Engaging Positive Deviancy for Change.
A deviant influence. I first was made aware of the positive deviancy model while taking The Influencer. As stated in the book:
“Positive deviance” can be extremely helpful in discovering the handful of vital behaviors that will help solve the problem you’re attacking. That is, first dive into the center of the actual community, family, or organization you want to change. Second, discover and study settings where the targeted problem should exist but doesn’t. Third, identify the unique behaviors of the group that succeeds.
Not cloning deviants. Positive deviancy is finding and studying individuals whose uncommon practices/behaviours enable them to find better solutions to problems compared with others who have the same resources. We don’t want to clone people but we want to learn and teach their successful behaviours and strategies.
The deviancy challenge. Positive deviancy has been used a lot in health related issues, safety, and a variety of big social issues. There are challenges with this approach as we:
- move away from an expert model to a facilitation model.
- challenge to scale up strategies
- use time and resource intentsive.
- develop comfort with uncertainty.
A field guide resource. I recommend reading the Basic Field Guide to the Positive Deviance Approach. If you were taking on an Influencer project and wished to enhance your positive deviancy leverage you would follow these steps outline so well in the field guide:
- Gather leadership involvement.
- Build your resource team
- Define or reframe the problem
- Determine the presence of positive deviants
- Discover the specific uncommon practices that enable positive deviants to prevent of solve the problem
- Design and develop activities to expand your solution.
- Have the community measure, monitor, and evaluate the effectiveness
Gather leadership involvement. Before embarking on positive deviance work in your organization to build employee engagement it is important to educate leaders about the approach and have them understand the steps and applications of this method of fostering engagement. Positive deviance loosens centralized control and decision making and unleashes conversations, cooperation, discovery, and invitation. We don’t impose a positive deviance methodology on people we invite them to engage with it. This may take more time than simply doing a survey and telling people to be more engaged yet will probably foster more engagement in the long run and be using a very engaging approach to find what you are looking for.
Build your resource team. We don’t undertake positive deviance on our own. We build a team representing the whole organization or department to define, determine, discover, design, and monitor the project. Once again, you are not just trying to find engagement you are building engagement with the very approach to this method of change.
Define or reframe the problem. Once your resource team is in place you begin to examine data, dialogues, visuals, diagrams, and other media to define or reframe the problem. This is a time of extensive conversation and thoughtful interaction. For example, I believe in many organization the bigger issue is a conversational safety issue rather than a strict engagement issues. When we use anonymous surveys we contribute to anonymity and invisibility. We should work at putting names and faces to engagement and disengagement not to punish but to learn, converse, and change.
Determine the presence of positive deviants. At this point we want to identify the engaged individuals or teams in our organizations. Who is exhibiting successful engagement behaviors and form a team to learn from your positive deviants. There are a number of tools you can use in the identification process.
Discover the specific uncommon practices that enable positive deviants to be fully engaged. Your team may design tools for this step. Avoid a reliance on more engagement surveys. This is the time for direct observation, interviews, checklists, and action dialogues. As you do this look for practices, strategies, and behaviors of highly engaged employees.
Design and develop activities to expand your solution. Once the behaviors and tactics of highly engaged employees have been identified it is time to expand the solution by working out how to help others learn and practice these behaviors. What do the highly engaged employees teach us that we can help others learn?
Have the community measure, monitor, and evaluate the effectiveness. You need to monitor the progress of the initiatives and shared the impact with others. You may want to develop innovative ways of assessment that are developed by your team and community. This is the time to honor and amplify results with storytelling and to create positive coaching.
Getting started. If you want to apply a positive deviance approach to enhancing engagement, I encourage you to create change by taking The Influencer Course and to study the Positive Deviance Fieldbook.
This post is a combination of two previous posts that appeared on the Shared Visions Website.
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David Zinger, M.Ed., works with organizations and individuals to foster engagement. He is a writer, educator, speaker, and consultant who founded the 3075 member Employee Engagement Network. David wrote, Zengage: How to Get More Into Your Work to Get More Out of Your Work. David’s website offers 1100 free posts/articles on the engagement. David is committed to fostering a movement to increase employee engagement 20% by 2020.
Connect with David Zinger today to improve engagement where you work.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – Phone 204 254 2130 – Website: www.davidzinger.com