Profiling, a movement-based system useful for illuminating the individual styles and innate talents of each member of the team. Movement is what we do as a company, and movement is what we trust. We believe that movement is a language that speaks through many layers of our being - conscious and unconscious - and that the information and answers we would find using Action Profiling would be more deeply rooted as a result.

Part One Inside Organisations
Handy describes four organisations, or tribes, in his book Gods of Management. At that time JABADAO fell into the first category - an organisation built up around one person with their influence still dominant within it. (Handy gives this a picture of a spider in a web - the spider staying central as the web made by other people joining grows outwards.) Many arts organisations start, and stay, like this, but we wanted to find a different structure to ensure that each person in the company could develop their own ways of working within the overall philosophy. We rejected both the Team Tribe (pictured as a net that shifts and changes shape as any of the people within it take on any of the tasks) and the Role Tribe (pictured as a series of separate boxes each one being a specific set of tasks that one person carries out, that must be replicated if that person leaves).

After much discussion we felt we were closest to the fourth, the Star Tribe, described like a doctor's practice in which each practitioner has the trust of the others for their own way of working, with the support work of the receptionists in the centre. (At our centre we felt we should place the philosophy reflecting our desire to be colleagues linked by principle, not just administration.) It meant we were acknowledging that JABADAO would always amount to the sum of the people in it at the present time. Broadly, speaking, job descriptions would be written to fit people, rather than vice versa. This meant we had to know ourselves, and each other, very well.

Part Two Action Profiling
This is where the Action Profiling came in, providing us, with the depth and breadth of information we needed to support our chosen way of working. Action Profiling, developed by Warren Lamb out of his work with Rudolf Laban, offers a structure for analysing the way we organise ourselves and uses movement observation to provide information for the analysis. (You sit in a chair and chat to the profiler for up to two hours whilst she or he observes your gestural and postural movement as you speak.) The process yields a written profile for each individual. These gave as information on each company member's relationship to gathering information (Investigating), generating alternative approaches and expanding the scope for action (Exploring), forming purpose (Determining), assessing priorities and clarity of purpose (Evaluating), a sense of timing (Timing), and foreseeing outcomes and setting goals (Anticipation). The structure also provided information about how private or public each person likes to be in each of these areas.

Although we trusted movement, this process was not without anxiety. We all waited to be "found out". However, we discovered that we knew ... or half knew ... what was revealed. Having the profiles as external evidence of half-formed thoughts allowed us to fully acknowledge both our strengths and our weaknesses and stop trying to be all things to all people. The profiles revealed a fascinating picture of what motivated each of us. As we found high, medium and low scores dotted throughout we had an external framework for examining how we behave, accepting it and working with it.

When we put all four Profiles together, we saw that we had (intuitively) created a balanced team. The Profiles showed two people with high scores in Assertion - to go out and do, make happen - and two with high scores in Perspective - motivated to place action and plans within a wider perspective. But we also saw a picture of a very particular kind of balance - like a see-saw - that had a note of caution in it for us. With two company members heavily weighted in Action and two in Perspective, we could balance one another, but we could also over-balance in a way that might be difficult to handle. Here was important information for its as a team.

Within the team we observed some dramatic differences, in particular scores, that explained a lot and provided material for re-examining our roles in the company. Everyone hooted with laughter when they saw that one of us had a very low score, and another a very high score, in Investigating (gathering information). We were used to an underlying tension in company meetings with one impatient to move on and the other saying: "But can we find out any more about this?' The profiles made it very clear that one will always be frustrated by anything more than the barest facts and the other will always seek more information no matter how much there is available. Where once we were frustrated by this, it has now become open and clear and the two of us can balance one another more effectively. It is also clear who will undertake research most efficiently in the company. If we work to our strengths, each of us is happier. If we know our strengths, we can admit our weaknesses. OK, I will admit it. I am the one with an extremely low Investigating score. Send me to the library to do a day's research and you will find me asleep with my head on the desk. Send my colleague and she returns refreshed, rosy-checked and glowing. It takes her half the time it takes me and she does the job twice as well.

Perhaps the most practical, everyday change we were able to make was the simplest. Penfield asked us to consider what kind of activities gave us energy, or drained us. Reluctantly, one of the team admitted that the worst and most enervating thing about her job was making "pushy" telephone calls. The pay-up-or-else variety: "One of those calls and I can hardly do anything else all day.' She was ashamed because she thought that she ought to be able to do it. Our society breeds expectation of having to be all things to all people. In fact she has a very high Evaluating score and a similarly high Anticipating score and it is thanks to these skills that such calls are kept to an absolute minimum. Looking at the Profiles, however, we could see that there was someone in the company with a taste for this kind of challenge. I was embarrassed that I could actually relish "pushy'" telephone calls. But when we saw that one of us "gained energy" in this situation, and one lost it, we changed the way we worked ... entirely for the better. Difficult telephone calls were saved for me and I thrived on them (Years later, circumstances have changed and my colleague has found her own way of making these calls, helped by the clear, external information provided by the Action Profiling system.)

In the year 2000, some 15 years on, we will be launching our own team-building package that uses movement to ask questions and explore answers around company issues. This will be very different from the Action Profiling system - it will be based instead on our experience of using movement as a direct and simply human language that can illuminate different aspects of a problem. This will not just be for people in the arts, although we think it will probably have a special appeal here. Movement is a universal language that every one uses - this package will be about making ordinary everyday movement visible and useful.

Penny Greenland, Director, JABADAO. Contact +44 (0)113 231 0650.

1 Handy, Charles, Gods of Management, Souvenir Press Ltd., London, 1978.
2 Company Members, JABADAO, 1992.
3 Ibid.

For more information on Action Profiling contact Kedzie Penfield on +44(0)1750 32213 or email

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Animated: Issues 1996 - 2001