My 1st Friday Favorite Guru Series: John A. Carlisle

This month we start the First Friday of March 2014 with another of my favorite gurus… John A. Carlisle.

MFFFG 2014

John Carlisle

I met John in 1981 when I was working at MTEC – Motorola’s Training & Education Center in Schaumburg IL and he was with Huthwaite in Sheffield England. I was assigned a Negotiations Program – Win Win – for our Purchasing Agents, Sales people, and Government Programs negotiators.

I got a chance to follow him around the Sheffield England area for a long week back in those days…1981. We spent a couple of nights at the Studley Priory, pictured below – from Wikipedia: founded some time before 1176 in the hamlet of Studley in what is now the village of Horton-cum-Studley, 7 miles (11 km) northeast of Oxford in Oxfordshire, England.


We also had fun running around the Chicagoland suburbs one unusual weekend – when he was staying over – and saw Pink Floyd’s The Wall – at a movie theater in the Elmhurst area.

After I left Motorola we saw each other only once or twice before our professional paths quit crossing. Once we met at a party at the Wheaton IL home of his co-author, for the book: Beyond Negotiation: Redeeming Customer-Supplier Relationships.

But I think of him – every once in a while – when I catch myself self-scoring my verbal communications behaviors. More on those later.

I was and am a big fan and admirer of his work in negotiations and – more importantly – collaboration.

From his profile at 


John Carlisle, chairman of Cooperation Works Ltd, UK, helped conduct major, original, research on the copper mines in Zambia successfully to promote Zambianisation in the late 1960’s with the Anglo American company.
The John Carlisle design of collaborative negotiation training was applied (mainly by others) in over twenty countries for thousands of participants, ranging from buyers and sales people to company Vice Presidents. John Carlisle himself trained over 100 HMG Under- and Deputy Secretaries, as well as top business people, at Sunningdale on the Prime Minister’s Top Management Programme.
Guest lecturer at Kellogg Business School in Chicago; the University of Western Australia MBA programme, Melbourne University Foundation for Sustainable Economic Development; and consulted with the UDF (ANC) at Wilgerspruit on negotiating successfully with white South African officials in the early eighties.
His negotiation model was used in the early eighties to persuade the ANC and Zulu youth to negotiate rather than fight.
Please list the countries and/or regions in which you (or your organization) have direct and significant expertise
England, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and India.
What is your current country of residence (or location of your organization)?
What is your current job (and organization) and/or where and what field are you studying?
Chairman of two consulting companies in the realm of organisational change to improve, inter alia, service delivery. As visiting professor at Sheffield Hallam University my portfolio is strategic change implementation
Which are your primary sectoral areas of expertise (or the primary sectoral areas of your organization) ?
Civil Society, Organizational Development, Psychosocial, Environment
Which are your primary skills areas(or the primary skill areas of your organization)?
Training, Program Design
What are some of your current areas of research (if any)?
The 21st Century Model of Sustainable, Sane OrganisationsMost Effective Applications of Deming’s Profound Knowledge to the public and NGO sectors
If appropriate feel free to list several of your (or your organization’s) publications
Beyond Negotiation (Carlisle and Parker), Wiley, 1989
Numerous articles and addresses to public and private executives, including The Club of Rome (Canada)
John Carlisle (Photo: Blair Cummock)
Professor John Carlisle of Sheffield Business School showed how individual awareness can lead to engagement, which in turn leads to joint action. Hence the forum enticed each participant to rethink the current functioning of leadership and collaboration. Dr Carlisle, who is fascinated by the issue of leadership—particularly that bequeathed by the pioneer of quality improvement Professor Edwards Deming—focused his presentation on the importance of systems.
Behind Carlisle’s explanation lay the idea that a system exists in every firm that must be acknowledged in order to improve the way in which it functions. By understanding and sharing the system the company’s efficiency is certain to grow. Human beings are natural collaborators, he said, but our current system, which forces us to compete, makes this course of action counter-intuitive. According to Dr Carlisle, change needs to focus on the public’s global view that business is unethical. What need to be constituted are social enterprises instead of businesses led by profit.Using Deming’s chain reaction model, Carlisle tackled the issue of pressure on CEOs for quick results in a competitive world. The main solution for governments, stunned by the financial crisis and national debt, has come down to the paradigm of cost cutting. A parallel could be made in the business world. One way to become more competitive has been to cut costs in enterprises, by targeting ‘soft’ departments, which have included promoting ageism, outsourcing, and freezing and squeezing supplies.Still, as Carlisle asked: ‘What happened, though, to the quality of the product?’ For him, what needs to be changed in the Anglo-American system is the paradigm of profit surpassing ethics and quality. A system ridden with corruption and obsessed with cost cutting cannot focus on the quality that it generates or on the social impact after production.The key to success, he said, resides in an improvement of quality: ‘If you actually improve the quality, the cost goes down.’ By doing things right first time, an enterprise does not need any re-work for improving the low quality of the product. Moreover, the quality of the product is rewarded by the users who award respect to the company which has complied with its promises. That, said Carlisle, is all that a customer wants from the producer.- See more at:

