Monday, September 13, 2010

Reflective Metaphor Model for Performance

I have been developing a new model to enhance performance through an action research program. It combines reflective practice, conversations that matter, behavioural metaphor and assessments of impacts on (largely intangible) performance outcomes. Application of the new model (illustrated) is highlighting the power of combining these concepts into an ongoing capability development cycle. By adapting the behaviours required at each stage of the cycle, the individual or team can align thinking to desired outcomes (such as impact on stakeholders and team performance). Recording and challenging their thoughts in a Reflective Impact Diary at each stage assists their development. For example, the structure reinforces enabling simulations before any planned interaction as well as recollection and challenge after the event to highlight key learnings. Learning is even stronger if the conversations and constructive challenges at all stages are done collaboratively.

This approach helps participants to preselect the behaviours are the most appropriate to achieve the desired outcomes of each conversation at each stage. This highlights the purpose of each conversation and matures participant’s thinking before the interaction, thereby improving the chances of success. Actively engaging with colleagues in Conversations that Matter at each stage of an adapted reflective practice cycle (Reflect, Plan, Do, Observe), enables richer learnings and stronger relationship development. Embedding Zoo Metaphor into this approach enriches the understanding of the behavioural interactions for both “Reflection in Action” and “Reflection on Action”. Combining reflective practice with conversation structure, behavioural analysis and metaphor is unique. Placing reflection at the beginning of the cycle to simulate creative conversations about possible outcomes is something that some people do some of the time. The suggestion of this model is to consciously do this in a structured way and enables the actors to be better prepared than the traditional approach of Plan, Do, Observe then Reflect. Separating pre-reflection (simulation before the event) from planning is a critical point. Simulation is about creating and testing a range of options using divergent thinking. Planning typically is more about selecting which options from a range should be used and in what order using convergent thinking. The behaviours to be displayed in each of these conversations are very different to optimise the process. If simulation and planning are done together it is probable useful emergent opportunities will not be developed (or perhaps even recognised).

The interdependence of these four approaches and the synergies they generate with each other makes them powerful. Although any of them can be used alone, together they become much more influential and contribute more to personal and team capability development. All four concepts help those using them to develop a deeper understanding of themselves and others and the interactions they can then have with them. My PhD research is assessing the impact this will have on performance (of individuals, teams and organisations). I am very interested to hear what you think (and also from people who wish to participate in the research).

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