We all have the power needed to create and manage change within the systems (personal and organizational) of which we are members. However, many of us constrain our energy and power through antithetical belief systems. Often, we simply don’t believe that we have choices available to achieve the changes we desire. At times, our concept of what we want to change is too vague to be useful. Or, our energies are too dispersed to be effective. Regardless of the reason why not, what is needed is to empower ourselves. Unfortunately, others cannot do it for us–
though they can support us in our self-empowerment.
Here is the definition we use for empowerment: Supporting self and others toward self-discovering their inherent ability to choose their behavior, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs on behalf of fully engaging themselves toward accomplishing their personal goals and those of their systems.
General Thoughts about Making Empowerment Work
2. Find a wider range of choices beyond “damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”
3. Focus on the present rather than the past or the future.
4. Beware problem-solving. Empowerment “teaches someone to fish;” problem-solving “gives a fish.”
5. Offer suggestions only to ensure that all options are being explored.
6. Ask, “How would you find out?” when “I don’t know” statements occur.
7. Support the other person, not our own ideas, experiences, or egos.
Specific Steps to Support the Empowerment of Others
1. Clarify goals.
2. Identify what is in the way of accomplishing the goal.
3. Check that one is operating from sound and current data.
4. Identify beliefs and conflicting thoughts that may be preventing goal attainment.
5. Keep the focus on empowerment rather than the obstacles and other players.
6. Offer suggestions to choose from.
7. Identify the decisions that need to be made among the available choices.
8. Identify the support system needed.
9. Identify a path forward of concrete next steps of time and place.
10. Check to see if the person has confidence in the path forward.
11. Offer encouragement. You’re done!
Marianne Williamson’s poem speaks to the essence of empowerment.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Learn to Make a Difference in the World of People, Teams, and Organizations http://bit.ly/zFCNfv
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.
I’ve been thinking about how to formulate with sufficient detail to be useable and in a temporally logical manner, the things that the top OD folks think about as they move from the beginning of an OD project to its end. The problem, of course, is that each step requires the personal judgment needed to move a step from number 3 to 9 or step 12 to 5. Most steps will need to be repeated over and over as the process unfolds anyway.
I’m offering a loose recipe that will always require your own tweaks, modifications, and embellishments. It’s stuff worth thinking about for those who want to increase their ability to manage change in human systems.
Go to http://www.chumans.com/human-systems-resources/process-of-od.html for the document.
Let me know what you would add, change, or subtract from the list that would make it more useful! I’d really like that!
This is the second of two posts that look at the stages of the organization development process. The first post discussed Contracting and Re-contracting and Data Gathering; now we will look at the other three stages: Intervention, Evaluation and Disengagement. Bear in mind, however, that the stages are not discrete. They overlap. They are iterative. They often must be orchestrated simultaneously. Each can trigger the need for another.
Implicit in the idea of the empowerability of human systems is the assumption that through improving relationships within the system the leaders and members of the system can begin to identify and resolve their own issues and, in the process, create whatever change they wish. This could mean improving the relationships and resolving conflicts between system structures, between groups, and between individuals. At the intrapersonal level, some change action is often needed to help resolve the internal conflicts that bedevil many system executives and managers.
Interventions, then—as a stage in the total change process—are those actions designed to improve relationships within the target system on behalf of opening communication and developing more informed and inclusive decision-making processes. Interventions include, in their various forms, feedback to the system, team-building, strategic planning, training, conflict management, and coaching.
Two important skills needed to design and carry out these interventions include group facilitation and conflict management. Those two skill sets require deep use of our listening and straight-talk capacities. A systems orientation wherein we act from a perspective that keeps in mind impact on the entire system is essential. Of course, the ability to use ourselves flexibly and congruently with any particular situation is fundamental. Use of self and a system orientation are notable as the first two change management disciplines described in the sections below.
As much an ongoing process as a specific stage, the Evaluation stage informs the change agent and the system about the results the change project or specific change actions have had. In essence, evaluation is a feedback-based data-gathering process—feedback which will give the change leaders critical information about how the system has responded to a change action and how they might design the next action to be more effective. This concept is notably different from the use of feedback as a means—generally, ineffective—of getting someone to change. Feedback is more useful as a means of determining the quality of relationship that has or has not been stimulated by a particular change action. Feedback is essentially an evaluation process that can also be used to gather data about what can make a more effective next change action.
