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More human misery has been caused by anticipation than the events that were feared. Stop bringing forward the pain.
This morning I caught a commuter train. Aside from the aesthetic misery caused by anti-graffiti fabric on the seats, the other noticeable thing was how glum a Monday morning work crowd can be.
We all know why work might make people glum. Engagement of employees is remarkably low. However, none of the people on the train were yet at work. They were glum because of the anticipation of the work day ahead. They could have been enjoying their last moments of freedom.
Stress is also a consequence of anticipation. Stress is a present concern about future events. We bring forward the pain with our anticipation.
Anticipation is a positive when it enables us to act and avoid negative events. However that demands we recognise the source of the anticipated pain and get on the job of avoiding it.
If anticipation is causing pain, either do something different or accept that the present moment is better than you think.
“We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, and never to be undone. Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar.” – William James
Complex changes like realising the Responsive Organisation and developing the future of work need people to connect in communities and along networks of practice. Forming new habits will be essentially to developing the richness of practice required.
Habits are required in Practice
How are those New Year Resolutions tracking? A week into the new year and many people are already struggling with new practices that look like failed intentions. New practices struggle to embed unless we turn them into habits.
I was planning to write today about the need for habits to reinforce practice when tumblr served up the William James quote above thanks to the Explore blog and the work of Maria Popova. The article on William James says many wise words on the value of habit in reinforcing habit.
However I can point out the serendipity. Maria’s relentless and excellent curation is a habit. My practice of writing this blog is a habit. Without these habits and many more the coincidence would not be possible. Similar serendipity is found in the practice of working out loud. These moments of encouragement extend the practice further.
To create change we need to start developing suites of new future of work practices and turning them first into experiments and then embedding the successes as habits. Through the long practice of habit will come innovations, solutions to problems and a richer connection with others pushing the practice forward. We need to create the habits and connections that enable the serendipity to power change for Responsive Organisations.
Habits bring time to Practice
Habits bring the gift of time to practice. They ensure that our feeble new practices are not killed by lack of attention or effort. Habits sustain us through the hard days and the days we would rather not. We all love quick wins but focusing on new practices reminds us that not everything transforms immediately. There are obstacles, new skills and lessons to be learned in practice.
Successful practice takes time and learning. Habits are the key to winning that time.
This is Your Year
This year is definitely my year. I would like it to be yours too. That will take some new habits.
This poster first featured on this blog a year ago when its claims were decidedly uncertain. The poster celebrated that the obstacles are the work. It sits in my office in my eye line as a reminder that it is relentless practice and good habits that will deliver me the year that I seek. There are many ways I can ensure it will be my year:
- If I practice what I preach consistently
- If I experiment, to learn and to build new good habits
- If I keep focus and avoid the distractions of the bright and shiny things
- If I keep looking for ways to move forward, overcome the obstacles and achieve my purpose; but most of all
- If I keep translating the believe that ‘This is My Year’ into action
This year is your year too. Like it or not, it will pass with every action and omission you make. The choice is yours to make it a year to remember. Create the habits required to own your year. The resulting practice will deliver great rewards.
Habits don’t have to be big things. Small steps accumulate. Small steps that can be consistently repeated in a process of learning accelerate success.
What would make it really your year? What do you need to do consistently to make it happen? What is your new habit?
Even fragments of human stories engage us deeply. We don’t need to see the finished story. We only need to share enough to engage the imagination of others and draw the humanity out in our consideration of life.
A Fragment of a Richer Story
Browsing the poetry section of a second-hand bookstore in regional Victoria, I came across a volume of the poetry of Matthew Arnold, the 19th century poet, bound in dark green leather with gold leaf. The spine showed the volume had been well read.
Opening the book I found a dedication which stopped me, brought a rush of emotions and made me reflect on the story of those who had handled the book before.
