If you are interested in contemporary management or what is called positive management, or positive psychology, or positive organizational scholarship, and if you have had any training at all in “old school” management, there is an important habit of thought that you will have to give up.

Gap or deficit models have had their day

Almost all ‘old school’ management, and ‘old school’ psychology, works on a ‘gap model’.

Take “training” for example.  A manager decides someone isn’t doing what they should.  The manager asks whether they have done the task before or not.  If not, they are sent off for training.

The idea is that training will help the employee bridge the gap – between where they are know and where they should be.

Obvious, hey?

Well, we are going to kick that idea into touch.  Gap models and deficit models have been trashed.

What is the alternative to gap or deficit thinking?

But how can we define what to do if we can’t say where there is a gap?

Let’s take the greatest change champion of our time: Barack Obama.  How does Barack Obama propose change without saying there is a gap?

In January 2008, quite early on in the campaign, Barack Obama gave what I think of as his deficit speech.  It uses the word ‘deficit’ a lot.

Isn’t that a gap?  No, not really.  Because Obama talks about our deficit.  Not someone elses.  He talks about what we will do. Not what other people are going to do. And he talks about processes that we do and do well and will do more of.

The guiding rule in positive organizational scholarship is to talk about “the good and the true, the better and the possible” and DO MORE OF IT.

If you are new to positive management, begin with this speech

If you are new to positive management and still trying to get your head around thinking about change and forward movement without defining a gap, begin with this speech. It is a good example of contemporary positive thought.

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