There is little that we change by ourselves. It is hard to change even ourselves without help from friends, coaches, mentors, or therapists. Managing change in groups so that they become effective teams or in organizations requires that we have more help.
We can get that help by connecting more effectively across our range of human systems. Yet, we are often disconnected from ourselves and others while wondering why things don’t seem to be working. We are often disconnected from awareness of our intentions, our emotions, our thoughts, and our beliefs—obviating any conscious use of self. We disconnect ourselves from others as we judge them harshly, as we see them as behaving in ways in which we do not approve.
The way we define parts of ourselves as OK and parts as not OK is another hindrance to effective use of self. Too often we deny the large portions of ourselves that we define as not OK. We want to see ourselves as male, not female or female, not male. We want to see ourselves as ‘nice,‘ never as ‘mean.’ In this manner, we deprive ourselves of the inherent flexibility that comes with the multiple aspects and attitudes that make up our fundamental integrity. We often judge ourselves too harshly, and this also damages our connectivity. Through connecting with others we can help ourselves and help others to help themselves.
Intentionality as conscious use of self gives us the ability to choose from moment to moment what we want to accomplish.
Do want to prove our rightness or righteousness? Do we want to maintain or build a relationship? Do we want to pretend that we know what we are doing? Do we want to learn something new? Do we want to protect ourselves? Do we want to improve productivity? Each of those goals might be appropriate for any given circumstance so there is no right or wrong here. What is here is the opportunity to be consciously choiceful about our intentions so that we might direct our behavior accordingly.
From childhood most of us were given only minimal choice opportunities. As infants we had the choice of cry or not cry, but we don’t think there was much consciousness involved with that back then, though we may have consciously found it to be a useful tactic a year or so later. Mostly, we had little choice but to follow the dictates of our parents or other caregivers about what to do and how to behave. In school it was quite the same thing, as it was in church or temple. Some of us did choose to rebel, but doing what our parents and teachers didn’t want us to do did not really offer a broad range of options. Most of us longed for adulthood when we would finally be free to make our own choices—only to discover that the world of work gave us a series of bosses whose dictates we had to follow if we wanted to keep our jobs.
Through all of these processes we are socialized and conditioned via reward and punishment to be nice, work hard, and follow all of the other rules of the institutions around us and society in general. Some of us tried to walk a road less traveled only to return to the beaten path later. Mostly, we’ve been duped by society “to go along to get along” and be otherwise obedient whether it is satisfying and productive—and too often neither. With so little practice in choosing our own intentions it is often simply easier to follow the crowd. Even at the personal level we think we’ve chosen to “never do that again” or “from now on to” only find that we are still not exercising, still eating too much, or still not doing whatever we said we intended to do or still doing what we intended to no longer do.
Unfortunately, habitual or socialized behavior maintains the status quo. It changes nothing. Only through conscious and deliberate intentionality are we able maintain a selected focus that would have us believe, think, feel, and behave in ways that will
- Enhance our relationships with others,
- Make our teams more effective, and
- Make our organizations more productive and satisfying.
We can choose and maintain the intention to empower ourselves, to play infinitely with others, to build personal and organizational support systems. In doing so we increase our ability to contract, gather data, intervene, evaluate, and disengage more effectively with ourselves, others, groups, and organizations.
The primary tool that anyone wishing to manage change in a human system uses is the configuration of intellectual, emotional, and physical energies that that particular person brings to the situation. That includes her personality, her various abilities (particularly her ability to learn), and her idiosyncrasies.
Most of us have only begun to recognize and develop full command of ourselves. Most of us respond to many situations automatically. These automatic or habitual responses are the result of over-learning. Over-learning is the extrapolation of an appropriate learning from past experiences and applying it too broadly to other situations that may seem similar, even identical, when they are not at all similar. Often they are not similar simply because we are amazingly different from when we originally learned the response. Accordingly, the impacts of many of our actions fall far from our intended results.
In the processes of effective change management we need all the personal flexibility we can muster. How we behave in one situation or with one person is not likely to be very effective with another, though similar, situation or person. To manage change in human systems we must be able to tailor our behavior to the immediate situation in such a manner that it will move us and those around us toward whatever change goal we have in mind.
To manage our behavior, however, is not a simple matter. Consider that:
- Our behavior is directed by our emotions.
- Our emotions are directed by our thoughts.
- Our thoughts are directed by our belief systems through which we understand ourselves and the world around us.
How often do we believe we have no choice about what to do in a particular situation? In fact, with conscious use of self we can make choices at the level of our behavior, our emotions, our thoughts, or our belief systems. The further along this continuum of choice the greater our ability to choose effective courses of action rather than follow our habitual patterns. As we move toward mastery of these aspects of ourselves, we will be more and more able to behave in such a manner that the systems within which we wish to manage change will respond in ways consonant with our goals and intentions.
We want to pay attention to three particular areas of conscious use of self—intentionality, connectivity and ego management. We will look at each of these in subsequent posts, so stay tuned!
In recent blog posts we have looked at the stages of planned change, which can also be thought of in terms of critical interventions, and at the levels of organizations in which the skilled practitioner works. We also offered a general process of Organization Development that takes into account these stages and organizational levels. Now we will consider eight crucial disciplines, the mastery of which binds it all together.
Effectiveness with each of the prescribed stages of change across the levels of organization systems requires a degree of critical thinking that is generally beyond that found in the target organization and the general social milieu in which the organization exists.
Each of the eight disciplines directly supports the empowerability of human systems and the people that live and work within them. They also support the use of collaborative strategies and tactics aimed at open communication, consensual decision-making, cooperation, learning, and relationship building which together can make for powerful and productive human systems anywhere. Each is related to and supports the others toward a systemic understanding of critical thinking as applied to making humans systems both productive and satisfying.
These disciplines focus upon:
- Conscious Use of Self
- Systems Orientation
- Sound and Current Data
- Infinite Power
- Learning from Differences
- Support Systems
We will look at each of them in greater detail in the coming weeks.