Just over a century ago, as the world descended into the Great War, Ralph received this gift and the love of Doris. We don’t know their story or their relationship. The author of this dedication might well have been be a mother, a sister, a friend or a lover. What happened to Ralph and Doris is currently a mystery to us but the inscription and that date soon after the start of WWI engages our imagination, our emotions and our concern.
From the short fragment of Arnold’s poem Immortality we gain a brief insight into the mind of the author of the inscription. This fragment of a message 100 years later engages us in the rich challenges of human life. It confronts us to reflect on a world torn with strife, obligations of honour and duty, the need for effort and for faith, the love between two people and the real fears of mortality that confronted them. This message transmitted through the inside cover of a book engages us in the turmoil of the Great War and asks us to reflect on the human fears and costs that surrounded it.
Create & Share Human Stories
Perhaps another hint to us lies in the line immediately before the text chosen for inscription in Arnold’s poem:
“…the energy of life may be
Kept on after the grave, but not begun;”
We can start, we can take on challenges and we can share our rich human stories in our one life, but only then. We often forget to reflect on this human detail.
Abstractions like life, success, history, war and work are comprised of these individual human stories, can be aggregated to a level where the humanity is lost in numbers, events and outcomes. We must remember as we deal with the abstractions to make an effort to bring forward the fragments of human stories and consider them each in their unique light.
Our stories engage others deeply, even as uncompleted fragments. They speak to our time, our place, our relationships, our conflicts and our challenges. As an experience that is real and tangible, stories like these help us to reflect and to learn. These are needed skills when we are learning what it is to be human struggling with the challenges of our unique moment in time.
We may never know more of the story. However encountering a fragment of a story like this makes it harder to forget the human efforts & sacrifice of others.
Lest we forget.
It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting – Millard Fuller.
To many in management, culture seems like a soft topic best left to Human Resources or Communications . To this mindset, culture is a matter of getting the words right, saying the right things and having the right tools & programs to change culture. Culture change is a communications issue. Often this results in culture change programs dictated by senior management with a goal of uniformity of culture in the organisation. These approaches at best fail quickly and at worst are counterproductive, generating employee cynicism.
Culture doesn’t work this way. Culture arises in a group of people when there is an expected pattern to interactions. The expectation forms from a consistent and predictable pattern of actions. Rituals are a classic example of how culture is transmitted. Words may help us to notice a change and tools may enable new actions but only the actions done consistently create the new mindsets.
The focus on expectations and actions also highlights how unlikely uniformity is. With consistent behaviour to shape expectations groups may develop a commonality of expectation. However uniformity of expectations remains unlikely. There will always be local variations for good reason. A good reason may be that a different pattern of action is better at fulfilling the organisation’s purpose or customer needs in this context. The heart of embracing diversity as an organisation is understanding these variations and leveraging them too
Expectations cannot be imposed. Begin with discovery of the expectations and the actions that really exist. Be honest. Failure to accept reality won’t help. Creating change then becomes a matter of understanding how to change actions to consistently deliver new patterns and to shape different expectations.
I am often asked ‘how does an enterprise social network change culture?’ There is no universal answer to that question. There are no guaranteed changes in expectations and actions in an enterprise social network just as there is no universal culture. Enterprise social networks in the right circumstances enable transparency, leadership, learning, problem solving, innovation and enablement of people. Where the culture is hostile to these things they do not, without significant investment in changing the way people act and interact.
Better questions are ‘what actions and interactions in our culture will be facilitated by an enterprise social network? How can we encourage these actions to become more consistent? What would these actions do for the expectations of our people as to how we behave here?’ These questions focus attention on the hard work of creating consistency in a community of new and different actions.
The impact of culture on the actions and interactions in the organisation is ultimately why Peter Drucker famously said ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Strategy that hopes for action inconsistent with the culture’s expectations will fail.
Start new and different actions now. Start small. Build new habits. Experiment with new ways of working. Action matters
Action creates culture. Focus on the actions, not the words or the tools.
Success = (Do Next Purposeful Action + Learn + Do Better) x Repeat Often