Process Design and Bridging Fear

June 7, 2012 Leave a comment
Many road signs featuring question marks symbolizing uncertainty

|Photo by Qoncept||

Fresh off of an offering of Pathway to Change to a group of leaders from across sectors in southern Massachusetts, and with another 3 day workshop on the horizon in San Francisco (July 24-26), I’ve been considering how the theme of fear often comes up in discussions about impediments and challenges to effective collaborative change work – fear of failure, fear of losing something, fear of the unknown.  And I’ve been more and more convinced by how important intentional, creative, and strategic process design is in building pathways through this fear.  This notion has been validated in the writing of Chip and Dan Heath, most recently in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.  In a one page summary, the Heath brothers highlight the important three steps of: (1) directing our rational selves (what exactly are we trying to accomplish?), (2) motivating our emotional selves (what’s so compelling about that future destination? why can’t the current conditions continue?), and creating a clear path between where we are now and where we want to be.

The consulting work of IISC, and our Pathway to Change course, put a premium on skills for designing and facilitating collaborative change efforts. The genius behind IISC’s courses in general is the simple elegance of the frameworks that capture many of the essential design ideas and action steps. Here I’ve boiled the course and much of our practice down to a series of key questions that once answered can help pave a more solid path through people’s anxiety around change:

(1) What is this change all about?

  • What is the imperative for this effort (social, cultural, political, economic, environmental, business factors)?
  • What is the current reality?  Where are we now with respect to this effort?
  • What is the desired future state?  Where do we want to be?

(2) Who has a stake in what we are doing?

  • Who will be impacted by this effort?
  • Who has final decision-making authority?
  • Who will implement key decisions?
  • Who has resources and expertise that might support this effort?
  • Who might block this effort?
  • What is the pattern of connections within the overall field of stakeholders we are considering?
  • What power dynamics play out within the field of stakeholders we are considering?

(3) How do we involve key stakeholders?

  • Of the stakeholders we identified, whose involvement is critical to the success of this effort?
  • Who needs to be at the core (consensus-building) of decision-making?
  • From whom do we need input?
  • Who do we need to keep informed?

(4) How will we get from where we are now to where we want to be?

  • What conversations, agreements, commitments, and products do we need to have/build ? . . .  with whom? . . .  in what order? . . .  over what period of time? . . . to get to our desired future state?

(5) What key resources and roles will be critical to our success?

  • Who will do process/meeting design?  Provide facilitation?  Manage logistics?  Provide communications support?  Content expertise?  Funding?  Content management/curation? Do network weaving? . . .

No Comments

  • Linda G says:

    Great thoughts. These are the same kinds of question that we in this graduate program have been directed to consider in our project and proposal work for working in the area of change. Fear is a powerful deterrent to accomplishing one’s potential. You have to face it each and every day and identify where the fear is coming from and keep wlaking through it. Each time you take one step towards your goal or addressing one of the questions you’ve listed you’ve taken a bit of the bite out of the fear dragon.

  • Curtis says:

    Indeed Linda moving forward is really what matters! And learning as we go.

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