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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Talking About Change – Let’s take a look at what works in your organisation rather than what needs fixing

My interest in change management has been driven by my varied experiences across the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors where I have been involved in the management of many change initiatives, all generally driven from a top-down response to a broad range of external environmental challenges. These experiences have been further reinforced by an exposure to the management of organisational change from a consulting perspective within the not-for-profit sector, where the challenges of such change are potentially further ‘complicated’ by a number of sectoral characteristics that both enhance and inhibit the process.

This progression of experiences has fed into my PhD research where I am investigating change management within the Not-for-Profit sector, and given the size and disparate structuring of this sector, am focusing on a case study approach at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Sydney, where I have been given the opportunity to study the change program which supports the implementation of their E-Clinical Pathways systems. In this manner, the research is longitudinally based, which makes this research somewhat unique in the context of change management research, especially given its not-for-profit focus.

In the context of change management, I have written often in the past, about Action Learning as a ‘tool’ that I have been actively involved with in the support of change programs across the not-for-profit sector. Stemming from an Organisational Development response to the challenges of change management, it underpins my professional focus that people within organisations are best able to respond to these challenges once they are provided with appropriate frameworks and structures that can guide them. In this manner, substantial focus is afforded to building organisational capacity as part of the change, and not merely focusing on progressing through the change in isolation of longer-term considerations. In other words, sustainable change becomes the focus as distinct to purely a particular and discrete change outcome.

In this context, a further approach for consideration, and also stemming from the Organisational Development approach to the management of change, is a process referred to as Appreciative Inquiry. This approach considers change from what is referred to in academic parlance as the “Positive Model of Change”. Whilst Action Learning may be viewed from a ‘deficits’ perspective, that is, focusing on the organisation’s problems and how they may be solved so that it functions better, Appreciative Inquiry works more from the perspective of what the organisation is doing well, with a view to understanding what these things are, deconstructing them to better understand them and then seek to replicating them in other aspects of the organisation. In this manner, an Appreciative Inquiry approach has five distinct phases, being:

  • Initiating an inquiry to focus on what the subject of change may be within the organisation,
  • Inquiring into best practices that exist within the organisation,
  • Discovering themes and deconstructing these practices, 
  • Envisioning a preferred future whereby members examine these themes, challenge the status quo and reconstruct a future vision, and then finally 
  • Designing and delivering ways to create that future view.

One thing to keep in mind regarding these approaches, namely Action Learning and Appreciative Inquiry, is the fact that both conceptual and practical overlap exists and these two approaches to the management of change are not necessarily mutually exclusive, rather, elements of each can be utilised within an overarching framework to manage many planned change programs.

Change is ubiquitous and requires considered application in order to foster enhanced organisational capability so that sustainability of change, as well as the organisation’s readiness for ongoing change, can both be achieved.

David Rosenbaum’s research and practice within the change management arena can be readily applied to solving your organisation’s change management challenges. Contact David to further discuss how Action Learning and Appreciative Inquiry may prove valuable to your organisation.

David Rosenbaum can be contacted or visit the web site at

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