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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