It's been a month or so, but I've been meaning to continue the series of posts about sessions I attended at IIRP's World Conference in August in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I'll continue with the one of three talks I attended on the subject of how restorative practices can apply in business and industry.

John Graham Macdonald offered a session entitled “Restoring Your Bottom Line: Using RP in Management.” Macdonald began by pointing out that old school thinking about management – based on rules and external motivations – simply do not work. He said that “intrinsic motivation,” on the other hand, does work well but it requires the right climate to really take hold.

Macdonald said, “People need as much autonomy as possible,” they “need opportunity to grow and do their best,” and he noted that people generally “want to belong.” Furthermore, he said that to really tap the potential of employees, the purpose (or perhaps mission) of the organization has to be one they can believe in. In other words, people really need to buy in – money is not enough. Macdonald emphasized the need of business organizations to identify shared values to provide foundation and purpose. He stressed that this is fundamental, and he even went so far as to define values as “things you’ll break rules and leave jobs for.”

(He also noted – if my memory is correct here, because I didn't actually write a note on this one – that in light of reports of massive financial losses in business due to workforce inefficiency, businesses have a great deal to gain by really engaging their employees.)

Macdonald then spoke about various concepts that help make up the restorative point of view. He discussed the concept of “fair process,” an idea found in Harvard Business Review, which offers a template to provide staff involvement and clear understanding when it comes to decision making. Macdonald also referenced the "social discipline window" and noted that by including people in decision making, fair process also “maximizes autonomy and challenge.”

Macdonald pointed out that the first duty of a manager is to train, but beyond that he believes it is most important for a manage to challenge employees so they can realize their potential. I found this reference to the intrinsic desire of individuals to grow on a personal level refreshing.

Furthermore, Macdonald discussed the essential need to build social capital by creating situations and environments, like fixed lunch times or common areas where people can meet and mingle, in which people can build relationships. He pointed out that this may seem to serve only a social function but that people end up talking about work as well when they socialize!

Macdonald also stressed a unique idea that different parts of a business could improve their usefulness by thinking of other branches and departments as their customers. This changes the perspective so that different departments actually aim to serve one another. In light of the popular dictum that "the customer is always right," I would think this attitude would help departments function cooperatively and serve one another rather than view each other as separate tribes or competitors.

Finally, Macdonald, who comes from an engineering background, talked about a model for industry called Continuous Improvement or CI (see reference in yesterday's blog post about "pulling the Andon cord"). He believes that the CI model – which works by filling workers in on the overall work of the organization and then soliciting their input to continually improve production processes – can create organizations that are highly restorative. He described these organizations as “not top down” and noted that in these organizations everyone understands the overall purpose of the organization and is constantly challenged to find a better way to do things.

Macdonal pointed out, however, that the main limitation for CI is the problem of "culture change." It's one thing to have a procedure for fixing technical issues, but it's another to change the culture of an organization so that change is sustainable. Macdonald suggested that restorative practices could help in this regard to support the CI model.


A piece by Macdonald about Hull, UK's project to become a restorative city and more about restorative practices in business can be found here.

Restorative Works Cover
Restorative Works Year in Review 2023 (PDF)

All our donors are acknowledged annually in Restorative Works.