Stage 4: TRY


Introduction


With a well-defined problem and an assemblage of relevant resources, the system is in a good position to choose a solution or a set of possible solutions. There is much more to be said about how this choosing or fabricating process should go forward. One of the biggest mistakes of change agents is to jump on a solution without thinking through how it would apply in practice, how it might need to be adapted to fit the special circumstances of this system, and what its various consequences might be in the short and long term.

Focus

It may well be that you or your client or your sponsor has already settled on a particular solution that you are going to try, no matter what. That is OK. Indeed, it is the typical circumstance that most change agents will find themselves in, at least on the first round. Being focused on particular solutions is the normal state of affairs. It may even have been pre-ordained or dictated by the search process as the “one obvious choice,” or the one way it is most logical to go.  If so, the TRY stage is just a walk-through. You can skip to T-5 “adapt” or go on to T-6, “act.” Keep in mind, however, that if you run into trouble later on, you may have to come back here and invest a little more time and thought in what should actually be done to bring about a successful change effort. Stage 4.0, "Focus" identifies the major solution types, each presenting a somewhat different set of challenges.



Committing to Solution

From Knowledge to action


With a problem and a lot of relevant information, the client needs to order the facts and decide what to do. Although this can be the most creative and interesting stage of a change process, but it is often short-changed in the rush to solutions. Very few people are really skilled at generating solution ideas and choosing among them, even when they have a clear idea of what they need. Stage 4 provides a few guidelines for helping generate solutions and making the right choices. We suggest a six-step sequential process that could be followed, starting from the Stage 2 and 3 diagnosis and information retrieval, and working through to the point where we are ready for implementation. Stage 4 is organized around six steps as illustrated in the figure.
 
There is no one sure path to the "right" solution, and there is going to be no one solution that will be exactly "right" for any given problem. There are usually many possible solutions and many possible paths.· The processes should therefore be viewed as one potential route among many. Our intent in presenting this sequence is to suggest a number of steps that might help the client  make a wise and informed choice.

T-1: "Assemble and order the relevant findings" is the summary outcome of Stage 3; you have collected information from a number of sources. Now put it together in a meaningful way so you and the client can look at it all together.

T-2: "Deriving implications" is an activity that should always accompany resource acquisition, particularly when the resource information is in the form of research reports and abstract analyses. In this step we ask the question, "What does this information say about this setting and this specific problem?"

T-3: "Generating solution ideas" moves you from description and analysis into the formulation of action alternatives. Some of these will be suggested by diagnosis (Stage 2), some others by implications derived from the assembled knowledge base (Step T-2). Still others may be generated by the client working with the change agent in brainstorming activities. Step T-3 should leave you with a range of possible solution ideas in various stages of completeness. Having this range of possibilities puts the client in a better position to make rational and meaningful choices.

In Step T-4, "Feasibility testing," you evaluate these alternative solution ideas according to a number of criteria. The three primary considerations in evaluation are benefit, workability, and diffusibility.

  • "Benefit" simply means "How much good would it do if it worked?"
  • "Practicability" means "Will it really work, especially with this particular client system?" and,
  • "Extendibility" means "Will it be accepted by other members of the client system and will it have staying power?"


By asking these questions you should be able to reduce the number of possible solutions to one or two.

 In Step T-5, which we call "Adaptation," the preferred solutions are shaped to the specific needs and circumstances of the client. Hopefully your screening process will have eliminated the less developed and less relevant solutions, but some work may still need to be done to "customize" the innovation for your own particular client. Sometimes such adaptation can only take place after installation and diffusion activities have begun (i.e., in Stage 5 of the overall planned change sequence).

Finally, in Step T-6, you "Act," you commit yourself, your client, and your innovation to action; you make the trial a reality. In real life, choosing and trying out a solution is not likely to follow such a clear-cut 1-2-3-4-5-6 sequence. For example, you may find that after feasibility testing you need to go back and generate some additional solution ideas, or that in adaptation you need to derive some more implications from research studies. This recycling applies equally to the previous stages of "diagnosis" (Stage 2) and "resource acquisition" (Stage 3).

Figure 4-1 tries to suggest these sequences and the ways in which they relate to each other. As illustrated in this diagram, choosing the solution cannot easily be separated from diagnosis and resource acquisition activities. At each step in the selection process you may have need for additional diagnostic information and additional resources of various kinds. You may even have to cycle back from Stage 5, e.g., when you meet unexpected resistance in the client system, you may have to do more work on adaptation, or you may even have to select another innovation.

 

Quotables

"Our everyday experience tells us that our insight into the cause of a problem leads us spontaneously to take the right remedial actions. But the literature of change shows that this is far from being true in most efforts of social or psycho-­dynamic change." Lippitt Watson, & Westley