Simon Terry

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The Pack Called Sentiment

Are you running with the pack called sentiment?

Zappos is an amazing exemplar of new styles of organisations. Zappos is implementing Holocracy. Holocracy is the future. Zappos is losing staff over Holocracy. Holocracy isn’t what you think it is. Zappos is damaging its culture. New organisational models are flaky and cultish. New organisational models can’t deliver. – 3 months of recent opinions.

Sentiments in a networked world change quickly. In our reinforcing bubbles of information, we can see views accelerate rapidly down directions and reverse direction quickly on the slimmest pieces of news.

Who knows?

I am not sure what is going on with Zappos. If I had been to their offices I could claim to be an expert. No matter how many visits people have had to Zappos’ offices I am not sure many of the commentators know a lot more about their current transition. Given the changes going on and the implementation of a very different way of working, I am not sure Zappos do either. What I do know is that I would like to give them room to experiment and solve the obstacles of change for their sake (and our sake). We know there can be upsides in the downsides of change.

Running Against

The pack called sentiment can make it very hard to experiment. No manager likes to engage their stakeholders in an environment of negative sentiment. Staying the course and making big choices is hard when you are behind. Disappointments are rarely learning experiences in the maelstrom of public opinion. Even successes can burn you when outcomes fail to meet expectations that have raced ahead. When everyone has to stake a view and when many build on collective opinion for support and distribution, it can intimidate everyone from taking a chance.

Because Zappos has been lionised as the one big transformation, many others seeking to make change have become dependant on its success. Just think of the change agents in organisations who shared Zappos’ example with their colleagues who are now fielding the push back. We need a diversity of examples, opinions and approaches to help change happen and to ensure that the ecosystem of change survives adverse outcomes. We need lots of people to leverage others but also go their own way.

Of course, managers and organisations need to manage their communities when change is high profile. Emails will leak. The commentariat you leverage on the way up needs to be fed all the time, even when news isn’t as comforting. However, the level of engagement is ultimately a choice for each manager and organisation. People outside the system of the organisation can find it hard to judge the needs of changes in process. We can’t always require people to disclose more of hard change simply through shifting sentiment.

Diversity helps

We need people to take different choices. We need people to state different views. We need people to go a different way. Some will work. Some won’t. Lets judge the outcomes when there are outcomes to judge, not by the pack called sentiment. Our ecosystem of innovation in ways of organising will be richer for the diversity.


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