How many times have you seen that exception in your org?
How many times have you seen the anxiety of a crisis to spark so many “initiatives” that you end up paralysing your teams and your company?
Let me borrow that analogy from software development to present behaviours I’ve seen, with a pinch of humour.
My main job is to lead change (in the Product, People, and Process dimensions) to achieve business goals. To do that I’ve developed a good amount of systems thinking skills. Through training, experience, pain and joy. I invest good time in observing the interactions among the different parts of a system, and using different perspectives during those observations.
There is not a single perspective we should use, as by the very nature of the systems, no single perspective is good or bad, there’s no black or white. We benefit from using different perspectives to truly understand the system and hence design productive change actions.
Let me use two different but complementing perspectives to present some patterns.
Thinkers and Doers
An old friend of mine (not sure if he would consider a friend, but hey, I do! And yes, I still remember that saying “hey is for horses…”) used to see the world from that perspective.
Are you a thinker or a doer!?!?
Thinkers are great. They conceptualise. They challenge. They divert and explore multiple options. They explore different ramifications of possible options. They need problems to think about.
Doers are great. They are pragmatic. They get things done. They seek for specificness. They need goals to achieve and shine.
So both skills are great. And I’m explicitly using “skills” rather than “profiles”, as we are all thinkers and doers sometimes.
Get a wrong balance in your company and the system collapses.
Too many thinkers, and you’ll be paralysed by analysis. Your meetings feel like open gatherings (best case), coffee breaks or chit chatting (worst case). Too many “what-ifs”, but no progress nor validation.
Too many doers, and you’ll be stressed, you will feel anxiety, movement here and there, in many directions… but going nowhere. Too many busy work, but no progress nore validation.
Leaders and Followers
First of all…stop your mental bias!!
Leaders and followers do NOT map to thinkers and doers.
It’s just another perspective. I’m sure you have faced Leaders behaving as thinkers or doers, and followers behaving as thinkers or doers…
Leaders … lead. They bring people along towards one direction. They persuade, align, give vision and mission. They drive things forward.
Followers …follow. They accept the vision. Some of them believe The Vision. Some of them not so much, but still accept it with its pros and cons and follow it.
Both skills are great. Get a wrong balance in your company and the system collapses.
Too many leaders and you will be pulling and pushing your teams in so many directions you won’t progress. You will be confusing everyone. You could even create unhealthy competition in your crew. You will be frustrating the leadership so that they become followers.
Too many followers and you will move slow (if at all!). And your few leaders may become dictators, with no one challenging.
Get a wrong balance, and your system may raise a TooManyInitiativesException…
There’s a lot of anxiety in the organisations these days.
Obvious reasons are creating a level of uncertainty we are not used to. Perfect space for our skills to be amplified (for good and bad). And end up with an unhealthy balance.
A lot of Initiatives emerge.
We need to improve sales! We need to move to cloud! Amazon? GCP? Damned it!!! We need to move to all of them!! We need to plan better, we need to deliver more, we need do agile (I love this one…). We need to…
Thinkers and Leaders throwing and pushing for ideas. Doers and followers doing …whatever… and going…wherever.
Now, more than ever, we need to go back to some fundamental questions.
- Review the Cynefin framework. We are in a complex environment.
- Limit your Work In Progress to enable more flow.
- Find your Why. Why you are doing what you are doing.
Don’t lose your people.