Shem Cohen To Help Facilitate Upcoming Silver Fox Summit
I Can Still Do That Advisor and CEO of Change Events Inc , Shem Cohen, is scheduled to serve as facilitator at the inaugural Silver Fox Summit on September 21st. Change Events Inc. is a boutique management consulting firm specializing in organization development, collaborative planning and facilitating successful change. Shem improves organizational effectiveness through greater cross-section collaboration, communications and relationships throughout the organizations he serves.
“Our mission is to help people live more meaningful, productive and successful lives” says Shem in an interview with Nectar News editor, Nicole Johnson. As a precursor to the Silver Fox Summit, Nicole sat down with Shem to discuss the success of his consulting firm Change Events Inc. and his history with the I Can Still Do That Foundation.
NN: Can you tell us more about how you have worked with the I Can Still Do That Foundation in the past?
SC: I was introduced to the Foundation through a client of mine. I facilitated several meetings with Dan Schneider, like the Hudson Valley Tech and Commerce Summit in Woodstock. During that summit we had 40-50 people together exploring the economic potential of opportunities for technology development. Dan recognized early on that my skill set includes the facilitation and design of bringing people together to help them achieve their goals. I enjoy creating a process for people to get to their endpoint in an efficient and meaningful way. Whenever the Foundation is grappling with a question about strategy development or bringing people together to discover common ground and their greatest capability for action, that’s my wheelhouse.
NN: Is there anything about the mission of the upcoming Silver Fox Summit that intrigues you?
SC: I think it’s a noble mission and sorely needed. Economically and demographically we’re facing quite a few challenges not only with the gig economy and the introduction of artificial intelligence and how these developments are changing the face of the labor force, but also the demographics of an aging skilled-labor force. A lot of mature people are looking for gainful employment and there are some pressing challenges to seek solutions for immediately. Also, there are many skilled professionals who are retiring/have retired and are looking to be active using their skill sets, knowledge and experience. The I Can Still Do That Foundation recognizes that this population of retired/near retirement talent is a huge resource for the country and the economy and I believe the mindset is needed to try and tap the economic potential this group offers. I’m mission driven, so anything that does good in the world I’m happy to contribute as I can.
NN: In your consultancy practice do you utilize facilitation as your primary tool to assist your clients?
SC: Facilitation is a part of the mix. It’s actually organizational development consulting. The field of organization development is a matrix of expertise comprised of individual and group psychology, organizational design, leadership development, strategic planning, team development and leading change/change management. For example, how do clients restructure a division or their business so that everyone is aligned, focused and energized doing something new or doing things in new ways? There are several elements to this, one is certainly the concrete planning piece of it– what needs to happen and the project management piece, but the human side of change and the human side of engagement, energy and focus needs to be addressed as well if you really want to tap the potential of a group of people and create successful change. Whether it’s three people or two hundred people, facilitation is one of the skill sets I ofter. In addition to facilitation there is leadership and team coaching, leadership development, team building and sometimes conflict resolution when needed. The work I do is simply partnering with my client. They understand their businesses and their goals and markets more than I ever will, but I understand how to focus and align groups, lead effective strategic planning and change programs in a cost and time efficient manner. The work I do is very powerful in terms of getting people on board, at the table and committed to take action.
NN: What particular areas of expertise does Change Events Inc. offer clients?
SC: My work is primarily in three areas. Strategic planning in which I design, lead and facilitate many mission-critical meetings such as executive off sites where executive teams come together and create a new trajectory for the business, create solutions to critical challenges or guide a planning process to help them achieve whatever goals they have at the time. These goals can be anything from a growth goal, a performance improvement goal, entering new markets, launching new business lines or a new division, new product development, merger integration, etc. Then there is Large Group Planning where I bring a whole division or the whole business, network or community together to collectively create vision, direction, strategy or change. In these instances I might have for example, 160 people in a room for four days to create the North America marketing strategy or a technology modernization strategy for the business like we did with Del Monte Foods, Church and Dwight, the Federal Reserve Bank and many others.
