Accompaniment is a form of support based on a process of professionalization. It assumes consistency between the work of accompaniment providers and the goals set for them in the accompaniment process. The process involves a form of modeling that uses a working example transferable into a workplace or group accompaniment situation. It is designed for those implementing changes that demand modifications to professional practice, with all the questions, apprehensions, uncertainties, ambiguities, and risk-taking that this entails. It requires reflective-interactive practice on the part of the accompaniment providers and those being accompanied.
Accompaniment is conducted in collaboration with workplace communities and groups that chart their own course with respect to their need for help in navigating a change. These choices are the result of collective decisions made on the basis of resources, staff expertise, existing workplace practices, and the aims and intentions of the change. The accompanied persons transfer the accompaniment model by adapting the approach to their particular situation. To do so, they are encouraged to document their process of accompaniment and the experiments conducted in their workplace. This makes it possible to track the progress of the accompanied persons and groups and understand their approach. Accompaniment also implies collegiality that may develop into professional collaboration over time (for further explanation, see Lafortune, 2008a).
Accompaniment leadership is a process that orients professional practices by providing direction for change. It is exercised and developed through individual and group reflection and through interaction with personnel affected by a change. Leadership of this kind builds awareness and leads to initiatives that are developed, carried out, analyzed, evaluated, adjusted, and revisited in a spirit of professional collaboration. This process is part of reflective practice where reflection and practice analysis paves the way for the development of models of practice and professional competencies for accompaniment.
Normally, accompaniment leadership influences the level of staff engagement and encourages steps to translate commitment to the change into concrete action or into action and accompaniment plans. Such leadership fosters innovation and initiative, but also presupposes a certain form of collegiality and the sharing of power and responsibility with accompanied staff. This type of leadership cannot be imposed. It is recognizable through its achievements, the relationship the leader maintains with the work team or staff at the organization or business involved, the trust he or she inspires, and so on.
In a context of prescribed change that sets a direction, it is a matter of fostering not just commitment, but engagement. The accompaniment process for such a change can foster openness, skepticism, questioning, or rejection (Lafortune 2006). It involves interaction, collective reflections, actions, collective analyses, and regulations. Accompaniment leaders share various characteristics, including a certain culture, ethical behavior, an ability to take the affective dimension into account, and a commitment to reflective practice (for further explanation, see Lafortune, 2008a).
The accompaniment process is a dynamic process that fosters action and leads to change. It involves a set of professional acts with defined aims that are planned and structured from a socioconstructivist perspective on the basis of a partnership with a specific group. The process includes strategies for leading discussions, training, and accompaniment and draws on various tools (self-questioning, interaction, co-construction, reflection, analysis, modeling, etc.). It is an assistance, support, and mediation measure designed to help individuals within a group to move forward and develop professional autonomy while taking into consideration the cognitive, metacognitive, affective, and social dimensions.
From a content perspective, accompaniment combines theory with practice, and reflection with action in an integrated, complementary manner. Implementation of this process calls for a culture that manifests itself in attitudes, knowledge, strategies, abilities, and experience, but also through the development and exercise of professional competencies associated with accompaniment leadership. By its duration and continuous nature, the process encourages change and helps ensure that its foundations, aims, and content are integrated in a durable way. More generally, it fosters interrelated initiatives for training a workplace community through mutual aid, collaboration, and communication (also see Lafortune and Deaudelin, 2001; Lafortune and Martin, 2004).
Action initiation is the moment chosen by an individual or group to initiate actions, professional acts, or accompaniment situations to facilitate a change. It is a crucial and often difficult phase because change, especially significant change, forces people to adjust their models of intervention. These adjustments vary in scope depending on the accompanied individuals or groups and their position with respect to the change. Action initiation is essential for ensuring the updating and long-term viability of practices associated with the theoretical foundations of a change. Two phases can drive action initiation: 1) change-related narratives of practices and experiences that generate reflective-interactive feedback, and serve as a window on workplace practices, providing inspiration and an opportunity to learn about giving feedback on other experiences; 2) subgroup accompaniment of action plans developed and led by accompanied persons. These phases encourage people to initiate actions and experiments facilitating a change or to support the change accompaniment process.
Action initiation presupposes a) a team-designed and planned project; b) experimentation and action; c) monitoring; d) individual and group analysis; e) adjustments, and; f) evidence keeping.
An action plan can take the shape of an intervention sequence, plans to carry out various professional acts, or a structure suggesting actions to implement as part of a change accompaniment process. Action plan implementation helps facilitate change, the updating of professional practices, and the development of professional competencies. These action plans presuppose a close link between the planning, predicting, design, development, implementation, and evaluation of a set of tasks, at the same time taking into account the knowledge culture in the field and the accompanied workplace. These plans are reflective actions comprised of a series of professional acts, actions, and means that foster collegial effort to implement a change. Accompaniment providers put in place a complex reflective-interactive mechanism that encourages accompanied individuals to gradually engage in the change. This is achieved through interaction, using socioconstructivist accompaniment tasks and situations. People manifest their desire or intention to change or learn by engaging in the accompaniment process; initiating action by planning and developing action and accompaniment plans; conducting experiments in their workplace; and revisiting the process, means, and tools used to develop competencies among the people being accompanied.
Successfully implementing a change involves taking action and putting in place action plans that require thorough preparation and offer realistic opportunities for adaptation, given the learning paths of accompanied staff. By structuring action plans to accompany the change, accompaniment providers develop a long term vision to support those being accompanied. In doing so, they ask how their plans will support people working to develop new professional practices, or how they will foster buy-in to the change.
Plan development helps mobilize change-inclined resources and knowledge culture. It provides support, followup, and continuity, and promotes the reinvestment of learning. During the planning process, accompaniment providers take advantage of their collective competencies by working with their colleagues. Together, they set priorities and choose actions, strategies, and means for the change. These action plans are structured for consistency with the foundations, aims and intentions of the change. In the course of planning, accompaniment providers question the object (the what) of their intervention and how they plan to achieve it. Together they explore and discuss their actions and practices with a view to analysis, reexaminaton, and regulation. They critically examine the means and actions implemented to develop and exercise their accompaniment leadership. The action plan is generally spread over a number of meetings that include training aspects (theory and practice) and followup. A plan like this has several components: a conceptual thread, intentions, actions and justifications, predicting, possible adjustments, reflection, and mechanisms for evidence keeping (for further explanation, see Lafortune, 2008a).