Meet Michael Liehmann
Hi, I’m Michael Liehmann and I’m a consultant.
I studied technical computer science at the Vienna University of Technology many years ago, then worked for a long time at the Austrian Federal Chancellery in the e-government department, joined Siemens Siemens Management Services for five years, lived in London for a couple of years and established a consulting unit for Siemens in London and slowly made the switch from technology to consulting.
Among other things, I realised that although I find technology exciting, the people and the way people interact is much more complex and therefore more appealing to me. I then did many different trainings in systemic counselling, systemic coaching, organisational constellations, Gestalt therapy, ExperienceDesign and have been working in the field of counselling and leadership development for more than 15 years now. The reason is simple, because I am fascinated by people, the way they make decisions, how they deal with change and how people affect organisations and vice versa how organisations affect people.
I like to accompany organisations and thus people because you can’t accompany organisations because they don’t exist 😊
I accompany people and management groups in processes of change and transformation so that they can tread the path to the new world. And I do this with joy, lightness, humour and often with experienceDesign.
On the side, I have two wonderful children and I am out and about in the mountains of Austria as often as I can.
How do you use experience design as a facilitator?
I use experienceDesign very intensively as a facilitator and designer of transformation processes. The question is rather how can you not use experience design as a facilitator? With all the design elements that are part of my process model, the ultimate experience for the participants is included. It is often this knowledge that I am an experience designer ,that influences the way the focus is on the design of the agenda or the workshop.
I always distinguish between three stages in the process: Stage 1 illuminates the overall process: what is the purpose of this transformation project? what do we want to achieve? What change do we want to bring into the world? What question are we pursuing with the organisation or with this issue? These elements of the overall process play through in every single step of the process – stage 2. If the process consists of different workshops or conferences, then exactly there it must become visible and tangible what this purpose of the entire journey is. In stage 3 there are still smaller meetings, coordination, coaching. And there, too, it must be clear why we are meeting, why we are discussing this topic – what is the purpose.
This is exactly why I use experience design; so that the purpose is no longer just readable and intellectually comprehensible, but so that it can be experienced. This means to really be there with your hands and with your heart, because change/transformation does not happen in the head but in the belly and with the heart. Intellectually, everyone understands why certain changes make sense, for example to be prepared for a crisis, etc. Emotionally, however, I have only understood the meaning when I have experienced the transformation and felt it in my own body. Then people can move on and that’s why it’s important for me and for good accompaniment to address exactly these levels so that changes take place.
Perhaps a few examples to describe the whole thing more precisely.
I was invited to an organisation that was looking at the question: How can we become more implementation-oriented and less lost in thought processes? How can we also bring our projects to the ground well, instead of just starting well?
I worked out with the leadership team that it is a question of having to become active ourselves in order to practise finishing and implementing.
The process was then a self-organised DIY process. This means that the participants in workshops and meetings only ever received DIY plans from me.
At the beginning of the process everyone got his or her package: a small toolbox with gloves and hammers and plasters etc. In each step of the process there was a kind of IKEA package where something had to be built together and the staff always had to do it themselves, even to moderate the workshop, to finish something themselves. I was only there in the background, because it’s never about me in transformations, but only about the organisation. I only gave instructions on what to do. Even in very small meetings there was a little cube to build up: what are we doing today, which sides need to be looked at, etc. This DIY process model has been applied to the whole process. Employees have to be hands-on and have to finish themselves and experience how nice it is when the workshop was good, when the meeting was successful. I didn’t explain or teach how to become stronger in implementation, I gave them the opportunity to experience for themselves, through these many large and small experiences, how nice it is to be able to do everything yourself and to see it finished. Afterwards it was very nice to see how they tackle other things themselves and finish them themselves.
My second favourite example is a request from a large organisation that wanted to become more agile. Instead of explaining to them what agile is and how to approach it well, I invited them to a 5-hour pre-Christmas workshop. At the workshop they learned that the first 3 hours of the workshop were to organise their own Christmas team celebration. With the further goals that every staff member should get a small gift, there is no budget, songs have to be healthy, preferably Father Christmas is coming too, etc. In these first 3 hours they have time to transform this space into a wonderful celebration retreat and then celebrate together for 2 hours afterwards.
The way the participants approached it – after a short shock – with joy and with a clear distribution of tasks, with short votes in between and more and the way they celebrated together: relaxed and funny and with songs and much more was wonderful to see.
At the end of the celebration, the only question was: “What do we have to learn from this experience so that we can do the same in our work next week? What does it take from us to start work in exactly this mindset?”
The word “agile” did not come up in the whole process. The only way to do that is with ExperienceDesign.
What experience design is for me is a way to entice people to grow a bit, to change and to open the door to something new
You hosted one of our trainings in Austria in a castle – it was a pretty great experience you produced! What is experience design to you?
The Kaospilot experience Design training in 2019 was indeed a magnificent experience in the beautiful castle in Austria, which was opened just for us. We ate wonderfully, celebrated wonderfully, learned wonderfully and had a kind of transcendental, exciting experience that moved a lot in the participants. I also learned how complex the production of a good experience is, because so many topics have to be considered and prepared.
What experience design is for me is a way to entice people to grow a bit, to change and to open the door to something new. It also gives me a chance to express my creativity in a good way, so that I have even more fun in my work. In fact, it has become an integral part of the way I work. It is an attitude that life does not consist of individual elements but that it is experiences that make us human and that one can also generate these experiences in a purpose-oriented way for others. This also fills me with great humility and caution. In this respect, experience design is a humble attitude for me.
What would be your top 3 recommendations to leaders that want to create a more alive and engaged culture? Advising someone is, of course, an ideal way to make mistakes
3 safe suggestions:
– a leader is a culminating point for the culture of an organisation. He/she is responsible for the atmosphere and energy in an organisation. If the organisation is to be more vibrant and engaged, the leaders must be.
– What leaders value has an impact on the culture of an organisation. If it is important to reach the turnover figures every week, that is where the focus of the organisation will go. If it is the employee satisfaction index, then the satisfaction of the organisation will also be the focus of the organisation. So leaders should be aware of their own “glasses” and change them from time to time.
– Employees are intrinsically motivated. All employees. If employees have the freedom to act out and set their own goals, then this will happen. Leaders should give their employees this freedom and use control only sparingly. In return, they should always communicate clearly what the purpose of the organisation / department / etc. is and thus act as a guideline.