Generating Experiences of Transformation: An Organizational Practice of Change
This portfolio identifies a lacuna in the ways most mainstream management literature speaks of change. This literature focuses predominantly on the activities of 'planning', 'implementing' and 'evaluating' change in organizations, while largely overlooking the situated and embodied experience of actually becoming changed. I propose that this type of experience lies at the heart of organizational change. My research focuses on such experiences, addressing the questions of what characterizes them, what are the conditions that enable them, and what is involved in a practice that attempts to generate and sustain them. Building on Complex Responsive Process Theory, which claims that all change is constituted by shifts in the patterning of local interactions, I am proposing that the study of the qualities of ordinary, everyday 'experiences of transformation', which take place in conversational interactions between organizational members, is crucial to our understanding of how change happens. These qualities involve fleeting and elusive shifts of awareness and energy. What I am suggesting 'transforms' in such experiences is the complex interweaving of meaning, sense of self or identity, and ways of interacting and speaking. I argue that these shifts both create, and are created by, the responsive engagement with the complex, puzzling and ambiguous aspects of lived experiences of interaction. My narratives are concerned with the ways in which new meaning and novel directions of 'going on together' emerge paradoxically within the very experience of the fragmentation and dissolving of our usual, taken for granted understanding and sense of self. This often happens as we agree to encounter the 'otherness' of others in a conversational setting in which all the disconcerting, troubling and moving ramifications of that encounter are allowed to play out. In crafting an approach to change which resonates more with our everyday organizational lives, my narratives call attention to the details of such experiences: their textured richness and complex multi-facetedness. I propose that learning to carefully notice and engage with such experiences offers both deeper insights into the nature of change, and generates more nuanced, subtle, and ultimately effective, ways of working with change processes.