Author:  Laiza N. Otero, MSOD, Organization Development Consultant

During change initiatives, it is not uncommon to hear questions about the urgency of the effort, the business case/need for it, or what the “burning platform” is that drives the change.  But what if we reframed the conversation to one of inspiration and energy? That is one (out of many) ideas  David Cooperrider challenges one to think about during the course “The New Change Equation” at Case Western Reserve University.

Cooperrider’s question led me to reflect about the different organization development (OD) models and tools I use with my clients. Were they in alignment with the appreciative, strengths-based approach I prefer to use in my work? Were they inspirational? If no, how could I reframe them?

One that immediately caught my attention was the Time Management Matrix (table 1).  Created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and further popularized by Stephen Covey, the matrix helps categorize tasks by their level of urgency and importance.  It provides users a practical, simple, and effective model for organizing and prioritizing actions.  Because of that, I have built on the model and apply it often in strategic and long-range planning, goal development, and coaching.

Table 1. Time Management Matrix (Eisenhower & Covey)

Urgent Not Urgent
Important Urgent & Important Not Urgent & Important
Not Important Urgent & Not Important Not Urgent & Not Important

But what if I could adapt it further using a strengths-based approach? What would it look like to act from a place of inspiration rather than urgency?  After several prototypes, I landed on what I call the Inspired Action Matrix (table 2).

Table 2. Inspired Action Matrix (Laiza N. Otero)

High Importance Low Importance
High Inspiration High Inspiration & High Importance High Inspiration & Low Importance
Low Inspiration Low Inspiration & High Importance Low Inspiration & Low Importance

At a high level, the key qualities of each quadrant are:

High Inspiration & High Importance

  • Act now
  • Strategic, energizing, inspirational, and/or aspirational

High Inspiration & Low Importance

  • Plan for
  • Strategic, energizing, inspirational, and/or aspirational

Low Inspiration & High Importance

  • Do or delegate
    • Do.  Is this part of one’s day-to-day tasks or responsibilities that one must do?
    • Delegate.  Is this something that could be better or more efficiently accomplished through another group or individual?
  • Tactical; must-do

 Low Inspiration & Low Importance

  • Delete
  • Neither strategic or tactical

As with the Time Management Matrix, this model can be used in a variety of settings – e.g. from individual goal setting to large-scale organizational change. The goal is for organizations and individuals to identify and act on ideas that authentically energize them; where people feel inspired, committed, and engaged.

In the spirit of Cooperrider and his Appreciative Inquiry work, I share this as an open-source model for everyone to explore, test, modify, and enhance further.  I will continue to share my insights about the model on this site, and I look forward to reading about your experiences with it.

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