Case Studies

Review our case studies for examples of real life problems and results.

Applying Systems Thinking to Prevent Wildfires

A diverse group of stakeholders who were all at risk of losing substantial resources requested Bridgeway Partners’ help in collaborating to prevent wildfires in a forested region of 2,000,000 acres in their vulnerable western state. They came from private industry; the nonprofit sector; and government agencies at the federal, state, and county levels. The region is a critical resource for the state’s fresh water, power, and recreation – and the stakeholders had been unable for many years to attract the timber industry to harvest the low-quality wood in the area.

Bridgeway Partners enabled them to:

  • Strengthen a foundation for change among the stakeholders, who had been unable to collaborate previously
  • Identify the root causes of their inability to work together to prevent the fires
  • Secure their commitment to work together to prevent the wildfires
  • Clarify high leverage interventions
  • Design a strategic plan that prioritized and sequenced these interventions over time
  • Affirm the stakeholders’ respective accountabilities for implementing the plan

The group has now been meeting regularly for over a year to monitor progress and continuously learn from its efforts to implement the plan.

Building Organizational Capacity in Applied Systems Thinking

Motivated by a desire to increase its impact on environmental conservation, a small US nonprofit expanded over the years to tackle increasingly complex projects on a global scale. Now operating in over 70 countries, the organization is working to embrace the challenges of greater complexity in terms of not only its environmental initiatives, but also how it manages itself internally.

Management’s desire to take on and manage greater levels of complexity led the organization to invest in a major effort to build its capacity in applied systems thinking. They invited Bridgeway Partners to design and facilitate a combination of workshops and action learning assignments on 10 external and internal change initiatives. We trained over 60 people to increase their effectiveness by integrating the principles and tools of applied systems thinking into their work.

Change projects have included:

  • Aligning their global work around such initiatives as ensuring resilient water supply
  • Protecting endangered watershed and rainforest areas
  • More effectively mobilizing diverse stakeholders such as donors, voters, indigenous communities, and volunteers to support environmental conservation work
  • Creating common ground to combat climate change among conflicting political constituents
  • Reducing employee overload by more effectively balancing workload expectations with available resource
  • Increasing the flexibility of staffing assignments to more rapidly align changing demands with the requisite skills to meet these demands

“David and Marilyn have helped our executives and program managers build their ability to apply systems thinking to meet some of our most pressing internal and external challenges. Perhaps most importantly, they have provided us with the skills we need to carry this critical work forward without them.”

Michael Tetreault | Chief People Officer, The Nature Conservancy

Building Leadership Capacity

A national executive education firm asked Bridgeway Partners to design and facilitate an innovative workshop on executive time management. The goal was to help the executives identify their unique responsibilities, understand the obstacles they faced to using their time effectively, and learn to allocate their time around four primary responsibilities. The workshop took participants through a seven-step personal change process to more productively allocate their time around these executive responsibilities: guiding people towards a shared purpose, strategizing priorities, building effective relationships, and executing against a plan.

We led the Executive Time Management workshop for hundreds of senior managers over six years in both public and in-house settings.

The executives:

  • Surfaced and challenged their assumptions about time management
  • Discovered how they unintentionally created more work for themselves than necessary
  • Mobilized themselves to take on uncomfortable yet essential tasks
  • Developed more constructive ways to negotiate reliable agreements
  • Took on more responsibility for self-care
  • Learned more effective approaches to managing such typical time sinks as email and meetings

We consistently received excellent ratings from the executives who attended. In addition, we uncovered and developed an approach to address the deeper challenges posed by organizations whose belief in relentless hard work tends to undermine executive and staff productivity alike.

Increasing Product Reliability

The clinical informatics group of a major health care company found itself caught in a dynamic of over-promising and under-delivering to its internal customers. Despite the impeccable qualifications of their staff as both physicians and doctorates in Information Technology, their customers complained extensively about the lateness and poor quality of their deliverables. As customer credibility decreased, the stress on staff to deliver on their commitments increased.

The group asked Bridgeway Partners to help them diagnose the root causes of the problem and design an intervention to increase the quality and reliability of its work. The intervention focused on teaching the staff how to set realistic expectations with their customers and negotiate agreements they could keep. As they learned to reset expectations, the staff was able to reduced their high stress levels, improve the quality and timeliness of their deliverables, and slowly rebuild credibility with customers.

“Bridgeway Partners enabled our organization to understand the root causes of our difficulties in managing time. We now want to work with David and Marilyn to apply these skills collectively.”

Blackford Middleton | Director, ClinicalInformatics R & D, Partners Healthcare

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