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Links, tools and products

For more information on any of the content focus areas on our site, click on the link. This month, you may want to click on Identity and Direction Setting.

Identity and Direction Setting

A Navigational Map for Change Initiatives and Projects: This Organizational Development tool gleans its content from the book, The Dance of Change, by Peter Senge. It provides not only a cheat-sheet and reminder of the wisdom in the book but also a checklist of items to attend to in change initiatives and projects, large and small. This tool is also helpful as a framework in creating employee surveys on Employee Engagement and Management Practices. Download this complimentary tool.

Yoga Practice: How we see ourselves determines how we present ourselves to the world and thus influences our feedback -- the reflection back from the world. There are many phrases that point to this
dynamic. “Where you start is where you end up,” or “We create our own reality” -- perhaps not instantly but
moment to moment and gradually over time. This is a conscious activity. How much effort and consciousness will you bring to your daily life? How much focus are you willing to invest in yourself – - the quality of your life, your relationships, your wellbeing?
Learning about organizational change starts with experiencing the fire of personal change. Spark that flame with your Wish to Grow. Download the yoga routine.

Interview Questions for Project Managers, Team Leaders and Administrative Support:This is a useful tool for project leaders and new teams as they seek to clarify
the expectations of others and the purpose of their work. This tool is best used as an interview tool with project sponsors but it can also be used to interact with project stakeholders or “key players”. Use it during the DEFINE phase of your
project and in the creation of your Charter or other foundation documents. Download this complimentary tool.

Team or Project Charter: A charter is a tool that sets Identity and Direction. Charters can be formatted a variety of ways. They can include a variety of elements of your choosing. This is one format that can guide the formation of your team and the definition of your project, governance, mission and goals. Download this complimentary tool.

Assess your Knowledge Skills and Abilities (KSAs): Management KSAs for Organizational Change and Vitality. Use this evaluation form to provide a benchmark regarding your various KSA levels. Download this complimentary tool.


Identity and Direction Setting,
Interview with Yvonne Garcia

Stories, conversations and cases

Identity and Direction Setting, commonly referred to as Strategic Planning, is the process by which a business establishes its identity and what it is trying to achieve.

In this interview, we are talking with Yvonne Garcia, the founder of Trillium Technology Solutions, about how she uses Identity and Direction Setting to create and sustain health in her own as well as her clients' businesses.

Click here for the interview with Yvonne Garcia.

We are interested in stories about organizational health, culture and operational improvement. If you have a story to tell, please contact us at: info@healthysystems.net.

How to Manage Change in a Manner That Builds Organizational Clarity, Purpose and Energy

Information and Insights

Dynamism and therefore change are a given and a gift. There is no such thing as an organization that is quiet, still and unchanging. A vital organization, like all living systems, is constantly adapting, learning and restructuring. If it weren’t, it would be dead or dying. We’ve seen organizations so controlled that their creativity is stifled and vitality suppressed. We wonder how they survive.

Life’s dynamism is largely beyond our control. As a result, it stretches us.  Learning how to work with change to gain its benefit requires a core set of skills. No matter how hard we try, we cannot prevent change from occurring, nor can we manipulate it to our advantage in any realm of life. And this is a good thing, because interacting with and receiving feedback from circumstances beyond our realm of experience or control provides us with endless opportunities to learn and grow.

Unfortunately, our response to changes, big or small, is often negative. We close and contract, rather than open to absorb and expand to encompass it. Learning about life and its dynamic nature can’t happen in a rigid state. Unexpected dynamics don’t always feel like gifts.  It’s easy to interpret the unknown and potential as a problem. When a situation is new, unexpected or beyond our control, we don’t always understand or appreciate the input that it is providing us. Instead, we close down and struggle. We get caught in our own or others’ emotions, fears and tensions. We lose sight of the big picture and get lost in details. This way of responding to change can negatively impact individuals as well as the organization as a whole. It can result in a culture of confusion, lost confidence, frustration, and - from the quality perspective – wasted time and people resources.

Managers have a unique role in “managing change.” First, their job is to control the uncontrollable. Second, given their positional power, their skill (or lack thereof) in working with the dynamics of people and process impacts the broader organization. Their control function and far-reaching influence make managers change agents or change bottlenecks. On a continual basis, they are faced with the challenge of managing and directing the dynamism within themselves and throughout their organization. They have authority and power – especially at the executive level. If they are not clear and purposeful, and if they don’t know how to align and integrate, then they send confusion, frustration and operational fuzziness out into the organization.  By virtue of their status and skills, leaders broadcast clarity or confusion out to the broader organization. How they choose to use this power in the face of continual movement and shifting can strongly influence the trajectory of their own well-being, that of their employees and the organization as a whole. A healthy response facilitates clarity, orients the workforce and cultivates creative flow.

Is there a reliable approach to managing change? How can we relate to and navigate organizational dynamism in a manner that results in greater clarity, purpose and energy? What process and personal skills can shift the organization out of confusion and anxiety to a relevant focus and creative flow? How can we lead and manage through change so that the people we work with share an understanding of what is most important and sustain a motivated focus?