From the Sheffield Hallam University site:

Dr John Carlisle

Honorary Doctorate – 2004

Twenty years ago in Sheffield John Carlisle pioneered a revolutionary approach to dramatic business improvement, that of instilling supply chain, or upstream, collaboration: a commonsense approach spectacularly absent from British industry at the time!

This relationship strategy of profitable co-operation has been adopted by almost 100 major organisations across the globe.  The approach has enhanced the quality of working life for thousands, delivering, as it does, dramatically enhanced performance without conflict, re-structuring and job losses.  Welsh Water, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and business giants Shell, De Beers and Siemens are typical of organisations that applied his methodologies for increased savings of up 30 per cent and startling innovations.

As a result of helping clients world-wide deliver project savings of over £350 million per annum in the nineties, his Sheffield-based firm, JCP, became the biggest consultancy of its kind in Europe.

Born in Zambia, John worked in the copper mines before moving to England in 1970, settling in Sheffield in 1976 and establishing JCP in 1991.

Professor John Carlisle

One of the Many Things I Learned From John 

This was from a long time ago, and my big take away from observing John in action, was the importance of making sure that what you were doing was seen and talked about from a win-win perspective.

A win-win approach is the winning ticket in marketing, sales, negotiations, and in strategic planning, project planning, etc. If everything is looked at “for and from” that “win-win approach” and not seen as just some trickery by those that one was negotiating with, or persuading, then you can achieve something for everyone. That investigating the situational context for win-win and even the investigations of what would be a loss for oneself and the other parties to minimize if not avoid a loss for anybody – unless taking one yourself in some trade-offs – if you can have win-wins without getting EVERYTHING.

And if it just can’t be win-win, for all, then it probably shouldn’t be in the final analysis.

What I Also Learned From John 

 That “communications styles” were one of the secret keys to negotiations and collaboration. And that some types of communications are better early in the process than later in the process, and some are good throughout the process.
I’ve posted on this before – here – and – here – and here.
Here is something from that last link (above):

Without going into their entire model, I gleaned four key verbal communication behavior types. I almost always self-categorize my own verbal expressions into these four, even as I say them. And I typically “see” others’ verbal expressions falling into these categories, even as they speak!

The four types are

1. Giving Information
2. Seeking Information
3. Testing Understanding/Summarizing
4. Defend/Attack

Giving Information
The “Giving Information” (GI) communication behavior is very straightforward, but important. You are giving information, which is not good if you are supposed to be finding things out! You may need to first give some information before you “find things out,” but you should soon be shifting gears into the next type.

Seeking Information
The “Seeking Information” (SI) communication behavior also is simple. It’s typically in question form, either open or closed, depending on what you’re looking to accomplish.

Knowing or feeling your balance in your use of these first two types is important in assessing your successes and failures as a communicator, but nothing beats the next communication behaviors.

Testing Understanding/Summarizing
The “Testing Understanding/Summarizing” (TU/S) behavior is actually a combination of two, but I often combine them to simplify their use. However, they are different.

TU is when you make statements or ask questions for the purpose of testing out what you think you’ve just heard or what you think you know. Most of us know this as “active listening.”

