Wednesday, August 28, 2013

An Introduction to Managing Multiplicity

There are so many business and community challenges that need multi-perspective thinking, contribution and innovation, so being able to manage multiplicity and engage the whole is important for leaders.

If too much separation and lack of understanding other perspectives brings out our worst, what does wholeness do?

As the command/control way of governing gives way in the face of information proliferation and virtual connection, it is key for leaders [and all of us] to get better at navigating the multiple realities that make up our day-to-day environments.  We need one another to make sense of all that is going on around us, to make meaning together. This is more than just an appreciation of the value and potential of the whole but clear strategies and processes for tapping into the whole in ways that are open, dynamic and interactive.  It’s not just a nice thing to do; it’s absolutely necessary for organizational and community flourishing.

Leaders are often encouraged to ‘surround yourself with talent.’  The fact of the matter is, leaders are already surrounded by talent.   If that’s the case, the question becomes ‘How do you tap it?’

Inclusion of all frames and perspectives
When we want to attract the best thinking in our organizations and communities, it’s important to not think of top-down or bottom-up but of the whole, not just of a little representation or a little diversity but of the whole.
·      What is the configuration and pattern of completeness?
·      What can tap unlimited potential? 
·     What will bring fresh views of the truth to the table and elevate the conversation?

If it feels too messy to you, think of old-fashioned barn-raisings.  Why not do that now, in new ways? What new ways of thinking can you attract to build what your organization needs for the future?

We can invoke our own version of crowdsourcing. With the complexity of issues now, we need all the innovation and ideas we can tap.

As leaders, you’re going to have to relate to, include and deal with the whole system somehow, sometime on issues that have far-reaching impact.  Why not now?

People sometimes talk about participative management as abdication of leadership.  
But this kind of radical participation—bringing a whole plant together—is not abdication, 
but just the opposite.  Leadership is given life by relationship, by good conversation.  
The more relationship, the more leadership.  This is what the web of inclusion is about. 
Jim Staley, President, Roadway, Fast Company July 2001, p. 56

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Collective Work on New Habits

Here’s a comment I received from CrowbarJoe about last week’s posting on reframing and habits:

Yes, I think it is hard to change ourselves, but not because we don't see or believe in the new vision. 

I think it's hard to let go of the old. Sometimes we feel that letting go is the same as denying. But we can reaffirm the past value, and still move on - kind of like the abhorrent 3/5 compromise that got our forefathers temporarily past a divisive issue and on to creating a nation. (I'm guessing Egypt might benefit from a 3/5-type of compromise right now.)

So here's the script:
"Yes, it was an accomplishment. Yes, we felt good about it. It will always be there, and we can always be proud of it when we remember it. Now, let's figure out how to create this new structure to better leverage our new reality. Here's an idea: instead of starting the day with that first cup of coffee, how about a first glass of orange juice?"

Let's not be afraid to take a next (or first) step on the spiral.

I agree that the issue with changing isn’t that ‘we don’t see or believe in the new vision’.  That’s the most interesting part of it.  We get the importance, but we can’t seem to get over to that new reality that we can clearly see.

Letting go of the past is part of it, yes.  We often need to acknowledge the value of something in the past as we let go of it.  Whenever I attempt to leave my coffee habit behind, I have nostalgic memories of sitting in coffee shops in different parts of the world having great conversations.  I remember the way that felt, and I sigh because I don’t want to give it up.

‘Daily drift’ is another part of changing habits.  We tend to slide into certain behaviors out of habit, especially when we are focusing on something else.  At least, I do.  While I’m  working on something I want to finish and get out, I find that cup of coffee in my hand, even though I might have made the commitment to letting go of coffee.  I have to pay careful attention to some new desired behavior, especially when there is some element of addiction, as with coffee.  I have to practice new behaviors over and over to make new habits.

But, what makes that practice likely to succeed?  What has me keep up the practicing?  My experience is that it I succeed when I am part of a group that is practicing the same or similar new behaviors—I need the “we”.  I believe that we need the support of partners to accompany us along the way.  I have friends in my neighborhood to walk with in the mornings—if they go out of town or are unavailable, I am MUCH less likely to walk.  We have created a container for the practice of walking that supports us.

