Celebrating variety, diversity and change
Here is the spirit of AMED again! As Chris Grieve says in her editorial “each author writes the results of their reflective practice ... sharing their discoveries and lessons”. The DNA is instantly recognisable in every article. We are so accustomed to ‘experts’ selling ‘solutions’ that it is such a thrilling relief to find real (fallible) people being honest. “Here’s how I was trying to help. This is what happened and how it affected my thinking. (What do you think?)”
Martin Saville and James Traeger write about the courage necessary to do our work effectively. (Has OD failed?) When the senior partner contradicted the HR director in their opening exchanges, the core of the problem they have been asked to help with is exposed in the raw. Will they have the skill and courage to surface the undiscussible issues and develop an effective intervention or will it slide into a shallow game? The essence of OD is succinctly distilled here.
Anne Grove leaves me thirsting for more quotes and anecdotes. (Building an Action Learning capability from scratch.) I bet there were some really intriguing moments. Her account is of a valiant attempt to develop a learning culture in an organisation without any apparent understanding of the nature of learning. Action Learning, her chosen instrument, seems to have served her well enough to afford her the chance to continue. She will work on helping learners to recognise the deeper implications of their learning, beyond the level of problem-solving which counts as success in the first round.
Paul Barber unfolds a fascinating reflection on the differences and similarities between coaching and therapy. (A personal inquiry into comparisons between Gestalt coaching and therapy.) I’m intrigued by the inquiry process he describes although I need more help to distinguish between one stage and the next – immersion and incubation, for example – but the result is illuminating. His elaboration of this grey boundary is very helpful, even as we ponder Anne Grove’s challenges in the previous article, about how learning can be real and enduring.
Julie Allen and Kirsty Irving keenly whetted my appetite with their challenge (Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment) and mapped an interesting itinerary through “systems, (false) certainty and landscapes for change”. Sadly though, they didn’t take me on the journey and left me hungry. It sounded as if the article was based on a fascinating workshop that I really wanted to know more about. I wondered if the group had been tough and sceptical and I would have loved to hear more about their skirmishes. I am grateful to them for introducing me to “Adelson’s chequer shadow illusion” which is astonishing.
I found traction again with Jo Gage who describes a simple and powerful model for surfacing polarised positions such as might be taken up by a marketing department in relation to operations and vice versa(Polarity Management). Different priorities and easily give rise to different ways of seeing the world. The insight, that the way I see the world can’t be assumed to be the way the world is, is an important step on the path to systems thinking. Jo also describes a straightforward process for using the model in an organisational setting to enhance mutual understanding and decision making. (I wonder if it might find a place in our polirised national politics.)
Suzanne Penn reminds me of another of the features of systems thinking – that the separation between symptom and curse is often large and surprising (The change agent and conflict). She makes th important point that conflict is a precious source of energy and creativity, to be embraced rather than skirted around and smothered over. So ... Q: How are we to make better use of it? A: By strengthening our own self-esteem, self-awareness and resilience.
I find she brings me full circle, back to Martin and James, and the need for courage. Another great edition of e-O&P. Thanks to all our authors and to Chris Grieve for finding them and pulling all their articles together. It’s hard to keep up (there’s a brand new bumper edition for the autumn already out!) but well worth it.
I am glad you found valuable insights in Summer's e-O&P and that it was a relief to discover the authors' honesty about their own fallibility was a thread that ran through the issue. I encouraged them to share their learning and to reflect upon what worked and didn't work. The questions that remain for you, prompted by one or two of the articles, are interesting. I urge you to follow up on them with the authors directly - I'm sure they'd love to hear from you. In the meantime, I shall encourage those authors who don't yet have an AMED profile to create one so people can correspond with them through this network.