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Choosing the Right ‘Depth’ for a Change Initiative

This insightful model by Roger Harrison offers a strategic approach to addressing issues within teams and organizations. Rather than hastily pinpointing blame, Harrison suggests starting from the top and working downwards. First, clarify roles and goals to ensure everyone understands objectives. Next, analyze group dynamics and organizational processes. Progressing downward, address conflicts between departments or individuals. Finally, consider the intrapersonal level, identifying individuals who may contribute to the issue. By following this structured methodology, the focus shifts from placing blame to comprehensively understanding and resolving problems. Harrison’s model advocates for a holistic perspective, emphasizing that true solutions arise from a nuanced examination of roles, dynamics, conflicts, and individual behaviors.


How do you choose the right depth for a change, initiative, or correction of some kind in your team or in a large change initiative? How many times have you seen a change put into place, only it didn’t really fix things? This is a wonderful, wonderful model from a friend and colleague, Roger Harrison. It’s a really great one. I’ve used it for many, many years. You’re going to use it all the time. When you’re going about trying to fix something, you have to be sure that you’re not working, as we used to say, at the brown end of the pipe, like in the environmental movement, when there’s something being dumped into a river. You can put a filter on the end of the pipe, but that doesn’t really fix the problem. It actually addresses a symptom. The problem is actually upstream somewhere from that pipe. This is what happens quite often when we go into organizations. The problem, quote unquote, is over here. But that’s not really the problem there. At the brown end of the pipe. And there are other factors affecting it. One of Kurt Levine, the grandfather of applied behavioral sciences, one of his favorite sayings, and a very important one, was this formula here. And what it means is that an individual person’s behavior, what they do, is actually a function of who they are as a person, multiplied by the environment around them.

So what a person does in a family, what a person does in a team, in a relationship, in an organizational culture, that’s what’s going on around them actually affects things. My pup, my father, was an alcoholic, a wonderful, extraordinary, brilliant man. And he used to go off from time to time to get fixed, to get corrected, to get sobered up. He would come back, and within a matter of months, he’d be drinking again. Why? Because the whole system around him had stayed exactly the same. The principle here is maybe. Maybe the person is a piece of the problem, but not the cause. This. Thank you, Roger Harrison, for this. Here’s the deal. Where do you intervene? How do you choose the level of depth? And, of course, the most frequent one is who is at fault. As soon as we can figure out who’s at fault, we’ve solved the problem. But how many times have you seen people come in to replace somebody and. And pretty soon they’re asked to leave. Why is it that certain positions in an organization or in a family or in a, or in a, in a, in a team have seemed to be the cause of everything? Maybe they’re not. There’s another level just above that, which is what about people that have unresolved conflicts that need to be addressed? Where are they and what is it costing the team or the situation? Another level up is how does the group or the system, how do they work together? How do you do things? Sometimes the issue is there, like the processes can be at fault.

It shows up as a person maybe, but maybe not. And then finally, roles and goals. What are we trying to accomplish and who’s supposed to be doing what? So what Roger came up with, which I think is brilliant, is that you need to start at the top and work your way down rather than the other way around, he said. First of all, take a look and clarify roles and goals. Make sure the team or the organization knows what they’re trying to accomplish and why. Then secondly, take a look at the group dynamics or the processes in the organization. How are we doing things together? Then the next level down, they say, okay, where are some conflicts between departments or between people that might be holding us up? And then last of all, you go to look at the intrapersonal level. Where is a person that might be actually at fault here, go in that direction, start at the top, work your way down. So the last resort is finding blame, and see if you don’t actually fix more problems than you have in the past. Thank you, Roger Harrison, for this fabulous model.


This insightful video delves into essential survival skills for navigating today’s workplace challenges. Covering skills seven to ten, it emphasizes the importance of developing courage to face challenges (symbolized by “tigers”), mastering cross-functional teamwork, adapting to rapid change, and finding purpose beyond routine tasks. The author encourages readers to view their work as contributing to a larger purpose, urging them to quit a mundane job and discover work that aligns with personal passions and makes a meaningful impact. With a focus on personal development, organizational growth, and effective teamwork, the video provides practical advice for thriving in the dynamic modern workplace.

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