In political theory, the Overton Window refers to a citizenry’s tolerance for change. The assumption is that the change will in some way restrict freedom and increase the government’s power and control over its citizenry. Over a span of time, an idea is perceived initially as outrageous, then dangerous, then possible, then necessary. The novel Boomsday used this principle to show how citizens initially would not consider voluntary suicide as a possible option to the social security funding problem, but gradually warmed up to the idea over time.
Like the Overton Window, the Delta Window shares the notion of an idea being perceived as unrealistic and eventually becoming necessary, but it does not share the negative connotations of increasing organizational power and control.
The Delta Window is a picture of the current mindset of stakeholders’ views of the strategies and systems that shape their organization, and the speed at which the organization’s stakeholders can adapt new strategies and systems that reflect the best environment for performance improvement. So the Delta Window shifts as perception changes.
Keep in mind that the Delta Window will never fully “arrive” because of the transformational nature of organizations. New ideas, technology, and methodologies are always informing and influencing organizations.
Consider the shift in major universities’ perceptions of distance education as a viable offering:
You can read more about a study that shows some interesting stats from a ten-year study of shifts in higher ed views toward distance education from 2002 to 2012 here.
L & D's Role in Shifting the Delta Window
- Be prepared to share some intel about what other similar organizations are doing without giving away client-sensitive information. Few organizations are early adapters, and letting them hear that they will not be the first to try your recommendation will give them assurance that others have already forged the path, and if anything, they will be left in the dust if they don’t adapt.
- Have some numbers ready. Stakeholders have to get buy-in, and you can assist them in getting that buy-in if you have some hard numbers as to how much it will cost to transition to and support/maintain the recommendation you are recommending.
- Share examples. Again, always protect client confidentiality. But consider “scrubbing” some of your best examples that represent the solution you are recommending. Once a client sees what you are proposing, it begins to feel more real and more possible. If you are an internal L & D employee and do not have access to samples, you can usually find some examples by looking at competitor websites (depending on the type of learning solution you are recommending). You can also work with an outside consultant who can provide samples.
- Have a Plan B. Assume that your client is not going to buy in to your recommendation 100%. Before you present, be sure to have a Plan B that would represent a shift in the Delta Window, although it might not be the Ideal State.
I’d love to hear your stories of how you have experienced the Delta Window, either as a stakeholder, L & D consultant, or an L & D practitioner within your organization!
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