Teams always come to appreciate the impact of individual styles on performance. They also recognise the positive and negative effects of organisational culture. The quietest member of the group is often found to have the most to contribute. "Other people think you've opted out," says Neale, "so you have to show that you're concentrating hard on a problem. In our group we said to one member: 'Every time you say something, we find ourselves acting on it, so why don't you contribute more?'"
This is the point at which each individual is discussed by his team in open session. "Candour and openness are important to help people see themselves," emphasises Penfold. "They take it to heart and put a lot of effort into it." To the criticism that such exposure is as likely to be destructive as constructive, he counters that it is the person's behaviour in a team with a specific task ahead that is under discussion, not the person himself. In the final session the agreed scores are compared with those from the pre-work. Out of 10 who said that their style was 9,9 at the beginning of the week, only one is likely to be able to say that at the end, affirms Penfold with relish.
Neale was rated 9,9 by his team members, a fact that he acknowledges with appropriate diffidence. "But there were some problem areas, and I went for a swim to get it out of my system." The real test of any training, of course, is how well it is applied back at the workface, and apart from Neale's role in P-E, only the coming cricket season will show him how effective the Grid can be. Neale carries a formidable management burden in a team containing both Ian Botham and Graham Dilley plus a number of younger, inexperienced players. In addition, for economy as well as morale-building reasons, he has to do well in the county championship. "The big players have found it easy to settle in," he claims, "and I try to involve everyone in key decisions - like whether to bat first if we win the toss."
Reflecting business experience, not everyone wants to be involved, he finds. But a crucial difference in the case of cricket is that the consultation process can only take place off the field. Once on the field it is a terse "Whatever you think, Skip", and some isolation is unavoidable. "The biggest difficulty is having one foot on the committee and one on the playing field. You have 16 or 17 people available for a match, and you have to select 11. This I find most difficult." What he has learned is to bring any incipient conflicts out into the open. "The biggest problems occur when you shirk responsibility and allow resentment to fester."
Neale was re-elected captain for the 1991 season last November, already equalling the record for longest serving captain. With three years of his contract still to run, he should beat that easily. But he is 36, and may soon have to hang up his boots and concentrate more on consultancy. As a graduate of Russian at Leeds and being closely involved with Worcestershire's sponsorship programme (which includes P-E), he seems well placed to make the transition. That 9,9 course rating will be no impediment.
Without doubt the Grid lends itself supremely well to training programmes; its relevance to real life is less sure. Yet if you accept that managers change styles to suit the occasion or their mood, it is a small step to suggest that they should aim for constructive change, either tactically or as a permanent shift. As Michael Gordon explained in these pages two decades ago: "If all Blake had offered was a framework, that would have been the end of it. But ... he devised the first, most complete and most sophisticated learning package for those who wished to study organisational development."
With companies demanding flatter structures with fewer middle management "facilitators" and more teamwork, the Grid's applications today could be endless.
(Tom Lester is a specialist writer on business management.)