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Friday, 14 June 2013 07:24

Positive Psychology, Change and the Bottom Line, Part IV: Implications for Organizations

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In our previous posts on Positive Psychology, we've talked about what positive psychology really is, how neuroplasticity affects the way we learn, and about the essential factors in creating the motivation to change.

Today we're going to look at the impliations of all this on organizations.

Individuals and organizations

In many respects, organizations ask themselves the same change-related questions that individuals do:  What is my motivation for change?  Do I really want to change?  Does my interest in changing outweigh the perceived effort required to change?

However, these questions are asked both by the organization and by each individual affected by whatever change is being introduced.  If the organization says "We want to become a more nimble organization," this has implications both for the organization as a whole and for each individual involved in the change.

Remember, if the subconscious doesn't agree wtih the change, it won't happen.  In organizations, the 'subconscious' can be seen as individual employees.  So if the organization says that becoming more 'nimble' means 'hiring more temps who we can fire at will', the organization risks alienating existing employees, who start to feel that the organization no longer values a commitment to the organization.  That doesn't mean this change won't work - it just means that management needs to speak openly about the reasons for these temps and how the process will work.

Motivation for organizations

As we discussed earlier, motivation to change requires that the desire to change is greater than the perceived effort required to make that change.  Without sufficient passion, change is difficult even when it doesn't require a whole lot of effort:  "They tell me that spending 15 minutes changing my settings on this CRM system will do something, but I dunno...I've kind of gotten used to it now."

At the same time, when the perceived effort is too large, it can be hard to generate sufficient passion to make it seem worthwhile:  "I know the existing CRM system isn't perfect, but now I have to sign up for a 5-day course to learn the new system!  Ugh.  Don't they know I have work to do?"

In both cases, senior leadership has good reasons for wanting the change - a more efficient CRM system means better sales processing, better customer service, and ultimately a more productive sales cycle - but in neither case have they communicated these reasons effectively.  The result is that while the organization may be motivated to change, the organization's subconscious - the individuals involved - isn't.  Which means that the change won't happen, or won't happen effectively.

Emotions of any kind are a big part of change.  They're often disregarded in favor of a focus on the technical aspects of change - the training, the processes, the expectations - but it's important to remember that building positive emotions will provide the momentum to move the change forward, while negative emotions (or a lack of emotional engagement) will have the opposite effect.  The only way to effect change within an organization is to leverage the ABCs of positive psychology:  Affect (emotions), behavior and cognition.

Next time, we'll delve into these ABCs.


NEXT:  Part V - The ABCs of Positive Psychology



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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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