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[Individual articles will be available from links on the authors' names below. If you prefer to download, right click on the link and choose 'save target as' or 'save linked file as' and save to a folder on your computer. You can also download a copy of this editorial here.]
TRANSITIONING THROUGH TURBULENT TIMES: A CONTEXT
We find ourselves in a period of troubling uncertainty, occasioned by unresolved Brexit arrangements, by the climate emergency, by COVID-19 issues and by the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign, amongst other forces. So this combined Spring/Summer 2020 edition of our journal e-Organisations and People is devoted to exploring the theme of personal and organisational transitions, and its implications for AMED and our constituencies. Here, contributors reflect on questions such as: How can we understand what changes are going on around and within us, and make decisions about what to do? Does AMED still have a relevant contribution to make? If so, what should we stop, start and continue?
This publication forms part of our running co-inquiry ‘AMED 2020 and beyond: stop, start continue?’, into whether or not AMED still has a role to play in this turbulent world. As we continue this co-inquiry, we trust that important decisions will become clearer, both for AMED as a network and for other individuals and groups who are similarly puzzling over such issues. In addition to writing for this journal, we’ve been inviting people to post their thoughts and suggestions on this Discussion Forum, opened in Autumn 2017. More recently an AMED2020 Hosting Team, formed by Julie Allan, Rowena Davis, Shelagh Doonan, Bob MacKenzie, David McAra, John Sweet and Linda Williams, has been devoting many hours as action learners and critical friends – in the AMED Way, a kind of temporary community of practice - to planning and facilitating this co-inquiry.
“A community of practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. This definition reflects the fundamentally social nature of human learning.”
Do we see helpful distinctions between change, transition and transformation? Do the semantics matter? We think they do.
CHANGE AND TRANSITION
For both individuals and organisations in turn, Bridges describes three stages or phases: Ending What Currently Is; The Neutral Zone; and The New Beginning. It seems that each has a different tempo and feel. We have found his model helpful. It has given us permission to embrace the confusion and frustration we might have felt and allowed us to take the necessary time to explore and reflect without rushing to solutions.
Of course, there are other ideas about how we might navigate this unsettling contemplation of the future. One is Bill Sharpe’s Three Horizons (2020), as summarised by Andrew Curry (2015) of The Futures Company. You can also view a brilliant seven-minute overview of the Three Horizons framework by Kate Raworth of Doughnut Economics fame (2018) here. She poses 12 core questions regarding the transition from possible futures characterised by Horizons H1 (business as usual), H2 (an arena of disruptive innovation) and H3 (the future we want from seeds that we’ve already sown). Her 12 questions present us with an excellent opportunity to engage in further deep explorations of the issues facing AMED and our own individual practices. In the weeks to come, we’re planning to support other initiatives – in which you’re cordially invited to participate - informed by the Three Horizons framework. Watch this space.
TRANSITION AND TRANSFORMATION
Hölscher et al. (2018) write about transition and transformation, explaining that:
“Their differences may partially result from their etymological origins, but they largely stem from the different research communities concerned with either transition or transformation”
But they also remind us that,
“lack of conceptual clarity … can void the terms of their contribution to challenge the status quo.”
So the etymological difference is between transition (‘going across’) and transformation (‘change in shape’), with the former emphasising the process of how the change comes about while the latter addresses the nature of what is changing.
For now, we’ve set for ourselves a number of co-inquiry questions: What meanings do transitions and turbulence have for us and AMED? Are we in a perpetual state of transition? How do we decide what to stop, start and continue? When do we decide that we’ve done our bit, and withdraw to leave the field to others? What are participants’ personal experiences of important transitions, and what insights have we learned – individually and collectively - from those experiences? What fresh perspectives can we offer to challenge standard assumptions about change, transition and turbulence? In addressing these and other questions, what suggestions emerge to help AMED make important decisions about its future?
AN OVERVIEW OF THE CONTRIBUTIONS
The articles that you’ll find in this edition draw upon contributors’ own personal insights, stories, experiences, practices and/or research. They reflect e-O&P’s practice of open peer review, a relational practice that involves editors working with authors personally through a process of critical friendship (MacKenzie 2015), rather than offering anonymous feedback on their articles. In our journal, we aim to encourage good writing and take advantage of the multimedia features of the internet.
Each article contributes in its own way to fostering the notion of what one of AMED’s founder-members Tom Boydell imagined very recently as a revivified AMED acting as a ‘ginger group’ for promoting a better workplace and a better society at large.
If anything here strikes a chord, please feel free to keep the co-inquiry going by posting your thoughts and questions on our Discussion Forum here. This is a chance to develop, articulate and share your thinking with a wider community of people who are also puzzling over such issues. Perhaps you might even consider writing something for our Autumn/Winter 2020 edition, which will continue to develop these themes, and keep up momentum as we transition to our new state, whatever that becomes.
