Concepts & Methods
...in the moment
...in the meeting
...in the macro process of organizational transformation
The Process of Organizational Transformation
Psychological principles for Organizational Transformation
Organizational transformation may be understood from the perspective of psychological principles at the levels of the individual, group and system (organization and network). While the body of psychological knowledge is vast, and the principles we have selected are few, we have found that their application leverages effective results throughout the transformation process.
Individual Psychological Principles
- People are motivated by free and informed choice
There is ample evidence for this axiom: the history of democracy, free market capitalism and the human relations school of organizational psychology. A culture which recognizes free and informed individual choice, consistent with the concept of "freedom with the agreed framework", fosters commitment to a shared vision as well as leadership by individuals for their own roles in the organization.
In the transformation process, for example, the leader individually drives the process of setting the direction for the organization. While the leader's perspective is essential, the effective leader finds the right balance between personal conviction and the flexibility to engage the organization, especially a coalition at the top, to develop a shared vision so individuals feel they also have made a free and informed choice.
- Perception is Reality
Each person's reality is a function of how they perceive events. Perception is affected by values, beliefs and mental models which serve as filters. Two people, frequently, will perceive the same event(s) in different ways.
In a transformation process the inevitable differences in mental models which participants employ to understand their organizational reality serve as barriers. Some hold to the past and some readily see and embrace the need for change for a new future. In dialogue, fundamental differences in perception can be uncovered, understood and serve as a basis for creating a shared perception and shared reality. What appeared to be contrary starting positions at the start, during dialogue, later, is understood to have been a paradox (a seeming contradiction which has turned out out not to be). Whereas at the start it appeared that the different positions represented an either/or choice (e.g., short vs. long term preparedness), after some time in dialogue the different positions are linked by the discussants with an "and" (e.g., short and long term preparedness).
Perceptions are also based on implicit assumptions. We may not be entirely conscious of all significant factors which affect our perceptions. Through dialogue the implicit assumptions begin to emerge explicitly. This process of discovery-moving from implicit to explicit understanding of perceptions is another benefit of dialogue.
- Action-learning--People learn complex skills by doing them
The effective transformation process recognizes that change is learning and learning is change and includes iterations of dialogue and action for change, including reflection on what works and what doesn't. Training of the skills, divorced from the application, is not sufficient to assure effective transformation.
Group Psychological Principles
- Clear and effective leadership is necessary and expected in social systems
Culturally, historically and most likely, genetically, people naturally expect to follow leaders as a natural organizing principle for the survival of the group, organization or society. Effective leaders of transformation combine involvement of others through dialogue and their own decisiveness to assure carrying out of three functions of transformational leadership:
--setting the direction for the organization
--leveraging resources (people, money, technology, know-how, assets) for ever more productive returns
--mobilizing the organization to implement the shared urgent vision
- Cooperative dynamics within and between groups can be nurtured and counteract dysfunctional patterns of adversarial relationships
Effective transformation employs and cultivates constructive intra- and inter-group relationships as essential to effective problem-solving, planning, decision making, innovation and implementation.
- Communities, such as teams, organizations and networks, manifest patterns of irrationality and emotionality
While our concepts and methods are rational and sequential, organizational transformation frequently is spontaneous and unpredictable. While in explaining our approach we are constrained to be linear, the approach must always be flexible to adapt to the unexpected in the client organization.
System Psychological Principles
- Individuals, Teams, Organizations, Networks and all human relationships are systems
Human systems are characterized by patterns of vicious cycles or virtuous circles. Change in any sub-system has an impact, positive or negative, on the all other sub-systems since they are all inter-related.
With this holistic perspective in mind, the transformation process can be guided
--to reinforce the virtuous circles of improving performance through effective use of feedback, the strengthening of connectivity among sub-systems and the discovery and focus on new, constructive behaviours.
--to be comprehensive and encompass all sub-systems at the individual, team, organizational and network levels
--to achieve a "tipping point" where rapidly most everyone in the organization is aligned on the new direction through the iterations of dialogue which involve ever wider concentric circles of participants and the points of leverage which are discovered to dramatically improve organizational effectiveness