November 14, 2011

Congruence between change content and change implementation approach

Solution-focused principles and techniques, which were mostly developed in the context of psychotherapy, are now beginning to gain popularity organizational change management. Techniques like scaling questions, the miracle question, the circle technique, interviewing for past successes, focusing on small steps forward and other techniques have been applied successfully by many change managers.

In order to make organizational change successful it can be useful to make a distinction between change content and change implementation approach. Take the example of a youth care organization which wants to implement the solution-focused approach of Signs of Safety. In this example working according to this approach is what you might call 'change content'. The change content is the desired behavior which is expected of the employees in the organization. The 'change implementation approach' is the way the way in which the organization attempts to achieve this goal.

A change implementation approach can be thought of as consisting of several aspects such as: 1) the way in which employees are informed about the desired change and the rationale behind the change objectives, 2) the opportunities employees get to be involved in and have a say in the change, 3) the level of autonomy employees have in the way they implement the change and in the pace in which the apply the change, 4) the way employees get feedback, 5) the way in which progress in monitored.

Whenever organizations want to implement certain solution-focused practices they can raise their chance of success by trying to make the change implementation approach solution-focused as well by: 1) informing employees clearly and specifically about what is expected and why this is expected, 2) by allowing and encouraging participation as much as possible not only in the change process but also in the definition of the change objectives, 3) allow employees as much as possible to make their own choices and pace of change, 4) by avoiding negative feedback and authoritarian leadership and providing positive feedback and help instead, and 5) by frequently monitoring progress.

When employees notice that the change content fits well with the change implementation approach they are likely to find the change initiative more credible and legitimate and they are more likely to be motivated to participate.

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