As evaluators, we believe in turning the evaluative lens.
We believe in accountability.
We believe in transparency.
And we believe in admitting when we were wrong.
Since we opened our doors, we held firm that one of our core services was in the field of organizational change. Our Readiness Building Systems is designed to support organizational improvement, and we often boasted about the different types of organizations – big and small – that we worked with.
“At Wandersman Center, we typically work with organizations who are interested in change or want to implement a new policy, program, or practice”.
We talked about how we work with organizations of many forms:
But we were wrong.
We don’t work with organizations.
We work with people.
And this difference… It matters.
Jonathan was an important part of the development of Readiness Building Systems, from the original development of the R=MC2 framework to the most recent developments in applications. His contributions to our center will never go unnoticed.
Still, Jonathan’s departure is seen as a win-win for both Jonathan and the broader center. The decision to leave was rooted in a difference of interests between Jonathan’s newest ventures and the mission of the Wandersman Center.
We see this departure as kind of like a band whose singer decides to make a solo album. The relationships between band members remain sound… the world simply needs more music!
This process of splitting, however, reminded us about the humanity in the work that we do.
It reminded us that we don’t work with organizations. We work with the people within the organizations. And these people within these organizations – their relationships – are what matter.
Relationships are what underlie change.
So, when we used to say, “At the Wandersman Center, we work with organizations…”,
we were missing something.
We were talking about the body and forgot to mention the heart.
It’s not that we didn’t acknowledge the importance of relationships previously.
We’ve published on relationships in technical assistance. We’ve studied constructs like “resistance” and “Early Adopters”. We regularly used terms like inclusivity and local expertise, and we developed relationship-based frameworks to publish in academic journals. We’ve even added a formal and intentional engagement process as an early phase of our Readiness Building Systems.
We’ve known for years that relationships matter
(see Towards and Evidence Based System for Innovation Support).
Yet, we still missed a part of the human element.
We missed the emotional piece.
People who work together to everyday to achieve a common goal.
People who celebrate successes together.
People who sing Happy Birthday and text each other when the ball drops on New Years Eve.
People who share pictures of their children and share joy watching them grow.
Organizations are not a collection of policies, programs, and procedures.
They are a collection of people.
And this importance of people.... it infiltrates all aspects of our work.
It is the fundamental premise on which all our activities are based at the center.
When we suggest organizational improvement, we consider the emotional connection people have to the way things are now. We know first-hand that even positive changes can bring hardship.
For us, we knew logically that it was Jonathan’s time to move on. The benefits for all parties involved were apparent and logical. But that does not take away from the sadness we feel. Jon was an important member of our center and we honor the relationships he had with each person within the center.
Balancing the science of organizational change with the art of relationships is the core of our work. We take this major transition in our center to help us better understand why organizations may resist change. We use this transition to improve the way we work.
It’s not enough to study relationships. Relationships must be the foundation upon which all else is based. We must remember that even the most logically of changes can be emotionally hard for the people involved.
And if we do not consider the emotion, we miss the heart.
Help us wish Jonathan the best of luck in his newest endeavors! Leave him a comment of well-wishes below...
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