Change Circles engage the whole

Marcella Bremer Positive Power Leave a Comment

Now we get to the last part of this positive power series, where we focus on the whole organization.

So far, we have seen Interaction Interventions that you can deploy individually or with a few other Positive Agents to influence your group or organization.
The motto of Interaction Interventions is: If you want to go fast, travel alone… (and you team up with a few allies underway).

But if you want to go far, travel together. That is what Change Circles are for: an organization-wide, whole-system approach to developing a positive, productive culture.

The Change Circle approach engages the whole organization in circles of ten people. Change Circles require resources and permission and you can’t do this alone. You need to engage others and prepare in advance.

Why use Change Circles?

What is a Change Circle? It is a group of ten co-workers who use dialogue to develop shared goals and who engage to learn and change together. The Circle convenes regularly for 1-2 hours but often starts with one whole day. I labeled them Change Circles but you could call them development or grow circles, or dialogue or action circles as you like.

I developed the Change Circle approach initially to create culture change, but you can use them as a vehicle for any change initiative or, better yet, for ongoing organization development.

The Change Circle is a small space of learning and development as it relies on the copy-coach-correct pattern in groups. People copy each other (aware or not), correct one another (jokingly or seriously) and coach anyone who doesn’t get it yet. They also transmit culture via stories, and rituals.

While this interaction pattern often causes groups to fall back to old habits, the Change Circle adds awareness of culture and learning. Its focus is learning and it deliberately uses the group to turn this culture copy-mechanism around. Its Circle members consciously practice new behaviors and copy and coach each other to change together. The Circle aims to combine personal and group learning, with support from co-workers.

Ten participants

Why is a Change Circle so small? This is based on our psychology: we tend to feel safer in small groups of trusted co-workers. Safety is essential to learn and change, as we discussed before. We also feel more responsible and impactful in smaller groups.

Of course, it depends on the culture and whether there are habits of verbal violence or silence, but in groups of eight to ten it’s easier to let dialogue flow naturally. That’s why I emphasize the “groups of ten” as a rule of thumb.

Actionable specifics

The Circle’s two legs are interaction and action. It’s not supposed to be a monthly two-hour meeting to vent and complain. Interaction is important, but so is action or nothing will happen. That’s why Change Circles aim to practice new behaviors and to solve issues. They ask people what they will do next and what they want to commit to. They are actionable and pragmatic.

This means that they are also specific; aimed at daily behaviors or events as that is what you need for successful change.

How could you benefit from Change Circles to engage your whole organization in groups of ten? Click To Tweet

The CEO on the stage telling the organization what to change appears to be faster, but he or she’s not. Change Circles are a vehicle to include and influence each other. It might take more time upfront, but you win back this time when you achieve true consensus and engagement instead of lip service or indifference after a speech.

A Change Circle can also help people to be the change they’d like to see on the team. Being the change shows: “Me, too. I go through the same discomfort to practice new behaviors.” As people tend to copy each other, this is how you can spread positive change in your culture.

Conditions for success

Effective Change Circles align with the requirements of successful change.
Change Circles are:
inclusive, safe and voluntary; inviting others in a safe space of ten peers,
focused on awareness of culture and positive possibilities; aimed at learning and development
stimulating ownership; as people plan and apply the needed change within their circle of influence
personal and actionable: everyone commits to personal change with support from their peers,
specific; focused on specific daily behaviors
open to emergence; the circle convenes regularly and adjusts what is needed.

How could you benefit from Change Circles to engage your whole organization in groups of ten? Check out all the details in my book Developing a Positive Culture.

This is book post #80 – Part “WHOLE”

For more insights and tips, order my book Developing a Positive Culture

Check out the online Positive Culture Academy. Let’s be Positive Agents who do revolution by evolution: one interaction at a time, one person at a time. Subscribe to the Academy’s mailing list so I can keep you posted!

Here’s the earlier post
The next post will be up soon!

If you’re confused, check the Positive Power overview and read the Positive Agent Manifesto.

By the way, if you want to contribute to a positive workplace culture, my next open workshop on Positive Culture Change Leadership is scheduled for 24-26 September 2018! More information and registration is only a mouse click away.

© Copyright Marcella Bremer, 2018. All rights reserved.


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