Framed by the umbrella theme of transitioning, we’ve grouped the 13 contributions in this edition in five clusters. These are: this editorial; personal transitions; humanistic management; re-thinking management (and leadership) learning and development; and an AMED perspective. In the back pages, you’ll find some information about forthcoming events of interest, and an invitation to become more involved with this journal in particular, and with AMED more generally. If you’re reading this overview online, you can click on the name of any author, and you’ll arrive at the article they’ve written. In the following section, we give a flavour of each contribution.
For this editorial, we (Bob and David) trace briefly the genesis of this co-inquiry into AMED’s future, headlining the concept of transitioning, which is the context for the Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter 2020 editions of the journal. We give an overview of each contribution, and pose some questions about what happens next in determining AMED’s future.
Within this theme, Alison Piasecka maps out some of her internal experiences of being in confinement in her family home in the foothills of the French Pyrenees during the Covid-19 lockdown. She used this confinement – episodically – to make some sense of it all by writing about ten fragments of many re-lived episodes that, on reflection, have become significant for her during the strange time of quiet and isolation occasioned by this ‘plague year’. She wonders whether - undoubted horrors aside - in certain respects, this lockdown may be viewed as a gift in disguise? Andrea Gewessler tells her intensely moving story of enduring the devastating circumstances of her husband’s protracted dying, and how, over time, she found the courage to re-engage with her role as a change agent. Jennifer Board draws upon her varied experiences of sitting round the corporate boardroom table to suggest ways in which it’s possible to exit a weighty career gracefully. She stresses the importance of succession planning, of taking every opportunity to support the development of others, and of reflecting actively and regularly on the legacy that organisational leaders of any kind may wish to leave behind as they themselves leave the table.
Four members of the Humanistic Management UK Chapter write about their respective experiences of living and working in lockdown. Three have a background in UK Higher Education Institutions, and one is a senior tax adviser in a large professional services firm. Christina Schwabenland celebrates some of the positive practices she encounters daily, and dreads a return to the previous ‘normal’. Ilaria Boncori tells how it is for her as a senior academic and parent as she manages the interface between public and private spaces, and discerns a heartening connectedness with others in adversity. Paul Harrison offers a brief, personal account of his personal and professional responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, and draws out some positive aspects of its otherwise devastating impact. Ruth Slater composes an ethnographic snapshot account of life in a pandemic in an independent retirement village. She shows some of the ways in which the discourse of vulnerability labels and marginalises older people, and highlights some of the creativity and kindliness which emerged at the start of the pandemic. Ruth is interested in how older people self-organise, organise and are organised, thus challenging the stereotype of this group as being unfailingly frail and vulnerable.
Learning and development in management and leadership
Old friends Peter Sheal and David McAra engage in dialogue about their shared and initially contrasting groundings and approaches in an attempt to shed light on the place of AMED in the world of learning and development, and on the challenges and opportunities we are facing. Based on inductive research from his garden shed during lockdown, university lecturer and trainer Paul Levy presents a simple 4T model for understanding and designing new learning and development interventions in the field of management education and development in the context of online and blended learning. Writing in the midst of pandemic-induced uncertainty, senior business school academic Rob Warwick reflects on his world since March 2020. It has been both creative, forcing him to see - and be - in a very different way, and negative, where the experience of time feels odd, the usual rhythms have stopped, and different tunes are playing. At the point of working with students at the start of lockdown, he wonders about what is emerging and about what to explore in future research and practice?
An AMED perspective
In attempting to write from an explicitly AMED perspective, Bob MacKenzie finds that it’s not possible to separate the personal from the organisational. He acknowledges that transitioning through uncertainty is not easy, and hopes that AMED or its subsequent incarnation can continue to uphold a tradition of good writing, become more fully diverse, and grow more intergenerational as a force for good. Finally, David McAra writes a brief introduction to his 35-minute ‘Zoom’ conversation with Norton Bertram-Smith (available as video and audio recording) in which they reflect on the challenges that transformation raise for individuals and organisations. Taking advantage of the benefits of an online publication, they also include live links to two other stimulating authors. Starting from different mindsets and career experiences, they agree that transformation can only come from a change of heart, and that it takes time.
IS THERE HOPE FOR THE FUTURE?
A point of clarity for us arising from Kate Raworth’s Twelve Questions was about the importance of context. AMED is mainly about the transformation of the world of work into a place more fit for the humans who spend so much of their lives in it. Such transformation provides remarkable benefits to stakeholders inside and outside organisations, up and down the supply chains and into society and yet, transforming organisations for the better is so difficult.
Hölscher quotes Patterson (2016), pointing out that,
“Processes to shape transitions and transformations are deeply political, involving power struggles and value conflicts.”
