People who learn about positive organizing often become excited and then express a frustration. They say, “The people above me are so toxic and so closed I cannot imagine them every accepting and implementing ideas like this. I have little hope.”
This hopelessness orbits around a conventional assumption. Organizational change is a top-down process. The person at the top of a hierarchy announces change and then it flows down the system in a linear fashion. People comply and do what they are told.
There are some problems with this assumption. Top-down initiatives are often ineffective. Changes are announced and what emerges is resistance not compliance.
Organizations are not machines and change is not linear. Organizations are social systems and change is organic. Change spreads like a contagious disease. It can move from the top down and it can move from the bottom up.
This truth opens a door that few people see. Positive change can be instituted without permission or awareness at the top. There have been occasions when people, not at the top, have initiated positive revolutions designed to make everyone better.
The pattern usually involves bringing together an informal group of inherently positive people. We call them positive energizers. Their attitude is more important than their titles. These are the people with the capacity to spread positivity.
In gathering, they typically diagnose the present situation, envision the context they want to work in, and they begin to brainstorm positive practices that they can individually implement in their own sphere of influence. It is not a case of rebelling against authority. It is a case of people doing what authority figures expect them to do, to take initiative in doing a better job and making the organization a better place. The people are doing what they get paid to do, they are exerting positive leadership.
When we work with organizations trying to turn their culture positive, we often encourage them to create a change team of positive energizers. This has always proved to be an asset. The people are selected from all levels. The only criterion is that they are seen as positive energizers. The positive energizers love doing the change task, they are anxious to take new initiatives, and people tend to hear them out.
What is organic change?
Who are the positive energizers in my organization?
How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?