Probably one of the most difficult aspects of change - true change - is the ability of operational managers to expand their view of the system that their organisation is working in. It requires a manager to truly understand an expanded perspective. And that cannot be done, unless the manager is prepared to challenge their own thinking.
I usually find that egos, and the inability to 'admit mistakes' gets in the way of learning. This is especially true in the Western based management culture that has pervaded the UK and the US.
It is with this problem in mind, that I had to find a way of allowing a local government manager to change her perception. The situation was that our team had discovered that her staff were operating by following a standard approach to their work, talking to customers in a transactional nature. She thought they first listened and understood, and then applied a reasonable approach to the interaction.
"I will defend my staff until my last breadth, in defence of their flexible approach."
So, what was I to do?
This is what she did.
There was a citizen, Sandra, who had already had several interactions with her and other staff from this organisation. The problem was that she continually had rubbish in her garden, and her bins were overflowing. When she was confronted about this she became angry.
The manager went to visit Sandra, thinking this was an easy problem to resolve. When she got there this is what she did:
Listened, and engaged with the Sandra, with no judgement. She was learning about Sandra from her perspective.
The citizen was crying, and talking for at least 30 minutes.
This is what Sandra told the manager:
That she has two young children and one of them is in a wheelchair and is incontinent. So the child needs nappies. She herself, an adult, is also incontinent, and needs nappies. She finds this embarassing to talk about; especially to men.
The manager now found out why she had so much excess rubbish.
The manager came back, shocked, and said that neither her staff nor those of the other teams looked at things holistically. Our staff were simply increasingly threatening Sandra to have less rubbish, or else they would take enforcement action. Over time this had caused Sandra to become angry very quickly.
How she did it
The solution that worked was to: go and experience it for yourself. It would not have worked if someone had simply informed the manager of the problem. The nature of seeing it for yourself is oddly very powerful.
It worked so well, that the manager cannot stop talking about how wrong she was, and is now leading the change. I now cannot stop that manager from going out and finding out more. Its great.
This approach is based on normative learning. This learning is about people changing their perceptions based on direct experience. There are three main ways to change perception:
1969 Chin & Benne
Out of the three only normative works to change peoples thinking about how they percieve.
Helping others to learn how to do better things