Musings

Tags >> Culture change

In a group addressing structural racism in organizational operations and programmatic work, we are reviewing proposals for action. A person of color notes some language used in otherwise sound ideas could unintentionally reinforce the separation the proposal seeks to address. The next speaker, a white person, explains what they intended the term to mean, why it was inadequate and why they settled on it for now.


Spaciousness

Posted by: heather

While we're at it, why don't we also...? Before I leave for the next meeting, let me do just one more thing. I'll skip the gym/art class/music performance/time with family and friends because I need to get these next three things done. Sure, I can do that too, it won't take that long. I can't say no at work, they are counting on me. There's just so much to do, if I stay late I can make some headway.


Happy Valentine, 2014

Posted by: heather

Do you, like so many people and organizations, wait for things to be good—however you define it—before you’ll share love in the form of appreciation, kudos, encouragement, generosity, a smile, or even your time? Do you believe that people don’t need praise just for “doing their jobs” or that feedback is what you tell people when they are doing things wrong? Well, this Valentine is especially for you.

I know well the temptation to fix what seems broken or to improve performance by focusing on what is missing. Yet experience and research show that focusing on what is working builds effectiveness faster AND generates happier colleagues, workers, family members and friends. That’s why “success breeds success” and “what we appreciate appreciates”. The disciplines of positive psychology, Appreciative Inquiry, appreciative intelligence, and neuroscience demonstrate that focus on positive possibility and accomplishment unleashes far more energy and intrinsic motivation than does the focus on the negative, which yields fear and passivity.


It's been a couple of weeks since President Obama won reelection. As the country reflects on the meaning of the election and again projects its hopes and fears onto the President, I see the presidential election and the tone of our politics so far as symbolic of organizational changes we often confront.

The first only. For organizations that bring on a first member of a new (to them) community, the dynamics are almost always challenging. The first must often be extraordinarily qualified to blunt the inevitable criticism that difference is the only reason for the hire. Whether seen as a representative of the new constituency or transcendent of the identity (e.g. post-racial), the newcomer is rarely seen or treated as an individual informed by background rather than fully defined by it or, conversely, wholly independent of it, as in just like us.


Crisis and Scarcity

Posted by: heather

My clients take on big issues—homelessness, genocide, poverty, liberty, workers rights, workplace democracy, environmental and economic sustainability, and justice. In all cases, the need is great. The forces for the status quo are well-entrenched and well-heeled. The sense of enormity and urgency can be overwhelming. At the same time, these organizations typically work with budgets that are tiny relative to the challenges. There is just not enough—money, people, time, attention, skill—to address the issues.


What are you for?

Posted by: heather

People respond to a positive proposition with energy that’s optimistic and sustainable. That is, people will strive for something compelling even, or especially, if it’s challenging. On the other hand, identifying something wrong or objectionable and fighting against what is, gets meager results compared to pursuing a desired outcome. Analysis or critique of the current state can be useful, but a problem focus fills up the available mental and emotional space leaving little room for a positive alternative. By contrast, the desired outcome makes the challenge of now minor relative to the promise of the future.


Organizations use strategic plans to identify their vision, mission, outcomes, success factors, milestones, resource allocation, short-term objectives and action steps. People get excited by the destination and path they’ve set for themselves but they often postpone their future by continuing the current way they do things even though to achieve the ambitious plan they need to start now. The situation is akin to the person who has a brilliant plan for getting in shape—tomorrow.


My Intentions

    • I intend to share ideas about organizational processes that support the effective functioning of justice seeking organizations.
    • I will share lessons about the life of organizations and provide tools that can support organizational performance.
    • Because I'm also committed to the issues that my clients work on, I'll discuss current events, justice, and the larger implications of news stories or community events.
    • Part of that discussion will include publicizing the issues, campaigns, and thoughtful work of clients.
    • As a colleague to other OD consultants, I hope to spark conversations among those of us who do this work.