Who cares matters

The profound Margaret Wheatley says, in her book Finding our way, “invite everyone who cares.” By that she means when we are planning a change of any kind we should involve everyone who cares about it.

In this situation we usually go through the organisational chart and work out who is affected by the change by their position in our organisation. Wheatley suggests this is one of the reasons our change efforts so often fail because we haven’t involved the people who care most.

The most obvious impact of failing to involve these people is they resist the change and sometimes even sabotage it. Even though this is a powerful reason for involving them, it is not the most important. The people who care bring both passion and imaginative solutions to the hurdles we have to overcome in order for our initiative to be successful. They see problems we miss altogether. They often also protect the very thing we want to protect – the very essence of our organisation.

So next time you are planning a major change project – find out who cares and invite them. Even if they don’t have a formal position in your organisation. You’ll be surprised at what they bring.

The business cost of profit

We don’t often think that profit has a cost. After all, profit is what is left after all the costs are accounted for.

However, I’m not thinking about the traditional relationship between income and expenses. I’m thinking about what we lose when we make a profit. Or at least when we are perceived to me making a profit at the expense of all other values.

Essentially we lose trust. And that trust costs us. It damages our brands.

I was prompted to think about this when reading this HBR article by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones (of “Why should anyone be led by you?” fame.) They argue there is a general deficit of trust in our community. The food company puts too much salt and fat into their products and the pharmaceutical charges too much for its drugs.

We are seeing the same phenomenon in Australian politics at the moment.

So my question is “What’s the business cost of this phenomenon?” Most directly our customers will do everything they can to purchase goods and services from anyone but us. When they get to the point where there is no-one left they will take it out on us with higher support requests or return everything they can. If they get a chance to screw us they will. They think we’ve been screwing them for long enough.

On a wider scale, distrust in our political systems leads to instability and that costs us dearly.

Perhaps if we demonstrated that we are motivated by a much broader range of factors than pure profit, we might start to win some of that trust back. And then we might just make more profit!

Pink Drive

Just been reading Dan Pink’s latest book Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us. One of those books I read to confirm everything I already believe about motivation.

As Pink says, we’ve know what really motivates people for decades, but we still cling to motivational techniques (eg pay linked to KPIs) that all the research shows actually reduce performance. (OK, that’s a simplified version of his argument but it will do for here.)

There are many radical suggestions in this book – for example perhaps ‘management’ is an out of date concept!

Thinking of performance based pay and salary I couldn’t help but continually thinking about Enron and more recently the GFC.

One thing I didn’t like was his analogy with software systems. He refers to Motivation 2.0 and Motivation 3.0. Fundamentally this is a great analogy. Where it breaks down is in the 2.0 and 3.0 bits. Anyone involved with computer systems knows you don’t go from 2.0 to 3.0. You have 2.0, 2.0.1, 2.0.3, 2.1, 2.1.1, 2.1.1 release 2 etc, etc until you get to about 2.5. When you get there you start working on 3.0 while you still supporting 2.6 and 2.7. At some stage you are ready to switch over to version 3.

The technical aspect of this is not important. What IS important is that we didn’t suddenly jump from motivation 2.0 to motivation 3.0. There were a whole lot of steps in the process (as Pink documents.) What bothers me in the way he presents it is it looks like just another big discovery and we all need to do this massive shift away from what we have been doing to what we should be doing.

The business literature is all too full of this tripe and in this respect Pink has fallen into his own trap. If we did want to move away from our current models of motivation, we would need to do it gradually. Try out bits of it here and there. Or do a 90 day trial and see how it works.

Regardless, with this one caveat, I highly recommend this book.

The modern world began in 1919

“The Modern World began on 29 May 1919 when photographs of a solar eclipse, taken on the island of Principe off West Africa and at Sobral in Brazil, confirmed the truth of a new theory of the universe.”1 The new theory of the universe was Einstein’s General Relativity, a radical, mysterious, new explanation of gravity, destined to replace the more intuitive and accessible theory of Isaac Newton that had inspired and sustained the Enlightenment.”

Paul Johnson Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties

Does God Play Dice?

Modern Physics has long done away with the notion that we can know anything with
certainty yet most management theories and practice seem to be based on a Newtonian
view of ‘knowability’. True leadership recognises that we never know what to do but
this very uncertainty demands that we must act decisively.

As I write this The Age reports that overnight
the Dow
Jones
Industrial Average
fell below 9000 points for the first time since 2003. Maybe by the time you
read this it will have fallen below 8000. Maybe it will have recovered to be
over 10,000. As I heard Craig
James
say at a business breakfast this morning, “No
one knows.”

