January 19, 2018

Not change but coercion

Exhausted computer userWith sufficient power and authority, we can make something different happen.

We can get an organisation to produce different results.

We can make people comply.

But that isn’t really change…

It’s coercion.

Not very sustainable, and also very hard work.

Better to cultivate an emergent solution, though it’ll need more patience.

Or perhaps go for a bit of both, blending top-down and bottom-up.

Are you holding process or outcome?

Audience of professional peopleIt’s worth being clear…

With a group of people engaged in change, is your commitment to a process or to a specific outcome?

If you feel you need to achieve a certain outcome, then fair enough, go for it to the best of your ability: Make your best case; listen well; trade off to get a result you can work with.

If, on the other hand…

You want to see a result emerge, but you’re not wedded to any particular one (within reason, let’s say), then commit to run a process; to hold space for something to emerge.

The outcome may then surprise everybody, including you.

And there may be more chance of it actually being implemented.


Process or outcome? Which are you holding?

Are you an architect or a gardener?

House and gardenIt is said that “The policy maker should act as a gardener not an architect.” In other words, the policy maker will do better to support good ideas that emerge rather than direct from on high.

I connect that with experience of some organizations that assume new ideas cannot come from external sources and innovation can only be initiated within. But they have no monopoly on knowledge.

On the other hand, sometimes the leader really does know best.

When it comes to change, do you direct as an architect, or nurture new growth as a gardener?

Do you develop a vision and then command its realization, or do you hold space for new things to emerge?

The art, of course, is in holding these opposing dynamics in balance.

Brinksmanship: A relationship skill?

Hotel meeting roomWe rather admire the ability of the tough negotiator; the one who secures a favorable outcome at the last minute when the other side blinks first.

Perhaps that’s a component of a versatile skill set; part of the rough and tumble of public or private life, strangely somehow contributing to the bond between the people involved. It certainly sometimes seems that way.

And yet…

Brinkmanship precludes the collaboration that might lead to a creative solution; an outcome that is more than the sum of the parts. If the last minute is all we ever have, how can we generate something new?

Perhaps we can aspire to something more than brinksmanship.

Perhaps the mark of the true leader is taking us beyond confrontation and creating the space for new solutions to emerge.

What do you think?