Power struggles and value conflicts … Of course it’s difficult but we must keep hope alive!
David was touched and cheered when an old school friend asked him recently to speak with his daughter. Her career was going splendidly by the look of her CV but she was having to do too much pretending. She wanted to be taking her whole self to work and not just the ‘professional’ bit.
We can’t think of a better way of summarising the culture and aspirations of AMED or the nature of the transformation we are striving to bring about. We are deeply rooted in valuing our whole selves and that this is the anchor we cling to whilst enduring the turbulence of transition.
And transition from what to what? Well, from our present, however we might describe its strengths and shortcomings to a more dynamic future, with more diverse participation and more effective use of technology to enhance the all-important human connections. We find Kate Raworth’s Question ‘F’ particularly hopeful. “What seeds of our desired future already exist?” So many green shoots are sprouting, some in local groups and micro-projects, others on a global scale in UN agencies and Green parties, Xtinction Rebellion and Occupy, #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo ... as well as AMED and ODiN, Open Source Thinking and the Humanistic Management Network … on and on.
We were also encouraged to read that funding for Hölscher’s research (cited earlier) was provided by the German Environmental Agency under the project: “From niche to mainstream.” There’s the challenge!
We take heart from a moving story about Turner’s Oak Tree in Kew Gardens that was first drawn to our attention by Shelagh Doonan. If you click on this link, you can view a four minute video, carried by BBC News website under the title ‘The oak tree in Kew Gardens that taught the world a lesson’. Here, Tony Kirkham, Head of Arboretum, recounts how this 200-year oak survived the devastating 1987 Great Storm, when 15 million trees in South East England were uprooted, and how understanding how it did this changed the way that trees around the world are now cared for. Perhaps we, too, can learn something from this.
In the months leading up to December 2020, AMED is engaging in a number of activities and media to determine whether and/or how it is to be in 2021 and beyond. We hope you will feel able and willing to contribute to these conversations. You can do so by visiting the AMED website from time to time. #GoWithTheEnergy! is the page for your questions, suggestions and offers.
References and websites
Bridges (2019 edn). Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. New York. Hachette Book Group.
Bridges, W. and Bridges, S. (2017). Managing Transitions, Making the Most of Change. 25th anniversary edition: Making the Most of Change. Da Capo Lifelong Books; Hachette Books.
Bridges Transition Model (nd). https://wmbridges.com/about/what-is-transition/ , accessed 25.6.20
Community of Practice ‘What is a community of practice?’ from https://wenger-trayner.com/resources/what-is-a-community-of-practice/, accessed 25.6.20
Curry, A. (2015: 11-13). Searching for systems: understanding Three Horizons. APF Compass. January. Reproduced by Triarchy Press at https://www.triarchypress.net/three-horizons.html, accessed 25.6.20
Hölscher, K., Wittmayer, J.M. and Loorbach, D., 2018. Transition versus transformation: what’s the difference?. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 27, pp.1-3.
MacKenzie, B. (2015). Critical friendships for coaching and mentoring in writing: e-Organisations and People, Vol 22, No 5, pages 42-51. Spring.
Patterson, J., Schulz, K., Vervoort, J., Van Der Hel, S., Widerberg, O., Adler, C., Hurlbert, M., Anderton, K., Sethi, M. and Barau, A., 2017. Exploring the governance and politics of transformations towards sustainability. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 24, pp.1-16.
Raworth, K. (2018). Doughnut Economics. Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. Random House Business.
Sharpe, B. (2020). Three Horizons: The Patterning of Hope. 2nd edn. Triarchy Press. https://www.triarchypress.net/three-horizons.html.
For their part in helping to bring about this edition, and for sustaining our co-inquiry into AMED’s future, we would like to thank the authors whose articles appear here. We would also like to thank members of the AMED 2020 Hosting Team for willingly devoting hours of their precious ‘free’ time and their talents to this enterprise, and to everyone who has contributed to AMED’s projects over the last 25 years and to AMED’s predecessor the Association of Teachers of Management (ATM) before that. To anyone new to AMED who is intrigued and/or feels drawn to join us in negotiating our transition, we extend a hearty welcome.
ABOUT THE EDITORS
Bob has been an active Member of AMED for some 20 years. He serves as a trustee, commissioning editor of e-Organisations and People and is founder-convenor of the AMED Writers’ Group. Bob places great store by the contribution that good writing and conversations – interacting – can make to personal and professional wellbeing, learning and development. He is currently Visiting Professor at the University of Chichester Business School. Bob would be delighted to support others who wish to become involved in shaping AMED’s future. firstname.lastname@example.org
David found a home in AMED during the early 1990s as he was leaving Shell and finding his way into the wonderful world of Organisation Development. He has been wrestling e-O&P into the house style and onto the AMED website since 2009. email@example.com