Monday, January 26, 2009

Race To The Finish

In its purest sense, organizational learning seems to beckon us to strive for excellence throughout the pursuit of the goal.  As we perform organizational tasks, consider and evaluate our strategies in executing them, and compare both the immediate and long term success of our efforts, we are immersed in a process that draws its life from time.

Appreciative Inquiry, Organizational Diagnosis, and even the World Cafe Model are long, slow processes that require time and effort in order to achieve the desired results of understanding and change - leading to meaningful and lasting improvement.  Root causes of challenge in organizational systems are not readily revealed.  According to our reading, "significant time and effort are required to trace problems to their origin" for deep organizational diagnosis to be successful.  

Similarly, Appreciative Inquiry, which takes its roots in action research, is a "work in progress".  It is constantly morphing as the input, ideas, and (even) the emotions of the participants are considered.  Because the goal of Appreciative Inquiry is to change social systems, and one of the key components necessary to successfully accomplish this involves affirmative projection, the process is "open to continuous reconstruction".  Taking the time needed to evaluate and reconstruct what is working and has worked is essential, but requires time.

The World Cafe Model can promote change and productivity.  By creating intimate, warm, inviting, safe meeting environments where conversation is encouraged, instead of the impersonal meeting places more typically experienced, participants are more likely to be engaged in discussion, and to believe that they are part of a meaningful process.  

All of these things take time.  In a world that applauds speed; a world where efficiency and productivity are associated with success, strategies such as these may be considered luxuries for which there is insufficient time.  

But how can that be true?  Organizational learning seems to be - in its best execution - an ongoing process of learning and improvement through learning.  Despite current economic trends, and the temptation to race to the finish line with quick fixes and ready-made answers that often accompany such crises, we must recognize the beauty of taking time to reach conclusions that may be necessarily open to refinement.  In order to make authentic improvements in our practices, we must resist the tendency to listen to the competitive sound of the tick-tock of the clock.  Instead, we must be inspired to consider the best of what is, the possibility of what might be, the responsibility of what should be, and the potential of what can be.                   

No comments: