While I am a huge advocate of appreciative inquiry and identifying the positive attributes of any situation, I am also a huge fan of finding the source of your problems. If something is not working, we need to take a hard look at the source of why something is not working. We are now engaged in Chapter 11 of Robert E. Quinn’s book Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within.
How often have you attended a training class that was very exciting and motivating? A year later, someone talks about the program you attended and you hear the mutters from around the room, “Yea, it was great at first, but it didn’t work”. What was the problem? Did the program not work OR did the people not change their behaviors to make the program work? New processes will not work with old mindsets. The first thing that must change during a change initiative are the mindsets of the leaders. We must be willing to peel back the layers of beliefs that have carried us to our current position and start learning new ideas and new mindsets.
“Deep change requires an evaluation of the ideologies behind the organizational culture. This process happens only when someone cares enough to exercise the courage to uncover the issues no one dares to recognize or confront. It means someone must be enormously secure and courageous. Culture change starts with personal change” (Quinn, 1996, p. 103).
Here is an example of an ideology that has become imbedded in some cultures. In some companies it has become acceptable to hang up the phone when a customer is so upset that they begin swearing. Some of you reading that statement may be thinking, “Well, sure, if the customer swears at you, we have every right to hang up the phone on him”. THAT IS EXACTLY THE IDEOLOGY THAT I AM TALKING ABOUT! What if I told you that my philosophy is to be compassionate with that customer and recognize that he is not swearing at me personally, he is swearing because he is extremely upset about something? Hanging up on him is not going to solve the problem and may only give him something else to swear about. But I am also not saying that you have to sit there and tolerate being yelled at either. What if you said, “Mr. Customer, I hear how upset you are and I can understand your frustration. I want to help you and I want to review this situation with you. I want you to know that I want to solve your problem, but swearing at me is not helping us to work together. So, let’s figure this out together so that neither one of us is upset.”
That would be a new approach for some of you. For those of you who are immediately saying that it won’t work; you are not yet ready to make the kinds of deep change that we have been talking about. Deep change is not about immediately saying something won’t work. Deep change is about considering all of your options. Deep change is about looking into all of the dark corners to find the source of your problems. Deep change is about putting aside all of your old beliefs and trying on some new ones for awhile. Are you willing to do that? What have you got to lose except some of those problems that have been holding you back from making deep changes?