ACT if you dare

I just read “Changing others through changing ourselves: The transformation of human systems” written by Robert E. Quinn, Gretchen M. Spreitzer and Matthew V. Brown in the Journal of Management Inquiry.  It was about the adaptive change theory (ACT)and it is all about changing yourself before ever thinking about changing anyone else.  The theory is based on putting yourself in jeopardy or making yourself vulnerable for the benefit of others, specifically in this case, your employees.  The theory was very interesting because of the way Quinn et al. explained it using Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus, but when it was all said and done I did not like it.  After I finished it I had to refer to my Bret L. Simmons’ powerpoint presentation to figure out what I read.

I had a lot of mixed emotions as I read it.  I started to really get into it when Quinn started to describe the 10 principles of ACT and when I finished that section I was eager to read the application of it.  The application was a huge disappointment.  I thought it was ridiculous.  The only way these people practiced ACT was by accident, soul searching or a life-changing event.  They had no practical applications, at least in my opinion.

After reading this, I know ACT is a great theory and that is it, good luck with the rest. The real life implications are something I would never want endure or want my boss to endure.  The suicide example was mind-blowing.  It was about a manager whose former employee committed suicide after being laid off and the manager was a better man because of it.  Of course he was treated better at work because everyone felt bad for him.  If I was his boss, I would give him whatever he wanted, or if I worked for him I would do everything he said.  That was a horrible event and it would change anyone, at least anyone with a conscience.  He would have never changed it was not for that event.  He never wants that to happen again so he is going to be the best boss in the world.

The next thing that bothered me was how Quinn et al. referenced everything to how someone will be able to endure “the painful adjustments and put themselves in jeopardy (Pg. 149).”  He explained it by describing the non-violent efforts of Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. and how they were able to influence people to change.  I thought it was a too extreme to compare a chief executive to those three who gave their lives for what they believed in.

Thinking about ACT in a critical business sense, I do not see ACT as a tool for creating effective followers, only sheep and yes people.  Quinn et al. says it clearly, “[ACT] implies a dependence that is of the nature of a growth-oriented identification with the leader (pg. 154).”  But then in the very next principle, Quinn et al. says the leader is at the same time pushing the follower to a breaking point and encouraging the follower to question and challenge.  Those are two extremes and it would be almost impossible to do both.  I do not see Erin’s mother pushing her daughter to the breaking point and making her dependent of her at the same time.  I especially do not see the suicide guy doing that or any of the other examples doing it either.

The only good thing about this article was the end of it when Quinn et al. discredited it.  It was written to evoke thought and that is what it did for me.

I think the idea of ACT is good, change yourself and inspire others to change with you.  After reading the article I did not see the transition, but after reading Simmons’ presentation I am more convinced.  Simmons’ wrote, ACT “requires a shift away from self-interested behavior to purposeful behavior.  [The] leader strives for inclusion, openness, and development and minimizes the need for hierarchy.”  The ACT leader is no longer a hypocrite and she wants win-win decision making through internal communication and questioning.  The leader has made the painful change and now she has to develop goals which ¨must be a vision for the common good if others are expected to make painful changes.”

Even though I did not like the article at all, I still think I learned something and I encourage you to read it and see what you think.  I have class tonight and I am looking forward to the discussion to see if anyone felt the same way I did.  No one ever does, at least if they do, they do not speak up, like me.


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