Eriaan Oelofse of ChangeWright Consulting presents his ideas on change initiatives through the interventions of the World Café conversational process.
by Eriaan Oelofse
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eriaan Oelofse (PhD Psychology) is principal management consultant at ChangeWright Consulting. His focus and expertise lies in change management, organisational development and transformation, as well as social and organisational research. He can be contacted on + 27 (0)83 321 5422 and firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.changeability.co.za/ for up and coming courses.
All too often, organisational change is initiated by executive and/or senior leadership with the help of a few external consultants. This small group of people spends a significant amount of time discussing, debating, arguing and analysing the reasons for having to change. This provides them with the opportunity to move through three of the four phases usually encountered on the change curve. In an organisational context these phases of denial, resistance, exploration, and commitment are based on a derivative of Kübler-Ross’s (1989) five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. When a group of leaders decide to announce the planned initiative to the rest of the organisation, the majority of employees are thrown into stage one (denial) of the change curve, while the leadership group is effectively in stage three (exploration). This apparent gap between the leadership group and the rest of the organisation creates a great deal of frustration. On the one hand the leaders appear unsympathetic to the effects of the initiative they are supposedly ‘pushing through’ and on the other, the employees appear unwilling, non-supportive and non-committed to these proposals and organisational objectives.
Holman, Devane and Cady (2007) claimed that effective organisational change initiatives are possible through high involvement of employees and a systemic approach to improvement. High involvement is achieved by engaging as many employees as possible in the change and design of their own system. A systemic approach implies that all people, functions, and ideas that have an effect on, or can be affected by the change, are included in the process. They cautioned that it is not enough to merely get a group of people together in a room because sustained change is only possible when people collectively explore each other’s assumptions, seek and expand common ground, shape a desired future, and jointly take ownership of the solutions to the issues at hand. One of the methods through which this can be accomplished, is the World Café conversational process.
The purpose of this article is to present a description of a World Café intervention and to examine the impact of that intervention on the effectiveness of their service improvement programme. Actual operational statistics regarding the site’s service stability are considered. In addition, two months after the intervention, an analysis of in-depth individual interviews was conducted regarding their experiences of the service improvement programme and also of the World Café conversational process.