photo uploaded by Vol-au-Vent . Used under CC.
Edgar Schein talked of the anxiety of change that can lead to a freezing of existing behaviour, the very antithesis of change which requires, well change. I was eating breakfast and listening to the Radio with Marilyn, my wife, yesterday and we were intrigued by the Radio 4 Point Of View on How to save French Specialties by Lisa Jardine who was thinking aloud about the French Presidential Election and the need for change in France's regions. Prof Jardine talked about interaction of culture, technology and business and the hard to face-up-to recognition that doing what we have always done in the face of a gale of change is not very effective; and how rejuvenation of what we have always produced can be done with a recognition of how new technology and new markets (clusters of consumers present opportunities with some degree of risk, not incredible risk with no opportunity).
To the individual change looks pretty scary in an organisational context.... HR procedures may look like this:
But of course we know that priorities change so I can keep my head down and maybe the world will change back and I can carry on as before.....
Unfortunately as the French people realised, they were going to have to be the change that they hoped other people would do for them. Whilst the diagram reflects the global personal improvement process it does not reflect a psychologically safe way of doing it. If we were in a theatre ensemble, imagine having to do rehearsals for a new and different sort of play on-stage and with a full audience! No we create a protected space called rehearsal rooms where people can practice a different way of doing alone at first but in the ensemble eventually with plenty of feedback to identify areas of improvement and areas where the going is good. Eventually there is a dress rehearsal and the preview nights with a real audience (who know it is a preview night too). Then it is first night!
The learning loop in a protected space looks like:
Someone can decide where they need to improve their impact, plan how to deliver the improvement; they can then do 'it' with their ensemble of colleagues/team mates/ peers and get feedback that they can reflect on a derive lesons and make meaning of it all. Then plan the next improved experience and around the loop again. At some point they new behaviour becomes good enough (not perfect) and the practioner confident enough to do it for real, maybe still with peer support but in a real situation (first night). When we put this all together we get:
As Edgar Schein indicated this way of allowing people to unfreeze, change things and refreeze can happen in a controlled manner with everyone collaborating to ensure the positive outcome. It is the function of protected space to be psychologically safe so there is a possibility that we can make fools of ourselves, but just generate laughter and useful feedback not a disaster! All you have to do is remeber they are laughing with you, not at you to maximise the benefits of this approach! I will return to Schein and also Schon and Lewin another time!