Posts Tagged ‘non-rational’

“Personal Change Management” (PCM) Programs

November 28, 2010 Leave a comment

“Personal Change Management” (PCM) programs were developed by The Leadership Alliance Inc. [TLAINC] because, in our experience, successful implementation of organizational change is always significantly dependent on non-rational “people-factors” that are present in the organizations workforce at all levels; however, these “people-factors” are ignored in virtually every change initiative.

These people-factors include personal perceptions, attitudes and feelings that exist below the surface of formal organizational contact, and they are disregarded because organizations largely operate under a cultural cloak of rationality, ignoring or deeply underestimating non-rational realities such as emotion. The result is tragic — workforce energy that could be applied productively becomes a destructive force that undercuts the anticipated change-related performance enhancement. Remember, the people that will resist the change are the very people relied on to implement the change!

Organizations that are serious about successfully implementing change must strike an adequate balance between promoting rationality/technical efficiency and exploring non-rational factors if the anticipated benefits are to be captured. They certainly cannot afford to do otherwise if the planned change is highly disruptive and/or expensive. So how might this be accomplished?

Although an organization may attempt to ensure a successful change initiative by collaboratively developing an exciting vision statement, and satisfying employees’ various basic physiological needs, really significant leverage for successful  change lies in upgrading each individual’s understanding of their own unique personal and inter-personal “people-factors”, and by surfacing them, help the individual deal with them appropriately. To address these needs, TLAINC developed the Personal Change Management (PCM) approach – performance-based programs that facilitate personal identification, understanding, clarification, and resolution of significant non-rational people-factors that may impact the success or failure of a given change initiative, independent of the type of change envisaged.

The PCM approach is based on the notion that to ensure a successful change effort, each individual in the organization must have their own evolving PCM “kitbag”; one that they personally continuously fill and refresh with knowledge about the organizational change envisaged, what it means to them, and how to bring it about at their local level or how to address barriers to implementation. Furthermore, all employees, including managers, must populate their PCM kitbags with understanding and skills related to people-factors. This is achieved using programs that assist managers and staff change local peer-peer and senior-subordinate interactions to enhance authenticity, create emotional openness, and ease the process of “letting go” of the past and making sense of the new context.

The Roger Gaunt Action Learning process is an ideal vehicle to achieve these ends when exploited as part of an intensive workshop and coaching program involving small groups. This style of action learning was pioneered by Roger to help participants deal with their change-related concerns, without delving into any deep-seated emotional issues that are better treated via 1:1 health-professional interventions. This model is favored over the more familiar “project model”, advocated by Professor Reg Revans, because it encourages individuals to define and work with their own areas of interest and emotional concerns, thus building increased capacity for ownership, insight and effective implementation of identified solutions.

Each small group is called a PCM Group (PCMG). In TLAINC’s program PCMG members undergo a process that is enriched with counseling and group-work skills that draw on psycho-dynamic, Gestalt, and client-centric theory. Group members act as collective “counselor” to each “presenter” of an issue, enabling exploration and clarification of her/his situation, plus identification of options, solutions, or “next steps”; at a follow-up meeting the presenter reports to the group her/his progress regarding subsequent “action” taken.

TLAINC supplies highly skilled facilitation for PCMGs to ensure participants develop the discipline to work openly with the group process, and to set aside their own agendas when addressing the concerns of others. The facilitator trains the PCMG in the Gaunt Action Learning techniques, models the skills, and provides a “holding environment” for the group within which challenging and thinking can happen without threat. The aim is to enable a PCMG to become self-facilitating and responsible for its own development.

To explore PCM programs and PCMGs in more detail please contact me at – and NO we won’t follow up with you afterward unless agreed with you!


Power over vs Power to ..

August 27, 2009 2 comments

One may provide all the rational understanding and wherewithal for individuals or communities to accomplish a given objective, but if they don’t want to do it then it won’t happen, or the effort will be half-hearted with predictable results. Surely this simple truth is common knowledge, but much of the organizational managerial establishment still doesn’t get it – having ‘power over’ may make you feel good, but it’s a strategy that starts off suboptimal and goes down hill from there.

Of course organizations do routinely operate under a façade of rationality, but they still over-emphasize the goal-orientation that drives them, and under-value the expressive affective arenas of life; this in spite of a large influx of women into the workforce. In 1973 Gerard Egan wrote “Emotional repression in undoubtedly still a far greater problem than emotional overindulgence” [1]. Some thirty-odd years later this statement is as true as ever in my opinion; society still equates management capability with emotional maturity.

