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Journaling and Change: A Surprisingly Strong Relationship

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journaling  (jûr-n-l -ng)


1.a. The act of keeping a personal record of occurrences, experiences, and reflections on a regular basis; keeping a diary.

journaling for change management


I recently listened to a talk given by leadership and psychology lecturer and author Tal Ben-Shachar, formerly of Harvard and now with the IDC in Israel.  Dr. Ben-Shachar cited study after study which demonstrated how effective journaling is for our overall well-being.  In fact, scientific evidence suggests that regular journaling can deliver all kinds of benefits, including reducing stress, helping us solve problems more effectively and resolve disagreements with others, not to mention improving our emotional and physical well-being.

So what does this have to do with change?  Quite a bit, as it happens.

At the individual level it's clear.  If you're in the habit of journaling and something drastic happens in the workdplace (the loss of your job, a major reorganization, the sale of the company, etc.), you'll be better equipped to process the events and move through them more productively.

But what about using the concept of journaling organizationally?  How can journaling help an organization?

Well, of course one way to promote organizational journaling is to hand out notebooks as part of the announcement and encourage people to write about how they feel about it as the change progresses.  It's an interesting idea, and if your company was so inclined I'd tell you it probably wouldn't hurt.  However, you'll get mixed results:  Some people will take to journaling and others won't; some will journal in a productive way, while others won't; still others may be concerned that what they write in a 'corporate sponsored' notebook won't stay private, so they'll write only platitudes, not their real feelings.

On the other hand, what if you take the concept of journaling and use it across the company?

According to Dr. Ben-Shachar and others, journaling actually rewires the brain and creates alternative neural pathways which help an individual cope.  It releases tension and adds a sense of coherence, or narrative, helping individuals make sense of their situation.

Organizationally, we can do the same thing.  After a change announcement is made and people being to think about how it will affect them, I suggest bringing people together and using journaling principles to facilitate communication.  First, give them a chance to write their thoughts down on paper.  Use the 15-minute rule (though others studies show that as little as 2 minutes may be effective).  Then encourage discussion where you, as the facilitator, help them make sense of what's happened within the organization.  (An added benefit of gathering similarly-affected people together is that they can then form an informal support group and see they aren't alone in their situation.)

By creating a sort of 'live journaling' opportunity, you've accomplished several things at once:

  1. You've acknowledged that the announced change is going to affect individuals
  2. You've provided the opportunity for individuals to process that change
  3. You've provided a forum to express feelings/reactions/fears
  4. You've created an opportunity for the team to 're-gel' in light of the new changes (because significant changes can cause even a productively-working team to fall apart)
  5. You've created an opportunity to say goodbye and/or establish closure to the 'old way' and progress forward into the 'new way'

Even better, this kind of exercise can be facilitated by a manager or director - you don't have to wait for HR or senior management to approve or schedule an official activity.

As far as I'm concerned, it's simple:  When we know that journaling can have so many pronounced benefits for individuals, there's no reason not to facilitate journaling at the organizational level.



Read 22255 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 May 2014 22:19

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