November 27, 2011

Facilitating employee involvement and participation in solution-focused organizational change

In the solution-focused approach, employees are viewed as capable and responsible people who want to and are able to make sensible decisions. Therefore, a starting point in the solution-focused approach to organizational change is to share decision making whenever possible. A change process is likely to be more acceptable and attractive to employees when they notice that they can participate in the decision making about 1) what should be changed and what not, 2) the definition of how things should become (the preferred future), and 3) how the change is made, especially with respect to their own work context. When employees have a say in these things their sense of autonomy will be supported and they will feel more competent and more involved with and related to the organization and its goals.

Solution-focused practitioners do not deny the existence and usefulness of hierarchy. They also understand that there is a certain limit to how much influence any employee can have on decision making. They also see the usefulness of tasks, performance expectations, and rules. But while acknowledging these things they will consistently seek for opportunities for employees to be involved in decision making and to be participating in the process of shaping the desired change. Solution-focused change professionals have a range of techniques which facilitate this involvement and participation. Here are a few examples.
  1. Co-developing a clear picture of the preferred future: often, a great way to share decision making and to encourage participation in organizational change is to organize sessions in which employees, together with management, co-develop vivid descriptions of how they would like the organization to become. Through questions such as preferred future questions, scaling questions, miracle questions and circle questions it will be easy and useful to gather many useful and attractive views and ideas.
  2. Goal directed activating questions: when there are goals which have already been decided upon managers may ask goal directed activating questions which feel more like invitations than as commands. An example of such a question is: "Do you have any ideas about how you might help achieve this goal?" 
  3. Questions and statements which presuppose agency and responsibility: in a way which is subtle rather than explicit, solution-focused practitioners may say or ask things which imply that employees are competent and responsible. An example of such a question is: "Could you give an example of how you have solved such problems in the past?"
  4. Emphasizing choice and creating opportunities for choice:  even when there are aspects of the change process which are decided top down solution-focused change practitioners recognize the right of individuals to make choices. One ultimate choice is, of course, to disengage from the organization, if one disagrees strongly with decisions which have been made. But there are lots of other choices with can be made like: 1) when the employee will start to contribute, 2) the degree to which the employee will contribute, 3) the pace at with the employee will contribute, 4) the way in which the employee will translate overarching change goals to his or her own work situation, and 5) what type of role the employee will fulfill, etc. 
  5. Mutualization: in organizational change, different people may feel they have conflicting opinions or goals which may threaten their cooperation and participation in the change process. One way of overcoming these problems is to use a type of intervention which is called mutualization. An example of mutualizing statement plus question might be: "'It's pretty clear to me that both of you want to develop a plan that will be best for the organization. Shall we try to find a way to achieve that which both of you can agree with?" 

1 comment:

  1. Employee in planning is not new, just the extent to which it can be carried out. The Four Seasons Hotel group staff input process in their planning model allows for quality improvements from the front line up.
    From my own experience when solution focus is applied to planning it yields benefit to both the organization and the employee. I have been calling it co-creation for some time and now encourage clients to also do it with customers, plus other stakeholders, e.g., a not-for-profit organization's partners.
    I find it puts a new focus on the quality of organizational leadership becasue it relies on them clarifying their decision making role and skills.

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