In all my experience as a consultant, the question I am most often asked is “How
do we know what we should do?” This question comes in many forms. Sometimes
my client acts as though I know exactly the solution to their problem – after
all that’s what they pay me for isn’t it. Sometimes I feel like
telling them not only do I have no idea of the solution, I’m not even
sure what the problem is. Unfortunately I more often fall into the trap of
believing the client’s trust in my omniscience is well placed. I believe
that I should know the answer or at least, if I don’t. I should act as
though I do. I justify this by convincing myself that if I work hard enough,
study the client’s situation in enough detail and read enough of what ‘the
experts’ say, both THE PROBLEM and THE ANSWER will become clear to me.

It is at times like this that I forget the greatest service I can give to
my client is to not know. My client knows their business and their organisation
better than I ever can. When I feel like I have to know, or have to look like
I know I can’t ask the dumb questions that everyone wants to ask but
no one dares. With grateful acknowledgment to a dear colleague, I call this
the Colombo model of consulting.

The same is true for leadership. It takes courage to admit you don’t
know what to do yet perhaps the greatest failures of leadership throughout
history have been made by those who acted out of this fear. In the current
economic situation, doing nothing is not an option. Global treasury officials
and financial chiefs must act in the full knowledge that there is no higher
authority to which they can turn who can provide them with just the right settings
to avert a catastrophe, History will judge them harshly if they get it wrong.

This
belief arises from the triumph of the industrial age where we have come to
think of organisations as machines.

As Danah Zohar puts it:

Classical physics transmuted the living cosmos of Greek and medieval times,
a cosmos filled with purpose and intelligence and driven by the love of God
for the benefit of humans, into a dead, clockwork machine … Things moved
because they were fixed and determined; cold silence pervaded the once-teeming
heavens. Human beings and their struggles, the whole of consciousness, and
life itself were irrelevant to the workings of the vast universal machine” The
Quantum Self: Human Nature and Consciousness Defined by the New Physics,
1990

Continue reading

A Different Kind of Blind Spot

Welcome to the first edition of The Spiral Path – the companion newsletter
to my Spiral Path blog.

In this newsletter, I refer to the concepts of Quantum Leadership® and
The Spiral Path™. You can find out more about these concepts on my website.

Over the last half a year I have given a lot of thought to what I might write
about in this the premiere edition of The Spiral Path. I’ve written
myself notes and possible titles have come and gone in my mind. In the end
though, I have come back to my very first thought – the concept of our
Blind Spot. I am heavily indebted to C.
Otto Scharmer
* for the central insight
of this article as well as many of his words that I will quote directly.

When we think about our blind spot, we think about something that is in front
of us but we can’t see it. A colleague I was discussing this with recently
observed “it’s something we don’t want to see.” There
are certainly many of those, but I want to talk about a different view of
the blind spot. Something that is within the range of our perception but is,
in fact, invisible.

Continue reading

Mistsakes I’ve Made

Julian Lippi‘s PhD thesis has been a rich source of reflection
for me over the last few days.

Today, I was caused to think about mistakes I’ve made both in my professional
career and in my personal relationships.

I was reading Jenny’s story where she said:

… every professional mistake I’ve ever made in my life … has
been a failure to listen. I cannot think of any time … I’ve got myself into
hot water that couldn’t be traced to a failure to engage with the other person’s
data for long enough, or at a deep enough level. Can’t think of a time where
it wasn’t about listening. (p161)

This would be quite true for me as well, although I would add an important
factor that comes into play for me. It might be the same as what Jenny is speeking
about or it might be something different.

For me, I always relate my mistakes to my failure to engage with myselft.
When I think about it afterwards, I realise that at some level I always knew
what was going on. I knew what was going on, or at least I knew that something
was wrong, but I suppressed that knowledge. More important than supressing
the knowledge, I supressed what my feelings about or sense of what was happening.
When I became uneasy, I would allow my natural optimism to overide the unease
and used it as an excuse to not even allow my conscious mind to be aware of
my unease.

In this way, my optimism is a defence against the conflict I fear would, and
often would have, arisen if I had acted.

I regard myself, and most people who know me well regard me, as an insightful
person. One colleague (who I would regard as a person with great insight herself)
I worked with on a year long project remarked to me "You see things that others
don’t." In my heart of hearts, I fully believe this to be true. I don’t like
claiming it for myself because it sounds like I am boasting.

However, because of my fear of conflict, I have sometimes been stingy or mean
with my with my insight. I have kept it to myself. In this way, I lose out
on being acknowledged for what I bring to the situation and the other (or others)
miss out on insight about themselves and how they might do things differently.

It has taken me a lot of personal work to know this about myself and to know
when it is happening. It is still my greatest challenge. Each day and before
each interaction, I need to prepare myself to be aware not only of what is
going on around me but, more importantly, to be aware of what I am observing.