Reframing Change

Book Review: Reframing Change by Jean Kantambu Latting and V. Jean Ramsey

Dave Kinnear 1-On Leadership, Book Reviews

How to deal with workplace dynamics, influence others, and bring people together to initiate positive change.
I have been asked many times if it’s possible to change the corporate culture of a company. After discussing a definition of what corporate culture is – It’s the way things get done around here – we generally conclude that if you can accomplish any difficult change in a corporate environment, then you can change the culture as well.

Latting and Ramsey give us a tested framework for initiating change and they take away the excuse that someone else or some external force has to be responsible for effecting that change. As we all suspect but are reluctant to admit, change begins with us. The good news is that Reframing Change documents that it is possible to change even the most ingrained habits. We can do that if we’re willing to challenge our beliefs and align with our own values.

There are many things which I like about this book. Among them are that there are ample and helpful references to the “research” being used to formulate the practical ideas Latting and Ramsey put forward. Frequently, in the middle of a paragraph, a text box appears with the title “Curious about the research?” Inside the box are a summary and the citations for the research validating the point being made. Further, there are ample endnotes at the end of each chapter for those wanting to read deeper.

We are brought face to face with a thought that not only will we have to accept personal change, but that we all have dominant and nondominant roles in life. At work, we may be in a dominant role with respect to those who report to us and in a nondominant role when in a meeting with our own manager. Or we may be in a dominant role as a supervisor but in a nondominant role due to our ethnic or cultural background. Understanding the dynamics created when you and others are viewing the world from one of these positions will help with the communication. For example, nondominants have to prove themselves while dominants are assumed to be competent. Nondominants cannot assume they will fit in whereas dominants take for granted that people will make room for them to fit in.

Latting and Ramsey laid out the book in a logical and thoughtful way with each chapter being a major point in their change model: Testing Assumptions, Clearing Emotions, Building Effective Relationships, Bridging Differences, Conscious Use of Self, Initiating Workplace Change. The “lessons” are given in story form; relating a discussion between “author” and protagonist in a case study. However, since we are “eaves dropping” in on a conversation, our interest is peaked and we find ourselves drawn into the story itself. The major point is, as mentioned above, we must be the change we wish to see at work, at home and in our world.

In addition to the engaging case studies and related conversations, the authors provide ample illustrations in the form of graphics and charts. The appendix also provides us with a summary of the model for Conscious Change:
Testing assumptions:

  1. Move out of the answer and into the question.
  2. Avoid either/or thinking; look for multiple points of view.
  3. Test your assumptions about others.
  4. Check to see if you are making cultural assumptions.

Clearing emotions:

  1. Identify with your values, not your emotions.
  2. Avoid emotional suppression.
  3. Clear negative emotions.
  4. Build positive emotions.

Building effective relationships:

  1. Engage in powerful listening.
  2. Develop skills in inquiry and openness.
  3. Learn how to give, receive and seek feedback
  4. Distinguish intent from impact.

 Bridging Differences:

  1. Learn to recognize dominant/nondominant dynamics.
  2. Develop an awareness of your own stereotyping tendencies and biases and learn how to manage them.
  3. Address underlying systemic biases.
  4. As a dominant
    1. Recognize that you may have blind spots as to your own behavior and systemic biases;
    2. Provide support to nondominants in your group.
  5. As a nondominant,
    1. Recognize that dominants may have blind spots about the impact of their behavior on nondominants;
    2. Ferret out any tendency toward internalized oppression and views of the dominants as a monolithic, all-powerful group.

Conscious use of self:

  1. Get your emotional attachments out of the way.
  2. Accept responsibility for your own contribution.
  3. Maintain integrity.
  4. Seek to understand others’ perspectives; put yourself in their shoes.
  5. Focus on the other person’s strengths.
  6. Adopt a learning orientation.
  7. Recognize your power and use it responsibly.

Initiating workplace change

  1. Commit to personal change.
  2. Emphasize changing systems, not just individuals.
  3. Gain support for the change one person or small group at a time.
  4. Set a direction, not fixed outcomes.
  5. Learn from resistance.
  6. Surface undiscussables.
  7. Persevere through the time lag of change; recognize small wins along the way.

Latting an Ramsey have put together a compelling argument for improving our active listening skills and challenging, always challenging, our assumptions about why people do the things they do in response to their work environment. I highly recommend this book to anyone who works with other people – and I’m guessing that’s just about all of us!

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