INSEAD’s Executive Master in Change (EMC) programme is a dynamic and transformative learning experience. A unique degree programme, it first takes you deep into yourself then out into the world around you, as a tool for change in any organisation. The programme comprises eight on-campus modules, three supervised practicum experiences and a thesis, that when combined, take you on a life-changing journey of intellectual and emotional discovery. Applicable whether you’re an executive on a quest for organisational change, a coach, consultant or leader — this degree, from one of the world’s leading business schools, will transform your professional impact. This is the second part of a three-article series (see Practicum 1: on Executive Exchange) to demystify the practicum experiences within the programme.

Practicum 2: Organisational observation.

Meet Lesley Symons, Executive Coach, Consultant, Mentor and Psychotherapist — currently enrolled as a student in INSEAD’s EMC programme.

Part 2: A life-changing voyage of intellectual and emotional discovery

Lesley comes into the programme from a rich background in psychology and corporate leadership. She was drawn to the EMC for a number of reasons, including the presence and influence of Programme Director and Founder, Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, whose unique approach to leadership training and organisational change she had admired for many years. Of other reasons that compelled her to enrol in the programme, she says, “There is something about going in-depth and reflecting on yourself and teams and organisations. There is something about the way it is.” To Lesley, this is an ideal programme for professionals willing to take a bold look into their own lives.

“You look into your family system, create a genogram, and see how your family relationships play out in the workplace — for yourself and as you consult.” Lesley continues, “I experienced it myself and witnessed others having profound moments that lead to a change in direction in life as a result of this programme. The course doesn’t tell you to do this; it’s what you get from it. As you’re learning, it is knocking on some issues in your life.”

“You’re taught to take note of everything, even what’s missing and not being said.”

In Practicum Experience 2: Organisational Observation, participants visit companies other than the one by which they are employed and serve as “clinical anthropologists” for the day. The exercise allows the participants to fine-tune their observation skills without intervening. They will then develop hypotheses based on their internal and external observations and experiences by reflecting on how they reacted to certain stimuli.

For this practicum, Lesley spent the day shadowing a company in France, a far distance from her native Australia, and the experience was an invaluable one. “The first thing I learned was that you don’t need to speak the language to know what’s going on in a situation. Being in that setting made me all the more able to observe with all my senses. In the EMC, you’re taught to take note of everything, even what’s missing and not being said. She continues, “I began by taking a look at the website which was very clean and crisp. When I arrived, I noticed it was in a trendy area but the surrounding block was dirty. It didn’t feel very safe. I took my time to walk around the building, noting the disconnect between the feel of the website and the feel of the building. I took in the hard (tangible) stuff as well as the soft (intangible) stuff. Things like the dress code and how people interacted with each other, to the layout of the building and how that affected the ease of communication. I had the privilege of visiting two companies under the same management, and I could see the major differences between the cultures of both offices. Some of the questions I asked myself were:

  • When an organisation has a certain product or client, how much does the office mirror their product or end client?
  • How much power does this company have, sandwiched in between two different sets of clients?
  • Do I feel powerless being here?
  • Was my role as “observer” explained to the employees? How?
  • Are there lots of rules? Who sets the rules? Do rules get broken?
  • How much time does the Managing Director spend at one company versus another?
  • What impact does that have on the organisation?

As I asked these questions, I used everything I learned to listen with my whole self and not just my ears. The goal was to tell my story, using myself as an instrument.” She continues, “The practicum process is challenging, but is set up well and done in a safe environment.” Agreeing that it’s only fair, she says, “If we want to put people through change, we need to be willing to go through it ourselves.”

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