What does this mean for organizations?

It could mean that organizations have greater ease in acting on new frames and creating new habits. Organizations can set the direction of focus and co-create ways to practice new behaviors—together.

I worked with a wonderful organization a few years ago that wanted to increase engagement and staff satisfaction. The leadership demonstrated support for the project by getting the whole organization involved in our conversations and our reframing of what engagement looked like for different areas of the system.  We all agreed on behaviors that would make a difference, and each area chose an ongoing project of importance to them where they would apply the new behaviors.  This was the ‘practice’ portion.

Some changes occurred, and there was some slight shift in the organizational culture, just by virtue of having focused attention on the topic.  But the practicing of new behaviors never really occurred across the organization, even after the top team, managers and staff had co-created the process and agreed to the terms.  Practicing took too much time, attention and focus.  The project drifted, and when I pointed out the obvious drift, the response of the leadership was just like when we try to shift personal habits: we didn’t have time, I couldn’t focus on it, it was easier to do things the way we had always done them, even though we were not increasing staff engagement….

They weren’t really committed, together.  Commitment is different  from mandating. Mandating doesn’t usually change a company’s culture, but real reframing and commitment to new behaviors will.  Organizations have a tremendous tool at their disposal for making change—the collective—and if the  reframing captures the will of the collective, new practices will pay off.  Group habits will shift.

Here’s a simple way of looking at the move toward new habits:

  • ·      See the desired new [the reframe]
  • ·      COMMIT
  • ·      Acknowledge the old ways
  • ·      Practice
  • ·      Observe how the group is doing
  • ·      Pay attention to the benefits of the new practice
  • ·      Tweak systems and structures to support the new habit
  • ·      Keep supporting  the new habit

 What do you think it takes to move from new sight to new habits?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Reframing and Habits

Seeing, Believing, Moving, Changing

A couple of months ago, I was presenting some ideas about R2: Reframing Reality as part of a presentation on the Leadership Literacies program.

We were interacting about different ways of shifting perspective, of different ways to be able to see newly. One of the participants, someone I very much admire, said:

“Well, these are great ways to shift the way we see—I like them--but changing ourselves, that’s what’s difficult.  It’s so hard.”

I was stumped for a few minutes by what he had said. 

I have seen many insights and aha’s occur when individuals or groups simply choose to exercise their option to frame something differently, to ask new questions and to assume for a moment that there are other ways of seeing a situation, a problem, an opportunity, a culture, or a person.  It can be easy to attract new ways of seeing and framing a conversation.

One of the beauties of understanding the malleability of our realities is that we can see newly and act immediately on that new knowledge, on the recognition of patterns we might not have seen before. 

I’ve seen organizations shift their strategies in a day on the basis of having understood a situation differently than before. I’ve seen communities create new alignments overnight after having opened up to see one another with new eyes. So, what’s so hard?

Then I realized that my colleague was talking about changing ingrained ways of behaving; he was talking about what it takes to change habits of behavior and habits of mind.

He’s right.  That can be difficult. And, it can be what’s called for long-term when we reframe our thinking.

Several things can happen:
  • ·      Immediate shifting because of a new insight [Oh, our clients think differently than we thought—let’s shift to accommodate them.]
  • ·      Perception of new possibilities but a ‘snapback’ to the old ways of thinking and operating.  Maybe we don't really believe in the new frame yet.[We now see that everyone in the community is a stakeholder in what we are planning, but it’s too hard to include them all in decision making.]
  • ·      After recognition, the beginning of a spiraling process to change habits and patterns of behavior—designing new personal, organizational or community systems and behaviors that reflect the newly perceived reality: policies and procedures, structures.  This takes discipline and commitment. Hard.  [It’s affecting our employees negatively that we expect them to put in 60 hours a week on a regular basis without some form of additional compensation.  We have to shift the way we think about our staff and act accordingly.]

Anyone who has attempted to shift their eating habits, get more exercise or discipline themselves to meditate knows what I’m talking about and what my colleague was talking about.  Acting on new perceptions and realities—that’s our greatest challenge.

Perhaps our greatest ongoing inquiry is always about how we can successfully shift ourselves based on a new frame of reference that demands new behaviors and habits.

Next:  Collective Work on New Habits