Traditional change management approaches often call for identifying the person or people who are not in accord with a change project and fixing or replacing them with people who are. This process typically leads to a series of finite, win/lose power struggles that change little and waste much systemic energy on non-productive activities. Noting that win/lose processes will, in the long run, always generate lose/lose results, an alternative approach would be to focus on infinite, win/win change goals and strategies.
An important aspect of playing infinitely is to focus on changing the quality of relationships within the target system rather than trying to change or fix members who do not seem in accord with a proposed change. This is directly related to the processes of conflict management and team-building mentioned in previous sections.
Focusing on changing the quality of relationships rather than trying to fix or change people or groups of people minimizes the need for power struggles. When open, collaborative decision-making processes are used, most individual needs can be met while focusing on developing strategies and tactics aimed at the change goals.
I remember a situation in a high-value, light manufacturing company. The head of manufacturing was upset with the head of sales for bringing in an order that she couldn’t fulfill by the date promised with the personnel to which she was limited by a budget crunch. The sales manager insisted that that was what the customer wanted and that he was under pressure to increase revenue flow. Their boss, the general manager, gave me the job of helping them resolve their issues. I asked the boss if either of the constraints could be eased. He said, “No,” very politely, but firmly. I interviewed both parties to help get them into a listening mode by my listening extensively to them, so that both were feeling heard before meeting together. It took awhile for them to get past their self-righteousness and figure out that if they worked together they could short-circuit the issues they had with each other. The detail of “working together” was interesting: They decided to do monthly forecasts together and that a manufacturing representative would go along on customer meetings involving potential sales over a certain amount. Yes, it took three hours including lunch to work all of this out, and we created a process through which both could win in addition to the organization winning! With persistence, patience, and enough passion, infinite solutions are most always available!
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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.