Remedial and Generative Change

By October 2, 2021General Insights

“I just want him to change” “Can’t she see that its her that needs to change?”

Some of our problems with change arise from the fact that we are not all talking about the same thing. At a fundamental level all of life is about change. You are a pretty efficient machine for turning dietary sources of glucose into energy. As your eyes read these words hundreds of thousands of molecules are being changed into different forms. You could say that the only people who aren’t changing are the dead, but in fact there’s still quite a lot of chemistry going on for some time after we’ve stopped reading blogs. This sort of change might be called first order change. It happens all over the place, sometimes in well organised ways that make our customers happy. That’s good.

Businesses really get interested in second order change. In second order change you have two states; one observed and one imagined. The change is about forcing one into the other. An example of this is Remedial Change. Jonny sells 12 units per day. His target is 16 units per day. Remedial change is about fixing Jonny’s lack or inadequacy and remedying this problem state. Business Managers are very good at identifying problems states and making remedial change an objective.

Sometimes Remedial Change is spot on. Sometimes there is a simple lack of knowledge, skills, tools, effort, materials or what-have-you, and the fix can be applied. Sometimes these fixes don’t work.

Today we are going to look at one other option in the change toolbox. This is another second order change model, so we are still using a “before state” and “after state” to frame our thinking. In Generative Change we are not fixing what is wrong, but instead we are adding to what is already right. Strengths coaching is a good example of Generative Change. In strengths coaching the performer appreciates the basis of their success and focusses on achieving greater levels of excellence. When we do this, rather than focussing on our weaknesses, we often find that performance improves dramatically and sustainably and sometimes the weaker areas also disappear anyway.

Next time you are looking for change, think whether you need remedial or generative change. In our next post on change we’ll look at third and fourth order changes.

Simon Nash

Simon Nash

Simon Nash is an experienced leader, speaker and writer in the intersection of people and ideas at work.

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