Jul 15, 2010

Summertime ... and the Leavin' Is Easy

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin in Culture & Change Management | 1 Comment

Recently, the HR director at our company shared a thought she had gleaned from one of her HR colleagues on the topic of exit interviews. Why, she asked, do we only do exit interviews? Instead of focusing on why people leave, why not ask the employees who stick around what keeps them engaged with our company?

An excellent question, and one that points up a critical weakness in the way organizations generally approach improvement: they try to identify what's broken and fix it ... rather than focusing on what works well, and investing in it. The good aspects thus are ignored while attention and money go to shore up the bad. It's as though a gardener ignored the healthy, productive plants in the row and only fertilized and watered the sick ones.

A viable alternative to problem-focused "fixing" (which, like any renovation project, often reveals more and more underlying brokenness as you go) is the method of energizing collaborative efforts known as Appreciative Inquiry. I've been on a soapbox of sorts about this method for the past few years, hoping to insert AI into the team-building toolbox of project managers and, like most new concepts, at first it seemed to be going nowhere. Then, in the past 18 months or so, I was asked to write a little about it for a project management textbook; then, PM College incorporated my materials into a team management course, and last November I was asked to speak about it to a group of HR managers in Brazil. Apparently, AI has reached a sort of tipping point. This morning, I found several excellent links on using AI in project management!

Why don't we "accentuate the positive" - with employees, on projects, and in life? I think it's mostly habit. It's easy to spot a mistake or broken place, and harder to understand how the whole system may be working smoothly in spite of it. Like one of those tests - is the glass half full or half empty? - finding out what works well on a team or in a company simply means refocusing our attention.

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    1 Comment on Summertime ... and the Leavin’ Is Easy

    Nagesh Ramamurthy says:

    Great article, Jeanne! One reason we always look for mistakes and problems is to do with the concept that management wants to hear the bad news first.
    The other reason why we fail to appreciate the positive is this…..best illustrated by an example….one tends to see that a bathroom is not clean or that the wall paper is peeling….but how many of us notice the same if they were in top maintenance? Absence of cobwebs is never noticed!

    Posted on August 10, 2010 at 12:11 pm

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