Photo Credit: Waggl
We have all encountered people in life who are bright stars in our universe. They aren’t necessarily those who climb the corporate ladder or win public office. However, in their own niche, in their own small place in a company or community, they are brilliant change agents, people making a difference and moving us to a better situation. Just by showing up.
[Please take the time to share in Comments your experience of such a person – either at work or in your family or friend space.
Organizational change is usually driven from top-down planning and execution. Occasionally, those changes are not received well by the company employees or organizational members. Ownership doesn’t follow and at some point the change fizzles into something altogether different.
Wouldn’t it be wisdom to create successful and sustainable change? What is missing from typical change orchestration? Is change planned in the isolation of the executive conference room or in the company of those most impacted by the change.
Business authors and educators Richard T. Pascale and Jerry Sternin wrote several years ago about the very environment where positive and impactful change takes place. Their piece is titled Your Company’s Secret Change Agents and was introduced to me by a friend in a huge time of change himself. I wondered if his own situation resonated with this piece.
Pascale and Sternin write about the power of positive deviance. it is defined below.
Photo Credit: Slideshare
Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges.
Five basic steps serve as the backbone of the approach. The 5 D’s are:
- Define the problem, its causes and common practices, and articulate desired outcome.
- Determine presence of PDs,
- Discover their uncommon but successful behaviors & strategies through PD inquiries,
- Develop activities based on the inquiry findings
- Discern (monitor and evaluate) the results. – Positive Deviance Initiative
What Pascale and Sternin discovered was the essential component to change embraced by those impacted was the work done to find and learn from those “positive defiants” in the particular community. The practice of PD inquiry sorts out who those persons are and then discovers what they are doing well that others within the workplace or community aren’t. It’s not a judgment as much as a fact-finding mission.
“It’s easier to ACT your way into a new way of THINKING, than to THINK your way into a new way of ACTING”. – Pascale and Sternin
Too often we think our own personal expertise (knowledge) can move us and others to a changed attitude which would then impact practice. For sustainable change to take place (as in habit formation), we figure out what effective practice is and as we begin doing it, then our attitude changes and our knowledge grows. What are your thoughts about this?
The authors quote 6th century Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu in simply and eloquently describing this process:
Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people all remark
We have done it ourselves
Photo Credit: Brilliant Ink
I love when worlds converge giving greater import to what is happening. In recent weeks, I’ve been taking a course with Wendy McCaig, executive director of Embrace Richmond, instructing. The topic is Asset-based Community Development – (ABCD). It is very similar to positive deviance in setting out toward change.
ABCD is community and relationship driven. It’s not a more resourced agent coming in and trying to fix the problems of a workplace, organization, or neighborhood. It is a “working with process”. Like the PD inquiry, ABCD uses a methodology focused on listening – to individuals and to communities. These listening conversations are geared toward finding the positive deviants within that community…and seeking out their practices, attitudes, and particular knowledge.
Something I ask friends and former colleagues (free-lancing as I am now) often, especially when they are struggling with a top-down decision- and change-making structure is “Who is thriving in your situation?” “What are they doing to thrive?” “What are you doing to add to or contribute to the health of your organization?”
Too often, we get tunnel vision regarding change; thinking we have no other option but to respond…or react. Like Pascale, Sternin, Lao Tse, and also Wendy McCaig…I know and believe in those secret change agents. If you don’t know any, search them out.
Both/and really. Search them out AND become one as well.
[Do your bosses, your organizational leads, and yourselves a big favor…introduce them to your company’s secret change agents…those positive deviants in your lives.]