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Is Now The Time To Make Big Changes?

Is Now The Time To Make Big Changes?

BY Michelle McQuaid

Is your workplace making some big changes?  Perhaps you’re moving to hybrid work locations, restructuring the way teams are organized or pivoting towards new market opportunities.  While these shifts can deliver many benefits, studies suggest it’s also worth considering if now is really the best time to creating further disruption in your workplace.

The approach and process you take for embarking on planning workplace change are as important as the desired outcomes of that planning,” explained Professor David Bright when we interviewed him recently.  “Unfortunately, many workplaces are so focused on the outcomes they want to achieve that they fail to first assess the capacity of their organization to make the desired changes a reality.”

For example, think of individuals, leaders, teams, and organizations as being somewhere on a continuum between a negative dysfunctional state on the extreme left, and a highly functioning extraordinary state at the extreme right.  Usually, organizations are somewhere between these two extremes along the continuum at any point in time.

Being in a dysfunctional state can show up as inefficiencies, unprofitability, low-quality outputs, unethical behaviors, and toxic relationships. Studies suggest that people in these organizations tend to struggle to sustain their motivation and commitment for creating organizational changes. Why? They lack the sense of shared purpose, trust and wellbeing to push towards the extraordinary together. 

On the other hand, being in a highly functioning, extraordinary state can show up as excellent processes, meaningful and profitable contributions, high-quality outputs and great relationships. Studies suggest that people in these organizations are better able to sustain their motivation and commitment for creating organizational changes. Why? They have a shared sense of purpose, high-quality relationships, and the vitality and energy required to produce extraordinary performances.

So, how can you create more momentum for workplace changes by creating the conditions for a highly functioning, extraordinary state?

David suggests:

  • Consider your context – Identify the logic of limitations and appropriate interventions associated with where you may be on the continuum. In some cases, it may be appropriate to start with a deficit-based approach to identify problems and solve them quickly. However, if your intent is to engage in transformational change, ultimately you need a different logic – one that has conversations about strengths, virtues and positive possibilities. In the process, you can tap into an innate desire to be virtuous, to become the absolute best they can be and to strive for excellence. Ask yourself what you need to do in this situation.
  • Use an Appreciative Mindset – When you inquire in a way that appreciates the system (i.e., existing social capital), you can grow the capacity of people to get things done together. Whatever your circumstances, when you are intentional and proactive in seeing others at their best or finding the best alternatives available, you can have an uplifting impact. But when you’re closed to these alternatives, you can become reactive or defensive.
    Every conversation that you have and every question that you ask can shape the reality that you can find yourself in and can help others shape theirs. You can either talk about what’s wrong or what’s missing and, in doing so, feed anger and discontent, or you can choose to engage in conversations about the positive possibilities. In truth, no problem can be defined as a problem in the absence of a positive possibility. And chances are the stronger the cynicism or anger that others have, the more powerful the image of a positive possibility exists within them.
  • Invite others in – Gather the diverse values, perspectives and constituencies of the whole system into one conversation through an Appreciative Inquiry summit. Starting from the assumption that you already have within your system the capability of a positive transformational future, you can then work together to develop the steps in identifying the energy and pockets of excellence that exist across your organization. In the process, you build community, bring to light elements of excellence that already resonate with people and help translate strategic ideas and images of possibilities into reality. Magic can happen when you create environments where people can interact, hear one another and really respect and appreciate different perspectives in a healthy, effective way.

What can you do to take a more strengths-focused approach to creating change?

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