Having completed our two week induction, myself and the rest of the April 2017 intake found ourselves on our way to Hamburg to complete our Consulting Skills Workshop (CSW).

CSW is your opportunity to consolidate all of the key skills that you pick up from your initial induction. It’s a three day, intensive series of training modules designed to give you all the tools that you need to be successful throughout the CDC and beyond – the added bonus for us being a trip to Germany!

After a great introductory evening of getting to know our international colleagues (luckily the bar had a pool table, which I remained unbeaten on for the entire weekend), it was time to get down to the business of developing our consulting skills, which went a little something like this.

Teaming up

Before you arrive, you will already have been assigned a team, and for me that meant Team D which consisted of consultants from the Dutch, Belgian, French and German arms of Capgemini Consulting.

Being part of such a diverse team was probably the most enjoyable aspect of the learning experience. Being able to work in all kinds of teams, with people from all kinds of backgrounds and cultures is clearly critical to your success as a consultant and thus, the most important thing that you can get right. In practice, it was certainly the first time that I had worked in a team comprised of members from so many nationalities and though exciting, frankly it was a steep learning curve for all of us.

One of the most enjoyable sessions throughout the week was learning about the diverse cultures represented in the room and how exactly they differ. We were split up into the different nationalities that we identified with, and went through how we felt we were perceived by others. Of course, this sparked semi sarcastic outbursts of national pride from all corners of the room, but on a more serious level it also provoked introspection.

What I found fascinating, were the differences in communication styles; from the unbridled directness, or explicit communication of the German and Dutch, to the more implicit, or unspoken communication of the French and British. Similarly, there was great disparity in the way each nationality perceived time and the hours that they would work. Being thrown in at the deep end made us recognise these cultural differences and it was also an incredibly effective way for me to improve my communication skills, and in turn my consulting skills.

Role play, lots of it.

Learning by doing was the order of the day and a role play was included in just about every session, which was great as it completely removed the serious threat of ‘death by PowerPoint’. Iain Fisher, who ran the CSW along with Subodh Bisht and Chrissy Liu, boasted on the first day that we would see no more than fourteen PowerPoint slides during the entire week, and he remained true to his word.

This, if you are like me and fall steadily into a state of mental inertia with every passing slide, is great news, as it allows you to fully immerse yourself in the set task and without doubt intensifies the learning experience.

The workshop session was a prime example of the merits of role play style learning. Our two facilitators, Chrissy and Subodh left the room and returned transformed into our ‘clients’ thirty minutes later. Unfortunately for myself, and the rest of Team D, that 30 minutes had been characterised by a complete misunderstanding of the task and had left us with nothing but an empty Transformation Map to present.

Though the resulting experience was uncomfortable at best and embarrassing at worse, I now look back at that session and consider it the most valuable 30 minutes of the week. You do of course learn from your mistakes, and I was as culpable as any of my teammates in contributing to our failure in that task. Which brings me nicely on to my next part…

The Emotional Cycle of Change

Kelley & Connors theory, The Emotional Cycle of Change, suggests that all high performing teams go through the emotional cycle of change before they reach peak performance. The theory outlines the five stages of change, which I will now take you on a whistle stop tour of:

Stage 1: Uninformed optimism. Known as the ‘Forming’ stage. Everything is great at this stage as you have no idea of the difficulties to come, and no real grasp of the personalities in the room.

Stage 2: Informed pessimism or ‘Storming’. It’s all kicking off, people are falling out left right and centre and there is no hope for the team.

Stage 3: Hopeful realism. Sits in between stages, a kind of light bulb moment.

Stage 4: Informed optimism. Now you’re ‘norming’! You are beginning to develop shared values and have a better grasp of the personalities within the team.

Stage 5: Completion. ‘High performing team’ stage. Ready to take on anything, you could probably solve climate change as you are so cohesive.

Short explanations aside, it was great to experience the theory come to life throughout each of the group tasks during the week as we fluctuated through the stages above.

Unfortunately for us, like most of the groups, we didn’t quite make it to ‘high performing’ as we spent a huge amount of time in the storming phase! However, we certainly didn’t do badly for a multinational team that had known each other for all of three days!

CSW was an invaluable and incredible learning experience not only because of the range of skills that we learned, but also the intensity of the teaching and of course, the fantastic people that we met. It equips you with the tools that you need to succeed at Capgemini Consulting, but most importantly it corresponded with the most important of our core values – fun!