Jerry Sternin, a proponent of the change approach
known as "positive deviance," has been quoted as
saying about large scale transformation, "You can't
bring permanent solutions in from outside. Instead,
you have to find small, successful but 'deviant'
practices that are already working in the organization
and amplify them. Maybe, just maybe, the answer is
already alive in the organization--and change comes
when you find it." We hope that you'll find, among the
resources and ideas featured this month, some
guidance for discovering the answers waiting to be
tapped inside you and around you.
|Suggestions for Becoming a Positive Deviant
When the MacArthur Foundation awarded a
fellowship to surgeon and best-selling author Dr.
Atul Gawande in 2006, they noted that he "brings
fresh and unique perspective, clarity, and intuition to
the [medical] field." We believe that his ideas about
performance and accountability transcend the world of
medicine to have relevance for practitioners in any
profession. In his most recent book, BETTER: A Surgeon's Notes on
Performance (Henry Holt,
2007), Atul displays the systems instincts that led us
to invite him to be a keynote presenter at this year's
In the following excerpt from the afterword of
BETTER, he offers some very practical advice
for those wondering how to make "a worthy difference"
in the world.
No doctor wants to believe that he or she is a bit
player. After all, doctors are given the power to
prescribe more than 6,600 potentially dangerous
drugs. We are permitted to open human beings up
like melons. Soon we will even be allowed to
manipulate their DNA. People depend on us
personally for their lives. And yet, as a doctor each of
us is just one of 819,000 physicians and surgeons in
this country tasked with helping people live lives as
long and healthy as possible. And even that
overestimates the size of our contributions. In on this
work are also 2.4 million nurses, 388,000 medical
assistants, 232,000 pharmacists, 294,000 lab
technicians, 121,000 paramedics, 94,000 respiratory
therapists, 85,000 nutritionists.
It can be hard not to feel that one is just a
white-coated cog in a machine--an extraordinarily
successful machine, but a machine nonetheless.
How could it be otherwise? The average American
can expect to live at least seventy-eight years. But
reaching, and surpassing, that age depends more on
this system of millions of people than on any one
individual within it. None of us is irreplaceable. So not
surprisingly, in this work one begins to wonder: How
do I really matter?
I get to lecture to the students at our medical
school on occasion. For one lecture, I decided to try to
figure out an answer to this question, both for them
and for myself. I came up with five--five suggestions
for how one might make a worthy difference, for how
one might become, in other words, a positive deviant.
This is what I told them.
|Pre- and Post-Conference Workshops Expand Your Learning
day ahead of
time or stay on after the
conference to extend your learning experience with
one of these useful skill-building
PRE01 - Applied Systems Thinking to
Michael Goodman, Innovation
Organizational Learning; David Peter Stroh, Bridgeway
Sunday, November 16; 9:00-5:00; $895
with a proven framework for applying systems thinking
to change, and learn a multi-stage process for
engaging diverse stakeholders. More...
PRE02 - Embodied Presence: What It
to Make a True Move
Arawana Hayashi, Presencing Institute
Sunday, November 16; 9:00-5:00; $895
Experience a user-friendly method for individuals
and groups to access embodied knowing as the
source of innovative action. More...
PRE03 - The Change Lab: Putting
the U-Process into Practice
LeAnne Grillo and Adam Kahane,
Sunday, November 16; 9:00-5:00; $895
in a "mini-lab," in which you will practice the capacities
needed to navigate the "U," individually and
POST01 - Sustaining
Excellence: The hidden challenges of
Deb Ramsey and Phil Ramsey, Incite
Thursday, November 20; 9:00-5:00; $895
strategies for managing the costly, time-consuming
dynamics of perfectionism and learn how to
encourage healthy, sustainable pursuit of excellence.
POST02 - Facilitation Tools for
Kristina Wile and Rebecca Niles
Systems Thinking Collaborative
Thursday/Friday, November 20/21; 9:00-5:00;
Master techniques for facilitating systems
thinking interventions and leading groups in thinking
Sign up for the
full conference now to SAVE $500!
Individual conference registrations are just
$1195 through April 18! Contact us now to secure your
seat at these low rates.
Teams of 4 or more pay even
Call for details at 1-800-272-0945.
|Creating a Conflict-Management Plan
by Edward D. Miller
No one likes conflict in the workplace; most of us
will go out of our way to avoid it. But here's the
paradox: Conflict is as essential as it is inevitable.
Unchecked and unmanaged, conflict can be negative
and corrosive. But when the competition of ideas is
suppressed, conformity stifles creativity. The
challenge is to reduce the corrosion while stimulating
Conflict has many sources:
- Disputes about inequities, broken promises,
- Competition for diminishing resources
- Fault lines of age, gender, race, craft, status,
- Expectations, especially when they are unclear or
Fear sustains conflict, often the fear of failure.
Employees who lack the competence or confidence to
take on a challenging assignment will resist in order
to avoid potential failure. Newly appointed managers
with high potential but limited management
experience will often precipitate conflict as a way of
diverting attention from their own deficiencies.
Resolving conflict is seldom easy, but the failure
to confront it is often more damaging than the conflict
itself. The problem will persist, and the reluctant
leader will be seen as timid or inept. This also holds
true when we send the problem up the ladder of
authority. Not only do we clog the ladder, we miss
opportunities to learn how to manage effectively.
Every workplace should have a
"conflict-management plan." Here are some ideas
that will help managers resolve conflict:
- Stop Blaming.
- Manage Your Emotions and Ego.
- Deal with the Impact, not the Intentions.
- Focus on Interests, not Staked-Out Positions.
- Repeat, Rephrase, Reflect.
Spring/Summer 2008 Catalog
New Products and New Prices
are not the only reason to open our latest catalog!
We've revised the format to make it easier than ever to
find the tools and ideas you need to make a difference
at work and in the world.
Whether you're just getting started with systems
thinking, or you are looking to deepen your practice
and your impact, this is the place to start!
And take a moment to get to know some of the
people featured in our new Community
Click here to download the
Better: A Surgeon's Notes on
Bestselling author Atul Gawande
examines in riveting accounts of medical failure and
triumph, how success is achieved in this complex and
risk-filled profession. At once unflinching and
compassionate, Better is an exhilarating journey,
narrated by "arguably the best nonfiction doctor-writer
The Trance of Scarcity
by Victoria Castle
holding your breath and start living your life by
embodying a story about abundance, inspiration, and
your innate ability to create the futures you desire.
Three Deep Breaths
by Thomas Crum
power and purpose in a stressed out world and
discover a path to balance and alignment that
could have a profound effect on every aspect of your
Being the Change
by Ann McGee-Cooper, Gary Looper,
and Duane Trammell
Find guidance for applying the
principles of servant-leadership and important
lessons about creating enduring partnerships in
these stories from an active learning community.
The Change Handbook
by Peggy Holman, Tom Devane,
and Steven Cady
This survey of 61 whole systems
change methods—up from 18 in the first
edition—includes new chapters on selecting a
method, mixing and matching methods, and
"Some things cannot be spoken or
discovered until we have been stuck, incapacitated, or
blown off course for awhile. Plain sailing is pleasant,
but you are not going to explore many unknown
realms that way."