Evaluative processes can be as simple as asking someone or a group how well something worked and what might work better next time. More formal group processes can take a form where everyone takes a turn responding to an evaluative question (such as, what did you learn about managing change this weekend?). System-wide evaluations might be done at the end of a change project and at periodic intervals after that to see how much staying power some systemic change might have. It is a good idea to have evaluative feedback processes built into a system’s ongoing routine to monitor the specific and general wellbeing of that system.
Little discussed in the change management literature is the process of completing or ending a change project. A typical disengagement process for the participants in the change project might include a closing evaluation session, statements of learnings gleaned from the project, and celebration of whatever success was achieved.
In addition, the change leaders—task leader(s) and process facilitator(s)—should get together to formally agree that the project is completed or otherwise at an end. Additional and more personal feedback might be shared in this meeting about what worked well, what worked less well, and what might be done differently in a future project. Some celebration would certainly be in order.
Appropriate closure and disengagement allow the system and the people in it to learn from their experience in the project and to let go of what has been completed to move effectively on to whatever is next.
Next we will look at the levels of organizational systems across which the stages are applied.
In our previous post, we discussed our Meta-Model of Planned Change, a three-dimensional matrix that describes the traditional model of organization development (including the stages of the planned change process and the levels of human systems) and the disciplines of critical thinking. In this post and the one following we will look at the stages of the organization development process, beginning with Contracting and Re-contracting and Data Gathering.
The Stages of The Organization Development Process
The stages of contracting and re-contracting, data gathering, action, evaluation, and disengagement represent the basic structure of OD. They are not our formulation, but are basic to the field. They are not discrete. They overlap. They are iterative. They often must be orchestrated simultaneously. Each can trigger the need for another. Data-gathering, intervention, evaluation, and disengagement can all lead to re-contracting. All are interventions that can have system-wide impact and which can generate new data and lead, again, to re-contracting. Any stage can lead to any other stage. For the sake of presentation, the order presented is generic as if all things were equal and ideal, but they never are in human systems.
Contracting and Re-contracting
Contracting is a negotiated process for coming to agreement. We make agreements all the time. Some are implicit. A few are explicit. Many are vague. Occasionally, they are specific. The process of OD works toward contracts that are explicit, specific, and that have the potential for all parties to the contract to arrive at some significant level of satisfaction.
OD-type contracting is the process of coming to consensual agreement with the person or persons who are key to the success of a change project. If an OD practitioner is involved there must be a contract with the organization’s leader. The leader (with the support of the practitioner if there is one) must contract for change with those who are key to facilitating and implementing the change. This process of contracting for mutual satisfaction is core to the process of effective organization development.
Effective contracting clarifies goals, roles, basic strategies, relationship values, and the next steps of a change project. Of course, as a project moves forward new information is uncovered requiring re-negotiation of the initial contract and subsequent contracts. Contracting and re-contracting are dynamic, on-going processes that move with the movement of the project.
Once the initial contract has been established, the prudent change agent insists on a data-gathering stage. This process serves several purposes:
- It provides needed information for the effective planning of further Change Actions.
- It galvanizes organizational energy in preparation for “something happening.”
- It provides an opportunity for some initial empowerment coaching of those from whom data is gathered.
Data should be gathered about the following:
- What’s working in the targeted system?
- What needs improvement within the system?
- What has been done to attempt improvement?
- What barriers occurred to such attempts?
- Reactions to the change goals and reasons for them.
The information being sought is the general themes and patterns extant about the state of the system and its readiness for a particular change goal. This data will direct the formation of the strategic and tactical plans for the change project. From this data, needs of the system which could act as resistance to the change need to be considered in their own right and can be planned for and engaged.
This is not the only time that data will be gathered during a change project. The data gathering process is continual, as we will discuss under the discipline of Sound and Current Data.
Next Up: We will look at the stages of Intervention, Evaluation, and Disengagement.