Adult 625 #5: What I’ve learned about organizational change…it’s bigger than a breadbox!

What I knew about the process of organizational change in January could probably fit on an index card.  Organizational change for HRD encompasses so much more than just a few strategies designed to create and stimulate change.  I knew I would consider how groups of individuals form to create systems for work.  The historical and theoretical background along with strategic ideas was unclear to me. 

When considering the roots of organizational development, Burke’s (2006) overview of ten theorists, ideas, and applications fit neatly into three manageable groupings for me to consider. An interest surrounding individual expectancies and values supported further investigation with Vroom, Lawler, and performance.  I found Lewin’s ideas regarding how groups change through three processes helped me to understand more clearly the change event described by the agent that I interviewed. The norms and values of those that participated in the change, while painful to consider, showed evidence that unfreezing and moving are essential before individuals can embrace new behaviors and values.  I am hopeful that not all “unfreezing” processes are full of pain and anxiety.  I know that the research is there to support the process and to clarify misunderstandings that I may experience in future change events. 

I have an affinity for change, which I described in my  Change Credo.  I crave change as a way in which to stimulate my mind and my environment.  While this approach is suitable for me as an individual, change within an organization must be about and for the benefit of the organization and the individuals within it.  Organizational change must be planned and involve the whole system.  One of the strategies that I used when working with students involved understanding what “was” and “was not” an example of something that we studied.  I found Kotter’s discussion of the eight steps to transformation a compelling proposition for why thoughtful planning must integrate research and theory.  Like many of my classmates, I found that this linear approach became part of my thinking and consider for organizational change. 

This journey began with a desire to learn to lead myself through the history and theory of organizational change while I considered my role in the change.  With a lack of a schema to adhere these new ideas, I needed to trust that the process would provide the scaffolding necessary to capture all of the knowledge. 

The journey transitioned to learning to lead from within when participating in two change events, Open Space Technology and Future Search, and planning for one event, Appreciative Inquiry.  I know have a few strategies ti lead from where I am (thanks, sphardy!). Participating in a positive change event such as Appreciative Inquiry, renewed an interest in storytelling and work experiences for adults learners (Adult 601 research paper/Adult 650 adult literacy) as a way to remember the past while consider one’s place in the future of an organization. 

Learning to lead myself

Learning to lead myself

“Learning to lead yourself requires you to question some core assumptions, too about yourself and the way things work (Boaz & Fox, 2014).

Several of the key ideas or core assumptions that resonate with me-

Organizations don’t change people do.  When attempting to mobilize individuals for change, I am reminded that change engages a diagnosis with a plan for improvement (Beckard, 2005). The concept of a grassroots movement, while spontaneous and organic, must engage by in from the top in order for change to be long lasting.  When personal investment from the top couples with intentional work planning and effort, systemic change can occur.  This is a transition from grass roots to strategic position. Strategic position, as a location for systemic change, is a change in one of the core assumptions that I brought to class in January. 

The felt need for change-In six weeks, I will be in a position of “strategic importance” within an organization.  Historically, the president of this organization plans for monthly meetings and learning events, which include instances for organization change.  the concept of “felt need,” as described by Beckhard, in my organization is manageable.  The concept of something as “hurting” in my organization, presents a greater challenge to consider.  This is an area where I will wrestle with how to respond when individuals question the need to consider change within the organization.  it is also an instance for me to remember Kotter’s first step, establishing a sense of urgency in terms of an opportunity for growth. 

Problem Solving as a professional strength-I have always identified me as a problem solver!  A thorough explanation of my problem-solving skills has consumed significant portions of past interviews.  organizations want to hire individuals who will help with change initiatives.  When I approached this course, I assumed that I would learn about programs to help strengthen my skills in this area.  Kotter’s 8 Steps, coupled with Lewin’s 3-pronged process address problem solving from both a theoretical and practical lens. 

Learning to lead from within

Learning to Lead from Within

I have presented numerous programs and hosted a variety of events as a public educator.  Being thorough and organized are two qualities I consider vital when preparing for an event.  Owen’s ideas (2008) about creating and holding time and space in relation to being visible is an idea worth considering. Being visible is a realistic expectation for me as a presenter.  Being “present” for an event is often more challenging.  My body is present while my mind is trying to juggle many tasks at one time.  When Owen says that he arrives 2-3 hours before an OST event in order to be “present” he acknowledges that presence for the client is important. 

The concept of multitasking impedes concentration and task performance is the result of a study read for my research project (Hunter & Scherer, 2009). While I do not think that my behavior is that unusual, if I wish to lead from within, I think that being mindful of my thoughts, actions and behavior will become a reality if given space in which to do so.  I am excited about the possibility that time and space will give to me as a facilitator.  An instance to “be” rather than to “do” opens the door for greater possibilities for learning from others as opposed to focusing on time and task. 

In this scene from Eat, Pray, Love, I am Julia Roberts sitting in the meditation room waiting for the minutes to pass, wondering how my roommate can “be” in the moment while I am actively planning the rest of my day. 

The simplicity of the Open Space Technology event was a welcome and relaxed diversion from the complexity of the Appreciative Inquiry event.  I forsee using it with my nonprofit organization.  I have selected a larger, more “open” space to hold our meetings.  The building opens two hours before this event; I will challenge myself to consider greater personal preparation for this event and “be” like Owen…maybe.

Learning to lead from where I am 

Learning to lead from where I am

The countless hours reading, discussing and preparing for the change event, Appreciative Inquiry, presents a unique opportunity for me to engage in conversations with others.  The way in which I am transitioning from problem-solver to one who champions for appreciation is a new lens for perceiving organizations.  I can model appreciation by leading a coalition of others to do likewise.  While my elevator speech is still in the rough draft stage, my resolve to react to my organization with greater appreciation is in a final draft form.  Education leads me to a new paradigm of thinking while expanding my ability to be a resonant leader. 

Where Future Search engages the “whole” system in a transformation quickly, Appreciative Inquiry does so over an extended period.  What I found so compelling about FS is the premise that everyone is welcome to enter the conversation.  All voices are considered, all resources are valuable.  when relating world events with personal events, an individual can recognize patterns more easily.  Cause and effect relationships between events in the organization and events in national and global arenas encourage other to consider relations with multiple projects in one large setting.  I think that it would be exciting to participate in such an event. 

The VAHHA, Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, Legislative Day is held each February.  In 2014, the newly elected Governor, Terry McAuliffe, energized the audience with a provocative plea to accept funding from the federal government to expand coverage for uninsured Virginians.  It didn’t take an OD practitioner to know that what was missing from the discussion was the physical presence of ALL of the stakeholders!  The audience, comprised of highly educated and well-insured individuals, was moved and ready to stampede the General Assembly.  The GA did not approve this measure.  It would be interesting to conduct Future Search events across the commonwealth to discuss important issues such as universal health care for all Virginians.  Ah, in my budding OD practitioner’s dreams!

So where does this leave me? One semester of organizational development does not a practitioner make.  The long list of qualities that were given to our class several weeks ago appears daunting at best.  I am energized by the knowledge and skills that I developed over the last semester.  I am ready to consider where and when to use the skills with my organization.  Concluding the study of change strategies with a look at leadership is uplifting.  When I consider how I look inward to exam my own method of dealing with a change, I recognize that I must consider how my natural tendencies and conception of change influences the way I lead others.

Onward to Organizational Learning…Yeah!

Rabbit Holes for the summer-

EDUS 660-possible research on learning cultures and leadership

Digging deeper with Mirvis and Gunning-Creating a Community of Leaders

Reading Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee

Coursera Class-Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence


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