Mexican Food for Easter = Change Strategies 2011
Well, I was all settled in for the traditional Easter dinner when my family requested Mexican food instead. Mexican Food??? But after a while, I thought why not? So, I created a menu and everyone enjoyed the meal. My kitchen certainly stayed cooler and I spent much less time in food preparation. Of course, I did miss the traditional turkey along with all of the sides that are usually part of our Easter dinner. It’s Tradition!!! But I got over it and actually had a less stressful day because of the change. It occurred to me that this was much like the discussions that we have had over the course of the semester. Often, when things change, we spend time mourning the loss of the way things were while trying to embrace the new processes.
As I consider the journey that we have had over the course of the semester, I think about the different styles of change management we have reviewed. We interviewed change agents, learned about Paul Farmer and discussed Traditional Organizational Change along with Large Group Change Strategies. Quite a bit to discuss and absorb in a matter of months!
Interview with a Change Agent:
I had the pleasure of interviewing Christine Miller for this project. Christine is a former VP of HR at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. As we spoke, I recognized that I had been through change efforts which used the strategies that we studied in class. The notion of “equifinality” as discussed in Warner Burke’s Chapter 4 (2011) was a common thread throughout the conversation. Burke cited Von Bertalanffy’s (1950) principle “an organization can attain the same goal from different starting points and by a variety of paths.” She also referred Senge’s philosophy of need to maintain “Creative Tension” to hold onto the vision while being mindful of the current situation. As we keep the tension between the two, there may be a need to rethink our course of action and make small changes to get to the same end result while never letting go of the vision we have in the change effort.
As we reflected on the change strategy for a large merger, it became clear that Kurt Lewin’s “Unfreeze, Move, Freeze” approach to change was implemented. Bernard Burnes (Gallos, 2006) quotes Lewin in our text “to be stable, a cultural change has to penetrate all aspects of a nation’s life. The change must, in short, be a change in the “cultural atmosphere” not merely a change of a single item” (p. 136). I observed this first hand as this multi-year change effort came to fruition. According to Burnes (Gallos, 2006) who quotes Kanter, “bold strokes often need to be followed by a whole series of incremental changes (a “long march”) in order to align an organization’s culture and behaviors with the new structure” (p. 152).
This interview was a terrific starting point for learning about the change strategies in our course work. As our class discussed each strategy, I was able to relate back to those that I had been involved in with new/educated eyes and appreciate the work and grit which was required to make it happen.
Dr Paul Farmer:
Reading about Dr Paul Farmer was another step into the realm of change strategy. It was interesting to learn about his philosophy and methods for changing the view of infectious disease and attempting to cure it. I was amazed by the amount of change that one man with a wonderful support system could accomplish. He was a tireless individual committed to transformation. I particularly enjoyed the quote from Margaret Mead, “never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. Indeed, they are the only ones who ever have” (Kidder, 2003, p. 164). It seemed to be very true in his case.
In thinking about what Paul Farmer’s credo may be, we had a lively class discussion. He had a different lens to view the world than most of us. My interpretation of his mission is that he seeks to redistribute some of the “wealth”. In his case this is medical attention for those who couldn’t otherwise have it.
Large Group Change Strategies:
We reviewed the traditional change strategies, many of which were the origins of the more recent strategies. The traditional strategies will always have their place in our organization change tool belt. It becomes a matter of the type and scope of change required by the organization. It is also a matter of the speed required for change. A key observation that I had on the traditional process was that it was driven top down and time spent on each component of the change process was different. Traditional OD works very well when working at the unit or department level, but it takes a considerable amount of time.
As we went through the large group change strategies; Open Space, Future Search and Appreciative Inquiry; I couldn’t help but compare and contrast each of the strategies. It was a great experience to be part of a reader’s digest version of each of the strategies to get a taste of them. Not only that, but I I also think differently about communication technology and health and wellness differently now due to the conversations and exercises which were part of that experience.
Both Future Search and Appreciative Inquiry have their roots in Open Space. They have many kindred qualities between them. Self management, everyone is equal in their ideas, seeking common ground, hands off facilitators and the fact that you can use them across all cultures are just a few of the commonalities. As Whitney and Trosten-Bloom explain, they borrowed many practices for designing and facilitating large scale meetings from the “mother” of “Whole-Scale” change, Kathleen Dannemiller. From Peter Senge, they learned to value the practice of dialogue. From Harrison Owen they learned the power of self organization and from Weisborg and Janoff they learned the importance of bringing all stakeholders in the room. Weisborg and Janoff go further and mention how Future Search can be integrated with both Appreciative Inquiry and Open Space. Letting go of the past is essential to a successful AI, and Future Search uniquely helps people do that. The link to Open Space is the ability to organize conversations on topics that concern the participants (2006, p . 162). I can see why practitioners would use them together and interchangeably.
Each of these methods are very prescriptive in a certain area of the process. While I studied and participated in Open Space and Future Search, I felt immersed in Appreciative Inquiry. When you observe facilitators taking a back seat in the process, you don’t realize how much effort is put into the facilitation and process of the large scale change interventions. As a facilitator, you have absolutely no idea what the outcomes will be. This can be daunting to the organization. But we learned that if you trust the process, it will all work as it should.
Originally I felt most comfortable with the Future Search process. It seemed to resonate with me. But as I continued to learn more about Appreciative Inquiry, I saw the advantage of framing things in a positive point of view. We have heard many times that “Words Create Worlds” and “Acting As If” can inspire us to a direction and determine the actions that we take. I liked the idea of focusing on what we do well and imagining what a perfect future would look like. Physicality and engagement are quite important and help participants in moving forward towards the goal. It becomes a part of their mantra for change.
As I go back and reread the credo I created at the beginning of the semester, I still adhere to the philosophy behind the credo, but realize how much I have learned from the readings and my fellow classmates. I don’t think that I will look at change strategy quite the same again.
I also realize the great benefits of the group creating and leading the change to move forward into the vision for the future. Bringing consciousness into the change intervention is imperative. As Weisbord and Janoff explain, “the fastest way to help ourselves change is to fully experience, accept, and take responsibility for out thoughts, actions, feelings and desires (2010, p. 64). I couldn’t have explained it better and I observed it first hand in our classroom.