This translates as the control or repression of feelings, and organizations continue to use the word ‘emotional’ in a derogatory sense. Indeed, since managers are often guarded in their feelings, they prefer others to behave in the same way: “It is thought uncivil, rude, unconventional, unwarranted, and even obscene to express feelings toward others.  Emotional insulation parades under such euphemisms as ‘respect for others’ and ‘the dignity of privacy’” [2]; I would go further and include that it parades as ‘respect for our leaders and managers’. Putnum and Mumby quote Lutz who sums it up well: “In addition to treating emotion as a physiological state, people regard emotion as a value-laden concept which is often treated as ‘inappropriate’ for organizational life. In particular, emotional reactions are often seen as ‘disruptive’, ‘illogical’, ‘biased’ and ‘weak’. Emotion, then, becomes a deviation from what is seen as intelligent” [3].

Perhaps there is a fear in leaders and managers that focusing on emotional energy leads to loss of control; this is not the case: “Organizations do not need to abandon instrumental goals, productivity, or rationality to develop alternative modes of discourse. Emphasizing work feelings calls for including what is currently ignored or marginalized in organizational life. Rationality is not an objective, immutable state. Rather it is socially constructed and cast as the dominant mode of organizing. Rationality and technical efficiency, however, should be embedded in a larger system of community and interrelatedness. Perhaps organizations of the future could offer society a new alternative, one shaped by emotionally-connected creativity and mutual understanding as necessary elements for human growth.” [4].

A growing issue is that so much interpersonal communication is no longer face-to-face but ‘second-hand’ – mediated through technology, and “Technology makes it easy to fake authenticity, to manipulate it, to have encounters that seem authentic but are not” [5]; however, although technology such as email seems tailor-made for the powerful elite to hand out ‘the tablets’, social networking tools such as twitter and facebook offer huge opportunities for honest social interaction, and indeed demand a level of emotional honesty for social network trust and acceptance. I am encouraged by the way social networking tools leverage the community-influence of individuals to combat ‘power-over’ e.g. the political struggle in Iran. I also see why there will be resistance to inclusion of such tools in an organization’s inernal-use technology portfolio – but we can hope!

Social systems are highly complex and there is no guarantee that a particular seemingly desirable starting condition, such as the widespread introduction of social networking technology into organizations, will result in a desirable end-state. I do believe though that it would be a step in the right direction, helping to redirect the emotional labor that employees currently expend in subverting authoritarianism and emotional control, and channel it such that they display leadership in, and take personal responsibility for, shaping their own self-organizing system. “Here, ideally, people would give up some of their uniqueness to help build the edifice or common system, rather than clamoring for more power for their system, which then gets experienced as power over other people” [6].

Human nature being what it is, I do not believe that it is possible to build a paradise where an organization will fully succeed in dealing appropriately with all the complexities of the interactions within its social systems. I do believe however that an organization can strike an adequate balance between power-over/rationality/technical efficiency and non-rational factors, such that each field contributes to, and supports the other, in optimizing performance. I contend that by adopting this approach the quality of work, and work life of the organization, would be vastly enhanced over time, and that the ground would be well prepared for general adoption of much needed traits of leadership and personal responsibility at all employee levels. I would like to hear your views – please contact me to further explore these topics.


[1] Egan, G., Face To Face, Brooks/Cole Publishing, Monterey, 1973; pp. 61

[2] Egan, G., Face To Face, Brooks/Cole Publishing, Monterey, 1973; pp. 64

[3] Putnam, L.L., Mumby, D.K., Organizations, Emotion and the Myth of Rationality, in S. Fineman (Ed), Emotion in Organizations, Sage Publications, London, 1993; pp. 36

[4] Putnam, L.L., Mumby, D.K., Organizations, Emotion and the Myth of Rationality, in S. Fineman (Ed), Emotion in Organizations, Sage Publications, London, 1993; pp. 55

[5] Lukensmeyer, C.J., Parlett, M., Power, Change, And Authenticity: A Political And Gestalt Perspective, British Gestalt Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1997; pp. 7

[6] Lukensmeyer, C.J., Parlett, M., Power, Change, And Authenticity: A Political And Gestalt Perspective, British Gestalt Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1997; pp. 13