The healthy approach starts with a 4-step process that repeats itself endlessly and throughout any organization that is striving to maintain its vitality. We can use this process to tap into the creative potential inherent in change and lead our organizations to ever-greater expressions of health.

1. Hold a vision of a healthy system and commit your attention and actions to it.

2. Take responsibility for your state through practice.

3. Use every interaction as a building block for improvement.

4. Connect and align the building blocks into an integrated whole – clear on its purpose and energized to fulfill it.

Step One: Hold a vision of a healthy system and commit your attention and actions to it.
The first step in this continual process of successfully navigating change is to hold a vision of a healthy system and commit our attention and actions to it. Without a vision of where we want to be, we essentially become victims of circumstance and change, and are unable to utilize the potential inherent in change either for our own or the organization’s growth.

circle-arrow-circle drawing

The “circle-arrow-circle” diagram (Illustration 1) clarifies the importance of having a vision and its role in creating desired change in our lives. When faced with uncertainty, or change, if we ask “where do we want to be?” and “where are we now?” then we are able to choose a course of action to move us from here to there. This helps channel and intensify our focus and energy.

As the diagram suggests, it is not enough to simply have a vision. We must make efforts to align our lives and our work with that vision if we are ever to achieve it. In traveling towards our vision, we discern, differentiate, experiment and make choices. Holding to our vision will change us and our organizations. We must explore our values and apply them in our daily work. Organizations must pronounce what they believe in and then live it through management practices applied consistently. This activity is the on-going process of Identity and Direction Setting.

Tension – dissonance – arises when our values and vision (what motivates us at work) are not aligned with those of our workplace. Tension also arises when we see a pattern of inconsistent application of the values and vision of our workplace. “Is this a place I want to work? Can I commit to the vision? If the organization doesn’t walk its talk, can my own vision and value for a healthy workplace survive here?”
If we are not able to envision health for ourselves as individuals, then our ability to cultivate health in the organization is limited.  Likewise, if we are not skilled at envisioning health for our organization, the resulting confusion and chaos of our work life will inevitably take its toll on our individual health. Ideally, our individual health and the health of the organization will reinforce one another and result in movement in a desired direction. When one aspect is well, the other benefits. So having this vision of health is a key to managing and leading through change.

Step Two: Take responsibility for your own state and practice.
Committing our energy to a vision of a health requires taking responsibility for our own state of health. Practice is an important part of taking responsibility. By “state” of health, we refer not simply to physical health, but also to inner balance, clarity and focus. And by “practice” we mean the categories of activities – or disciplines – that assist any leader in cultivating health within themselves and in their organization. In the last issue of Yoga of Leadership, we focused on five of these strategic leadership practices. In summary, they are:

Five Strategic Leadership Practices

Focus on health and know what it looks like for your organization.
(Re) design your organization for health – flow, integration, focus and clarity.
Stay open to change as an opportunity for growth and improvement.
Release tensions and blocks in the flow of health throughout the organization.
Respect and serve the larger system within which you operate.

Taking responsibility for our state of being is played out in our daily work activities but is initiated and sustained by our inner state. For example, we may have ten large projects underway, each having its own set of challenges and complexities. We’re coordinating and collaborating with project teams comprised of uniquely dynamic personalities. We’re planning and executing activities associated with our project responsibilities. Guided from the inside out, we approach our project activities and teammates through our own mental, physical and emotional inner landscape.

The more aware and conscious we are and the more we use the 5 strategic practices as we move through our daily project management activities, the more likely our project results and the processes we use to get there will align with our vision. Refer again to the circle-arrow-circle diagram in Illustration 1. We discussed this Illustration in the context of envisioning health. Looking at the model through a lens of responsibility-taking, we can start by asking, “What is in the space between where I am and where I want to be? (Þ The Arrow) Is it confusion and frustration and complexity, or is it clarity, enthusiasm and creativity?”  At any moment, the answer to take question of self-awareness challenges us to take responsibility for our inner state and outer actions. Rising to this challenge, we adjust our approach to our outer activities accordingly – an attitude adjustment toward focus and ease -- and in harnessing our inner condition, we can better focus our energies towards our goals.

Step Three: Use every interaction as a building block for improvement. 
In addition to holding a vision and practicing with discipline, a leader “managing change” needs a toolbox of workplace-specific KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities). These KSAs fall into five groupings that reflect how we conduct our work.
They are represented visually in the following diagram (Illustration 2):

five practices

Leaders must be able to:

  1. Establish identity and set direction

  2. Create and maintain effective processes

  3. Identify and manage discreet projects

  4. Hold productive meetings

  5. Develop healthy working relationships.

These 5 groupings or building blocks are not ends in themselves. Rather, they are component parts that, when combined, form a structure and framework across which change is understood and acted on. Leaders, regardless of discipline or functional area, need to be skilled in each of these building blocks. They are the means by which we can lead and manage others through change, and simultaneously cultivate clarity, purposefulness and enthusiasm.

