Organizational Change through Deep Change

We are now embarking on Chapter 7 of Deep Change by Robert Quinn. After talking with several others about this book, I think this might be the least understood chapter and something that is too easily taken for granted. This chapter is focused to the need for reinventing ourselves by changing our perspectives. The word reinvent is now a common word that is heard often. Individuals talk about reinventing themselves and companies speak about reinventing their vision; but is the inner core changing or are we just covering up the same old package with new wrapping paper? Reinvention is not as easy as it looks if it is done deeply and sincerely.

“Unfortunately, enlarging our perspective is very difficult. For one thing, the degree to which past successes have etched a given map, script, paradigm, or myth into our brain affects how we process information. They are extremely formidable barriers to tear down and replace. However, to gain insight into a new and challenging situation, these maps have to be reexamined” (Quinn, 1996, p. 65).

Here is an example of different paradigms and how they impact our perspective.

Safety is the top priority for utilities

Safety is a key factor for utilities.

Last year I was working with an electric utility and was out in the field observing 2 linemen replace streetlights. One employee was driving the bucket truck and the other employee was in the bucket, raised in the air replacing the lamp in the streetlight. When the first light was replaced, the employee in the bucket signaled to the other employee who was driving that he was finished and to move the truck to the next street light. The employee stayed in the bucket and as the truck rolled down the street, you could see him holding on tight to keep his balance. They proceeded to change the next street light and then the same series of events occurred: the employee signaled to the other that he was finished, the truck rolled down the block (and sometimes a few blocks) while the employee stayed in the bucket and got ready to change out the next street lamp.

I was observing this series of events with three supervisors from within this electric company. We all agreed that we saw the same behaviors. So, you might be thinking that there are no perspectives to be changed here, right? We all agreed that we saw the same behaviors, so there is nothing that requires adjustment or changing perspectives, right? WRONG! That is where most companies stop- once we agree that WHAT we observed matched, we can just end the conversation. NO! We need to keep talking because we need to be concerned with how you perceive what you observed and why you feel that way. When I asked each supervisor to tell me how they felt about what they observed, each one gave me a completely different answer.

Supervisor 1: “What’s wrong with that?? We have 400 streetlight to change out in the next week. They’re moving along at a pretty good and they’re being careful. Nobody got hurt.”

Supervisors 2: “Well, we really do need to think about safety and productivity. I think maybe we need to look a little closer at what they’re doing and make sure it is as safe as possible.”

Supervisor 3: “NO WAY! There is huge potential for injury there. We need to call an ALL STOP before someone gets hurt!”

It is at this point when we realize that there are multiple perspectives. If we had just talked to one of those supervisors, we would have gotten only one perspective, and not even realized that other perspectives were out there. Each of these supervisors was completely surprised when they engaged in this dialogue and heard each others’ responses because they assumed that each of their personal perspective was the ONLY perspective that existed. This is an example of how we do not realize how narrow our perspectives are until we hear others talk about how they feel about something and realize that others feel differently than we do.

So the moral of this story is: You may not realize that you need a perspective change because you assume that everyone feels the same way you do. But that is not the case.

Here is another example:

I attended a safety meeting. During that meeting many of the attendees were very vocal about how they disagreed with what was being told to them. They shouted out exceptions, they asked a lot of questions, and provided many valid examples of how this new policy that was being communicated would not help to improve safety. After the meeting was over, I met with several of the managers who were in the meeting. They expressed their apologies to me about their employees being “rude, rowdy and uncontrolled”. They were frustrated and one of them talked about how he was going to reprimand one of his employees for “speaking out of turn and being disrespectful”. I then provided my perspective on the situation: I was thankful for their comments, I was excited that they felt comfortable voicing their opinions and I was energized by their passion for safety. The managers proceeded to argue with me about how “I had it all wrong”. What an interesting perspective! I was wrong but they were right. Why? Just because my opinion was different than theirs; that made my perspective wrong.

This is another example of the need for personal and organizational change. Are you able to hear others perspectives without judging them as wrong? Are you able to put on a different hat and see things through a different lens? OR are you stuck in your current viewpoints? Are you determined to prove that your opinion is the right opinion? Or do you quietly let another person speak, but in your head you are telling yourself how wrong they are? If this is you, then there are opportunities for growth and adapting a new perspective.

The next time you are in a meeting with others, listen for these phrases:

  1. That’s not right.
  2. I’m going to need to respectfully disagree with you.

And more importantly, pay attention to what you are thinking and saying to yourself as others talk… “There she goes again, on her soapbox”, “I knew the meeting was going to go in this direction”, “I wish they would just realize…”, “There’s an easier way of doing this…”

After you focus on what the voice inside of you is saying, find new phrases to say and practice those. Then start asking questions to find out why others feel a certain way.

Are you the same gift but wrapped in new paper?

Are you the same gift but wrapped in new paper?

If the world doesn’t look different to you, then it probably isn’t different. This is a sign that you have not changed your perspective and reinvention is still just covering up the same old package in new wrapping paper. Are you going in the new year with a new perspective? Or are you covering up the same perspectives with a new outer look? Deep Change is about changing the inner core. Keep digging.


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