Envisioning and Creating the Positive Organizing

In workshops, participants often ask something like this: “In practical terms, what is a positive organization?” I no longer answer. Instead, I invite them to create their own definition. I put them through an exercise. When they finish, something important happens. They say things like this: “When I started writing it down, it became real and it seemed possible.”
The sentence is crucial. It captures a necessary change. Until managers believe that positive organizing is real, they cannot create positive organizing. The following exercise is designed to help build belief.
Exercise: Defining and Creating a Positive Organization

  1. What is your organization like when it is at its best? Write some key words.


  1. Read the following checklist. Underline any phrase you want to add to your list of key words. (Checklist is below.)


  1. Reviewing your list of words, write your own definition of a positive organization. Be sure it is practical, something your people will understand. Put it in their language.


  1. Then write a strategy that will turn your organization positive.

Checklist: Positive Organizing

Meaningful Intent:
_We have a higher purpose
_We have a shared vision
_We are driven by a strategic plan
_We are pursuing possibilities we believe in
Spontaneous Contribution:
_We surrender self-interest
_We sacrifice for the common good
_We spontaneously give of ourselves
_Ego goals become contribution goals
Full Engagement:
_We care about what we are doing
_We are engaged
_We are giving all we have
_We are fully committed
Full Inclusion:
_The outliers feel invited in
_The obstinate are beginning to believe
_Everyone feels like they belong
_No energy is lost dealing with resisters
Positive Peer Pressure:
_More positive norms emerge
_Expectations align with the purpose
_Negative peer pressure becomes positive
_Peers confront the underperformers
Collaborative Relationships:
_We take a win-win mentality
_Competition becomes collaboration
_Teamwork is natural
_We become a dynamic whole
Creative Effort:
_We try new ideas
_We take intelligent risks
_We improvise
_We make discoveries as we move forward
Positive Regard:
_Our language is affirming
_No one is being judged
_Positive appreciation is expressed
_We value each other
Shared Vulnerability:
_We share personal vulnerability
_We reveal our own mistakes
_We ask questions when we fail to understand
_We ask each other for help
Constructive Confrontation:
_Truth becomes more important than power
_Communication is authentic
_People share what they really feel
_Ideas are respectfully challenged
Spontaneous Leadership:
_Leadership emerges spontaneously
_Leadership moves from person to person
_Everyone leads as appropriate
_Everyone initiates as needed
Collective Learning:
_We co-create learning
_We “piggy back” on to each other’s contributions
_We create a shared mind
_We feel we can figure out anything
Time Discipline:
_The pace is quick
_We keep to our planned schedules
_We deliver results on a timely basis
_We persist so as to meet deadlines
Recognizable Success:
_We experience recognizable success
_We receive praise from those we serve
_We attract new business
_Outsiders want to work with us
Joyful Achievement:
_We take joy in our outcomes
_We infect each other with positive energy
_Our growth creates enthusiasm
_We love the work
_ Attraction of Resources
_Our success breeds success
_New people want to work for us
_New customers flow to us
_Our work is in high demand

(Write a definition and strategy below.)
Your Definition and Strategy
Write an Understandable Definition
Based on my own observations, I believe a positive organization has the following characteristics:
Write a Strategy
Based on my own definition of positive organizing, I believe we can turn our organization positive by doing the following:

  • What happens when we do not believe?
  • Why is it important to start by examining your organization at its best?
  • Why is it important to write in the language of your own people?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?


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