07. April 2012 · Comments Off on Facilitating and Developing Collaborative Groups Through Adaptive Organizations · Categories: Collaboration, Cultural Proficiency, Leadership · Tags: , , , , ,

What does it mean to be a professional learning community? How do we develop the knowledge and skills to support professional communities who are actively learning—shifting to shared leadership, supportive organizational structures and resources, and shared professional practices? Professional learning communities can quickly move from being functional to dysfunctional depending on the knowledge and skills of the group members. The purpose of professional learning communities is to deepen the members’ understanding of concepts that promote, improve, and sustain an organization’s mission and vision, to develop skills that improve one’s professional practices, and sometimes to meet mandates for organizational restructuring.

If we shift our perspective from just the name, professional learning communities, to a new identify, a true sense of being, we become professional communities—learning. Professional communities—learning are dynamic groups that are continually seeking to clarify their identify in an ever changing environment, exploring and making visible their values, beliefs, and assumptions both personally and as the professional community—learning. In some of our organizations, developing learning communities calls for an extreme paradigm shift in how we lead and how we interact with each other. Broadening leadership and moving to shared decision-making many times require new skills, understanding of new concepts, new beliefs and values, and changes in our professional behaviors. Examining our beliefs, our values, our assumptions that drive our behaviors is not a common practice, yet this is the foundation for effective professional communities—learning.

Sustaining and growing organizations requires a clarification of identify that truly meets the changing needs of the environment and those whom we serve as clients. Who is our client? Who do we serve? How is our client base changing? What are their needs? How is our environment changing as we move deeper into the 21st century? Sometimes our changing client base and changing environment require a change in form, how we are structured to meet the changing needs of our client-base or our environment. Sometimes that change in form is to become the professional community—learning. Our change in identity may be from being isolated and autonomous in our working environment to being collaborative and sharing practices and knowledge with our colleagues. Garmston and Wellman, in their book, The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups, name this ability to clarify one’s identify and to be flexible in changing form to address changes in the environment, adaptivity.

As a National Training Associate for Adaptive Schools: Facilitating and Developing Collaborative Groups, let me distinguish “adaptivity” from someone/something as “having adapted.” Having adapted to a changing environment conveys finality. We’ve changed. We’re done. The monarch butterfly is adapted to an environment rich with the milkweed plant. If the milkweed were no longer present, the monarch butterfly would most likely perish. The butterfly has adapted to the environment, but does not have the immediate capability to be adaptive, changing form, to meet a rapidly changing environment. The American school system adapted to the economic pressures of the industrial revolution, shifting from a rural educational system, where students learned in diverse, multi-age learning environments, to where students learned in homogeneous environments, to accept directives, and to be passive learners doing what they were told. The “product” was a workforce to supply factories. Today’s businesses require a different kind of workforce, one that can think critically, solve problems, and work collaboratively. Our schools “adapted” to the economic demands of the industrial revolution. They are not “adaptive” in meeting the changing needs of today’s students and the demands of the global societies of the 21st century.

As we become adaptive organizations, organizations that continually clarify their identity and are flexible in changing form when required by the changing environment, we learn or bring to consciousness distinctions in our language and intentionality in our behaviors. Developing skillful group members that can each take responsibility for facilitating and developing collaborative groups is key to supporting adaptive organizations. The Adaptive Schools Foundations Institute provides training in (a) how to facilitate effective, efficient professional communities-learning, (b) how to be a skillful group member, and (c) how to develop as a powerful, collaborative group that is adaptive, dynamically changing as needed given the rapid changes in today’s world.

For more information, training and/or a self and organizational assessment for group development, please email me at: ljungwirth@ConveningConversations.com.