January 18, 2018

Archives for August 2014

Discontinuous change vs. continuous adaptation

Discontinuous change vs. continuous adaptationOne philosophy of change in organisations starts from an assumption that structures, processes and systems are largely fixed at the outset—frozen, if you like. The approach then is to unfreeze the existing set-up, change it as required, developing whatever new structures and processes are needed, and then refreeze it again.

After that, we can fine-tune what we have for efficiency and profit.

That may work. It is an approach to discontinuous change.

The trouble is though that change is probably becoming too rapid for that. We may need to be unfrozen all the time, continuously evolving and making changes.

The question becomes how to instil continuous evolution, adaptation and growth, if that’s what we need; if our normal state needs to be evolution, not stability.

Developing our adaptability is a different kind of problem from implementing a change programme. It’s much more about initiative and self-organisation and inter-connection, for example, though we need to find ways of staying efficient and profitable as we evolve.

Perhaps large change programmes should lead to continuous adaptation—with no “refreezing.”

What do you think?

The power of putting one foot in front of the other

Ben Nevis South FaceI’m struck recently by the immense power and importance of a very simple idea…

If you have a mountain to climb, all you really have to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other. I’ve enough experience of climbing real mountains to know that actually it is true, and possibly you do as well.

But here’s the thing, and the point of mentioning this…

When you start, it doesn’t feel like it’s true. Putting one foot in front of the other doesn’t seem like it’ll be enough. The mountain seems just too big to be overcome with such small steps.

But it will be. Little by little, you make progress and after a while, you look round and you can see you’re not at the bottom anymore and the top really is a bit closer.

Then it’s a bit easier to keep going.

But in the beginning, everything depends on believing, and it takes real presence to keep that belief in place in yourself and other people.

Quite often, we don’t start up a mountain, whether literal or metaphorical, because we don’t want to do the work of believing.

Leadership isn’t always about teams

Two staff members smilingWe tend to think of leadership in the context of leading teams, at least in connection with work we do.

But it isn’t necessarily so.

Yes, a leader’s role is often to build the necessary relationships with and amongst the members of a formally-constituted team in order to create the conditions where the group can perform to the best of its ability.

Sometimes though…

Leadership is about stimulating some kind of response amongst people who don’t work together at all, nor for the person “leading.” They might not even know the leader personally.

But still there is some kind of relationship—a more subtle one perhaps…

Because there’s no authority in the situation, it’s a more delicate matter—“like cooking a small fish,” in the words of the Tao Te Ching, “you spoil it with too much poking.”

How do you go about leading when you don’t have authority (assuming you need to, that is)? What’s different for you?

Something about seeing what’s important to people perhaps.

Doing disorganised really well

Tense discussion in a boardroomSometimes it’s striking just how disorganised a group of people, supposedly working together, can be.

How do they do that?

It’s actually quite hard to be highly disorganised and randomly chaotic without settling into some kind of pattern, even with several people involved.

In fact…

The group will be organised around some principle or other: Clearly not one of acting effectively though. It might instead be a principle of constantly vying for control, or resisting any attempts at leadership by others, or, above all, communicating a shared sense of disgruntlement.

Sometimes it’s quite insightful to study, for a short while, an example of the opposite of what you are looking for or hoping to achieve.

It can point in a reverse way to what you do need to do to get the result you want in another context.

Changing habitual patterns

Four business people in a discussionIt’s interesting how a two-week break from something is enough to change our habitual behaviour…

Returning from holiday, I notice I’m not as self-disciplined about choosing a healthy and energy-sustaining lunch as I was a few short weeks ago. My inner being has got used to something slightly more indulgent and isn’t just so keen on a mainly salad lunch. A bit of reprogramming required there then.

The thing is…

We can choose our habitual behaviours. It takes a few weeks of conscious repetition but then we settle in to the new pattern and even come to prefer it, or a least feel good about our choice. A little commitment is needed, granted, but it’s possible to shift our unconscious preferences. We can train our inner being.

So it is in our relationships with people…

We can set up new patterns with a bit of conscious effort and some diligent persistence.

A couple of weeks of perseverance is often enough—enough to change the habitual responses.

That’s all.

Do you decide?

Image of a signpostI know you make decisions, but is it really you deciding?

It’s a good idea to gather opinion from other people, yes.


At the end of the day, we need to learn to live without the apparent security of our decisions being fully supported by what other people say—at least to lead we do, anyway.

If we’re leading the way on something, then there isn’t a map to follow, is there? If there was, we wouldn’t really be leading. We’d be following someone who has gone before.

To realise our full potential—to make our unique contribution—we need to overcome the fear of relying on our own opinion (and probably let go of the need for anyone to follow too—oddly enough, that’s often when they actually do.)

As Dagny Taggart famously says in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, “Let nothing—nothing—come above the verdict of your own mind.”

In other words, learn to have faith in your own decisions. Yes, test them with others to the extent you can, but stand behind them in the end.

That’s the only way to make a difference.