Notice that four of the components are general management technologies: strategic planning; process improvement; project management; and meeting management. The fifth component, working relationships, may be the most important of the building blocks. Healthy and productive working relationships are the linking structures that connect the other blocks. They are the interstitial, connective tissue between and amongst and around every other kind of activity we engage in. Leadership can be defined, in this respect, as the ability to cultivate and sustain healthy relationships in the workplace – at all levels: top to bottom and side to side.

At full efficiency, every one of our actions would be in support of improvement – whether it be defining, understanding, exploring options, differentiating or coming to agreements. Assess your KSAs in the basic management building blocks for improvement.

Step Four: Connect and align the building blocks into an integrated whole – clear on its purpose and energized to fulfill it.

Leaders of change also need to know how the building blocks interact and use them in an orchestrated fashion to create healthy systems. As the diagram illustrates, the five business structures are nested and interconnected. This means that if one of the building blocks is misplaced or poorly designed, the overall structure will suffer. And if all are used effectively, the organization will have a steady and flexible structure to support its work.  Leaders and managers who understand the interconnection of these structures are like architects or contractors designing and building a house. They know how the building blocks go together. They have a reliable process to follow.  They know how the sub-contractors must coordinate. They have plans for and hold a vision of the final product.

To be an effective leader of change at any given moment, working on any of the five building blocks, you must be aware of (or seeking to know) how the present activity fits into the broader picture. For example, in a one-on-one conversation, keep the overall vision or direction of the company in mind, and let that awareness help shape the conversation. Be mindful of how other meetings, projects and processes might impact your conversation and vice-versa. And in meetings generally, whether between two people or twenty, be sure the attendees see the connection between the items on their agenda and other stakeholders, projects and work processes.

What skilled leaders of change are able to do ­– and remember that a leader can be anyone in the organization – is integrate and get others to integrate all the various large and small activities. They align the vision, activities, people and resources, and they reintegrate or adapt as the goals and direction change, so that even through change there is integrity.


Words and Meaning

Establishing a shared language

The following are definitions of key words found in the issue.

Knowledge Management
Knowledge Management is a popular term used in business today to formalize an organizations ability to capture data, synthesize the data into understanding and learning. A knowledge management system strives to harness important data and make it easily retrievable and synthesize-able. The value of a Knowledge Management program might be measured by the ability of individuals and the collective organization to use data to compete successfully, learn and improve and create their future. “Without on-demand access to managed knowledge, every situation is addressed based on what the individual or group brings to the situation with them. With on-demand access to managed knowledge, every situation is addressed with the sum total of everything anyone in the organization has ever learned about a situation of a similar nature. Which approach would you perceive would make a more effective organization?”
- Mental Model Musings website

Change Management
“There are at least three basic definitions of change management:
1. The task of managing change (from a reactive or a proactive posture)
2. An area of professional practice (with considerable variation in competency and skill levels among practitioners)
3. A body of knowledge (consisting of models, methods, techniques, and other tools)”
- Distant Consulting website

Identity is self-organizing
The phrase, “Identity is self-organizing” is related to the systems theory property of Self-organization. Self-organization refers to a process in which the internal organization of a system increases automatically without being guided or managed by an outside source. Self-organizing systems typically (though not always) display emergent properties. Systems theorists describe the dynamic as driven by a few governing rules that cause self-organization to take place. If we can design our own “governing rules” or fundamental identifying principles e.g. values they become our framework. If we can hold to those rules, our organizations and we as individuals can “self-organize” or coalesce around those rules.
- Wikipedia.org entry

Technically speaking a charter is a document bestowing certain rights on a town, city, university or institution. The term derives from a root word meaning "paper". In business a Charter is a tool or framework used to define a project or in team formation. Charters may not be legally binding when used in business but they certainly support Project Managers and Teams in justifying their actions and maintaining focus and direction.
- Wikipedia.org entry

Coming into existence; Resulting from some prior action(s); With a positive connotation, it implies synthesis or refinement; Emergent properties within a human or organizational system might be defined as characteristics that naturally arise from the few design features of the system.
- Dictionary.com entry

Dynamism and Dynamics
A theory that all phenomena (as matter or motion) can be explained as manifestations of force An underlying cause of change or growth; kinetics; the branch of mechanics concerned with the forces that cause motions of bodies
- Wordreference.com entry

Verb: To sponsor something is to support it, such as an event, activity, person or organization by providing money or other resources in exchange for something, such as advertising, money or performance. Noun: In business, a sponsor is usually an informal title give into someone or some group that is supporting a project or initiatives. Typically the sponsor is a person in authority, sometimes your supervisor, and someone who is personally passionate about or believes in the purpose of the project, event, group or initiative. It’s a good idea to find a sponsor if one has not been identified.
- Wikipedia.org entry

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