Queen's University IRC

The Magic of Diagnosis – Part 2


Brenda Barker Scott
Queen’s IRC Facilitator

March 1, 2006

In part one, Brenda discussed how diagnosis enables change leaders to uncover what is really going on – and how that knowledge yields both the best solutions and the energy for change. In part two of her article, she elaborates on how diagnosis actually works to mobilize change, and how to make an accurate diagnosis.

To read Part 1 of this article click here

I’ve emphasized the importance of staying in the deep diagnosis phase in order to mobilize change. But how does this actually work? A useful formula for explaining how energy arises out of engagement and learning is the formula DxVxF>R, offered by Kathy Dannemiller and colleagues. It is built on the notion that resistance is a normal and natural human response to change and that to move forward, people must have a deep appreciation for the why, what, and how of the change – or D,V and F – which they describe as follows:

“Our version states that for change to occur, the product of dissatisfaction with the present situation (D), a vision of what is possible (V), and first steps to reach the vision (F) must be greater than resistance to change (R). If any element is missing, the product will be zero. Since we all resist change to some extent, if the product is zero we will not overcome resistance and no change will occur. In other words, if people are able to absorb new information, they will see the world differently (paradigm shift) and, once their paradigm shifts, their behaviour will change as a result.”

What is the best way to create DxVxF? There is no substitute for engaging people in critical conversations with colleagues, customers, suppliers and experts to explore and identify the many reasons for change, the desired possibilities for the future and the paths to getting there. Building a critical mass of support through DxVxF creates leverage. It is a strategy that enables change agents to join with people, to make them all smart about why change, to what and how.

One of most compelling insights I’ve had is that if you spend time creating D and V, you will create the spark for working at warp speed when you reach F – or implementation. That’s because you’ll have a group of people who know what to do, as they have knowledge embedded in their DNA. The magic of taking your time at the front end is that the back end will then roll forward quickly. That’s why a brilliant diagnosis made by a select few may be a waste of time if it does not resonate with the people who need to make it happen. In many ways, change is all about learning, and doing the diagnosis is a critical step. You need to think carefully about who needs to be engaged in real learning for the change to succeed.

The simple truth is that when we have the courage to embrace the big questions, and stay in a place of uncertainty and confusion, we are creating the basis for sound decisions and speedy implementation. All team members, including change leaders, need to move through these stages, passing through denial and confusion and working through the uncertainty to eventually reach renewal, where the wind is once again under their wings.

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