Making workplace change less painful using a strengths-based approach
Written on the 28 July 2014 by Paul Brewerton, Joint Managing Director, Strengths Partnership UK
I have been working in the field of OD and culture change as an external consultant for almost 20 years. In that time, I have supported a number of well-known organisations through significant change, including the UK’s Royal Air Force, Orange (as once was), Police Service Northern Ireland, Crossrail, BAE Systems, Johnson Service Group, South East Water, Edmund Nuttall, Affinity Sutton and many others. While the reasons for change varied widely amongst these organisations, from downsizing, to maximising an acquisition strategy, relocation, improving market performance, to achieving a successful merger, there were common themes amongst all of them:
This approach brought a number of benefits, including providing clarity on the organisation’s ‘picture of success’, an understanding of the enablers and blockers of that success and clear actions to take forward the culture of the organisation. But the mechanistic aspect of this approach didn’t address directly the social and emotional aspects of employee involvement and engagement that we had seen time and again as fundamental to achieving lasting change.Around 8 years ago, I started to apply some of the principles of positive psychology in my work around change – methodologies and principles such as:
At around the same time, I set out on a new business venture to provide a method for assessing individual, team and organisational strengths and with a business partner who brought a wealth of experience and expertise in this space, we started Strengths Partnership and developed the Strengthscope® system to do just that.
Since that time, we have developed out Strengthscope® as a platform to assess individual and team strengths, gain feedback from stakeholders, measure leadership strengths, and assess shift in engagement during change. And we have found that one of the most profound and important applications of the assessment system is in changing the nature of conversations – conversations about the organisation, conversations about individuals themselves and their colleagues, as well as conversations about change.On this final point, we have found that the strengths approach, coupled with other methods, helps people to more quickly shift their thinking from problem to solution, from can’t do to can do, from helplessness to empowerment.
So it changes conversations and we have found it has the power to change cultures. In recent years, we have used the approach in a variety of organisations – in the tech sector, pharmaceutical, retail, public sector and financial services, we have seen evidence of change at an organisational level being supercharged by strengths-focused conversations at individual and team levels.
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Author:Paul Brewerton, Joint Managing Director, Strengths Partnership UK