The Change Management piece has to do with how a company changes from A to Z. When we lead a restructuring of a division we’ll get everyone who has authority, expertise, information, resources and need involved so that the change effort is successful. In this type of large-scale change you can’t just get a few executives in the room and talk about how they are going to change the whole system. Key people and groups across the system have to be involved, be aligned in their thinking and goals and have to support the desired change. They have to be willing to act, and put resources into the effort. The best way to get these stakeholders on board is to get everybody who’s key involved in planning the change.
The third area we call Intervention Work. Intervention Work is what it sounds like – to intervene in the system in order to change something for the better. This is usually having to do with performance improvement, process re-design or improving relationships and partnership within and across groups. These projects can be as simple as a team building day or something more complex like preventing a labor walk out or working with clients to re-design the value chain/work flow.
NN: When did you establish the Change Events Inc.?
SC: I’ve been doing this work for twenty-five + years. It was really an organic evolution. I began working with groups many years ago leading outdoor adventure programs, helping people grow beyond their self-imposed limitations and helping teams come together in powerful ways. In the beginning I worked with a lot of youth groups, then in social services with some pretty tough populations of ‘at-risk’ teenagers and young adults. In the late 80s these outdoor adventure programs became popular team building in the corporate executive world. I facilitated and led many programs for fortune 100, 500, 1000 companies. Sometimes working with small groups of executive teams and sometimes with large groups of 150 or more. We’d have them rappelling down cliffs, doing high ropes courses, team challenge courses, kayaking… The events were fun and engaging, but the real work came with facilitating the dialogues these activities engendered. Doing that for a number of years led me to the field of organization development consulting. I was very intrigued by the field, theory and practice and went on to get my Master’s Degree in Organizational Development, trading in my climbing harness for flip chart markers. I still do some of the outdoor adventure activities when requested. Sometimes clients want to get out for an afternoon when their minds are filled with data and a lot of choices re: decisions to be made. Getting out of mind and into body a bit can be helpful and nudge creativity and clear thinking.
NN: What are some of the key elements your facilitation model asks clients to focus on when participating in one of your sessions?
SC: Dialogue. Make room for all views. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Learn from each other. Appreciate that everyone is living in one part of the forest and that the charter for the group is to understand the whole before trying to fix any of the parts.
NN: What challenges are you currently facing with the consulting firm or what can the I Can Still Do That network do for you?
SC: I’ve been a consultant for 30 years, self employed. Certainly there are challenges of feast and famine cycles. As always I’m looking to pipeline development, and also, if possible, to offer an extended iteration of services. I’ve done a lot of leadership and executive coaching, so if anybody is interested in personal change in order to be more effective in the world and pursue a more meaningful life, that’s one of the areas I’m looking to do more in.
NN: We are looking forward to your facilitation during the Silver Fox Summit on September 21st. Is there anything particular about the event that you are looking forward to?
SC: I’m interested in hearing from the panels and hearing what people feel we need to be doing to be prepared for the future. I’m interested in helping create a space for people to learn in informal and formal ways. It’s my hope that we set this up in a good way so that this becomes a long lasting learning community. Even on lunch time and on break time I’m hoping that people will help one another trigger ideas or help each other understand things better and gain new insights. For myself personally, I’m going there to learn as well.
Shem Cohen will be serving as the wrap up panelist lead panel facilitator for the Silver Fox Summit at Macaulay Honors College on September 21st, 2018. For more information about Shem’s consulting firm please visit http://www.changeevents.com/
SILVER FOX SUMMIT SEPTEMBER 21ST, 2018
Macaulay Honors College is located at 35 West 67th Street (between Columbus and Central Park West)
Tickets are sold out, but sponsorship packages are available by application only to firstname.lastname@example.org
About The I Can Still Do That Foundation (see: www.flobel.org)