Some time ago I published a post on five small changes that we can each make to make work more effective. Tanmay Vora turned the post into the great sketch above that has been widely shared. On the weekend I wondered whether all this sharing actually helped anyone to change their work. Tanmay and others responded that they were using the sketch as a guide to their work. However, my question remains open. Do we have as much change as we should? Do we act on the small ways to improve work?
Changing Work is Hard
Changing work is hard. We would all like work to be more effective, but we continue to cling to ineffective practices. We know there are better ways but we don’t always use them. Why is there a gap between our future of work intent and action.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why changing work is difficult.
Reactive not Reflective: We are busy. Being busy often deprives us of the time to reflect on how best to do our work or how we could improve our work. While time pressures should present an incentive to plan a better way, we often think it is better to just start. Take the time each day, if only for 5 minutes to reflect on how your work could be improved.
Habit: There is comfort in habit. Habits provide patterns of certainty in an incredibly volatile and uncertain world. Habits can be behaviours or habitual mindsets. Together they create ingrained and unthinking behaviours. Sending an email or organising a meeting is a routine next step and others will share the habit making it harder to break. Find triggers for new habits. Make a choice to think and go another way and lead people away from bad habits.
Social Capital: Dave loves his meeting. Dave has perfected his meeting to suit his needs and his project. How do I tell him that it is a complete waste of everyone else’s time? We aren’t always great at feedback and we hate to put our accumulated social capital in jeopardy, particularly if what we are asking is out of the usual. Explore better ways of working with your work colleagues through collaborative coaching conversations. Encourage them to reflect and to help you find better ways of working too.
Fear: Our workplaces are full of fear. Fear power, fear of ostracism, fear of loss of status or wealth or purpose. Our workplaces put the full neurological gamut of status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness under threat. Adding change to the mix risks upping the fear quotient. We need to make the benefits of change clear to ourselves first and then to others. We need to use these elements of our uncertainty to help us, not hinder us.
Conscious Incompetence: New skills are hard. They don’t work as well as our habits. We may have been unconsciously incompetent at our old approach, but as soon as we try something new we are conscious of the gap in our skills. Practice and experience is the only way to improve our skills. We need to do the work and get better.
Initiative: Nothing changes unless someone acts to influence change. We can wait for our boss or others to discover the change themselves. However, to bring about change sooner we need to exercise individual leadership and take on the challenge of making change happen. We must be our own role models. We need to find our voice and lead with our actions to change the way we work.
Simon Terry provides consulting, advice, speaking and thought leadership to global clients through his own consulting practice, and as a Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide, a network of progressive and passionate professionals, specializing in Future of Work technologies and practices. The focus of Simon’s practice is assisting organizations to transform innovation, collaboration, learning and leadership.
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