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An author's reading on creating healthy communities resonates with our work at JCHE

Posted: December 13, 2011

I attended an author’s reading by Deborah Frieze at a meeting of the Women’s Philanthropy group of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. The book, Walk Out Walk On, was co-authored by Margaret Wheatley.  The talk involved Ms. Frieze’s observations of many social change experiences around the globe.  Many of her thoughts resonated as relevant to JCHE’s reorganization and culture change process.

Ms. Frieze discussed different leadership models, differentiating between “leader as hero” and “leader as host”—which parallels our conversations about managers as coaches and people who inspire and empower everyone to make good judgments and engage fully in work—we’ve been saying “define performance objectives, not prescriptive task assignments”. 

Most significantly for me, she talked about lasting change occurring when “order emerges out of shared meaning, not control.” This underpins precisely why we are engaging in a reorganization and culture change process, rather than simply a leadership determination about a new structure and ways of relating.  It is a lot slower and in some ways more painful—it takes a lot of meetings, a lot of preparing and living with some anxiety created by uncertainty.  However, we have believed from the start that change that follows an inclusive process has sticking power.  As Ms. Frieze articulated, in terms of generating a high performing agency, “measurement can’t replace shared meaning, purpose and values” and that requires time and mining the best ideas of everyone.

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