Managing for change through reflective practice – part 1

Part 1

An effective supervisor or manager develops their people practice by subjecting their theories and beliefs to scrutiny.

Donald Schon coined the terms reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action.

Reflection-in-action is about the intentional use of  critical thinking to shift what one does as one is in the process of doing it. Reflection-on-action involves the evaluation of decisions or actions after the fact. In its basic form, reflection-on-action is driven by the following questions:  “What happened?” and “How could the outcome be made better?” Some would suggest that the latter question should be “How might things be transformed not just improved?”

When facilitating Sensitivity Training sessions, I always demand that attendees develop an evidence based practice around their actions. The ideal evidence is to discern what your people are saying about your practice. Unfortunately, it can be tough to gather evidence if people have trained themselves to give what’s expected.

Yet reflection is more than a cerebral, technical, or rational exercise. However, according to the author Alison James & Stephen Brookfield in their book Engaging Imagination, it is multi-sensory and involves other kinds of knowing. Here are some ways they suggest for approaching reflection using all the senses:

  1. letting go
  2. mulling over choices
  3. asking why
  4. analyzing
  5. observing the effects
  6. gut feeling
  7. pulling things apart
  8. walking away from
  9. reassembling
  10. listening to your inner voice


Culture and conflict: Taking it personally

Cross cultural research suggest that there is a significant relationship between culture and the tendency to personalize conflict and outcomes such as feeling negative about criticism and wanting to improve. Individuals from cultures that place a primacy on group goals  tend to be more likely to take conflict personally and show a higher motivation to improve behavior.


Kim, E. c., Yamaguchi, A. a., Kim, M. k., & Miyahara, A. m. (2015). Effects of taking conflict personally on conflict management styles across cultures. Personality & Individual Differences72143-149. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.08.004