Thinking About: Words – Frames – and Change

Kim Cameron of the University of Michigan organized these words in a certain way to illustrate a point.  I have mixed them up.  Here is the mixed up list of his words.
Cameron's_Words_PLEASE CONSIDER RESPONDING TO THE TWO QUESTIONS THAT FOLLOW BEFORE READING THE REST OF THE POST. By responding I mean grab a piece of paper and make a couple of lists.


For the first list please select between eight to twelve words from Cameron’s words (above) that you find to be the least useful to you when you are involve in or contributing to and/or leading positive change efforts within any group you are part of.


For the second list please select between eight to twelve words from Cameron’s words (above) that you find to be the most useful to you when you are involve in or contributing to and/or leading positive change efforts within any group you are part of.


I am guessing that took some time.


Thinking about being part of efforts to bring about positive change can be a provocative activity.  And that is why I asked you to start by coming up with your two lists.  I do not believe there are “right” and “wrong” lists.  I do believe that, by creating your two lists you may be more invested in reading and thinking deeply about the concepts presented below from David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron.  They write books on how individuals can develop their own management skills.


Please read the excerpts I have chosen:


 “Organizations are designed like frameworks that allow exceptions to be managed effectively. They are intended to create stability, steadiness, and predictable conditions. They try to constrain as much change as possible. That is, organizations help specify what is expected of employees, who reports to whom, what the goals are, what procedures are to be employed, what rules apply, how the work gets done, and so on. These elements are all intended to reduce the ambiguity of changing conditions and to create predictability for employees so that the uncertainties of environmental change do not overwhelm them. Managers are obliged to try to ensure that steady, stable conditions are fostered.


Leading change, therefore, is contradictory to the common requirements of ensuring predictability and constancy. It disrupts the permanence of the system and creates more uncertainty. The skill of leading change runs contrary to what organizations are fundamentally designed to do. Even more important, leading positive change is different from simply leading ordinary change in an organization.  Change will always be widespread and constant, but leading positive change in organizations is unusual and difficult, and it requires a special skill set.


To illustrate the difference between leading commonplace change and positive change, consider the continuum the figure blow. [Note: this figure is a newer (newer than the text I am quoting) version from the same authors.] It shows a line depicting normal, healthy performance in the middle, with unhealthy, negative performance on the left, and unusually positive performance on the right. Most organizations and most managers strive to maintain performance in the middle of the continuum. People and organizations strive to be healthy, effective, efficient, reliable, compatible, and ethical. It is in the middle of the continuum where things are most comfortable.”
Positive Deviance Continuum
“The right side of the continuum is referred to as an abundance approach to performance. The left side of the continuum is referred to as a deficit approach to performance. Much more attention has been paid to solving problems, surmounting obstacles, battling competitors, eliminating errors, making a profit, and closing deficit gaps rather than to identifying the flourishing and life-giving aspects of organizations, or closing abundance gaps.  Less is known, therefore, about the right side of the continuum in figure and the concepts that characterize it. Most research on managers and organizations has remained fixed on the left and center points of the continuum. Yet, it is on the right end that the skill of leading positive change becomes relevant.


 A Framework for Leading Positive Change


Leading positive change is a management skill that focuses on unlocking positive human potential. Positive change enables individuals to experience appreciation, collaboration, vitality, and meaningfulness in their work. It focuses on creating abundance and human well-being; it fosters positive deviance; it acknowledges that positive change engages the heart as well as the mind.” ~ David A. Whetten and Kim S. Cameron, Developing Management Skills (6th Edition) pages 492 – 494 Note: The authors have an Eighth edition on the market.


Here are some probes from me for you to consider as you think about this post. :


Do you see a value in thinking about how you can lead positive change and how that is different from leading change?  What specifically does this get you thinking about?


Is the power of the status-quo in groups and organizations a challenge to change initiatives?   If so, how so?  If not, how is the status quo helpful to change initiatives?


On the continuum of: Negative > Expected > Positive (as Cameron displays in his chart) why do organizations or groups often stop at “Expected”?


Is it your experience that most organizations or groups don’t stop at “Expected”?  If so – what motives the people in the organization or group to strive for “Positive”

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