One of the better ways to do a TU is to paraphrase what was said. Putting it into another set of words, rather than simply parroting it back just as you heard it, allows the sender to better check your receipt of their message. If you parrot it back, all we know is that you remember the words. The further your paraphrasing takes the original words away from the words you use, the easier it is to test for understanding.

It is also best to be somewhat declarative of what you’re doing when you TU. I often announce/declare, “I am testing here,” and then make a statement or ask a question. Then listen for the response, and always read the clues and cues of nonverbal facial and body language. You can also say, “Let me see if I’ve got this. You’re saying that x, y, and then z. Is that right?” Work on your own set of TU phrases. Play with it!

S is where you are simply summarizing. Again, it’s best to provide your own clues and cues to your group. Say, “Let me try to summarize this,” and then do it. Again, if your words stray from the original (but not too far), then it’s easier for the group to react.

This S stuff is very much like a TU, just done in a different mode. You are looking for feedback from the group that you are either right on, just off, or way off. Again, don’t let your ego get in the way! I tell groups that as a facilitator, I can’t be afraid to be wrong because it’ll slow us down. In fact, I’m often wrong. So get used to it! Your job here today is also to correct me and keep me on the straight and narrow path!

TU/S is critical to ensure that we understand the meanings behind the words that others are using. As a colleague of mine once remarked,

“It not just semantics, it’s always semantics!”

TU/S helps us receivers get into the intent of the message sender to check it out. It can be a very powerful tool for a facilitator. However, Socrates used this way back when, so be careful! Watch out for hemlock.

The “Defend/Attack” (D/A) behavior is also a combo. The D is typically in response to a real or perceived A. No matter how it starts, it usually degenerates into a D/A spiral that won’t end until someone interrupts the spiral. The best interruption is a TU/S behavior—something on the order of, “So you’re saying that this proactive facilitator stuff is just a bunch of hooey, and that the author must be a real jerk to perpetuate this garbage by committing it to paper and then disseminating it to the public?” (This is what, a TU or an S?)

Usually a short string of TU’s and S’s are sufficient to diffuse the situation and end a D/A spiral. All that the irate usually want is to be heard (really understood). Get the conversation back to more civilized ground and reduce the heat.

In my mind, the power of TU/S cannot be underestimated. Try it yourself. Try it on the kids. Try it with your significant other. But stay away from gang fights!

Using GI and SI and TU/S and D/A
Once I learned these, I began to “see” all of my own verbal utterings as falling into one of these categories.

I learned to first GI, maybe a little or a bunch, and then to soon TU. Do they get it? For example, “I want us to list all of the outputs for this Area of Performance and then identify all of the key measures of performance for each. Are we all clear on what I mean by performance outputs?”

Or, “We need to identify the typical performance gaps, if any, for this output.”

Or, in response to the group’s input/response, I use a TU for my benefit. “So the typical gap is that they are almost always late in turning in the monthly report?”

I also TU in response to their utterings. “Let me test this out. You’re saying that there are indeed typical gaps, but they don’t sync up with any of the key measures we have currently listed.”

I learned to SI and then S. “What gap do you think there is, and what key output measure would reflect that gap?” I would respond to their response with, “So we seem to be saying that it would be both a time to complete as well as a timeliness measure.”

I learned that the best way to break a D/A spiral was to first TU/S and then either GI or SI. “So you think that Global T&D dropped the ball and didn’t get the vendor into the effort soon enough, driving up your costs due to all of the overtime that was incurred trying to catch up?”

I learned that the more I TU/S the more it benefited the group, because they are sometimes hesitant to appear stupid (really ignorant or slow, but that’s another story). Again, I can’t afford to let my own ego get in the way of potentially appearing stupid, slow, etc. I’ve learned that the really smart people in the room will quickly figure me out and that I won’t appear stupid at all, no matter how hard I might appear to be trying with all of this TU behavior.

This is great stuff. It made me more comfortable to have these communication behavioral tools at my disposal when I first started, and I believe it has made a big difference in my approach and style. It has made me a much better facilitator.

