Less can be more for “change agents”

Reading around on ‘shadow organisations’, I stumbled across an essay by a consultant called Bill Critchley entitled “The Role of the Change Agent. [pdf]”
This bit struck my eye

Self-Organisation and Emergence
Before I understood a little about complexity theory, I knew from my experience of ‘facilitating’ management groups, that in certain conditions, if I left the group with sufficient space, they would organise themselves perfectly well to do whatever it was that needed to be done, often in a lively and creative way, usually redefining the task I had suggested to them. Conversely I also knew that if I ‘managed’ or controlled the group too much, it would become comparatively quiet, and I would feel that I had to energise it, to drive it forward, usually ending up with the outcome I wanted but with the group in a mood of either passive compliance or latent hostility. When the group ‘self-organised itself an outcome ‘emerged’. The difficulty for me was that it was not what I expected, while the group members felt enlivened by the process, and had a high degree of ownership of the outcome. Intuitively I knew that what had emerged was more innovative and relevant than what I had intended, even though we might be faced with some difficulties in having it accepted by other managers not present at the meeting.
I was learning to be less controlling in my consulting in order to allow the relevant issues to emerge and to be worked with. I noticed that when I allowed this self- organising process to develop, in time I could participate in the dialogue, contributing my experience and external perspective without over influencing the process, without resuming control. Now, a difficult questions presents itself; how do I create the conditions in which this self-organising can occur?

because of some excellent posts, including Steve Davis on “12 Acts of Courage to Change Meetings for Good” I’ve read of late. Johnnie Moore and Viv McWaters (who pointed me at this superb post “Objections to participation in conferences” by Chris Corrigan) have written a guide “we must stop meeting like this” – which I am sure is excellent…


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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3 Responses to Less can be more for “change agents”

  1. leavergirl says:

    “Now, a difficult questions presents itself; how do I create the conditions in which this self-organising can occur?”

    Disabuse yourself of the notion that it is about you. It’s about them. Otherwise, it’s not SELF-organizing, is it?

    • dwighttowers says:

      Well, to be fair to him, he had presumably been hired as an outside agitator to “shake things up” – if he didn’t do ANYTHING, he wouldn’t earn his fee… 🙂

  2. leavergirl says:

    That ought to be called the “dilemma of the facilitator.” If he were fair to us, he would admit that letting people self-organize goes against the expectations of those who pay him. How goes the old saw? If your job depends on your not understanding something, you won’t understand it.

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