Showing posts from October, 2007

Positive Deviance and Diversity

Since the late 1970's, I have been wanting to attend a national Organization Development conference. Well, yesterday I finally went, albeit for just one day. But the trek from NJ to Baltimore was worth it, especially for the Positive Deviance presentation.

Co-presenters Jerry and Monique Sternin captivated the audience with a series of actual cases they had worked on, from reducing malnutrition in Vietnam to stopping MRSA in a hospital system in the U.S. They had a powerful message about solving seemingly intractable social problems: Somebody in the system probably has the solution already. These people are the "positive deviants" whose behaviors hold the key to solving the problem and changing the system.

This idea -- seek the positive deviants who have already implemented solutions somewhere in the system -- was so resonant for me that I found myself thinking of it in each of the subsequent sessions I attended.

It surfaced as an aha in the concurrent workshop that I …

Monsters and Change Agents

On a train ride the other morning, I found myself thinking of gangster Tony Soprano and his therapist Dr. Melfi.

As OD practitioners, are we ever like Dr. Melfi, approached by monsters that want our help? And if a monster approaches us, how do we decide?

~ Do we take the job because it would be interesting to study a monster?

~ Do we take the job because monsters are as deserving as anyone?

~ Do we take the job because maybe, just maybe, we can change the monster?

Anyone care to join my imaginary excursion?

As a child, I was a big fan of old monster movies like Frankenstein, the Wolfman, and Dracula. Though they scared the pants off me, I was strangely attracted to them. They were tragic in a way. Maybe I was drawn to them because of the monster inside of me?

In my last blog entry, I ended with the thought that change agents can sometimes be monsters, especially in the eyes of those affected by change.

This is a lesson for leaders who are driving change in their organizations: stay gr…

Too Much of a Good Thing

One of those lessons you learn early in life is that you can have too much of a good thing. Too much candy, you get cavities. Too much ice cream, a stomach ache. Too much booze, a hangover.

Here's an article (by way of Francis Wade, the Caribbean Organization Development consultant and blogger) about a wonderful windfall of change that came to a town in upstate New York, that became "too much of a good thing."

One townsperson said it well:

"Anytime you have this much change, you lose something too."

This change management story illustrates that even the best-intentioned change agent can end up being seen as a monster.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Oct 19, 2007

Sustainability and Green

Yes, it's October 15 and that means it's Blog Action Day, created to mobilize bloggers in support of the environment.

Over the weekend, I came upon an interesting blog post about sustainability from Hu Yoshida, the CTO of Hitachi Data Systems, where he says:

~ Sustainability is about planning, investing, and creating positive results or “better living”

I like that. We need to put a lot more focus on better living for all people everywhere.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Oct 15, 2007

Business and Spirituality

Since spirituality is part of life, it is therefore part of business.

But first it would help to talk about what we mean by spirituality.

Number one, we are not talking about religion. Rather, our spirituality is a layer of our nature. The four layers are: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

The spiritual layer of our nature is about such important questions as:
- Identity (Who am I?)
- Purpose (Why am I here?)
- Meaning (What does my life mean?)
- Imagination (What are the possibilities?)
- Gifts (What are my strengths and talents?)
- Stewardship (How can I make this world a better place because I was here?)

And this dimension of spirituality is quickly becoming a major issue around the world as people are questioning the decisions and actions of leaders. For example:

- Is war the only way to settle differences?
- Can we not channel our intelligence and energies into waging peace?
- Aren't we smart enough to solve issues like hunger and poverty?

Can you see how these questi…

Go With Your Strengths

I am in the middle of watching the new dvd from Marcus Buckingham called Trombone Player Wanted, where he presents some of his basic ideas on what goes into individual performance and success. It's really good.

As a fan of Buckingham's for years, since his first book, First Break All the Rules, came out in 1999, I think he represents a paradigm shift that is going on all around us. He is a leading figure in the shift, as is David Cooperrider and the other folks in the field of Appreciative Inquiry, and the Positive Psychology folks such as Martin Seligman.

The shift is movement away from deficit thinking, and toward abundance thinking. In deficit thinking we look at a person's (or organization's) weaknesses and try to fix them. In abundance thinking, we look at a person's (or organization's) strengths and try to grow and sustain them.

This new way of looking at people and organizations feels like the right framework to me.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Oct 11, 200…

Blog Action Day!

Blog Action Day is on Monday October 15th. On that day, the organizers are asking all participating bloggers to blog about the environment.

"Our aim is to get people thinking, discussing, questioning and talking about the environment, from every angle, niche, viewpoint and personality."

It's a good cause. If we don't care for our planet, who will?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Oct 9, 2007

What Do We Mean By "Done"?

Ever think about levels of doneness?

Chefs do. Software developers do. Project managers do, too.

In my first job in the Training field, I worked closely with ISD (instructional systems design) specialists who had come into the nuclear power field from the U.S. Navy. They were a merry bunch.

One of the things they used to joke about was "levels of doneness." I wish I could recall their way of categorizing the levels (maybe someone will leave a comment?), but there were at least three:

~ Done: At this level, you stick a fork in the cake and, if it comes out clean, you take it out of the oven.

~ Done Done: At this level, you box the cake and deliver it to the customer.

~ Done Done Done: At this level, the customer has a big happy smile on his face as he orders another cake.

All done means the case is closed, the matter is put to rest, and you are off to something new.

In your line of work, how do you know when something is done?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Oct 5, 2007

Age and Relevance

"Age has nothing to do with relevance!" declares Sandy Wells on the Organization Development Network listserv, in the context of discussing "old" models that still have use in today's organizations.

I discovered one of those myself on the train ride last night. While perusing a book about the great management teacher Peter Drucker, I read about a German military figure from World War I named Captain Adolf Von Schell who wrote the book Battle Leadership.

In his book, Von Schell describes the secret to leadership and motivation: you must treat your people individually.

I had to smile. As I keep moving north of age 50, one of the bitter pills to swallow is that our culture tends to think, "If it is (or you are) old, it's (you're) out-moded and irrelevant."

I'm here to tell you that Sandy Wells is right.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Oct 3, 2007