This is all from what I learned back in the day – back in 1981-1982 – from both John – and Neil Rackham of SPIN Selling fame – who was also the focus of a previous MFFFG Post – here. I learned a lot from the folks at Huthwaite, but from these two the most.

More Recently

I wasn’t surprised to read this following item online as I gathered content for this Post…

A grandad has become Sheffield’s first altruistic organ donor – by giving away a kidney to help transform the life of a complete stranger, writes Ellen Beardmore.


Inspirational John Carlisle was motivated to make the gesture after two men he knew died of kidney failure.

The 70-year-old hopes his story will encourage other people to do the same thing during National Transplant Week, as new figures show 212 people in South Yorkshire are waiting for their own life-changing operations.

Married father-of-three John, speaking as part of The Star’s Gift of Life campaign to recruit 12,000 organ donors, said: “Two very good men I knew both died before anything could be done, and I thought it was a terrible waste.

“I don’t wish to know who my kidney went to – and that’s the thing about altruistic donation. My kidney just goes to somebody who needs it and hopefully stops them needing dialysis so they can live a normal life.

“What I do know is that it ‘took’ straight away. I’m very pleased and grateful I was healthy enough to be able to do it. I had two kidneys and I could live with one – it just seemed the ideal time to give somebody their life back.

“This isn’t self aggrandisement. I want people to know that, at my age in particular, this is completely possible.”

Some Great Resources From John For You

Book – John has this excellent 1989 book, with Robert C. Parker…

Beyond Negotiation: Redeeming Customer-Supplier Relationships


here – at Amazon.

And recently published online from John:

Ongoing Discussion “Thought Piece”


Prepared by John Carlisle

December 2013

Connecting and Networking via the Web & Social Media

John can be reached by e-mail at:

Share Your Stories

If John A. Carlisle has been a valuable influence and/or resource for you – please share your stories about that in the comments section below.

Or simply share a URL there that is relevant.

And – thank you – for sharing!

The My First Friday Favorite Guru Series

We each have many influencers, mentors, both active and passive, knowingly and unknowingly in their respective roles in our development.

This series is my attempt to acknowledge all of them… one by one… in no particular order… as I attempt to consciously reflect on what I have have learned and who I have learned it from, regarding all things “Performance Improvement” – my focus.

I have a long list.

Lucky me.

Next month –  Rob Foshay.

Links to All of the Past Posts in the MFFF Guru Series

Here is a page with links to all of the Past Posts below – here.

  • John A. Carlisle – March 2014
  • Miki Lane – February 2014
  • Harold Stolovitch – January 2014
  • Bill Wiggenhorn – December 2013
  • Will Thalheimer – November 2013
  • Roger Kaufman – October 2013
  • Roger Addison – September 2013
  • Ray Svenson – August 2013
  • Dick (Richard E.) Clark – July 2013
  • Allison Rossett – June 2013
  • Carol Panza – May 2013
  • Jane Bozarth – April 2013
  • Judy Hale – March 2013
  • Margo Murray – February 2013
  • Neil Rackham – January 2013
  • Robert (Bob) Mager – December 2012
  • Joe H. Harless – November 2012
  • Thomas F. Gilbert – October 2012
  • Sivasailam Thiagarajan – September 2012
  • Geary A. Rummler – August 2012
  • Dale Brethower – July 2012

Here again, is a page with links to all of the above Past Posts in this series – here.

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9 comments on “My 1st Friday Favorite Guru Series: John A. Carlisle

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  7. I met John in Melbourne Australia some years ago and worked briefly with him on a project with public transport in the city. Do you know any way that I can contact him please. John Davidson


      • Guy
        I do not know if this will reach you, but just to say I am flattered and curiously pleased by your unsolicited panegyric.
        I hope you are doing really well, and remember very fondly I manically musical drive to Studley Priory such a long time ago – and the phenomenal tape you put together for me when you returned to the USA. I believe my eldest son (who is now an executive director for Microsoft Games – exBox??) nicked it as he played it all the time.
        My work is now mainly with emerging democracies. (More if you reply to this.)
        If John Davidson wants to get in touch its Salaams JC


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