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Posts Tagged ‘Transformative Learning’

by Dawn Francis, Ed.D.

Last night, I attended an ASTD Corporate SIG meeting where a panel of speakers shared their talent management and development best practices. As one of the speakers described his company’s first-level manager program, he said something that struck me as curious. He stated that participants in this program rolled their eyes when they were asked to spend time reflecting on the course content. Self-reflection, he said, was not initially embraced by these new leaders in training.

Why, I wondered? Why would a call for introspection prompt this reaction? Maybe participants didn’t understand the value of self reflection. Maybe they didn’t know that reflection—namely, critical reflection—has the potential to lead to transformative learning.

Taking a step back, I realized that the value proposition for self-reflection isn’t something we talk about a lot. Given that, I thought I’d identify at least two value drivers for reflection and encourage you to add to this list.

Value Driver 1: Reflection challenges limiting assumptions

All of us hold beliefs and assumptions based upon our previous life experiences and our socially-constructed norms. Critical self-reflection empowers us to challenge those assumptions. By asking the following questions…What is it that I assume? What’s the origin of that assumption? Why do I hold that assumption as truth?…we have the potential to identify our constraining beliefs, entertain alternatives, and shift our perspective. This shift in perspective followed by a resulting change in behavior is indicative of transformation. (See writings on critical reflection by Dr. Stephen D. Brookfield.) Think of the potential value in asking leaders to reflect critically on their current leadership practices. By doing so, we can prime them to grow and change.

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by Dawn Francis, Ed.D.

One of my last blog entries prompted a reader to ask how my research on transformative learning can apply to organizational transformation. She specifically wondered how it can apply to organizational transformation that occurs through the merger and acquisition of companies. What a great question! When two organizations become one through a merger or acquisition, this creates an intense change in culture. The way you used to work…well, it’s different now. The people you used to work with…well, they’re different now. The assumptions governing your performance on the job…well, you’ll need to change them now. It’s hard to fathom a more disorienting dilemma. Suddenly, you have to unlearn old behaviors, and relearn new behaviors. That’s a recipe for transformative learning, to be sure.

How do you survive cultural change and transform your perspective on the change in the process? Here are a few key tips:

  • First Things First: Reflect – Changing the way you perform on the job is never easy. Gain strength and clarity by examining your own beliefs and assumptions about the organizational transformation. Ask yourself why you might be resisting change. Consider the opportunities inherent in the change—both for yourself and your team.
  • Dialogue with Others – Listen to others’ reasons for resistance. Share your own concerns. Collectively consider the possibilities for personal and professional growth that lie ahead throughout the change process. Create a shared vision of the future that’s in alignment with the strategy being set by leaders within the organization.
  • Gain New Skills and Knowledge – New ways of work often require different skills and knowledge. Take account of the revised business goals for your organization. Work with your manager to determine how your performance needs to align with these goals. Proactively identify gaps in your skills and knowledge that will likely inhibit your ability to perform according to these new expectations. Secure the skills and knowledge necessary to change your behavior. In turn, you’ll feel more invested in the change and more empowered to change.
  • Build Competence and Take Action – As you apply your new behaviors on the job, request the support you need to perform to expectations. This support might be in the form of performance support tools, coaching/mentoring, and process improvements. Ask for feedback and engage in continuous learning.

As these tips illustrate, your survival through personal and organizational transformation depends on your willingness to embrace new perspectives, your desire to gain new skills and knowledge, and your ability exhibit new behaviors.

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by Dawn Francis, Ed.D.

escher frogsIn my previous entries, I defined transformative learning and discussed how companies can apply it. This entry will focus on examples of transformative learning in practice. 

First, I’ll briefly review transformative learning in case you’ve just joined this series. 

For learning to be transformative, it must provoke a shift in mindset. Acquiring knowledge, developing skills – these pursuits serve an important function in any training curriculum. However, if an organization wants to foster a change in culture, establish new ways of working, and grow its managers into leaders, then knowledge acquisition and skill development are only two components of the overall equation. What’s missing is the third and most crucial component—critical assessment of one’s own frame of reference. 

Think about it…if our frame of reference or mindset is based upon our unexamined assumptions and expectations…and this mindset guides our behavior…we will continue to behave in the same way and come up with the same results. But if we challenge this mindset, call into question our assumptions, dialogue with others about the validity of our assumptions, shift our mindset, and act accordingly – well, we’ve just changed our behavior and came up with very different results. Real business value can be achieved through transformative learning.  (more…)

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by Dawn Francis, Ed.D.

In my earlier post, we defined what transformative learning was. Your next question is probably, “so what is it good for?” Well, let’s think about the place transformative learning has in today’s organizations.

Transformative Learning and Change Management: Large-scale change initiatives require employees at all levels of the organization to reflect upon the change, prepare for it, and act upon it. Change can be disorienting. Inevitably, employees will ask: Why must I change? What is now expected of me? Will I be able to meet these expectations? How will I manage?

reptilienCompanies can facilitate a dialogue among employees who are being confronted with a new and unexpected future. By relating to one another, these employees are more likely to become open to the possibility for success and willing to engage in the action planning process. As the change is managed, companies can create opportunities for these employees to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to assume new roles and build competence in them. These employees—now transformed—are likely to reintegrate into the organization with a new perspective on the change.

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